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Melinda Henneberger on Los Angeles

Commonweal's Melinda Henneberger onĀ  fallout from the sex abuse scandal in Los Angeles.

About the Author

John T. McGreevy is the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.



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From the article: "According to a Times report last year, its [the Archdiocese's] some 1,600 properties are valued at $4 billion and include commercial parking lots, retail buildings, and oil wells . . . ."I am not sure why an archdiocese should own such properties in the first place, let alone hang on to them and sell convents when they want to raise cash. Is it the norm of a Catholic diocese to own property of this kind? Is money earned from something like a commercial parking lot tax exempt?

Best guess: donated property, or property purchased with the intent to use it in some other way that didn't pan out. When you see mention of oil assets, in particular, you can be pretty sure that it's not easy either to develop or sell because of toxic waste concerns (i.e., superfund liability). Underground storage tanks are subject to significant regulation. It wouldn't surprise me if somebody donated it because they couldn't sell it, and the Church can't sell it either. Unrelated business is subject to specific tax rules. Sometimes it's taxable and sometimes it's not.

Barbara you might be more specific on this one. As far as I know a non-profit can own anything that is profitable as long as they have the proper incorporations-- like National Geographic. Most magazines would die for the money that NG has. Help them out.

The real story,of course, is we have a church that is allowed to act responsibly and we just idle along for the ride. The truth is we are all enablers for such abuse.

"Irresponsibly" that is.

I'm not spoiling for a fight on the law of tax exemption, but Bill, you are incorrect in the broadest sense because a non-profit's for-profit activities are not permitted to become a predominant purpose. Whether there is an abuse of that law by the NG, I can't say. The Church can probably own anything of whatever character, but many TE's end up with strange properties because of what is given to them, and they don't know any better than to turn down an asset (like an oil well) that is often a looming liability in disguise. is an excellent article in the current Commoweal about Votf. I find it mind boggling that liberals are so overly criticial of Votf. Not that it cannot be criticized but liberals are too apathetic about it. Really this is an historic organization. No one has taken on the church with this effectiveness. How can one be serious about reform and not support votf? What is the alternative?

Perhaps there's a silver lining in this additional black eye on the Archdiocese of LA: nuns are highly regarded in Santa Barbara for their charitable work, and their plight is bringing out the best in the community. Fundraising is going on, though the approx. $6,200 raised to date is well short of the $1M likely needed for a new convent. (The article contains an address where donations can be sent for anyone inclined to make a contribution to the relocation effort.) I'm puzzled, however, by the archdiocese's reqirement that any new convent cannot be "near" the church the nuns have used for years as their base for their good works. IMHO the archdiocese needs to get some experienced p.r. people on its payroll fast.

My California parish pays property taxes on the former school and convent, now leased out as a Friends' School and hospice, respectively. We also have a single family dwelling and duplex on the property, both of which are subject to taxation. If it isn't used for a directly religious purpose it is subject to property taxation, at least here in California.

Not that it means anything here, but ---When I was a grade schooler, a "respectable" bordello was actually located in an old house situated between the Catholic church and the Catholic school (or maybe the convent).Strange, but true :)

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