Nursery, Grower Buy Abbey Farmland for $1.7 Million
The Monks Sell 133 Acres to Kraemer Nursery and 70 to a Silverton Farmer to Raise Money for Abuse Lawsuits

By Ron Soble
The Oregonian [Salem OR]
September 21, 2004

SALEM -- Mount Angel Abbey, confronting the costs of sex-abuse lawsuits, sold about 200 acres of farmland in March for about $1.7 million, according to the Marion County Assessor's Office.

Kraemer Nursery of Mount Angel, bought 133 acres for $1.15 million March 1, according to property records. On the same day, farmer Herman Goschie of Silverton bought about 70 acres from the abbey for $550,000.

Neither of the parcels is contiguous with the hilltop abbey's considerable land holdings, nursery owner Herman Kraemer said in a telephone interview.

Abbot Nathan Zodrow was in Rome attending an international meeting of Benedictine leaders and couldn't be reached for comment, said Rita Kester, spokeswoman for the monastery.

About 30 people alleged that they were sexually abused by abbey priests, some of whom have died, according to court records. The abbey has settled with many of the accusers, but officials have declined to release settlement figures. The abbey continues to face a half-dozen accusers.

Kraemer, 58, said he had been farming the 133 acres for eight years and was trying to renegotiate a year-to-year lease when one of the abbey's priests offered to sell the land. He said he grows landscape shrubbery.

"They're going to get much better use out of the money than out of the land, " Kraemer said. He added, however, he didn't know how the abbey would use the money.

Goschie said he raises wheat, sugar beets and beans on the land he has leased for 28 years.

Neither attorney Richard Whittemore of Portland, the abbey's lawyer, nor plaintiffs' attorneys could be reached for comment.

The abbey was founded and the farmland settled in 1882 by Benedictine monks from Switzerland.

In a newsletter issued last summer, Zodrow noted that the sexual abuse was alleged to have occurred between 1950 and 1978.

"With sacrifice and careful financial management, we have been able to pay for pastoral care, legal fees and settlements through insurance and our own salaries and retirement," Zodrow wrote in the newsletter.

The abbot noted that the abbey was without legal ties of any kind with the Archdiocese of Portland. The Portland Archdiocese and its insurers spent more than $53 million on settlements before the church sought bankruptcy protection in July.


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