Ungodly deeds - Page 2

Catholic Church dodges local taxes and sells a city-supported child care center to developers
Children's Village will close down next month, leaving about 100 families scrambling to find child care

SEED member Kathryn Shantz put her two-year-old daughter on a waiting list for another child care facility immediately after the announcement of Children's Village closure. "I'm 104 on the waiting list for the Yerba Buena Child Development Center," Shantz said. "I've been on the wait-list for a year, and they basically told me that there's no way I'm getting in."

Meanwhile, while the city supported the church's child care program, the church is still stiffing the city on its tax bill. On April 16, the Archdiocese filed a suit in the San Francisco Superior Court against Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting. The suit challenges a Transfer Tax Review Board ruling last November which held that the Archdiocese owed the city $14.4 million after transferring 232 parcels of property among three Archdiocese corporations in 2008 without paying the required transfer taxes attached to those vacant lots, parking lots, apartments, commercial buildings, parishes, and schools. This is the second-largest transfer tax bill in San Francisco history.

Repeated calls to the Archdiocese of San Francisco were not returned. In a press release, the Archdiocese said that it "maintains that to impose transfer taxes, penalties, and interest on a religious organization in connection with an internal restructuring involving no exchange or receipt of money from which to pay any tax is inequitable and threatens to confiscate substantial church assets that are devoted to religious purposes."

The next court date for this case is scheduled for Sept. 17. This recent lawsuit and the sale of Archdiocese properties come at a time when the church is facing the possibility of paying out big settlements in cases involving sexual abuse by priests.

Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Northern California Regional Office representative Joey Piscitelli said that if victims weren't so afraid to report their abuse, the Archdiocese would owe its victims even more money. "Ninety-eight percent of victims never report the abuse, and the average person reports the abuse 25 years after the incident," Piscitelli said. "The church brags that the clergy didn't do it because they were never convicted, yet they're paying billions of dollars in lawsuits."

With the Catholic Church now facing scrutiny on so many fronts, it seems that a day of reckoning could be in its future. On June 29, the Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal by the Vatican for immunity in a highly publicized pedophilia suit, clearing the way for the 2002 lawsuit to advance.

The plaintiff, under the name of John V. Doe, alleged that he was abused in 1965 by Father Andrew Ronan in Portland, Ore. Ronan died in 1992. The Vatican tried to kill the lawsuit by stating that it was protected under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, a federal law that prevents foreign states from lawsuits.

The appeals court determined that there was an exception to the law, stating that Ronan was an employee of the Vatican and he was working under Oregon law. No one has ever won a lawsuit against the Vatican for sexual abuse allegations made by the clergy. This Supreme Court decision opens the door for future lawsuits against the Holy See.

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