February 05, 2005

Sex-abuse scandal puts parish assets in jeopardy

Winston-Salem Journal

By Steve Woodward

The 450 families of St. Mary Our Lady of the Dunes Catholic Church in Florence, Ore., have no doubt that the parish belongs to them.

The congregation dates to at least 1949, when the parish priest in Reedsport made monthly trips to Florence to celebrate Mass in people's homes. Since then, the church has been housed in an American Legion hall, the upstairs of Cooper's Mercantile Store and a 20-by-50-foot donated building that had to be trucked to the site in 1953. Parishioners have pledged $1.9 million toward a major building expansion, said Ken Janowski, fund-raising chairman.

There's just one problem: The parish might not actually exist as a separate legal entity, because the archdiocese holds the title for its property. If that's the case, St. Mary's could see $1.5 million in property, cash and savings used to help settle a staggering $534 million in claims against the bankrupt Archdiocese of Portland for alleged clergy sexual abuse of at least 72 men and women.

As a result, the building expansion, which had already gone out to bid, is on indefinite, and perhaps permanent, hold.

Posted by kshaw at February 5, 2005 06:37 AM