Friday, July 30, 2010

Convent among assets to be liquidated by diocese to fund abuse settlement

Convent among assets to be liquidated by diocese to fund abuse settlement
The former Stella Maris convent in Pictou has been chosen by the area's diocese as an asset that can be liquidated to meet the class-action sexual abuse settlement. Sueann Musick – The News
Published on July 29th, 2010

The News Topics : Stella Maris Church , Antigonish , Pictou County
PICTOU – Father Paul Abbass keeps one notion at the forefront of his mind as he deals with the liquidation of assets for the Diocese of Antigonish.

"We're doing this to be reconciled with the victims. If this is not what we're doing then none of this makes sense," said Abbass, the vicar general and director of pastoral services for the diocese. "We are trying to seek reconciliation and justice for the victims. Sadly, the people that had nothing to do with it will suffer, the people in the pews.… Unless I put this in the context of what we're trying to do right there is only pain."

Abbass is deep into the process of the liquidation of diocese assets to meet the court-ordered settlement for the sexual abuse scandal. That amounts to a $15 million settlement along with another $3 million for any other potential related lawsuits.

Churches of the diocese had to identify core assets and non-core assets to determine what could be liquidated and what would be retained.

That liquidation has begun with one asset in Pictou County, the former convent at Stella Maris Church in Pictou, identified as being ready for sale.

He said certain properties have been chosen first because they have been the easiest to identify as being eligible for sale, with a clear deed.

"Others are not so easy to sort it out. Some have one PID (parcel identification number) for the whole parish (church, parish house, land, cemetery) … there's a lot more separating out."

There are a few other assets for sale across the diocese, with more coming, said Abbass. He said the diocese is taking a gradual approach because of the learning curve involved.

"We wanted to release the first five or 10 and then learn what are the potential glitches. We would then say 'okay, what can we learn from this?… We have so many properties, too many to go out to the market at one time."

Abbass said the properties have to be listed for market value under the terms of the agreement.

"Some properties are very valuable, oceanfront, lakefront, subdivision areas. At any given time they're very valuable."

He also said there are some undeveloped rural lands that won't be sold as easily.

Abbass said parishoners of the diocese are dealing with a sense of loss, in some cases saying goodbye to buildings that were constructed by their parents or grandparents.

"It's fair to say most parishoners find this to be a tough situation, it's akin to letting go, it is letting go."

However painful this situation is now, Abbass said the alternative could be worse.

"This is a very, very difficult, painful process for anyone involved. We are trying to spare people of an even more painful process which would be bankruptcy, which no one wants to see."

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