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Amid molestation scandal, archdiocese mulls $200-million fund-raiser

February 5, 2013 |  2:59 pm

 Alleged sexual abuse victims hold up a quilt with pictures of other alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles during a news conference at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Friday. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

In the midst of renewed public outrage over its handling of the priest molestation cases, the Los Angeles Archdiocese is considering a $200-million fund-raising campaign.

The archdiocese has hired a New York company, Guidance in Giving, to study the feasibility of a capital campaign that would shore up the church’s finances.

The archdiocese is $80 million in debt, according to a recent church financial report. In 2007, the archdiocese agreed to a record $600-million settlement with more than 500 alleged victims of priest abuse.

FULL COVERAGE: Priest abuse scandal

The consultants conducting the six-month study are interviewing every pastor in the archdiocese, as well as lay leaders.

A spokesman for the church said initial feedback has been “very positive.” The funds used would “be put into various endowments earmarked to support the pastoral priorities of the archdiocese, as well as for the general repair and upkeep of our parish churches and schools,” spokesman Tod Tamberg said in a statement.

The campaign would be the archdiocese’s first in 60 years. During the Truman administration, the church raised $3.5 million for new schools in just three weeks. At the time of that 1949 drive, there were about 650,000 Catholics in the archdiocese. Now there are more than 5 million, according to church figures.

The church has not announced the possibility of a campaign to the faithful, but Tamberg acknowledged it in response to questions from The Times on Tuesday.

Last week, Archbishop Jose Gomez publicly rebuked his predecessor, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, and a high-ranking bishop, Thomas J. Curry, for their handling of molestation claims in the 1980 and 1990s. Files made public last month showed Mahony and Curry working to conceal priests’ sex abuse of children from the police.

At the same time he condemned their actions, the church posted 12,000 pages of priest personnel files on its website that revealed many more instances where officials covered up for abusers. Gomez, who got his undergraduate degree in accounting, assembled a special committee last year to evaluate the possibility of a large-scale campaign, according to the church financial report.

The archdiocese is still paying back a $175-million loan it received to pay victims in the civil settlement. “The archbishop considers stewardship of the church’s financial resources and sound fiscal planning to be a vital dimension of the new evangelization,” church auditors wrote in a recent report.

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-- Harriet Ryan

Photo: Quilts with pictures of victims of sexual abuse by priests are displayed outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

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