The Archdiocese of Agaña has learned of the lawsuit filed by the Official Creditors Committee in the bankruptcy case. Although the archdiocese has not had an opportunity to fully review the lawsuit, the gist of the claims made are that parishes and schools are “owned” by the archdiocese, and not the individual parishes and schools.
The archdiocese maintains, through Archbishop Michael Byrnes that the parishes and schools are held only in trust by the archdiocese, and in particular by the archbishop in office at any particular time.
“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,” said Ford Elsaesser, one of the bankruptcy counsel for the Archdiocese of Agaña.
“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,” added Elsaesser.
The archdiocese is hopeful that after the lawsuit is answered, the parties will go back to mediation and resolve all issues, including compensation for abuse survivors, before extensive legal proceedings begin and the litigation is commenced.
“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,” said Elsaesser.