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The beleaguered Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, beset by criminal and civil lawsuits related to a child sex abuse scandal, said on Thursday it is bleeding money and will lay off 45 people and close its 117-year-old newspaper.
Archbishop Charles Chaput said the 1.5 million member archdiocese faces a $17 million shortfall in the next fiscal year, which Chaput said does not take into account another $10 million in legal and investigatory expenses over the past several months.
"The extraordinary legal and professional costs of the past 16 months, while burdensome, played little role in the current budget decisions," Chaput said in a statement.
Among those more recent costs are the legal bills for Monsignor Charles Lynn, whose fate is now being decided by the jury presiding over his conspiracy and child endangerment trial in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia. Lynn, 61, is the most senior U.S. church official to go to trial in the Roman Catholic church's pedophilia scandal.
The jury was scheduled to resume its deliberations for a 13th day on Friday after announcing earlier this week that it was deadlocked on all but one of five charges against Lynn and another priest, the Reverend James Brennan.
Lynn, who as secretary of the clergy oversaw hundreds of priests, is accused of covering up child sex abuse allegations, often by transferring predatory priests to unsuspecting parishes.
As a result of its dire fiscal picture, the archdiocese is shuttering the church newspaper, the Catholic Standard & Times, now a monthly, the church said. In an online article on Thursday, the newspaper said that Chaput's announcement constitutes a "shake-up of seismic proportions."
Terry McKiernan, president of Bishopaccountability.org, which provides an online encyclopedia of national abuse cases, questioned the church's decision to hire four defense lawyers for Lynn.
"The long-term effects of the abuse crisis in Philadelphia has to be a part of the church's financial crisis," he told Reuters on Thursday.
In another effort to save costs, the church said it will let go 45 people from its full-time staff of 244 at the Philadelphia archdiocese headquarters.
An archdiocese spokesman on Thursday declined to provide a breakdown of the church's spending, including the cost of Lynn's defense. The trial judge has issued a gag order on all parties in the criminal case.