Our View: Clergy abuse settlement can help survivors, and community heal

Pacific Daily News [Hagåtña, Guam]

October 6, 2022

After decades of disbelief, denial and silence, more than 270 people who were sexually abused by Guam clergy members are closer to being compensated for their injuries after a federal judge approved the Archdiocese of Agana’s bankruptcy exit plan Tuesday.

The lead legal counsel for the Archdiocese of Agana’s Chapter 11 reorganization said Wednesday that the survivors trust fund would receive at least $34 million to $45 million. The final amount will depend on how much money is raised by the sale of archdiocese properties.

Family members of survivors will also receive school vouchers for students from kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as cemetery plots.

Descriptions of the abuse endured by the survivors, detailed in the civil lawsuits filed against the archdiocese, are horrifying. Those who did report the abuse as children said they were ignored or admonished by adults.

Back in 2016, a number of former altar boys stepped forward with allegations of abuse against then-Archbishop Anthony Apuron. At the time, the Legislature was considering eliminating the statute of limitations for civil suits involving child sexual abuse.

The archdiocese was opposed to the legislation.

Leo Tudela testified before senators and said he had been abused in the 1950s by Father Louis Brouillard, and he said he wasn’t the only one. Brouillard, who died in 2018 at the age of 97, was accused in most of the Guam cases, and admitted to abusing at least 20 boys.

Tudela, now 79, brought the scope of Guam’s problem to light, and his efforts were praised by Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood on Tuesday, who appropriately described him as a hero.

Unfortunately, the contentious bankruptcy process caused more heartache for the survivors over the past four years. On Tuesday, Tudela told the court that he and others felt abandoned by the church.

With the approval of the bankruptcy exit plan, the hope is that the survivors and the church will be able to heal. Tudela described the bankruptcy exit plan as “not perfect, but a reasonable one.”

No amount of money can make up for the lifelong wounds carried by the survivors, but any healing that comes from the settlement will help the community heal as well.