In 2011, the Knights of Columbuspurchased the John Paul II Cultural Center from the Archdiocese of Detroit, including the building and land at 3900 Harewood Rd., in Washington, D.C. It was the Knights’ vision to transform the center into a national shrine to honor the legacy of then Blessed John Paul II.
The sale involved the Cultural Center Foundation and the Catholic University of America. The Knights paid $22.7 million to the foundation for the building and land, of which $2.7 million went to the Catholic University for their secured interest on the land. After closing costs, the Archdiocese of Detroit received approximately $20 million from the foundation for the sale.
While the amount was notably less than the $54 million in loans the archdiocese invested in the cultural center's design, construction and maintenance, the sale enabled the archdiocese to recoup part of its investment and ended the approximately $65,000 monthly maintenance fee.
Today, the St. John Paul II National Shrine serves as a pilgrimage site in our nation’s capital, honoring our great Holy Father and his vision for the New Evangelization to share the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much money did the Detroit Archdiocese put into the Cultural Center?
The Archdiocese committed approximately $54 million in loans to the Cultural Center's Foundation, which operates the Center. These funds were used for the Cultural Center's design, construction, furnishing, and in prior years, to support operations. At the time of the closing, the Archdiocese fully paid off all loans.
Where did the $54 million come from?
The Archdiocese allocated funds to the Cultural Center from its Loan Deposit Program and from prior investment earnings. The funds were issued beginning in March 2000 in what became a series of loans and maintenance advances totaling about $54 million.
No funds to support the Cultural Center were diverted from the archdiocesan Priests' Pension Plan or from its Endowment Fund, the latter established through the Stewards for Tomorrow fundraising campaign in 1994-95.
Why did the Archdiocese suffer a loss on the sale?
The Cultural Center was designed and built in a strong economy early in the century. The land was acquired when the real estate market was substantially better. After the downturn in the financial and real estate markets, and as the recession wore on, it became increasingly unlikely that the Archdiocese could recover its full investment in the Cultural Center.
Why did the Archdiocese sell the Center in 2011?
The sale enabled the Archdiocese to recoup some of the $54 million it had invested in the Cultural Center and ended the approximately $65,000 per month for operational costs. At the time of the sale, the archdiocese received various offers for the Center in the $20 million range. The Knights presented the best offer and terms of sale. Archbishop Vigneron consulted with the archdiocesan Finance Council and the College of Consultors, both of which unanimously supported and accepted the Knights' offer.
The archdiocesan Finance Council is a nine-member committee comprised of lay leaders and clergy who provide oversight and advice to Archbishop Vigneron on financial matters pertaining to the Detroit Archdiocese. The College of Consultors is the priest council of advisors to Archbishop Vigneron on administrative and financial issues.
Why did the Archdiocese get involved so deeply in a Washington, D.C., enterprise?
The Archdiocese made its loan commitments in better economic circumstances based on a business model that proved to be unsustainable. The Center was considered a worthy investment by the Archdiocese of Detroit and more than 168,000 donors as a place, in our nation's capital, and adjacent to the Catholic University of America, to carry the torch of Pope John Paul II's universal message of love, freedom, and peace in our contemporary culture. Since the Holy Father’s canonization in April 2014, the center has even greater significance for countless pilgrims who visit our nation’s capital.
What financial policies has the archdiocese established to avoid committing such large amounts of funds to single projects like this in the future?
Archbishop Vigneron has implemented new policies and procedures regarding the management of archdiocesan operating funds, its Loan Deposit Program, endowments and other accounts.
These reforms exceed standards required by canon law statutes and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in areas of diocesan financial responsibilities, including consultative consent on some financial issues.
The governance of financial management at the Archdiocese has been strengthened by reorganizing archdiocesan financial operations as well as the archdiocesan Finance Council. The level of engagement of the Finance Council has increased significantly, and it is working in close collaboration with the Archbishop, the Moderator of the Curia, and the College of Consultors to provide greater oversight and guidance to the Archbishop regarding the financial affairs of the Archdiocese. The Moderator of the Curia is the equivalent of a chief operating officer in the private sector.
Does the Archdiocese continue to support the Cultural Center?
The Detroit Archdiocese has not provided any support, financial or otherwise, since the purchase agreement was finalized on September 30, 2011.