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Spotlight Report

Archdiocese weighs fund-raising options

By Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 3/14/2002

The Archdiocese of Boston is considering a number of options for raising the tens of millions of dollars that will soon be needed to pay settlements to victims of clergy sexual abuse - options that include selling buildings, borrowing money, and asking large donors for contributions.

According to church officials and advisers, the archdiocese has yet to determine how much money it will need to pay off the settlements that will not be covered by insurance, but one official said it could be as high as $40 million to $50 million. That amount does not include future cases that may be filed by at least 200 people who have sought representation from lawyers since the scandal erupted in January.

Under the terms of a tentative agreement announced Tuesday, the archdiocese will pay 86 victims of convicted child molester John J. Geoghan, who was a priest from 1962 to 1998, between $15 million and $30 million. While the full sum will not need to be raised until the settlements are finalized by the end of the year, the archdiocese will need to deposit a minimum of $7.5 million in an escrow account within a month under the tentative agreement.

Cardinal Bernard Law has promised that none of the money to pay for the settlements will come from collections, his annual fund-raising appeal, or his ongoing campaign to raise $300 million for a variety of archdiocesan causes. Although he has spoken with individual donors about the possibility of a private fund-raising drive among well-heeled donors, Law has yet to order such an effort.

One Boston businessman who has advised the archdiocese on the crisis said he doubted that Law would be able to raise more than $10 million from such a drive. ''The belief that I hear more than anything is that they have to be ready to consolidate their operations and be ready to sell off buildings and other assets,'' said the businessman, who asked not to be identified.

One option that was raised last fall, but dismissed, would be to consolidate the archdiocese's two seminaries, moving its storied St. John Seminary from the chancery's grounds in Brighton to the Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston.

However, officials said, that option was discarded because the archdiocese did not want the older seminarians, who are taught at the National Seminary, being trained with the younger seminarians who attend St. John.

Raising the needed funds through the sale of stocks and bonds may be difficult. The Globe reported this month that the archdiocese had sold off 60 percent of its stock and 98 percent of its bonds during the five-year period ending last June 30.

The sale of the investments, which raised more than $20 million, was needed to offset revenue shortfalls that the archdiocese's chief operating fund had suffered during the past decade.

In addition to the investments, the Globe reported, the archdiocese had sold $33 million in real estate, and those proceeds had gone to its chief operating fund or its parishes.

This story ran on page A21 of the Boston Globe on 3/14/2002.
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