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Sins of the Fathers?

Although the Archdiocese of Washington insists that the rents from the development on F Street will go to Catholic Charities (“God Is in the Real Estate,” 3/31), it is likely that the archdiocese really needs the money for another reason. Over the past decade, the Catholic church has settled hundreds of lawsuits arising from clerical sexual misconduct. Nearly all allege molestation of children by parish priests. Some involve dozens of plaintiffs. And, although a few of the allegations have proved fraudulent, most have not.

The Catholic doctrine of clerical celibacy exacts harsh human costs from clergy, who are not permitted to form normal intimate relationships. It also exacts harsh human costs from the laity, who have become the targets of misplaced clerical sexuality. The courts have translated these some of these human costs into heavy financial costs: Judgments against the church total in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

These lawsuits are expensive to defend and expensive to settle; they put tremendous pressure on the church to raise large sums of cash. Any profits from the F Street development would give the church that much more money to pay off its huge legal debt.

As your article noted, a historic renovation would not produce much income, hence the church’s insistence on maximizing profits with a full-scale commercial structure. It does need the money, though not necessarily for charity work.