RELIGION

Guam archbishop: Settlements promising end to abuse lawsuits

Archbishop Michael Byrnes poses for a photo in front of his residence in Hagatna, Guam, Friday, March 3, 2017. Byrnes, the current leader of Guam's Catholic Church, says financial settlements could be a good solution for the archdiocese, which is facing $115 million in civil lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse at the hands of priests. (AP Photo/Grace Garces Bordallo)

Archbishop Michael Byrnes poses for a photo in front of his residence in Hagatna, Guam, Friday, March 3, 2017. Byrnes, the current leader of Guam's Catholic Church, says financial settlements could be a good solution for the archdiocese, which is facing $115 million in civil lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse at the hands of priests. (AP Photo/Grace Garces Bordallo)  (The Associated Press)

The leader of Guam's Catholic Church believes financial settlements could be a good solution for the archdiocese, which is facing $115 million in civil lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse at the hands of priests.

Archbishop Michael Byrnes told The Associated Press Friday that settling with the alleged victims would be a "real promising option," but he did not elaborate.

In 2016, the Rev. Louis Brouillard told the AP that he molested about 20 boys while he was a priest in Guam over a 30-year period, starting in the 1940s.

Byrnes said the 95-year-old Brouillard is the main figure in the 23 lawsuits, and that the church will pay for some of the priest's legal fees.

"We're not paying the legal defense of the accused," Byrnes said. "In the specific case of Father Brouillard, we are going to pay for a lawyer for his deposition."

Byrnes says the archdiocese has revamped its sexual abuse policies and will have greater financial transparency, adding that the archdiocese would like to avoid bankruptcy.

"It could mean the liquidation of a lot of properties - whether financial or real property, and that's just reality. Apart from that, we're already facing a reality of a trust factor. The church has lost the trust of a lot of the faithful," Byrnes said. "We could lose a lot of buildings and we'd still be the church. But without the trust of people, it's hard."

The Catholic church of Guam has 26 parishes around the island.

Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron also faces multiple allegations of sex abuse of altar boys in the 1970s. Apuron, who is currently under investigation by the Vatican, has denied the claims and has not been criminally charged.