Bankruptcy may lead to sale of Twin Cities chancery, other buildings

by Brian Roewe

NCR environment correspondent

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The St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese could sell its chancery building and three other properties as part of its ongoing bankruptcy process, local news outlets have reported.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, chief financial officer Tom Mertens told a creditors meeting on Tuesday that the archdiocese would seek permission from a bankruptcy trustee to sell the chancery offices, the Msgr. Ambrose Hayden Center (home of the Office of Family, Laity, Youth & Young Adults), the Dayton Building, and a property in Northfield. He estimated the four properties together could sell for a maximum of $11 million.

“Our plan would be that we would sell these four properties assuming that the offer price is adequate,” he told MPR.

Mertens indicated the archdiocese would seek to lease office space. The chancery houses archdiocesan administrative staff and is attached to Archbishop John Nienstedt’s residence.

The Twin Cities archdiocese filed for bankruptcy Jan. 16, largely in response to uncertain and mounting costs related to clergy sex abuse, it said. Shortly after, a bankruptcy judge ordered all parties involved, including those who have brought lawsuits claiming sex abuse, into mediation.

It is not uncommon for dioceses in bankruptcy or difficult financial straits to sell their chancery offices, whether to fund abuse settlements or other reasons.

In May 2007, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony announced the archdiocese would seek to sell its headquarters, the Archdiocesan Catholic Center, to help fund its $40 million share of a $60 million settlement the previous December of 46 civil cases of sexual abuse. Two months later, the archdiocese agreed to a $660 million global settlement with 508 plaintiffs, with its share set at $250 million. The chancery sold in 2008 for $31 million.

Earlier that same year, the Boston archdiocese sold its chancery buildings -- its central administration since the late 1920s -- and the surrounding grounds, about 20 acres in all, to Boston College for an estimated $65 million. The Jesuit school had previously purchased from the archdiocese its tribunal building a property in 2006 for $8 million, and another 43 acres and buildings in 2004 for nearly $100 million.

The Burlington, Vt., diocese announced plans to sell its headquarters in 2010 in response to abuse settlements.

In the early 1990s, the San Jose, Calif., diocese sold off its chancery building not for abuse-related reasons, but after renovation costs to the 100-year-old St. Joseph’s Cathedral (now Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph) ballooned from an expected $6.9 million to $27 million.

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]

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