Diocese Sets up Nonprofits for Building Fund
The Two Corporations Are Meant to Reassure Donors That Money for a New Cathedral and Other Projects Won't Be Used to Settle Sex-Abuse Suits
By William Lobdell
Los Angeles Times [California]
December 17, 2003
Donations for the proposed Roman Catholic cathedral in Santa Ana and various parish building projects will be funneled into two newly formed nonprofit corporations, ensuring that they cannot be tapped for sexual abuse settlements, Diocese of Orange officials announced Tuesday.
Church officials said the arrangement is needed to boost donor confidence that financial gifts will be used for their intended purpose. The concern is that the money would be used to help settle the more than 50 cases that have been filed against the diocese by alleged victims of molestation by priests.
The move by church officials is largely cosmetic, because by law, money given for specific projects can't be used for other purposes, said Shirl Giacomi, chancellor for the diocese.
"We have always had donor-restricted funds … but the general public seems to want more assurance that their future contributions will not go for settlements," Giacomi said.
"Separate corporations will assure both donors and other onlookers that the restricted gifts are respected and valid."
Only new donations will be affected, and no money from the diocesan coffers will be transferred to the corporations, church officials said.
The diocese and many of its parishes plan to begin building campaigns in the coming months. The church bought 16 acres in 2001 for a cathedral and parish near MacArthur Boulevard and Bear Street in Santa Ana near South Coast Plaza. The capital campaign for the buildings has been delayed twice in the last 2 1/2 years because of the economy and then the sexual abuse scandal.
The cost of the cathedral, which has not been designed, is unknown.
Other building needs in the postponed fundraising drive originally included the remodeling, expansion and earthquake retrofit of many of the diocese's aging parishes. Bishop Tod D. Brown has decided to have individual parishes with critical needs conduct their own building campaigns.
Advocates for victims of sexual abuse by priests questioned the diocese's latest move.
"The message they're sending to the people in the pews is: Give your money to us, and we won't give it to those pesky children who we've molested," said John Manly, a Costa Mesa attorney who represents more than 65 alleged victims of sexual abuse. "It's a wonderful Christmas greeting for survivors of sexual abuse."
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