Court approves sale of 43 Catholic church properties to settle abuse victims claims

The sale of the Basilica Cathedral, as well as 12 other churches, has been approved to settle abuse victim claims. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has approved the sale of 43 properties belonging to the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John’s, including 13 churches, as dozens more church property sales loom across eastern Newfoundland.

The move will reshape the landscape for Catholics in the St. John’s area and beyond as the church — which has been held liable for sexual and physical abuse at the Mount Cashel orphanage — raises money to settle victim claims from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. 

Information about the sales came Monday as Ernst & Young, the court-appointed monitor, presented a report to the court about the sale-by-tender process which saw bids for the properties submitted in early June.

An order from the court in bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings posted on Ernst & Young’s website sheds light on who is buying the properties. The order said the iconic Basilica Cathedral and Pastoral Centre, St. Bonaventure’s College and St. Bon’s Forum will be sold to the Basilica Heritage Foundation, which has pledged to protect the historic properties.

The St. Teresa’s Mundy Pond Corporation has been recommended as the successful bidder for St. Teresa’s Church, while the Archdiocesan Renewal Corporation, which has Archbishop of St. John’s Peter Hundt as one of three directors, has purchased St. Thomas of Villanova Church and its vacant land. Both groups aim to keep those parishes active.

However, the fates of many of the other Catholic churches are less certain.

A summary of accepted tenders for the 43 Catholic church properties sold in the St. John’s area. (ey.com)

In a letter read to parishioners at mass this past weekend, Archbishop Hundt says only a few of the property buyers intend to use the buildings as Catholic churches.

In the east end of St. John’s, the Association of New Canadians has purchased St. Pius X Church and the adjoining St. Pius X Junior High School, where the group is already offering programming to newcomers in the former school. 

St. Patrick’s Church in downtown St. John’s has been sold to Howard Real Estate Group. Corpus Christi Church, its office and community centre have been sold to law firm Stewart McKelvey, which is acting as an agent for an unknown buyer.

St. Paul’s Parish in the east end of St. John’s has also been approved for sale.

The town of Flatrock is buying St. Michael’s Church and the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto — a site where Pope John Paul II visited in 1984.

A landmark court ruling in 2020 said the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John’s has a responsibility to victims of the horrific abuse suffered by boys at the Mount Cashel Orphanage. (CBC)

Different numbered companies have purchased the Mary Queen of Peace church in St. John’s and St. Joseph’s Church in Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove.

In Pouch Cove, St. Agnes Church and rectory sold to G.J. Shortall Ltd., and St. Francis of Assisi Church, the Archbishop’s residence, rectory, and 2 parcels of vacant land have been sold to Rocky Hill Holdings Inc. 

According to the court, 19 properties did not receive acceptable bids, including St. Peter’s Church and Mary Queen of the World Church in Mount Pearl, St. Paul’s Church in St. John’s, Holy Family Church in Paradise, St. Edward’s in Conception Bay South and Holy Trinity in Torbay. A number of vacant parcels of land and church rectories also did not receive acceptable bids. 

The total combined value of 41 of the 42 properties is $20.6 million. St. Paul’s Parish was added to the list after the tabulation.

Meanwhile, Hundt says the monitor will also present a strategy to the court to sell 70 more properties, including all remaining churches, halls and rectories located on the Burin Peninsula and the southern Avalon peninsula.

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