Santa Fe archdiocese continues to list hundreds of unused pieces of land for sale

Santa Fe cathedral Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi | Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is continuing to list for sale many unused parcels of church property in an effort to help pay for settlements to sexual abuse victims. 

CNA reported in April that the archdiocese intends to sell over 700 properties by late July to help pay for settlements. 

Of the many more properties to be sold by an auctioneering firm, most are small vacant lots, fields, or grazing land donated to the archdiocese by families. In August 2020, the archdiocese listed the vacant St. Francis Cathedral School in downtown Santa Fe for $3.6 million.

The archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 2018. At the time, Archbishop John Wester said there were between 35-40 active sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese; today there are at least 400. 

Although many properties are set to be sold, earlier this month Archbishop Wester told a local high school, St. Pius X, that their school would not be one of them, thanks to commitments from donors. 

Wester did warn, however, that the school’s success depends largely on sustained enrollment, and “enrollment numbers are lagging significantly for the coming year.”

“As Archbishop, I will continue to ensure that the school adheres to the theological and moral teaching of our beloved Catholic faith— something no other high school in the area can provide,” Wester wrote May 18. 

The archdiocese has asked all of its parishes to contribute money if they have funds available, Fr. Clement Niggel, pastor of Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church, told the News Bulletin. 

“The legalities of the bankruptcy are very complex,” Leslie Radigan, Director of Communications for the archdiocese, told CNA. 

 “Above all, we continue to pray daily in Masses and personal prayer for the healing of the victims and the eradication of sexual abuse in our Church and in the world. We see the horrific damage that such crimes have caused to all involved, especially victims.”

Throughout the bankruptcy process, some alleged abuse victims ohave accused the archdiocese of transferring some properties’ ownership from the archdiocese to individual parishes to protect them from being lost in the settlement process. 

In October 2020, a U.S. bankruptcy judge ruled that lawyers for clergy sex abuse victims can file lawsuits alleging the archdiocese fraudulently transferred the property and assets in order to shield them from being used for payouts, the AP reported.

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