Sunday, January 23, 2011

Property sales
Church sales may help pay abuse settlements

By BRIAN MEDEL Yarmouth Bureau
Sat, Jan 22 - 4:54 AM

The late Adolphe LeBlanc once served as priest at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Wedgeport. The Diocese of Yarmouth may sell some of its properties to help pay for a $1.5-million settlement with some victims of abuse by LeBlanc and another priest. (BRIAN MEDEL / Yarmouth Bureau)

YARMOUTH — Roman Catholic church properties in western Nova Scotia may soon sprout For Sale signs as the Diocese of Yarmouth prepares to sell off some assets to help pay for settlements reached with victims of abuse at the hands of local priests many years ago.

"There certainly will be a sale of properties," Marilyn Sweet, communications officer for the Archdiocese of Halifax and the Diocese of Yarmouth, said Friday.

"I don’t know the number and I know that nothing is firm yet."

Six people who were sexually abused by two priests in southwestern Nova Scotia many years ago reached settlements this week with the Diocese of Yarmouth. The six will share about $1.5 million, an amount that was agreed upon after four days of mediation, said Paul Ledroit, their lawyer, on Thursday.

The priests, Adolphe LeBlanc and Edward Theriault, are dead. They worked in Acadian parishes in southwestern Nova Scotia, Ledroit said.

The firm mediated eight cases, he said, involving four victims of each priest. The other two cases are not necessarily finished, said Ledroit.

The church will now sell some buildings to help pay what is owed to the victims.

"It’s not going to happen today or tomorrow," said Sweet. "But in order to meet those responsibilities, there will indeed be a sale of properties within the Diocese of Yarmouth."

The responsibilities she spoke of include paying settlement money to victims. But more cases are waiting to be heard.

"We are facing more than 20 cases (in total)," she said.

"Six cases have been settled in this last mediation process. There are others that will be addressed over the coming months with attempts to settle.

"It really kind of all depends on what the needs are and what the assets are — how the whole thing looks."

She said she did not want to speculate about how many properties might have to be sold.

"I don’t think those properties have been all identified yet, and I know that it’s intended to be a longer-term process. It’s not like a 90-day fire sale."

It may take a couple of years or even longer to negotiate sales, she said. The church will need time to evaluate the properties and assess their worth.

She did not know how many properties are in the diocese.

"There’s an effort within the Diocese of Yarmouth to speak to parish leadership around what properties are available so that the work is done . . . to identify what the assets are," she said.

Some church leaders are lay persons. "Not every parish has a priest resident in the parish,"said Sweet.

The Diocese of Yarmouth runs from Hantsport past Yarmouth and along the South Shore, where it ends on the Halifax side of Liverpool, she said.

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