16 Jan 2019

Guam Catholic Church files for bankruptcy under shadow of abuse claims

3:52 pm on 16 January 2019

The Catholic Church on Guam has filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to settle 200 claims of child sex abuse.

Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica in Guam

Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica in Guam Photo: 123rf

The move by the Archdiocese of Agana will allow it to avoid trial and enter settlement negotiations.

Since the territory's statute of limitations was lifted in 2016, 21 people - including a bishop, two archbishops and several priests - have been named in 200 child sex abuse lawsuits which date back to the 1940s.

The bankruptcy was filed in the federal court after mediation attempts with victims' lawyers ultimately failed.

The move will halt current lawsuits against the church and create a deadline for abuse victims to file new claims before a settlement is made.

The island's former Archbishop, Anthony Apuron, was last year found guilty of abuse by a secretive Vatican tribunal, which stripped him of his office.

Guam sex abuse suits name the Vatican as a defendant

Meanwhile, three Guam clergy sex abuse lawsuits have named the Holy See, or the Vatican, as a new defendant.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs say the survivors of clergy sex abuse believe they can hold the Vatican responsible.

The Pacific Daily News reported the demand included damages and repair of the Holy See's policies for child protection.

The three lawsuits naming the Vatican, accuse Archbishop Anthony Apuron and the now deceased former Guam priest Louis Brouillard of rape and sexual abuse.

In a joint statement, the lawyers for the palintiffs say the policies that have endangered so many children have been instituted and enforced by the most powerful entity in the entirety of the Roman Catholic Church: the Holy See.

The lawyers' statement says no person or organisation has more information or knowledge about serial child sex abuse than the Holy See, and to date it has not been held to account.

"To end child sex abuse by the Catholic clergy the Holy See must be held accountable for the actions of its priests," the statement said.

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