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NY Catholic Church Seeks $100 Million Loan To Pay Priest Sex Abuse Victims

The land under the Villard Houses, on Madison Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets, is owned by the Archdiocese of New York. The archdiocese asked a state court on Monday for permission to take out a loan against the land to pay sex abuse victims.
The land under the Villard Houses, on Madison Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets, is owned by the Archdiocese of New York. The archdiocese asked a state court on Monday for permission to take out a loan against the land to pay sex abuse victims. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is seeking permission for a $100 million mortgage on some of its Manhattan property to finance its compensation program for people sexually abused by priests, according to multiple news reports.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced the creation of a reconciliation program for sexual abuse survivors in October. The Archdiocese said it would compensate people who had accused priests of abusing them as children, including those prevented by statutes of limitations from filing civil lawsuits. At the time, Catholic leaders said they would seek loans to fund the payouts, which are being reviewed by independent arbitrators.

On Monday, the archdiocese filed a petition in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan seeking approval for a one-year mortgage from JPMorgan Chase on land it owns behind St. Patrick's Cathedral, according to The New York Times.

The petition for a mortgage will be on the land the archdiocese owns underneath the luxury Lotte New York Palace Hotel, according to the TImes, and a semicircle of landmark 19th-century mansions known as the Villard Houses, on Madison Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets. Directly across Madison Avenue from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the land was acquired by the archdiocese in the decades after World War II, according to the Times. In the 1970s, the archdiocese entered into a 99-year ground lease with the developer Harry Helmsley that allowed him to build a 54-story hotel on the property and rent the underlying land for $1 million a year. The archdiocese did not say how much rent it receives for the underlying land, the Times said.

The petition was necessary under a New York law governing the use of church property, Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York told CNN and other news outlets.

"This loan will enable the archdiocese to pay the compensation awards while the program is still in effect," Zwilling told CNN.

The archdiocese is accepting new applications from victims who had not previously come forward. Under the first phase of the compensation program, 144 people who had previously complained of abuse filed claims. The archdiocese has made 64 offers of compensation so far, of which 44 have been accepted, Zwilling told Reuters.

The archdiocese is asking victims who had not previously come forward to make claims under the second phase of the program. Those victims must also make their accusations to police, according to news reports.

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