Spokane diocese to sell bishop's office to pay sex-abuse claims

.- The Diocese of Spokane is selling its pastoral center to help cover $81 million in claims, mostly by victims of clergy sex abuse. The nearly 30,000-square-foot, downtown building serves as the chancery and houses the bishop’s office.

A telephone auction is scheduled today after three parties met the minimum offer of $1.7 million, reported The Associated Press. A vacant 3-acre parcel, owned by the diocese in Spokane Valley, also will be sold.

The pastoral center is among $11 million in assets the diocese claimed when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2004.

The diocese estimated it could raise between $30 million and $35 million from insurance settlements and sales of property. While a federal judge ruled in June that Bishop William Skylstad could not sell schools and parish churches to satisfy creditors, the AP reports that lawyers representing the abuse victims said they would consider suing individual parishes to get money.

The diocese does not yet know where it will move its offices. However, according to the AP, some diocesan representatives hope a "Catholic-friendly" buyer would purchase the building and consider leasing it back to the diocese.

The diocese also wants to sell a 92-acre parcel of land near Medical Lake, west of the city, that is listed at $1.5 million. However, no offer to purchase has yet been made.
The bankruptcy proceeding is currently in mediation. According to the AP, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Patricia Williams said she wants to approve a reorganization plan that includes payments to victims by early January. 

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