Statues from Christ the King Seminary went missing, only to reappear for sale at an antique store

WKBW [Buffalo NY]

February 26, 2021

By Olivia Proia

On February 4, 2020, the Buffalo Diocese announced Christ the King Seminary would close.

In August, former seminary volunteers said statues around the property began disappearing.

By November, volunteers said six bronze statues were completely gone, only to reappear at Kelly Schultz’s Antiques on Main Street in Clarence.

Kevin Brun is an abuse survivor and a member of the diocese unsecured creditor’s committee, appointed by the United States Trustee when the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“I jumped in my vehicle and I drove to the antique store in Clarence which was a 60 mile round trip. The statues were exhibited outside the building,” Brun said, “I asked if they were for sale and he said yes they are and quoted me on the prices. Needless to say, I was taken back by that.”

7 Eyewitness News has confirmed with the antique shop the statues are for sale, ranging in price form $4,000 to $9,000. All together, one could buy all six statues for $40,000.

According to Christine Bartholomew, a professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law, the diocese must file a motion with bankruptcy court any time they want to liquidate assets. The unsecured creditors committee has the opportunity to respond then a judge can make a ruling.

Volunteers say all six statues were missing by November.  Former Seminary Volunteer
Volunteers say all six statues were missing by November. Former Seminary Volunteer

“The creditors committee would have an opportunity to weigh in on one, should the sale happen and two, in what manner should the sale occur,” Bartholomew said.

7 Eyewitness News reviewed the court docket. As of February 25th, no motion has been filed regarding the sale of these statues.

“I’ve appeared on every single hearing with Judge Bucki and none of this has been brought to the judge. None of it,” Boyd said.

Bartholomew said this raises red flags.

The six bronze statues can be bought for $40,000.  Olivia Proia
The six bronze statues can be bought for $40,000. Olivia Proia

“You’re in some ways saying I want the benefit of bankruptcy, but I don’t want to have the burden that comes with having to follow the judicial plan. At that point the court has to figure out, well do you get both? Do you get the benefit you’re seeking if you’re not willing to follow the rules?” Bartholomew said.

After all, she said, the diocese has gone through the process of asking to sell assets just last summer.

“The diocese is aware they have to get permission for certain things,” Bartholomew said.

Statues can be bought individually ranging in price from $4,000 to $9,000.  Olivia Proia
Statues can be bought individually ranging in price from $4,000 to $9,000. Olivia Proia

“They did this early on. They had a school down in the Southern Tier. They said judge we want to sell this school. The creditor’s committee said well what’s it worth? We want an independent appraisal. They ultimately didn’t sell the school,” Attorney Steve Boyd said.

The Diocese’s Director of Communications Greg Tucker told 7 Eyewitness News the statues were purchased by a woman for $3,000 a piece, a sale totaling $18,000.

When asked about the sale to the antique shop, he said, “That means someone is either not giving me information or you have very bad information.”

Then, an hour later, Tucker said in an email to 7 Eyewitness News that Christ the King Seminary sold the statues to a local antique dealer several months ago, but he could not confirm an exact date.

“At the time of the sale, the Seminary was not aware of the fact that they had to get approval to sell personal property from the creditors committee. The statues were also sold before the Stipulation Agreement was agreed to with the creditors committee,” Tucker said.

Tucker said the statues were sold for less than the threshold amount agreed to in the stipulation agreement, which is $25,000.

7 Eyewitness News asked Tucker to send a copy of the stipulation agreement. He did not provide a copy of the full document, only partial text.

A copy of the entire stipulation agreement is available here.

The stipulation agreement was filed in court in October. Former volunteers said all of the statues were gone in November.

“It gives the appearance of impropriety on the part of the diocese. That appearance in my opinion is extremely inappropriate,” Brun said.

Boyd said this furthers his clients distrust in the diocese.

“They still can’t tell the truth. They’re still trying to do back room deals. They’re still doing whatever they can to protect the money when they never cared a bit about protecting the children. That’s the part that hurts the clients,” Boyd said.