Amidst Shuttering Parishes, Archbishop Etienne Buys $2.4 Million House

Parishioners are no longer welcome for Mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, but it remains a kind of still-life. Only a single bulb glows over the heavy, unlocked doors. Inside, prayer votives are cold and burned low. Gray light casts rows of pews in eerie shadow.

St. Mary’s merged in July with St. Therese, 2 miles away, one of a dozen parishes the Archdiocese of Seattle closed or consolidated to save money and minimize costly repairs to outdated structures.

Yet the archdiocese emerged from the pandemic with its highest financial gains in the last five years, despite COVID-19, declining Mass attendance, a small dip in parishioner giving and the ongoing strain of clergy abuse payouts.

Now the archdiocese’s finances have come under renewed scrutiny with the purchase of a home for Seattle’s Catholic leadership, prompting fresh criticism of the church’s transparency and money management.

The archdiocese last month quietly acquired the $2.4 million property in the stately Mount Baker neighborhood. The five-bedroom, 3,460-square-foot gray-shingled home with a bright-blue door overlooks Lake Washington.

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