Filing Won't Affect Church's Local Holdings

By Jonel Aleccia
Mail Tribune [Oregon]
July 7, 2004

The Archdiocese of Portland owns nearly $2 million in Jackson County property, assessment records show, but the archbishop promised local Catholic church leaders on Tuesday he wouldn't touch it to pay bankruptcy debts.

The Rev. Liam Carey, a priest at Medford's Sacred Heart Church, said he was reassured by a letter from Archbishop John Vlazny.

"Under canon law, parish assets belong to the parish," Carey said. "The archbishop never does and cannot take those funds."

County assessment records show a combined real market value of about $1.97 million for local properties owned by the archdiocese. That includes three local Catholic churches, a Gold Hill retreat center, the Walsh Memorial Newman Center near Southern Oregon University in Ashland and the tiny Joseph Mission in Jacksonville.

Civil law may be different than canon law, acknowledged Carey. He speculated that the groundbreaking case could wind up in state or federal Supreme Court.

Sacred Heart and other local churches are free to go about their business, holding Masses and other services, without fear of financial uncertainty, Liam said.

In his letter to local church leaders, Vlazny said the archdiocese's decision to file for bankruptcy, the first in the nation, was not aimed at depriving sexual abuse victims of restitution, Carey noted.

Rather, the archbishop indicated the move was aimed at ensuring just settlements to more future claimants.

"This is not an attempt to avoid paying damages," Carey said. "It is an attempt to provide just compensation to all victims."

The Archdiocese of Portland settled a lawsuit in 2002 with a man who said he was abused by a priest who ended his career in Medford. A local man also said he was abused as a boy in Portland by the Rev. William McLeod, but the man did not join the lawsuit. McLeod served at Sacred Heart Church for 20 years before his death in 1969.

The following Jackson County properties are owned by the Archdiocese of Portland, county tax records show:

Sacred Heart Church, 326 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford, real market value: $96,540.
St. Rita's Retreat, 10800 Blackwell Road, Gold Hill, $566,670.
Shepherd of the Valley Catholic Church, 600 Beebe Road, Central Point, $647,030.
Walsh Memorial Newman Center, 1150 Ashland St., Ashland, $78,680.
Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church, 987 Hillview Drive, Ashland, $584,850.
Joseph Mission, 280 Fourth St., Jacksonville, no value.

Reach reporter JoNel Aleccia at 776-4465, or e-mail


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