February 6, 2013 in Nation/World

Archdiocese mulls fundraising effort

Molestation scandal has hit church finances hard
Los Angeles Times
Associated Press photo

Under Cardinal Roger Mahony the Los Angeles Archdiocese agreed to pay abuse settlements of more than $700 million.
(Full-size photo)

LOS ANGELES – In the midst of renewed public outrage over its handling of clergy sex abuse, the Los Angeles Archdiocese is considering a $200 million fundraising campaign that could erase debts brought on by the scandal.

The archdiocese has hired a New York company, Guidance In Giving Inc., to study the feasibility of a large-scale fundraiser that would shore up a bottom line hit hard by costly abuse litigation. It would be the archdiocese’s first capital campaign in 60 years.

The archdiocese’s $660 million settlement in 2007 with more than 500 victims was the largest in U.S. history. According to a December financial report reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, the archdiocese is still paying down loans it used to cover the settlement, and its liabilities now outstrip its assets by $80 million.

The archdiocese is contemplating the fundraiser as a way to repay settlement loans totaling $175 million, according to the report. An archdiocese spokesman confirmed that the capital campaign was being considered but in a statement did not address whether any proceeds would be used to pay down the settlement loan.

Spokesman Tod Tamberg said in an email that the funds would “be put into various endowments earmarked to support the pastoral priorities of the Archdiocese, as well for the general repair and upkeep of our parish churches and schools.”

As part of a six-month study, consultants planned to interview pastors at all 288 parishes in the three-county archdiocese as well as other clergy and lay leaders, the report said. Tamberg described initial feedback from the study as “very positive.”

The church’s last capital campaign occurred in 1949 and raised $3.5 million for new schools in only three weeks. At that time, there were about 650,000 Catholics in the archdiocese. Now there are 5 million, according to church figures.

If the new fundraiser occurs, it would place Archbishop Jose Gomez in the potentially difficult position of seeking large contributions from people whose anger at the abuse scandal has been stoked anew. Files released in a court case last month showed how Gomez’s predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, and a high-ranking church official, Thomas J. Curry, plotted to hide molestation from police in the 1980s and 1990s.

In what appeared to be an attempt to turn the page on the decade-long scandal, Gomez last week publicly rebuked Mahony, accepted Curry’s resignation and ordered 12,000 pages of internal archdiocese records about abuse posted on the church’s website.

Gomez, 61, holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a background Mahony had predicted would prove useful when he turned over management of the nation’s largest Catholic archdiocese to Gomez in 2011.

Under Mahony, the archdiocese agreed to two major abuse settlements: the $660 million payout in 2007 and a $60 million agreement in 2006. Although insurance companies and religious orders picked up about half that amount, the church has paid at least $360 million to compensate victims. The amount does not include legal fees for church lawyers who negotiated settlements and then spent years fighting unsuccessfully in court to keep the church records confidential.

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