BOSTON – The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston (search) mortgaged its cathedral and seminary to finance a clergy sexual abuse settlement that has grown to nearly $90 million, a spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross (search) and St. John's Seminary (search) were mortgaged to secure bank loans so the archdiocese can get the settlement money this month, said the Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese.
Otherwise, the archdiocese would have had to wait for the proceeds from the sale of a 28-acre parcel that includes the mansion that housed Boston's cardinals. That planned sale was announced last week.
The decision to mortgage the two properties was first reported in the Boston Herald on Saturday.
The archdiocese also has dipped into funds for retired clergy and cemeteries to finance the settlement.
The loans will enable the archdiocese to begin paying settlements to 542 clergy sex abuse victims on Dec. 22 as scheduled, Coyne said.
"We have the money to pay off the survivors and their families," he said.
In a letter to priests this weekend, a copy of which was obtained by The Boston Globe, Bishop Richard Lennon (search) said the initial $85 million settlement to victims of priest sex abuse had increased because the archdiocese agreed to pay some victims who had filed individual claims.
"While we had hoped to borrow the entire $90 million from the banks, that proved impossible because of our overall financial situation and our commitment not to pledge parish assets," Lennon, the archdiocese's chief administrative officer, wrote in his letter.
The $75 million in bank loans are being secured by mortgaging St. John's Seminary, while a $15 million loan from the clergy retirement fund -- which provides pensions and health care to retired priests -- was secured by a mortgage on the cathedral and related properties. One-third of the bank loans are also being guaranteed by an individual whom the church has declined to identify.
Coyne told the Globe that the mortgaged properties are not at risk.
"Both the cathedral and the seminary are important to the life of the archdiocese, and we would never imperil either institution," Coyne said.
The archdiocese has also announced the sale of other properties expected to bring in more than $20 million, which would pay for the carrying costs of the loans, outreach and counseling for victims, abuse prevention programs and any unsettled abuse cases.
These include a building that houses the Cardinal Cushing Resource Center (search) and 12 acres on Forest Lake in Methuen that were owned by a now-closed Lawrence parish.