Creditors committee files lawsuit in Church bankruptcy process

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Another lawsuit was filed against the Archdiocese of Agana.

The lawsuit was filed by the Official Creditors Committee, according to a release from the archdiocese.

While they have yet to fully review the lawsuit, the archdiocese said the ‘gist of the claims made are that the parishes and schools are owned by the archdiocese and not the individual parishes and schools.

But according to Archbishop Michael Byrnes the properties are only held in trust by the Catholic Church, specifically the archbishop’s office.

Archdiocese bankruptcy counsel Ford Elsaesser said “We believe that the trust relationship is well established by the facts on the ground, and fully supported by the ‘corporation sole’ statute of the Territory of Guam. We believe this trust relationship is not only consistent with Canon law within the Church, but also case law, as evidenced by the ruling on appeal in the case of the Diocese of Spokane, from some years ago.”

It appears as though the lawsuit must be addressed and answered before the parties are able to go back to mediation to resolve the issues. According to the Archdiocese, this includes compensation for abuse survivors before “extensive legal proceedings begin and litigation is commenced.”

Elsaesser said, “The only ruling from a Court within the Ninth Circuit on appeal, the Ninth Circuit includes both the Territory of Guam and the State of Washington, fully supports the trust theory, and we do not believe there is anything specific about Guam law that would support a different analysis.”

It was in January that the Catholic Church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy re-organization to ensure they have enough money to settle the scores of sexual abuse cases against the Catholic Church. The archdiocese lists $22.9 million in current assets while liabilities are estimated to be $45.6 million.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.