SANTA FE (NM)
Santa Fe New Mexican
August 6, 2021
By Rick Ruggles
An online auction will start Sept. 21 to sell hundreds of “nonessential” properties belonging to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
A Florida-based executive with the auction company involved said Friday the auction — aimed to raise money to help settle a bankruptcy case — will be divided into two sales, one ending Sept. 28 and the second starting sometime in November.
The archdiocese originally proposed offering 732 properties in Northern New Mexico, but Louis B. Fisher III said there will be fewer in the two batches. Fisher, national director of SVN Auction Services, headquartered in Florida and Louisiana, said there will be about 140 in the first sale and about 500 in the second.
The properties tend to be small, and many were donated by parishioners to the archdiocese. Fisher said some of the parcels will be “challenging, quite honestly,” to sell. But some are “desirable.”
“I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be a $50 million auction,” he said in an interview, “but hopefully it will be a few million.” Some properties were found unsellable, he said, because they were cemeteries, were in the middle of a road or had other problems.
The archdiocese seeks to raise enough money through donations, property sales and insurance payouts to settle its bankruptcy case with about 385 victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. The bankruptcy filing acknowledged how costly that would be. Many dioceses across the country, including the one based in Gallup, filed for bankruptcy over sexual abuse scandals. About 55 victims settled with the Gallup diocese five years ago for more than $20 million. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe filed for bankruptcy in 2018.
New Mexico arguably faced a special problem with abuse because the Servants of the Paraclete, an order formed in 1947 to assist exhausted, alcoholic or struggling priests, was based in Jemez Springs. The program began to see large numbers of priests who had been accused or suspected of abusing children.
The Jemez program has dwindled to almost nothing and ceased treatment of pedophile priests as the scandal grew about 30 years ago. The Paraclete is now based outside St. Louis.
The archdiocese hopes to limit property sales to parcels that can be given up without serious heartache. It wants to avoid selling churches, assembly halls, schools and other “essential” properties.
September’s auction will include sites in Bernalillo, Sandoval and Valencia counties, Fisher said. Properties in 15 other counties will be sold in November.
The auction website will be ASFbankruptcyauction.com, he said, but it won’t be available until Tuesday afternoon. His company is finalizing a news release on the sale and will start marketing the auction Wednesday.
“If you’re looking to buy some land in New Mexico, this is your opportunity, that’s for sure,” Fisher said.