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Church has time to file for bankruptcy; parties can continue negotiations

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Over a dozen lawyers in court, with several others on the phone early Thursday morning - each providing their update on the clergy sexual abuse lawsuits.

Keith Talbot announced, "And the stay has been continued to mid-January." That means no action on the 180-plus clergy sexual abuse cases in the local and federal court. According to Talbot, the Church lead counsel, this gives the Archdiocese of Agana time to file for bankruptcy. It also gives time for parties to continue negotiations.

Also in court on Thursday, plaintiffs' counsels asked that the Church not engage in any more real estate transactions. As reported, plaintiffs had previously called out the Church for "acting in bad faith." This was in reference to Church properties reportedly being sold, without notification to all parties.

Talbot said, "We will absolutely work with the plaintiffs' counsel. The bankruptcy is going to be a collaborative process. And so we'll continue to work with them and talk with them and the sales of these properties or not selling this properties. We won't be doing it unless we're in consultation with them."

As of today, the Archdiocese confirms only one property has been sold. That building - the former Kamalen Karidat Thrift Store in Hagatna - is currently being leased to the Judiciary of Guam with plans to make it a new probation office.

Bankruptcy, as we reported on Wednesday, was a decision that came after parties attempted to mediate in September.

The Church confirms they've also notified the Vatican on their game plan.

Archbishop Michael Byrnes, "One of the things when you alienate property from the diocese, you have to seek permission from the Vatican. We've already done that with the largest bulk of the properties. So we've been cleared to make them available for sale - the bankruptcy, I wrote to the congregation for the evangelization of peoples and informed them that we're pursuing bankruptcy."

It was noted in court that some co-defendants have settled their cases. The Church, meanwhile, has only settled two.

Talbot added, "We are unable to give that information at this time while the settlements are ongoing. The premediation protocol is still in effect."

A status hearing is set for January 17.

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