October 12, 2005


Willamette Week

503 243-2122

Archbishop John Vlazny insists to this day that he made the right choice 15 months ago when he directed Portland's Catholic Archdiocese to be the country's first to declare bankruptcy.

Vlazny says that was the only way to ensure archdiocese operations continued for nearly 400,000 Catholics in Western Oregon while providing fair compensation for plaintiffs with legitimate sex-abuse claims against priests.

But Vlazny's decision, which he hopes will limit financial losses from claims and some insurers' refusal to pay, looks shaky to analysts as a Dec. 6 court date looms.

If Vlazny's gamble proves a loser before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris in Portland, his archdiocese may have to sell off church assets throughout its 124 parishes and schools to settle some $200 million in sex-abuse claims.

The question of whether the archdiocese's liabilities outweigh its assets rests largely on whether church property, worth at least $500 million in assessed value, can be considered part of its estate.

Posted by kshaw at October 12, 2005 06:23 PM