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By Martina Moyski
The archdiocese of Chicago is using cemetery funds to help pay off more than $200 million in sex abuse payouts, keeping it quiet in order not to draw attention.
The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Cdl. Blase Cupich is using cemetery cash to pay for priest sex abuse legal fees and settlements — a fact previously unknown to the public.
Until now, the Catholic Church in Chicago has publicly maintained that it enlists two revenue sources to pay for settlements and other costs related to priest sex abuse cases: loans and the sale of property.
But based on an examination of the archdiocese's 2016–2017 financial statements, Cupich has been using money from its cemetery system to help pay down debt related to sexual misconduct of its clergy. The transfer of cemetery money has not been disclosed to the public.
Cupich has not commented on using cemetery monies, nor has Betsy Bohlen, chief operating officer for the archdiocese.
In addition to Bohlen's role in the Chicago archdiocese, she also serves on the board of directors for INSYS Therapeutics, an embattled pharmaceutical company "charged last year by the DOJ with racketeering, mail and wire fraud as well as violating kickback laws."
Investment earnings on cemeteries assets are used to help fund annual debt payments. These investment earnings are over and above what is needed for the proper care of our cemeteries. We take all of our obligations seriously and discharge them responsibly.
Waters wouldn't answer questions about the archdiocese's silence about disclosing the sale of cemetery assets.
A source with inside knowledge of the operations of the archdiocese said about $8 million a year has been shifted from the cemetery system to the financial pot that pays down the millions borrowed to pay off abuse settlements.
The archdiocesan Catholic cemetery website describes its purpose in the following terms:
When we are baptized, we are brought to a sacred place, a Catholic church, and baptized into the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection — thus giving us the promise of eternal life. When one of our loved ones die [sic], we take them to another sacred place, a Catholic cemetery, for burial in sacred ground while they await the resurrection of the dead and the promise of eternal life.
The archdiocese is also using most of the $100 million gained from the sale of Holy Name Cathedral's parking lot at W. Chicago and N. State Street to pay down its abuse debt. A huge two-tower building is to be erected on the parking lot by JDL, a premier Chicago developer, and Sterling Bay, a rising Chicago developer. One of the towers includes a 76-story residential structure that will overshadow the cathedral.
Critics claim that depriving Catholics of parking space across from the cathedral will make it much harder for laity to attend Mass, who will be forced to find metered public parking spots in crowded downtown Chicago. Mass attendance at the cathedral, already low, is expected to decline even further.
Reportedly, the archdiocese is also considering the sale of the historic "cardinal's mansion," the traditional home of Chicago's archbishops, where eight of Cupich's predecessors lived. Cupich himself has broken tradition by choosing to live in Holy Name Cathedral.
The cathedral is just steps away from the now-defunct Casa Jesus, a seminary established 28 years ago under Cdl. Joseph Bernardin specifically to house gay seminarians recruited from Latin America. Cupich quietly shut down Casa Jesus in 2016 following multiple gay scandals, including seminarians expelled after frequenting gay bars, priests accused of homosexual misconduct, and the rector arrested for possession of male child porn.
The archdiocese's "Renew My Church" campaign has been criticized for hiding the real purpose of shuttering Catholic schools and parishes: a money grab in an attempt to pay off the $200 million debt from sex abuse settlements.
The closings have been explained in terms of dwindling parishioners, changing demographics or simply the cost of modernization and progress. Cupich has portrayed the closures and mergers as part of a "spiritual revitalization," but laity claim spirituality has nothing to do with it, and it's all about finances.