Thursday, January 9, 2014

Minor Seminary, major spin

Someone once said the most interesting things tend to be in the middle of a Milwaukee Catholic Herald article, and I find that our Archdiocese's Chancery sometimes also buries the lede.

A couple years back it was headline news in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that our Archdiocese did not actually own its Cousins Center headquarters property (see my earlier post Archbishop rent his garments?) Our Archdiocese posted a clarification, Cousins Center (5/18/11), to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, saying,

"The Communication Office felt that the timing of the article, as well as the bias of the headline, was unfortunate. Here are the facts:"
The facts then listed have a conspicuous absence regarding the period between the formation of the Seminary corporation on October 16, 1961 and notation of its ownership "in [Archdiocesan] financial statements as far back as 2004".

Note 1 to the financial statements for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004, page 10, says the Seminary contributes occupancy of the Cousins Center to the Archdiocese. There was then no lease and no payment of rent.

This was a change from the 2002/2003 statements. Note 1, page 6, lists the Seminary corporation among activities which are "operated under the direct fiscal management of the Archbishop for religious and charitable purposes and, accordingly, are included in the combined financial statements".

It turns out that Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions records show that the Seminary corporation was "In Bad Standing" as of October 1, 1987, presumably for failure to file annual reports as required. Whatever the problem, it resulted in "Involuntary Dissolution" November 19, 1993. Much later, the corporate paperwork issues were straightened out and the corporation "Restored to Good Standing" November 14, 2005.

From the timing, I surmise the description of the Seminary corporation in earlier financial reports and its involuntary dissolution were noticed when preparations began for the possibility it would mortgage its major (only?) asset, the former minor seminary which was repurposed as the Cousins Center. This mortgage loan was later a source of funding of our Archdiocese's contribution to the settlement of the clergy sexual abuse claims arising from Milwaukee priests transferred to California. (See my earlier post Life after 'terrible storm clouds of California').

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