Can a Church Go Broke?

Probably not. But the cascade of sexual-abuse lawsuits is moving Catholic officials to devise innovative ways to shield their vast assets

It used to be said that in polite society one shouldn't discuss sex or money. But that's no longer possible in the Roman Catholic Church. Just last week Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland acknowledged paying $450,000 in 1998 to settle a claim that two decades ago he sexually assaulted a 30-year-old graduate student. (The Vatican accepted his resignation a day after the revelation.) Add the Weakland settlement to the huge sums other dioceses have paid to cover sex-abuse claims in recent years: an estimated $25 million in Santa Fe, N.M.; nearly $30 million in Boston; and $31 million in Dallas.

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