GUAM, Nov 8: On Wednesday, the Guam Catholic Church’s Archbishop Michael Byrnes announced that the church, which is involved in lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse by priests, will file for bankruptcy, allowing the more than 180 claims of abuse to move towards settlements.
"This path will bring the greatest measure of justice to the greatest number of victims," Byrnes said, the National Post reported Wednesday. "That's the heart of what we're doing," he continued, also adding that the bankruptcy will give "finality for victim survivors that they've been heard and understood."
In a statement Wednesday, attorney Leander James, who is representing alleged victims, said that this move will help resolve current lawsuits through settlements, establishing a deadline for the victims to file claims.
"We welcome the announcement," James said in a statement obtained by the National Post. "Bankruptcy provides the only realistic path to settlement of pending and future claims."
"This bankruptcy filing will automatically stop any further action in the lawsuits that have been filed, and it will create a deadline for all Guam clergy abuse victims to file claims," James said. "It will be important for those who have not come forward to do so and file their claim."
However, according to attorney Anthony Perez, who is also representing victims, just because the archdiocese (the district for which an archbishop is responsible) is filing for bankruptcy, it does not mean that it will go out of business.
"In my discussions with attorneys from my team with extensive experience in these types of bankruptcies, this filing will allow the archdiocese to reorganize and still be operational after the claims are paid and the bankruptcy is closed," Perez said.
In 2016, the Vatican suspended Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron after several former altar boys accused him of sexually abusing them. Apuron denied the charges, but earlier this year the Vatican convicted him of undisclosed charges in a tribunal trial. Apuron has not faced any criminal charges. Since then, dozens of other priests on the island have been accused of sexually abusing former altar boys. The archdiocese is facing more than $115 million in sexual abuse lawsuits.
The Catholic Church has long been plagued by the child sexual abuse crisis. In August, a massive cover-up of sexual abuse and rape of minors by Catholic priests was revealed, with a grand jury report showing that more than 1,000 children had been molested by at least 301 Roman Catholic priests in the US state of Pennsylvania since the 1940s, Sputnik previously reported.