Advocates of sex abuse victims want SF Archdiocese to sell unused property as reparations

Advocates of the victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church issued a detailed letter to the Archdiocese of San Francisco on Wednesday requesting the Catholic Church sell some unused properties to compensate victims. 

The letter, sent by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, was addressed to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Nov. 1.

The document details the SF Archdiocese’s net worth of more than $6 billion in real estate, some of which could serve as reparations. 

The SF Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy on Aug. 21, claiming it was because of the 500 lawsuits stacked against them. 

Instead of bankruptcy, they said the Catholic Church could look at its assets, like millions of dollars’ worth of property not in use. 

“There’s enough money in the Diocese and enough property for it to continue its mission and still sell property to address the needs of these victims,” said Dan McNevin, primary author of the letter and SNAP Board of Directors Treasurer.

The letter references at least eight parishes that don’t have an in-house priest and another 10 churches permanently closed or merged. 

“These are properties they could liquidate,” said Sakoda.

For example, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School merged with the St. Monica school. The building left behind on Balboa Street, which SNAP said is worth about $25 million, is now leased to a non-Catholic private school, the Terra School.

“There are examples of open land attached to parishes that are not being used for religious purposes that could be sold,” said McNevin. “The seminary has 40 acres of land in Atherton. It doesn’t need 40 acres – it could use 10, and 30 acres could be sold to build houses.

“The same with St. Vincent’s in San Rafael. They have 700 acres of ranch land that could be sold to a hold builder,” he continued.

McNevin estimates each parish is worth an average of $28 million. He also said their estimates on the property values are conservative and don’t include miscellaneous income the church may be getting.

Litigation records reveal more than 200 priests with the SF Archdiocese are accused of child sex abuse, but SNAP has a record of 400 abusers. SNAP submitted a list of 21 parishes which housed more than seven accused clerics. 

“They made these decisions, they created these victims,” said Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivors Support Director. 

MORE: Oakland diocese files for bankruptcy amid abuse lawsuits, Bishop Michael Barber responds to priest allegations

SNAP executives said the bankruptcy prevents victims from coming forward for incidents before the filing date.

“Is that really fair that they’re cut out of receiving any settlement when perhaps the archdiocese is responsible for putting that person in that position? I don’t think so,” said Sakoda.

After KTVU asked the Archdiocese for a response to the letter, Communications Executive Director Peter Marlow sent us and emailed statement saying, “As expected, the secular media continues to serve as an extension of activist groups and lawyers to perpetuate inaccurate information and false accusations about the archdiocese, parishes, and priests.”

Marlow did not directly address the letter’s contents or specify the “inaccurate information and false accusations.”

“At the end of the day, they’re going to have to produce property records for everything they own. If they don’t, they’ll be in violation of a federal law, and that will allow the public to understand the wealth of this place,” said McNevin.

The bankruptcy is still pending with more hearings scheduled later this month. The next hearing is on Nov. 9.

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