Lifestyles of the Rich and Pious

Would you like to work for a company that, when facing millions of dollars in lawsuits, buys you a multimillion-dollar house? How about an employer who adds a second story to your already-massive abode even while the government forces it to pay $5.2 million to settle a lawsuit?

Think it can only happen at Halliburton? Well, think again: you can enjoy all of this if you're a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Orange!

Yes, when Bishop Tod D. Brown became the spiritual head of Orange County's 1.2 million Catholics in 1998, he abandoned the Church's millennia-old practice of housing priests in humble rectories on parish grounds and began shacking up clergy in fancy digs few of the faithful could afford: quaint Balboa Island bungalows, beachside manses and other high-class abodes featuring three-car garages, walk-in closets and in-ground spas. In a confidential Sept. 3 memo written by Father Michael Heher to diocesan priests, Heher defended this practice by citing Brown's policy of allowing priests “to live off-site, affording them more privacy and a place away from their work environment.” And just last month, Brown admitted to purchasing a gated-community lot on which he plans to have built a multimillion-dollar mansion for himself near the proposed site of the $100 million Christ Our Savior Cathedral in Santa Ana (see accompanying story “Rooms at the Inn”).

This is the same diocese currently pleading poverty in explaining why it can't reach a settlement with sex-abuse victims and why it laid off 11 diocesan workers in the spring. Brown has repeatedly said he will not sell church property—parishes, convents, church halls, etc.—to free up more money for his operation. But what about the $2 million house whose sole tenant is retired Monsignor Lawrence Baird? Or the San Clemente complex mere minutes from the ocean? Considering there appears to be more than enough room at the inn for priests in the diocese's 56 parish rectories, why doesn't Brown consider a fire sale of its secular properties? In fact, if Brown begins with the following 10*, then the diocese could reap something like $8,837,323—very conservatively estimated—and get back to its main focus: paying out big-money settlements to victims of priestly rape.


Photos by Gustavo Arellano and Tenaya Hills


$1,101,041 406 Ave. Granada, San Clemente

Multi-unit, 2-story, 6 BR, 7BA, 3-car garage, upstairs patio. 3,964 sq. ft. home on a 4,320 sq. ft. lot. Up the street from the biggest baptismal basin in the world—the Pacific Ocean! Purchased in 2000.


$680,900 39 Brigmore Aisle, Irvine

In Turtle Rock, next to park and hills! Private community. 2-story, 1,730 sq. ft. condo. 3 BR, 2.75 BA. Laundry room. His/her closet—but since women aren't allowed into the priesthood, consider it His! Purchased in 2002.


$2,065,812 304 Onyx Ave., Newport Beach

Historic 1926 bungalow on beautiful Balboa Island! 2-story, 2 BR, 1 BA, fireplace, den, range oven. 918 sq. ft. home on a 2,550 sq. ft. lot. Within walking distance of Balboa Pier and Balboa Bay Club. Cute weathervane in shape of a whale . . . or is that a Great Fish?! Job only knows. Purchased in 2000.


$861,706 16806 Mount Olsen Circle, Fountain Valley

2-story, 5 BR, 3 BA, pool/Jacuzzi,

fireplace, 3-car garage. Cul-de-sac, neighborhood streets named after

flowers and mountains—verily, consider the lilies of the field and the Sermon on the Mount, and then consider them on a 7,700 sq. ft lot with a 3,314 sq. ft. home on it. Purchased in 2000.


$614,036 27526 Paseo Verano, San Juan Capistrano

1,938 sq. ft. condo. 2-story, 3 BR, 2.5 BA. In-ground spa. Statue of Virgin Mary in front greets all—except reporters and process servers. Purchased in 1999.


$643,076 25672 Morales, Mission Viejo

2-story, 4 BR, 3 BA, 3-car garage, air conditioning. 2,178 sq. ft. home on a huge 9,000 sq. ft. lot with room for a chapel or breakaway theocracy.

Cul-de-sac. Purchased in 1993.



44 Vista del Valle, Aliso Viejo

Cost-y but cozy! Condo located in wonderful gated community—terrific for keeping out reporters and process servers. 2,188 sq. ft. 4 BR, 3 BA, 2-story. Aboveground spa. Close to Aliso Woods Regional Park. Purchased in 1999.


$453,310 641 S. Iron Horse Lane, Anaheim

In ultra-exclusive Nohl Ranch Village, up on the hills next to a canyon—watch out for the deer! Horse trails, golf course nearby. 3 BR, 2.5 BA. 1,538 sq. ft. home. Purchased in 1992. Forget the eighth commandment: take advantage of this steal!


$618,810 253 S. Leandro St., Anaheim

In Anaheim Hills. 4 BR, 3 BA, family room, 3-car garage. Air conditioning. 2,358 sq. ft. home on a 7,968 sq. ft. lot. Purchased in 1977—oldie but goodie!


$1,145,632 18152 Darmel Place, Santa Ana

Bishop Brown's current residence! 2-story, 5 BR, 3 BA, fireplace. At end of cul-de-sac. 3,824 sq. ft. home on a 10,200 sq. ft. lot. Air conditioning, solar-heated pool, range oven, dishwasher, 3-car garage, marble floors. Built in 1969 but remodeled so many times within the past six years it feels like new! Purchased in 1998.


We didn't consider houses that the Orange diocese classifies as monasteries or convents, like the nifty nine-room, three-bath manse that houses the Servite friars in Buena Park. Nor do we include houses that are on or beside church property, which disqualifies pricey historic homes near St. Joseph's in Santa Ana. We arrived at each property's estimated value by taking the average cost per square foot of houses sold in the immediate area around each property within the past year, then multiplied this value by the square footage of each home.

And Now, A Public-Service Announcement For The Catholic Charities Of Orange County

Last year, the Diocese of Orange contributed $398,500 to its charitable arm, Catholic Charities of Orange County. This amount is one-third of what Brown's Santa Ana house costs and constitutes 8 percent of the organization's total assets (other revenue came from government grants and fund-raising). To put into perspective how much of a difference the sale of the 10 properties listed in this article would make, here's a brief excerpt from the call for donations from Catholic Charities:

A Gift of $20 will:

• Purchase half a case of nutritional formula to feed a child

• Subsidize a motel room for a family facing homelessness

A Gift of $200 will:

• Pay the health-insurance premiums for a low-income family with two children

• Purchase 1,500 pounds of food from the Second Harvest Food Bank for families at risk of hunger

A Gift of $2,000 will:

• Sponsor 200 underprivileged children for one week of a summer-camp program

• Fund the annual material costs for one learning center in a neighborhood

A Gift of $20,000 will:

• Provide job-placement counseling and assistance to 100 individuals

• Help purchase a new vehicle to pick up and deliver donated food and other items for people in need

A Gift of $200,000 will:

• Provide one day per week of on-site school counseling in eight elementary schools for three years

• Start a new parish-based Family Support Center in an underserved part of the county

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