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Church lists $100 million in accounts

The Oregonian, USA
July 15, 2004
Steve Woodward • Thursday July 15, 2004

A financial officer for the Portland Archdiocese says millions are kept in long- and short-term investments

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland acknowledged Wednesday that it has nearly $100 million in investment accounts never before disclosed publicly.

In a U.S. Bankruptcy Court hearing, the archdiocese’s chief financial officer, Leonard Vuylsteke, said the organization keeps about $88 million in a long-term investment account and $8 million to $9 million in a short-term account.

The money includes parish funds, cemetery funds, the Catholic Education Endowment Fund, archdiocese funds and others.

“The whole purpose is to create economies of scale,” Vuylsteke said in testimony before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris.

The disclosure was an early step in an unfolding legal battle over whether the archdiocese is the true owner of parish property, as priest sex-abuse claimants say, or whether the archdiocese merely holds the property in charitable trust for its 124 parishes.

The archdiocese, which declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 6 in the face of millions of dollars in lawsuit claims, told the court in its initial filing that it owned no more than $50 million in assets.

Vuylsteke told the court Wednesday that the archdiocese has between $1 million and $5 million in deposit accounts at Key Bank of Oregon. Those accounts are used to pay payroll, employee benefits, workers’ compensation insurance premiums and bills.

Perris told creditors and debtors at the hearing that she saw two major issues at the core of the bankruptcy case. The first issue was deciding what property the archdiocese actually owns. The second issue was resolving the 60 or so lawsuits that are pending against the archdiocese.

Perris gave the archdiocese permission to pay its employees the salaries and benefits they were owed before the bankruptcy filing. She added that the 112 employees would continue to be paid in the future, because the reorganization doesn’t change the archdiocese’s day-to-day operations.

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