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Catholic Church of Guam sets up $1M abuse settlement fund

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HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — The Roman Catholic Church of Guam has established a $1 million settlement fund for victims of child sexual abuse.

In a news conference with his nine-member archdiocese finance council, Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes said the funds will become available as soon as the archdiocese has put in place an administrator who will be supported by an independent third party. After these are in place, Byrnes said victims can contact the administrator directly. He added victims' confidentiality will be respected.

To date, 24 victims have filed a lawsuit for clergy child sexual abuse against the archdiocese of Agana in Guam.

Byrnes said the archdiocese has taken steps to revamp its sexual abuse policy.

"We will show no tolerance to abusers," Byrnes said.

Archdiocesan Finance Council President Richard Untalan said the procedures for the settlement fund are being worked out and that legal issues have not been resolved.

The archdiocese will have no influence with how claims are processed or determined, Untalan said. The credibility of the claim and amount will be determined by the administrator, and the amount given to the victim may vary. He added that the fund is available to existing plaintiffs.

The settlement account is funded through liquidation of church investments such as stocks, he said. The account will generate its own cash and income and the church will add to it.

The archdiocese net book value is $132 million, Untalan said. The archdiocese has 26 parishes and 14 Catholic schools, two seminaries and several auxiliary ministries including Catholic Social Services and a soup kitchen for the homeless.

"We are not filing bankruptcy," Untalan said. "We hope we can settle every case."

He said the $1 million is a start and shows the archdiocese's "serious intent" to aid victims whether they file a lawsuit or not.

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