Diocese of Antigonish selling more properties to pay off sex-abuse deal

Former church properties in Nova Scotia continue to be sold by the Roman Catholic Diocese in Antigonish as a way to pay for the 2009 sex-abuse settlement, with the buildings' fates ranging from new businesses to arson.

Catholic leaders say all victims have been compensated, but the church is still paying off loans

The former St. Alphonsus Church in Victoria Mines has played an important role in the community for 100 years. (Molly Woodgate/CBC)

Former church properties in Nova Scotia continue to be sold by the Roman Catholic Diocese in Antigonish as a way to pay for the 2009 sex-abuse settlement, with the buildings' fates ranging from new businesses to arson.

A $15-million settlement was reached in 2009 with victims of sexual abuse by priests dating back to 1950. The diocese is selling land and properties to cover that cost.

"That was our first priority — to make sure that the victims were compensated," said Rev. Paul Abbass, chairman of the diocese's real estate committee. "That's all been complete, but we're still paying on loans."

He said some churches like St. Anthony Daniel in Sydney are attracting attention, but not sales. He says it can take a year to seal a deal.

Holy Family converts into funeral home

Trevor Tracey of Glace Bay bought the former Holy Family Church. He now runs TJ Tracey Cremation and Burial Specialist out of the old sanctuary.

"This building met the criteria that I would need for a funeral home," he said. "It was unfortunate for the church having to close, but it was a blessing for me to receive it and still to have it as a place where people can come to gather to celebrate a life."

St. John the Baptist in Glace Bay hasn't found a buyer, but it has attracted vandals. Someone set a fire at the church in July. Abbasss says they'll tear the building down in the next two weeks and then sell the land.

"The municipality is very keen on us to reduce the possibly of harm, so we are just waiting for the last of the bids on that," he said.

Selling unused land

Since some of the big properties are gone, the diocese is now looking at selling land from active churches.  

"It may be a church has 100 acres of land as part of their parish that they never used. It's not really benefiting the parish in any way so we may sell the land and it may generate a few thousand dollars," said Abbass.

A community group called the Stone Church Restoration Society is raising $40,000 to buy the former St. Alphonsus Church, another pot of money that will pay off the sex-abuse settlement.