Brom Asks Catholics to Help Pay Settlement

By Sandi Dolbee
October 16, 2007

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego hopes to raise $25 million in donations to help pay its portion of a $198.1 million settlement reached last month with childhood sexual abuse victims.

"I need your help to cover the expense we incurred recently through compassionate outreach to our brothers and sisters who suffered sexual abuse within the family of the church," Bishop Robert Brom wrote in a letter to be sent to parishioners in San Diego and Imperial counties.

If the "Embracing Our Mission" campaign is not successful, Brom said the diocese has only two other properties that could be sold its headquarters in Bay Park and St. Francis Seminary in Linda Vista.

Brom's letter, dated yesterday, is part of an every-member mailing that will include a letter from the local priest and a return envelope. The packets are to be sent out by Oct. 26.

The diocese's portion of the settlement is $183 million, with about half coming from religious orders and insurance, according to a financial breakdown accompanying Brom's letter. The San Bernardino diocese, which used to be part of the San Diego diocese, will pay the remaining $15 million.

The San Diego diocese hopes to use $40 million from selling some property, including the former University of San Diego High School in Linda Vista, the former Marian Catholic High School in South Bay and a parcel in Oceanside purchased for a school that was never built.

"Embracing Our Mission" was launched two weeks ago, when Brom sent a letter to priests asking that they donate one month's salary $1,535 to help set an example for the 1 million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties.

The idea for the paycheck donation came from clergy.

"This was not a directive from the bishop, but the initiative of the priests themselves, working in solidarity with the bishop, in genuine concern for the welfare of those abused," explained Monsignor Dennis Mikulanis, pastor of San Rafael Catholic Church in Rancho Bernardo and dean of the Escondido region of churches.

The Rev. Charles Fuld, pastor of Ascension Church in San Diego, said he wrote a "very enthusiastic" letter urging people to contribute. He also preached about it Sunday.

After referring to Scripture readings about miraculous healings, Fuld turned to the financial campaign. "At the end of the homily, I said: 'Our bishop is asking for a miracle now, too. He'd like to save these final remaining properties because they are so vital for doing the work of the diocese.' "

Fuld added: "My point is, of course, we are all one church. We need to be there for each other. We need to help each other, in good times and bad."

Brom and the diocese have been heavily criticized for declaring bankruptcy in late February, shortly before the first lawsuits were due to go to court. The diocese said it was seeking a uniform resolution to the 144 cases of men and women who allege they were sexually abused by priests and church workers years ago when they were minors. Victims and their lawyers called the bankruptcy filing a stall tactic.

On Sept. 7, with a federal judge threatening to dismiss the bankruptcy case, the diocese settled for an average of about $1.3 million per case.

Lou Cumming, a parishioner at All Hallows in La Jolla, said he has several questions before he would donate money, such as where the funds are coming from to pay the legal costs for the bankruptcy case. "I think he (Brom) is going to have a very difficult time raising that kind of money considering the way he conducted himself in the bankruptcy," Cumming said.

Frank Brophy, who attends Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, said at first he was not going to contribute "because the authorities in the diocese sort of got us into this and now they were asking the laity to bail us out." But Brophy said he has since changed his mind and will donate. "It's for the long-term good of the church."

Contact Sandi Dolbee: (619) 293-2082;


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.