Saturday, December 14, 2002

Diocese of Providence starts selling property

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence plans to sell the bishop's summer home, a Watch Hill mansion appraised at $4 million, to help pay for its $14.25-million settlement in some three dozen sexual-abuse lawsuits.

In a paring down reminiscent of other dioceses that have compensated victims of abuse in recent years, the Providence diocese is also considering selling at least eight other properties, including vacant land near Aldrich Mansion on Warwick Neck, to pay for the September settlement, the diocese's financial officers said yesterday.

Chief Financial Officer Michael F. Sabatino, and the Rev. Msgr. William M. McCaffrey, the diocesan secretary for planning and financial services, discussed the diocese's 2001-2002 financial report yesterday, revealing not only the effect of the settlement on diocesan finances, but the internal workings of the diocese as it fought 10 years of litigaton. The diocese spent between $3.5 million and $4.5 million in legal fees to defend the lawsuits.

The diocese, which has assets around $100 million, is counting on the sale of property -- not directly related to ministry -- and insurance money, to pay for the settlements and legal fees. It is not necessarily a smooth course; the diocese is trying to recover insurance money from carriers it had decades ago, when much of the abuse occured. Typically, nationwide, insurance companies have balked, rarely giving as much as a diocese wants. One of the Providence diocese's major insurers in the 1970s, has already refused to pay once.

The diocese's financial officers acknowledged yesterday that the costs of the settlements, coupled with nearly $4 million in stock market losses over the past year, will curb spending.





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