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Bankruptcy filing: Helena Diocese liabilities are double its assets

2014-02-12T00:26:00Z 2014-05-12T15:33:26Z Bankruptcy filing: Helena Diocese liabilities are double its assetsBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON IR State Bureau Helena Independent Record
February 12, 2014 12:26 am  • 

The liabilities of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena total $33.6 million, or more than twice its assets of slightly more than $16 million, a bankruptcy filing said.

However, the diocese did not assign a monetary value under “liabilities” to a series of claims filed by a law firm representing hundreds of people who said certain diocese clergy members had sexually abused them over decades.

On Jan. 31, the Diocese of Helena filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as part of a $15 million settlement intended to go to these victims. It covers Catholic churches in all or part of counties in western Montana.

The separate Great Falls-Billings Diocese covers the rest of the state.

In a filing late Friday, the Diocese of Helena filed documents with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court listing its assets and liabilities.

As assets, the diocese listed real estate worth $7.4 million. That includes Legendary Lodge, a camp on Salmon Lake, worth $3.5 million, and the International Paper site on First Street West in Missoula, worth $2.2 million.

Among other real estate assets were Bishop George Leo Thomas’ residence in Helena, valued at nearly $367,000; the Montana Catholic Conference building in Helena, worth about $245,000; and the Catholic Social Services building in Helena, about $228,500.

In the filing, the diocese did not count among its assets the property — churches, land, schools and cemeteries — held by various Catholic parishes across western Montana. However, the filing did say these properties have a combined assessed value of nearly $33 million.

The filing said that under canon law, each entity within the diocese is a separate entity within the church. The diocese may have title to property held for the benefit of those separate entities, the filing said.

But it added that “except as otherwise stated, the property listed on the attached schedule is held for the benefit of the parishes and institution of the diocese, and is not property of the estate.”

The diocese’s personal property was valued at $8.7 million in the bankruptcy filing. The largest personal property asset category was $6.1 million in deposits and loans owed by various Catholic churches or schools to the diocese.

Holy Rosary Parish of Bozeman owes the most to the diocese, $1.8 million, the filing said, followed by Butte Catholic Schools at $938,805 and Loyola Sacred Heart School in Missoula at $877,273.

Two priests also are on the list, owing $26,700 and $18,491 to the diocese.

The diocese owns 39 vehicles with a total value of $346,037. Except for the bishop’s 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee, valued at $20,000 and the chancery’s 2003 Honda CRV valued at $7,450, the other 37 vehicles listed by the diocese are parish and school cars.

The diocese also owns three pontoon boats valued at a total of $12,000 for use at the Legendary Lodge.

The diocese lists $1.1 million in personal property in checking and savings bank accounts in Helena.

It reported $5,400 in miscellaneous artifacts, such as a grandfather clock, oil painting, coat of arms and crucifix, and $15,300 worth of vestments and a jewelry chest.

The diocese reported $4.8 million in various investments accounts with DA Davidson in Bozeman, Wells Fargo Wealth Management in Helena and The Investment Group in Helena.

As for its liabilities, the diocese listed $28.9 million in “creditors holding unsecured nonpriority claims.”

The largest was $7 million in deposits and loans for its endowment fund held for parishes and programs and $5.3 million for various unfunded retirement liabilities for the diocese’s clergy senior service trust. It reported $4.7 million in creditors holding “secured claims” against the diocese. The largest creditors listed were $4.6 million owed to Ravalli County Bank of Hamilton for a commercial real estate loan to St. Francis of Assisi church there, and $4.3 million owed to First Interstate Bank in Helena for a construction loan for Holy Rosary Parish of Bozeman.

In addition, the Good Samaritan Ministries Thrift Store of Helena had a $2.6 million operating loan made by the Foundation for the Diocese Helena.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. seargaunt
    Report Abuse
    seargaunt - February 20, 2014 11:44 am
    "See, the LORD goes forth from his place,

    to punish the wickedness of the earth’s inhabitants;

    The earth will reveal the blood shed upon it,

    and no longer conceal the slain." - Isaiah 26:21 - Catholic Douay version

    The truth of what has been done by this institution will come to light, in it's entirety. The legal maneuvering by their influential political allies, and their asset moving shell game, will no longer be effective. Dear victims, take heart.
  2. zip
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    zip - February 17, 2014 8:55 am
    I am glad I am not Catholic. Imagine going to a Priest for help, and getting your poop pushed in.
  3. Darth Vader
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    Darth Vader - February 16, 2014 7:52 am
    I can only this bankruptcy puts them out of business....
  4. Louise
    Report Abuse
    Louise - February 15, 2014 8:36 pm
    As unfortunate as this news about abused persons is it's important to realize that such abuse is not just a problem of Catholic clergy. Abuse by priests is sensational news while that by Protestant clergy happens more often but is rarely reported. This article gives some reasons why this is.

    Figures from other studies indicate that while the numbers of offender priests in the US is a tiny percentage of all in the priesthood that the equivalent percentage among all protestant clergy is actually higher!
  5. DiscountDave
    Report Abuse
    DiscountDave - February 12, 2014 2:28 pm
    I sure hope the Dioceses gets their stuff in order and this all goes away sooner rather than later.
  6. skywatcher
    Report Abuse
    skywatcher - February 12, 2014 1:28 pm
    yeah- the actions of a "few" for almost 2,000 years- I wonder what the total is of all the lives that have been ruined (and ended) by this church?
  7. GreatWhite
    Report Abuse
    GreatWhite - February 12, 2014 11:28 am
    It's easy to look only at the negatives based on the actions of the minority of the Holy Order in the Church. The Catholic Church has done a lot of good things as well.

    The actions of a select few have had a cataclysmic impact on everyone.
  8. skywatcher
    Report Abuse
    skywatcher - February 12, 2014 10:07 am
    looks like all the suckers that go there will have to dig a lot deeper

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