PHILADELPHIA – The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is putting a massive beachfront home on the New Jersey shore up for sale as it faces a $17 million budget deficit and millions in legal bills associated with child sex abuse litigation.
The home used by vacationing retired priests will be shuttered on Saturday, a spokesman for the archdiocese said this week. It isn't yet listed with a broker but that will change soon.
The nine-bedroom property, called Villa St. Joseph by the Sea, occupies a full block along the Ventnor, N.J., boardwalk. Retired priests have used the home, which is assessed at $6.2 million, as a getaway since the archdiocese acquired it in 1963.
Neighbor Charles Fischer told The Philadelphia Inquirer he would miss the priests, calling them "the most wonderful neighbors you could have."
The sale comes as the archdiocese deals with a large budget gap and legal bills resulting from a landmark sex abuse case that ended in the conviction of a high-ranking church official.
Monsignor William Lynn was convicted of child endangerment for his handling of complaints against one priest. Prosecutors said he took part in a cover-up that included the shuffling of pedophile priests to unwitting parishes.
The archdiocese estimated the case had cost it at least $10 million in legal bills.
Archbishop Charles Chaput last week announced plans to cut 45 jobs and stop publishing the diocesan newspaper because of budget problems.
The house cost the archdiocese almost $115,000 in property taxes last year. The church also paid for staff including cooks, waiters and caretakers for the retired priests.
The local chapter of the lay group Voice of the Faithful cheered the sale, saying the church should not be so "ostentatious."
"Priests need a place to relax and refresh, but it does not have to be beachfront," chairwoman Marita Green said in a statement Thursday.