There’s a rumor in today’s Boston Globe (which got its start in the Boston Herald the other day) that the Archdiocese of Boston might move its chancery offices off the campus it currently owns in Brighton and out into the suburbs. This wouldn’t exactly be surprising given that the archdiocese did make a commitment to Boston College a couple of years—after selling the cardinal’s residence and some property to the college for millions—that it might sell the rest of the land to the college at some point.
Whether the rumor is true or not, Boston Mayor Tom Menino has decided to weigh in with some questionable remarks. Menino has made a habit of bashing the Church—his Church—in recent years over parish and school closings as well as her teachings on matters such as homosexuality and marriage. His most recent remarks are in the same vein:
“The Archdiocese of Boston is an institution that belongs in our city,” Menino said in a statement yesterday. “The people most in need of charitable services provided by the church and arch diocese are here in our urban neighborhoods. To move the Archdiocese of Boston out of Boston raises serious concerns about the future mission and role of the church in serving this community.”
First, the Archdiocese of Boston is not the chancery offices. In fact, as spokesman Terry Donilon correctly points out, the spiritual heart of the Church remains in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross where Cardinal Sean O’Malley will continue to live.
Second, no one is talking about moving the archdiocese’s parishes and charitable apostolates out of the city. They will almost certainly remain right where they are, independent of any move of chancery offices. To claim that this move would raise “serious concerns” about the future of the Church in Boston only serves to highlight the ongoing misconception of the Church in the popular mind as a kind of religious corporation or an analogue of similar secular organizations instead of the Church that it is.
It’s Boston College history professor James O’Toole who gets the best zinger of the day:
“I don’t know if in this day and age it’s as big a deal as it would have been at some point in the past. It’s certainly less of a big deal than moving City Hall where nobody can get to it, as the mayor has proposed.”
That’s a reference to Menino’s recent proposal to move Boston City Hall from Government Center to the prime real estate of South Boston’s waterfront. That proposal is widely seen as an attempt by Menino to (a) enlarge his legacy as he contemplates his eventual retirement from office, (b) secure a nice waterview for the remaining years he chooses to stay as mayor (since it’s apparently an office held for life) and (c) free up the prime real estate of Government Center for sale or lease to his developer buddies.
Frankly, if the archdiocese can sell off some land for millions to Boston College and simultaneously put chancery offices in real office space as opposed to a converted seminary dorm, that’s all for the good. It would be better not to have sell off anything at all, but when you’re rebuilding your Church sometimes you have to make tough choices.