Nova Scotia

Church paper sale to raise abuse settlement funds

A 159-year-old community newspaper owned in part by a church is on sale to help pay millions in compensation to victims of sexual abuse.

A 159-year-old community newspaper owned in part by a church is on sale to help pay millions in compensation to victims of sexual abuse.

The Casket serves the Antigonish, N.S., area. The Roman Catholic diocese of Antigonish is the majority owner, with a 62 per cent share.

But the diocese needs to raise $18 million by November for people abused by priests decades ago, so is selling the paper as well as several properties.

Vince MacLean, chair of the board of directors at The Casket, is disappointed with the decision to sell, though he supports it.

"I'm a realist. The money is necessary," MacLean said Friday. "I'm sure if the diocese had another course, they would've taken it."

A local schoolteacher launched The Casket in 1852. The first copy consisted of four pages: Two in English and two in Gaelic. The name "casket" referred to a treasure box.

Casket Printing and Publishing has become a profitable venture since MacLean joined 10 years ago. The company bought four printing companies and some property to expand.

An accounting firm is determining the company's value, but MacLean believes it's worth "many millions."

"All in all it's been growing," he said. "When The Casket is to be sold, it will bring a much bigger price than it would have 10 years ago."

MacLean said some local businesses and groups are interested, though he wouldn't name them.

Local control?

He hopes the paper remains in community hands.

"I'd be disappointed if it left local control because it has tremendous influence in the diocese of Antigonish. It was an instrument that was used for well over 150 years to communicate, particularly with Catholics, and later as the community newspaper for Antigonish County," he said.

St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish owns 21 per cent of Casket Publishing, while the Sisters of St. Martha own about four per cent. Other shareholders, including clergy, own less.

MacLean said they would all be asked if they want to remain part of the operation with a new majority owner or if they want to sell.

The settlement is the result of a class-action lawsuit launched by a Nova Scotia man abused by a priest in the diocese years ago.