Yarmouth diocese puts properties on market to tackle sex abuse debts
By DAVENE JEFFREY Staff Reporter
Tue, Jun 14 – 4:54 AM
Yarmouth’s beleaguered Catholic diocese is selling three properties, including one of the town’s grandest homes, in hopes of raising more than $600,000.
Since April, the church has put its bishop’s residence, a bowling alley and youth centre on the market.
Property sales will help the diocese cover mounting legal bills and cash settlements in more than 20 clergy sexual abuse cases.
The bishop’s home, a stunning Victorian Queen Anne-style residence, boasts a turret, gingerbread trim, stained glass and a covered veranda. Some of its more unusual features include a chapel that measures nearly 300 square feet and a 100-square-foot walk-in vault. The house is listed for $429,000.
“We’ve had a lot of interest . . . a combination of local and outside interest,” says Yarmouth real estate agent Mike Randall. But, so far, no offers have come in.
Randall, who works with the Real Estate Store, says it’s the nicest and largest property he’s ever listed.
The diocese is also trying to offload a commercial bowling alley on Brunswick Street in Yarmouth that is going for $234,900, and a youth centre located at the opposite end of town on Queen Street, for which they are asking $159,000.
Randall says he’s had a few inquires about the bowling alley, but there has been very little interest in the 10,000-square-foot youth centre, which contains a gymnasium and a kitchen.
He is quick to point out that the town’s economy is not booming.
And things have not been going well for the church in that neck of the woods either.
The Yarmouth diocese has faced 22 cases of sexual abuse involving clergy. To date, about 14 cases have been settled at a cost of just under $2.7 million.
Earlier this year, over 50 sex-related criminal charges were laid against Albert LeBlanc, another former priest from the diocese. LeBlanc, who is now in his 80s, served churches in Digby and Yarmouth counties. He left the priesthood in 1975, got married and became a probation officer in Yarmouth.
LeBlanc’s six alleged victims were from throughout Yarmouth County. Some of the allegations date back to the ’70s.
Whether there are civil cases pending against the church in connection with any of the alleged victims of LeBlanc is not known.
Diocese spokeswoman Marilyn Sweet would not comment on the case because it is still before the courts.
She confirmed that the church is trying to live up to its commitment that no church halls located in small communities will be sacrificed in order for the diocese to finance its legal obligations.
In the meantime, the Yarmouth diocese is set to merge with Halifax sometime this year. The church has confirmed that the diocese is small with not much growth, and it is more economical to assimilate Yarmouth into Halifax. Yarmouth’s legal troubles and resulting financial costs will, however, remain its own.
On the real estate front, Randall is confident he’ll be able to do his bit to help the church come up with cash.
“They will sell,” he said, referring to the residence, bowling alley and youth centre.
He said he’s heard the church may also be considering other properties to sell.