Pacific Daily News [Hagåtña, Guam]
September 13, 2022
By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert
Two men who were sexually abused by priests as children but filed their claims past the Aug. 15, 2019 deadline will get their full share of the Archdiocese of Agana’s compensation plan.
This comes two weeks before a hearing on the archdiocese’s bankruptcy exit plan, a key part of which is paying out hundreds of abuse claimants.
In the offer, the archdiocese and its creditors’ committee propose to pay abuse survivors $37 million to $101 million, plus a free burial plot and Catholic education for their children.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, at a hearing Tuesday, allowed the two late-file claims to be considered as timely filed, and would therefore not incur a penalty. The penalty could have reduced their payout share to 33.3% and subject to a $50,000 cap.
Attorney Anthony Perez, counsel for the men, argued that his clients “acted quickly” and filed a lawsuit and proof of claim within the month after learning that they could file claims for what was done to them when they were minors, although it was already past the court-imposed deadline.
Perez said the two survivors, identified in court documents only as “XX” and “EE” to protect their privacy, weren’t keeping up with news associated with the Catholic church, which they shunned after they were raped by priests as children.
The judge said the reasons cited by the two plaintiffs for filing claims past the bar date were “far more reasonable for the court,” even as the judge held off ruling on 14 other late-filed claims.
Those 14 other claimants are represented by Attorney Michael Berman, who asked the court to consider their claims as timely filed, or to at least revise their payout percentage share to 90% rather than the proposed 33.33%.
Berman said one of the most crucial factors in considering whether these late filings are an “excusable neglect” is a lack of prejudice to the debtor, or the archdiocese, which didn’t oppose the motion.
Attorney Delia Lujan Wolff, whose law firm represents more than 150 Guam clergy sex abuse claimants, objected to the motion to consider the late-filed claims as timely filed.
Wolff said only 10 of 14 claimants whom Berman represents filed a declaration explaining why the claim was filed 92 days to 729 days past the deadline. She said the reasons cited, including “nervousness, shame and embarrassment” were also felt by survivors who filed by deadline.
She said the deadline was well-publicized in Guam, Saipan, Hawaii and several states, along with publications of church and other organizations.
At the hearing, Berman said he understands Wolff’s position, considering that her clients may receive a little less from the settlement if 14 others get a full share.
Wolff said even if claims are not allowed as timely filed, they will still be compensated up to $50,000 under the plan. Generally, late-filed claims in bankruptcy cases do not get a share of the payout, she said.
The judge previously considered one other late-filed claim as timely filed. That claimant’s case to hold the Vatican responsible for his childhood rape by former archbishop Anthony Apuron is ongoing.