Guam Roman Catholic Church sexual abuse claims to be addressed after law change
As of 2018, Guam’s Roman Catholic Church, Archdiocese of Hagåtña, has been bombarded by a series of sexual abuse claims, around 270 to be exact, against more than twenty priests. This is not the first time the Catholic Church has been accused of sexual abuse. For instance, a 2021 inquiry by La Parole Libérée, a victim association, states that since 1950, some 216,000 children have been sexually abused by the clergy of the French Catholic Church.
Many of these churches had been able to shy away from their sexual abuse accusations through their power and influence on society as they commanded the respect of many people from nations all across the world. Even when sexual abuse survivors spoke out against specific clergy, the accusations would be ignored and leadership in the Catholic Church would turn a blind eye. However, everything changed when Guam lifted the civil statute for child sexual abuse in 2016, Bill 326. Victims gained the courage to speak out to obtain justice, even if it had been two or thirty years later, all speaking out without a fear of persecution, ending up with around 270 lawsuits.
Following the lawsuits, the Archdiocese filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy early 2019 to settle with those who filed claims against the church. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows for an organization to reorganize its finances to stay in business and pay back their creditors. As such, the Archdiocese will be able to pay back the victims and continue to keep providing for its operations around the island while not going into immense, unpayable debt.
Now, after restructuring their assets, such as available land, utilizing money from insurers, and selling whatever they could, the church proposed a revised payment between $27 million and $34 million for the plaintiffs, entailing each survivor around $100,000. This payment plan will have to be voted on by the survivors and the confirmation of the bankruptcy court is required. Once a hearing date is set and if the plan is approved, clergy sexual abuse survivors can start getting money within three months of approval.