Catholic churches sell real estate to clear debt

September 26, 2011 03:07PM

Catholic parishes are selling off and leasing churches, convents and schools for six- and seven-digit returns in order to stave off bankruptcy as collection plates remain empty from lack of attendance, the New York Daily News reported.
The trend has been starkest in Brooklyn and Queens, where there has been an influx of Asian immigrants, replacing the old European population.

“As the population continues to shift, that puts a strain on particular institutions,” said Msgr. Kieran Harrington of the Brooklyn Archdiocese. “People are having less children. That has an impact on enrollment.”

St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Church in Ozone Park is just one parish that has run into financial difficulties. It shut four years ago after declining attendance forced it to merge with Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary school into the Divine Mercy Catholic Academy. Rev. Paul Palmiotto sought approval to sell a 1920s-era school at the site for $4 million earlier this year.

Real estate transaction contracts can include some strange clauses when it comes to religious institutions, the Daily News said.

“The premises will not be used or occupied for any public or commercial, obscene or pornographic purpose or activity, will not be used or occupied for the purpose of performing abortions or advocating abortions or family planning,” the contract for the $15 million sale in 2005 of the former Church of St. Ann at 110 East 12th Street specified. [NYDN]