Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes


by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the May 22, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

May 12 marked the closing of the Chapter 11 process for the diocese. As a result, the suits in state courts will soon be dismissed. The diocese has fulfilled its monetary obligation of funding $48 million for the settlement. The diocese was able to pay $1 million which was not due until late 2009, but for various reasons we have decided that it would be prudent and wise to make that payment now and completely emerge from Chapter 11. Of course, we still have debt owed to various entities, and I will reflect upon that challenge in just a moment.

I express my profound gratitude to our entire diocesan family as we have progressed though this challenging process. So many different committees were involved with generous commitment of time, wisdom and skill. The complexity of this chapter 11 process demanded careful decisions and prudent foresight. So many have contributed to that process. We have attempted to do this with deep concern for the victims of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese and a strong commitment to make sure this will never happen again. In regard to the participation of the people of the diocese, I can never be grateful enough for your prayers, your generosity and your deep sense of faith.

The monetary settlement involved $10 million from the parishes. The Bishop agreed to fund raise or borrow $5 million. Other portions of the money came from insurance money ($20.5 million); $5.5 million came from the sale of the Pastoral Center on West Riverside in Spokane, the sale of the Rosalia and I-90 interchange farm properties, and the bishop’s house. $7 million came from negotiated arrangements with Catholic Cemeteries, Catholic Charities, Morning Star Boys Ranch and Immaculate Heart Retreat Center. The collection of the $10 million last fall from parishes for this effort has amazingly reached $8.3 million in cash with most of the rest probably paid over the next few years. Thank you, parishioners, for tremendous generosity!

On the diocesan side, during the negotiations in Reno I agreed in consultation with the finance council that the bishop would raise $5 million from various entities for the settlement package. This was done to prevent the sale of the Deposit and Loan’s loan portfolio and the Seminary property. That amount was increased by $1 million shortly afterwards to settle with all parties. In addition to the $48 million settlement, there was needed another $1.3 million to fund the Deposit and Loan and to pay trade creditors. To date I have raised $1.5 million in gifts. The implication of all of this is that our entire diocesan debt is approximately $5 million, which we now owe to other Catholic entities and a commercial bank. This debt will be retired over a period of years from the diocesan operating budget.

All of you need to know how generous other Catholic entities have been to this diocese, either by way of outright gifts or long term, low interest loans. Their support really demonstrates what it means to be Church. I know some of the smaller gifts demonstrate a tremendous sense of generosity when one considers their own financial situation. Our settlement is now final, and we have a high degree of finality that is so necessary to protect the mission of our local Church and our 81 parishes in the diocese. Now there is a sense of stability in knowing exactly with what we are dealing with.

Earlier I mentioned the need for our sensitivity to the victims. One of the non-monetary aspects of the settlement was that I was to go every parish where a priest abuser had served to name the abuser(s), apologize on behalf of myself, my predecessors, and our diocesan Church, and finally encourage victims if they have not done so already to come forward to report to authorities and contact our victim assistance coordinator. We did this in the context of an Evening Prayer Service of Lamentation and Atonement, with the theme from the Gospel of Mark; “Let the little children come to me.” The traveling icon of this Gospel scene which I took to each service will now be placed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes as a memorial to the victims of sexual abuse by priests. We must never forget them in our love and prayers. These Evening Prayer Services of Lamentation and Atonement were scheduled from early December and concluded on March 6.

As we look to the moment and the future, this past week we celebrated the groundbreaking for the new Bishop White Seminary building. This facility will be completed in about a year and will provide much more usable and practical space for clerical and lay formation and provide space for other diocesan meetings as well. The Catholic Foundation has facilitated the fund raising effort (begun before Chapter 11) to support this new complex and enhance the endowment for seminarian education. Along with this new venture we will continue to search into effective ways of continuing the mission of the Church with limited resources.

Once again, I express to you my profound gratitude for your faith, faithfulness to the Church in challenging times, and your generosity. If there are any further questions about the above, please don’t hesitate to contact me or one of the staff. May God continue to bless us all as we carry on the work of the Church.

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