By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was a rough year for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which had to sell off several valuable properties, lay off employees, and fold the Catholic Standard and Times newspaper after 117 years of publishing — all to close a $17-million budget deficit.
Archbishop Charles Chaput likened the church to a family living beyond its means, announcing the sale of five distinguished properties.
The crown jewel was the 23,000-square-foot mansion on nine prime acres along City Avenue, which had been the archbishop’s residence since 1935, sold to St. Joseph’s University for $10 million (see news story).
And the sentimental favorite — the eleven-bedroom oceanfront “Villa St. Joseph,” in Ventnor, NJ — was auctioned off for $4½ million (see news story).
The villa had been a vacation spot for retired priests. An open house for potential bidders also drew those curious to get a glimpse into the privileges the clergy had once enjoyed (see news story).
“You walk by it and…” said one woman.
“If walls could talk,” her friend continued. “Because you know everything that went on, and it wouldn’t be up for auction if the church wasn’t exposed the way it was.”
The archbishop took pains to detach the sale, the layoffs, and other cost cutting measures from the church’s defense of clergy abuse allegations (see news story) but he acknowledge those costs, even before the trials started, exceeded $11 million (see news story).