In bustling downtown Tucson — between Ochoa and Corral Streets, and Stone and Church Avenues, near the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Children’s Museum, and the Convention Center — is a Catholic enclave owned by the Diocese of Tucson. The block includes the Cathedral of St. Augustine and, at the northwest corner, the Marist building, “a structure about which the diocese obviously does not care a whit, having let it sink into terrible disrepair since vacating the premises in 2002.” [See FFRF’s August 7 letter for citations and attributions]
On July 10, 2012, the City of Tucson voted 5-2 to use $1.1 million of taxpayer funds to restore the building owned by the Catholic Church. Please show your support and ask the Tucson City Council to re-consider its misguided vote.
At 52 feet, the Marist building is the tallest unfired adobe building in Arizona. Built in 1915, the mud brick structure was a schoolhouse until 1968 and then served as church administration offices until 2002, when the church abandoned the building to the elements. The Diocese of Tucson still owns the building but it is now in serious disrepair and in danger of collapsing. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in August 2011.
One thing is clear: If they Diocese wanted to pay to fix this building, it could. It chose not to. “The Catholic Church has neglected it for a decade. If they were serious about this building, they could cancel one of their pro-life ad blitzes and pay for it in a heartbeat,” said Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik, after the council voted to approve the funds. (Thank Steve for voting against the proposal.)
The Diocese’s 2011 assets totaled $15.5 million with $3.3 million in property. It appears that the Diocese can make the repairs, despite the financial hit it took after “100 credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors made against 26 priests who served in the Diocese over that period of time.”
As of 2003, nine years ago, the Diocese “had paid out $2.7 million related to abuse costs, including the settlement of 14 lawsuits for $1.8 million.” Is this really an organization the Tucson City Council should be funding?
The scandals forced the church into bankruptcy, but according to the National Catholic Register it is now thriving:
Immediately following the diocese’s emergence from bankruptcy, donations to the Annual Catholic Appeal for the Tucson Diocese soared, increasing to $13.3 million, $450,000 more than budgeted, between 2004 and 2008. The separate “Our Faith, Our Hope, Our Future” campaign, intended to restore diocesan funding for Catholic Community Services, Catholic schools, clergy retirement and religious-education programs, attracted 17,209 donors. Their contributions surpassed the $28 million goal, with combined pledges exceeding $40 million. . . . Annual appeal income has remained over $3 million, higher than any year prior to the Chapter 11 filing.
One would think that with the extra millions in donations the diocese could pay to fix its own building. But while the donations were rolling in to the Diocese, the City has already doled out over $100,000 funds to fix the Marist building:
• In 2005, the City paid $59,000 to repair damage to the roof. This damage, supposedly caused by a storm, was more likely due to three years of neglect and inoccupation.
• In 2006, the Tucson Ward 1 Council Office funded at $24,00 structural analysis.
• In 2009, the City paid $8,400 for emergency roof repairs.
• In 2010, the City paid another $9,800 for emergency roof repairs.
The Diocese is perfectly willing to spend money to restore its other property. Last year, the church spent $75,000 to restore a crucifix. The city estimates that the Marist building can be restored for $1.1 million. Ironically, the Diocese just used $1.1 million raised in the “Treasures of the Heart campaign” to restore St. Augustine Cathedral — situated next door to the Marist building.
But the message the Council has repeatedly communicated to the Diocese and that the Council reinforced on July 10 is that churches everywhere will be rewarded if they neglect their duties as landowners and community members and fail to maintain their historic buildings. Religious neglect and specifically Catholic neglect has caused serious injury to many communities, including Tucson. Now the Tucson City Council wants to reward that neglect: Urge them to change their minds.
As Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik pointed out, the money could be used for far better purposes like “housing rehabilitation, rental assistance or lead-paint abatement.” Kozachik continued, “We have a waiting list of people waiting for that type of assistance right now.”
Tell the Tucson City Council to stop rewarding rich churches for neglect and to start helping those who really need it.
Email, call, or fax the Tucson City Council or write a letter to the editor of one of the publications listed below.
Phone: (520) 791-4201
FAX: (520) 791-5348
Ms. Regina Romero – Ward One
Phone: (520) 791-4040
FAX: (520) 791-5393
Ms. Karin Uhlich – Ward Three
Phone: (520) 791-4711
FAX: (520) 791-5391
Ms. Shirley Scott – Ward Four
Phone: (520) 791-3199
FAX: (520) 791-4717
Mr. Richard Fimbres – Ward Five
Phone: (520) 791-4231
FAX: (520) 791-3188
Thank these two council members for voting the right way, particularly Steve Kozachik who opposed this project for all the right reasons.
Mr. Steve Kozachik – Ward Six
Phone: (520) 791-4601
Fax: (520) 791-3211
Mr. Paul Cunningham – Ward Two
Phone: (520) 791-4687
FAX: (520) 791-5380
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