Archbishop: Cathedral to be mortgaged to help pay abuse settlements | New

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is asking parishes to help provide at least $12 million of the $75 million needed to meet the terms of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding stemming from hundreds of clergy abuse lawsuits — and one method to help finance the debt will be to mortgage the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.

A June 17 letter from Archbishop John C. Wester notified parishes of plans to mortgage Santa Fe Cathedral, considered by many to be the emotional and spiritual center of New Mexico’s Roman Catholics.

“If the market value is not sufficient to secure the loan, additional property may be required to secure the loan,” Wester wrote. “Any mortgaged property will not be lost due to the collective commitment of the parishes to pay the debt.”

In the letter, Wester wrote that the archdiocese must provide $65 million by September 30 and the final $10 million by March 31.

To do this, Wester wrote, the parishes of the archdiocese should collectively provide $12 million.

“This goes beyond the money from the parish and the sale of parish property incurred last year for the parish channeling injunction,” Wester wrote.

“I pray it’s less than $12 million and no more, but it depends on other resources we’re actively seeking and your continued generosity and help. We understand that this will require an incredibly significant sacrifice on the part of all parishes and in the years to come. »

The letter also stated that the cooperation of individual parishes was essential.

“It is imperative for the entire Archdiocese that every parish cooperate and support all efforts to close Chapter 11,” Wester wrote.

The archdiocese, according to the letter, is seeking loans from two Catholic lenders, the Catholic Order of Foresters and Notre Dame Federal Credit Union.

“There are still many loose ends to work out with them, but it is clear that they will provide very favorable terms,” ​​Wester wrote.

The letter suggests a “debt distribution” to individual parishes out of $12 million to all parishes, which would have to pay more than $100,000 over time or in a lump sum.

Archdiocesan officials could not be reached Saturday for comment on the effort.

After a difficult four-year process, the archdiocese reached a $121.5 million settlement in May involving at least 375 people who have accused priests of sexual abuse.

Accusers have yet to approve the terms, and a vote is expected in late summer or early fall, with the money to be distributed by October, lawyers said in May.

Although the archdiocese relied in part on insurance money to fund the settlement, it also auctioned off some properties and collected donations following longstanding allegations against some of its priests.

The abuse, accusers say, went on for years.

It was not the first time the archdiocese had faced such uproar: Claims against priests in the early 1990s rocked churches and parishioners.

Earlier this month, attorneys for the archdiocese and numerous victims told a federal bankruptcy judge they saw no complications from the settlement.

The Cathedral Basilica, built in the 1800s under the direction of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, is one of the best-known structures in New Mexico. It was elevated to the rank of basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

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