The Archdiocese of Boston is selling the archbishop’s residence and the surrounding acres to help pay the sex-abuse lawsuits settlement. That’s a bit of a surprise because they’ve been saying for some time that they weren’t selling it. It does mean that they won’t have to sell off any parish properties or dip into operating funds to pay for it, although it doesn’t mean that parishes won’t close. Remember that December 6 meeting this week. Something big related to parish closings is going to be announced.
Archbishop O’Malley announced the funding plan for the settlement yesterday, which means taking out some loans and then paying them back from the sale of the property which could go for anywhere from $30 million to $100 million. The rest of the money would come from archdiocese’s settlements with the insurance companies.
The property to be sold is only the eastern half of the property and the residence, while the chancery buildings and seminary will stay. That leaves 32 acres out of 60 in the archdiocese’s hands.
While Archbishop O’Malley says that no one should see any symbolism in the sale, of course, people see symbolism in it. The Globe goes to the usual suspects for comment. Jim Post of VOTF applauds, pretending to have the pulse of what he average Catholic is thinking. And Ann Hagan Webb of SNAP uses it as a slap at Cardinal Law and the hierarchical structure of the Church: “The cardinal’s residence is opulent and has always been a show of deference to a hierarchy that has shown itself to be less than reputable.”
By the way, it’s the “arcbishop’s residence,” not the “cardinal’s residence,” since Boston doesn’t have a cardinal right now. Accuracy from a New York Times-owned newspaper? Perish the thought.
There’s also a separate analysis by the Globe.
Here’s a story in the Boston Herald about the fact that the mausoleum of Cardinal William O’Connell will have to be removed plus an interesting legend.
The Lowell native had been archbishop of Boston for 37 years, during which he presided over the church’s rise to power in the region. He also settled the occasional grudge, including one against the Sulpicians—a French congregation of priests who ran St. John’s Seminary and with whom he’d quarrelled. O’Connell not only made the living Sulpicians leave, but also issued an extraordinary edict that they exume their dead and take corpses of dead Sulpicians, too. According to a seminarian from the 1960s, St. John’s lore has it that O’Connell ordered an extra solid grave for himself, lest he too be removed one day.
Here is the Herald‘s story on the sale. It gives a lower estimate for the sale price, talks about the possibility of Boston College buying it, and reactions of neighbors. They don’t like the idea of someone else developing a property they have come to regard as a park. Oh, too bad. It annoys me when people get upset that other people’s property won’t be available for their own use.
Update: The Boston College student newspaper The Heights has some more details from the school’s point of view.
Someone asked me an interesting question about it too. Wasn’t the archdiocese going to take a mortgage out on the property via the Knights of Columbus to the tune of $35 million? Did that not go through? Or are they going to pay off the mortgage and only use the remainder to fund the settlement? There’s been a little switcheroo it seems from what the archdiocese said it was going to do to fund the settlement and what it now says it is going to do.
Update 2: The New York Times has some of the details of the mortgage.
Father Coyne would not say what the property was expected to sell for. In September 2002, at the height of the sexual abuse crisis, the archdiocese took out a $38 million mortgage on the entire 60 acres. In August, The Boston Globe reported that the church had spent about $27 million of that line of credit, which was given to the archdiocese last year by the Knights of Columbus. It is not clear how the mortgage would affect the value of the sale.
Maybe the mortgage will be shifted to the 30-plus acres that remain.