Catholic Church lists former archbishop's $3m Kew mansion for sale
- Category: Uncategorised
- Created: Sunday, 08 September 2019 20:42
- Written by Ashleigh McMillan and Chris Vedelago - The Age
The Catholic Church is selling a multimillion-dollar Kew mansion, once the home of former archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, as it prepares for a swathe of additional compensation claims from victims of sexual abuse.
The five-bedroom house at 57 Studley Park Road is for sale off-market and will not be publicly advertised.
The Catholic Church is putting its property at 57 Studley Park Road, Kew, up for sale.
In 2005, the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne purchased the Georgian-style property for $1.65 million as living quarters for then-archbishop Hart.
The sale comes as the church accepted legal responsibility for the sexual abuse of a nine-year-old boy by notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale, in a case that could open the floodgates for victims seeking compensation. The church has previously said its borrowings to finance abuse payouts would be repaid by the sale of assets.
After denying any knowledge of Ridsdale's offending before the boy was raped in a confessional box at Mortlake in 1982, lawyers for the church on Friday accepted an amended statement of claim from the victim in the Supreme Court – in effect admitting legal liability for his crimes.
Archbishop Hart, who was the head of the Melbourne diocese for 17 years until mid-2018, had the property listed as his home address from 2005, according to records obtained by The Sunday Age in February 2018.
The mansion is owned by The Roman Catholic Trusts Corporation for the Diocese of Melbourne, which is the trust that holds all archdiocese property.
Shane Healy, the archdiocese's media and communications director, confirmed the church was selling the property.
"The archdiocese regularly reviews its properties, to ensure that they support our commitments and pastoral priorities," he said.
"The property at Studley Park Road, Kew, is being sold because it is surplus to present and foreseeable requirements."
Mr Healy said last year the property had been purchased because the archbishop's previous home was "not fit for purpose due to its size and the cost of ongoing maintenance".
An investigation by The Age in 2018 found the church in Victoria holds assets worth more than $9 billion, with an extrapolated figure of $30 billion worth of property across Australia.
Marshall White director Doug McLachlan confirmed his agency was handling the sale.
The circa-1938 house will be advertised for an asking price between $2.9 million and $3.19 million. The higher end of the estimate is almost double what the church paid for it 14 years ago, and much higher than the City of Boroondara's January 2016 valuation of $2.25 million.
David Morrell, the director of high-end buyers' agency Morrell Koren, said the $3 million price-tag for the Kew property was perhaps conservative for the sizeable lot.
However, the fact that it fronts busy Studley Park Road means it would be a "cheaper entry price in Kew than you would normally get" compared to similar properties in the suburb.
"It’s a very active area for schools and that’s the logical person that would buy it," Mr Morrell said.
Catholic Church's massive wealth revealed
"It will be attractive to the Catholic families of nearby Xavier and Genazzano (colleges)."
In evidence to the royal commission, the church repeatedly warned that increasing compensation payments to victims could lead to cuts to social programs.
Mr Healy said previously that the church had borrowed money to pay sex abuse survivors “which will be repaid from asset sales’’ and it would continue to meet the cost of claims from its own resources rather than parish assets.
The archdiocese apparently ran at a deficit of $8 million last year and is carrying debt of up to $180 million, which relates primarily to land for new schools and parishes, according to a recent report by The Australian.
A consolidated financial statement for the archdiocese for 2013, released publicly as part of the child abuse royal commission, showed the church was in surplus in Victoria and had accumulated funds of $212 million.
The documents showed the archdiocese owed a debt of $81 million to its own financial arm, the Catholic Development Fund.
The so-called "Ellis defence", which prevented abuse survivors from suing unincorporated organisations including churches and other institutions, was abolished by the Victorian government last year.
The church spent $872,000 on a beach house with bay views in Dromana for then-archbishop Hart in 2008. He now personally owns the property and lives there, after buying it off the Archdiocese for $1.12 million in mid-2017, using a combination of personal savings and an inheritance.
with Melissa Cunningham, Andrew Thomson, Ben Schneiders and Royce Millar.