Guam – According to the Archdiocese (AOA) bankruptcy balance sheet, Church liabilities exceed Church assets by almost 100 percent. That means that even if the Church settles on its own terms, it could sink twice as deep underwater as it already is. Here’s just a quick peak behind the veil.
The number of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against the Archdiocese of Agana in both local and federal court is well over triple digits at about 202 claims. And while AOA’s bankruptcy lawyer declined to put a dollar amount to settling the claims he did indicate that their liabilities were 45.6 million dollars.
To gain clarity on where the Church stands financially we took a look at the numbers contained in the Church’s bankruptcy petition.
At first glance the Archdiocese of Agana may appear to be rolling in cash with $22.9 million in assets. But a closer look at the numbers makes it clear why bankruptcy was the path to go.
With over 200 claims needing to be settled, it appears that the Church is hopeful each sexual abuse survivor claimant will settle with $100,000. Doing the math, this points in the direction of the Church hoping to pay out roughly $20-million. A figure that could rise in the next six months as the Church’s bankruptcy attorney Ford Elsaesser explained the part of the process will be issuing broad notice to sexual abuse survivors who have not filed a claim and providing them with an opportunity to do so.
“They will have the opportunity to file up until a deadline date which will probably be sometime in the May to June time frame.” He went on to say, “we don’t know today how many claims will be received in addition to the 202 that we are already aware of and know about until we know that number after that number is established that’s when we will be entering into mediated discussions with the claimants and their counsel.”
But with only $16,000 in the Victim’s Fund and little over 1-thousand dollars cash on hand an upwards of $20 million is a figure which is far out of the Catholic Church’s grasp. Hence the move to file bankruptcy.
In the petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization everything from cars, office furniture, computers, and brass candle holders to properties, bank accounts, stocks and bonds were included in the calculation of assets belonging to the Catholic Church. Bringing us to the $22.5 million in assets, some of which we must note are restricted funds. For assets the petition indicates that the Archdiocese has $17.5 million in real property and $5.4 million in personal property. $2.5 million of which is spread out through 20 bank accounts on island and another $2.2 million in accounts receivable. Bottom line the Church appears to be in no position to pay out-of-pocket a $20 million potential settlement with out filing for bankruptcy, as doing so would halt the Church operations on a massive scale.
Bringing us to the Church’s decision to file for bankruptcy in the District Court of Guam.
“At that time the Archdiocese will have some motions to continue the routine operations at the diocese such as making payroll keeping our bank accounts open and allowing the financial transactions so that the Archdiocese can continue to operate in a normal and usual fashion. There should be no interruptions of any school or parish operations going forward. We have met with the schools and parishes.But the operative word is that everything is open… there will be no shut down so to speak,” reassured Elsaesser.
This motion was granted by District Court Chief Judge Francis Tydingco-Gatewood.
You can view the AOA’s voluntary petition here, https://tinyurl.com/AOAJan16