‘Absolutely inconceivable’: Bids to buy historic St. John’s, NL, basilica due today


ST. JOHN’S, NL –

Bids to buy the massive Romanesque cathedral that has loomed over downtown St. John’s for over 150 years close today.

The Basilica of St John the Baptist must be sold because the Roman Catholic archdiocese needs the money to pay survivors of physical and sexual abuse endured by boys at the former Mount Cashel Orphanage.

Newfoundland English professor and historian Shane O’Dea says the idea of ​​the church selling the basilica is “absolutely inconceivable” and a disgrace, but he adds the disgrace is what predatory priests did to the boys at the orphanage.

A Supreme Court of Canada decision in January 2021 left the church liable for abuse committed at the St. John’s orphanage between the 1940s and 1960s, and the archdiocese of St. John’s is now responsible for paying settlements to survivors.

Lawyer Geoff Budden worked on the case for over 30 years, and he said Wednesday he’s heard from nearly 100 people who could be entitled to compensation, which could push the total settlement over $50 million.

The basilica is one of 18 churches for sale on the northeastern part of Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, and Budden says churches in rural parts of the island will likely be put on the market next.

Bids to buy the properties are due by 12:30 pm, and Budden said it will be up to the province’s Supreme Court to decide which are successful.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2022.


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