Holy Trinity Trickery

We leave the subject of pensions for now to return to a topic we covered about two weeks ago, the efforts by the archdiocese to sell Holy Trinity in Boston.  As you may recall, former parishioners at Holy Trinity Church in the South End asked the Vatican to stop any sale of the building after it was listed for sale  at $2.3 million on Sothebys, a residential real estate site. They argued that the archdiocese had not completed the required  relegation to profane use process to convert it to secular use, and the archdiocese responded by pulling the listing. The explanation given at the time raised eyebrows for its failure to make logical sense, as we discussed in More Diocesan Deception.

Below you will see a copy of the letter sent by Chancellor Jim McDonough to former parishioners of Holy Trinity explaining what the archdiocese was up to, and you will see all of the contradictions between actions and words once again exposed.  As with virtually everything you see on BCI these days, this came from outside of 66 Brooks Drive, despite what folks at the Pastoral Center in Braintree  still seem to believe about who writes BCI or helps BCI, and despite our multiple open disclosures that the primary sources of information for BCI are not at 66 Brooks Drive.

March 17, 2011

Former Parishioners of Holy Trinity Parish
c/o xxx

Dear XXX,

His Eminence Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap., has asked me to respond to you and to those on whose behalf you have written regarding your letters concerning Holy Trinity Church in the South End. Cardinal O’Malley has requested that I clarify an important matter in your recent correspondences. The Cardinal has not made a decision to relegate Holy Trinity Church to profane use, nor has he directed the Archdiocese of Boston to sell the church building.

Several weeks ago, at His Eminence’s request, several individuals of the Cardinal’s staff, including myself, began a consultation process to determine whether Holy Trinity Church should be relegated to profane use. As you are aware, when the Cardinal directs that the possible relegation of a church building be considered, an extensive consultation process is undertaken that enables us to make an informed and just decision. This process is already in progress for seven church buildings in the Archdiocese.

The first step in the relegation consultation process is to work with the pastor of the parish who received the Catholic faithful from the closed parish of the church under consideration. The pastor serves as a point of contact for the former parishioners of the closed parish and helps lead our discussions with them. During this initial stage, we gather information that will assist the pastor throughout the consultation. Our present actions regarding Holy Trinity Church have been taken for the purpose of gathering that information, including determining the possible market value of the property and whether there may be other Catholic groups who are interested in making use of it.

The second step in this process is the consultation of the Catholic faithful. At present, we are in the midst of this stage of the relegation consultation process for seven area churches. Holy Trinity was not included with this grouping because we had not yet obtained the needed information for the consultation. Cardinal O’Malley will be announcing a new series of consultations soon and this grouping will include Holy Trinity Church.

The final step in the relegation consultation process is the formal decision by His Eminence. If after consultation he decides that the best option for the church is that it continues to exist as a Catholic worship space, the Cardinal may designate that a Catholic group in good standing be sought as a buyer. If this is his decision, the Cardinal does not need to relegate the church building for profane use. If, on the other hand, the relegation consultation process leads the Cardinal to believe that relegation is appropriate, His Eminence will fulfill his canonical obligation to consult with the Presbyteral Council prior to relegating the building for profane but not sordid use.

I can assure you that Cardinal O’Malley is committed to following this process with regard to Holy Trinity Church. Admittedly, such a process requires substantial time, effort, and expense, but His Eminence willingly undertakes this process because it is an extension of his commitment to rebuild our Archdiocese and to foster a culture of collaboration and trust. It is my privilege to serve with him in doing so. I can confidently assure you and those who joined in your letter that the actions currently being undertaken are in service of the process I have outlined.

However, after having consulted with Cardinal O’Malley, I have recently asked our real estate broker to withdraw the listing of Holy Trinity Church. The listing was done in order to gather the necessary information to facilitate transparent conversation with the former members of Holy Trinity parish when the planned relegation consultation meetings occur. The information gathered through the listing is a valuable tool for both His Eminence and the pastor who assists in the relegation consultation process. Nevertheless, the broker has agreed to withdraw this listing in light of the apparent misunderstanding that has arisen.

Please be assured that during the planned consultation period, you and all who wish to be heard will have ample opportunity to give your input to Cardinal O’Malley and to Father O’Leary, the pastor of Cathedral Parish, which welcomed the former parishioners of Holy Trinity. I hope that you will take advantage of this opportunity and provide thoughtful comments so that the Cardinal may make an informed and just decision as to the ultimate use of the church building.

In addition to this letter, Cardinal O’Malley has asked his Assistant for Canonical Affairs, Reverend Robert Oliver, to be available to you by phone. Father Oliver is happy to discuss any questions you may have regarding the relegation consultation process and can be reached at (617) 746-5650.

Sincerely,

James P. McDonough

Chancellor

cc: Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston
Rev. Robert Oliver, Assistant for Canonical Affairs
Very Rev. Richard M. Erikson, Ph.D., V.G.

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -
BCI commentary:

We just do not understand this archdiocese. Are we really being asked to believe that the archdiocese signed an agreement with Sotheby’s to have them  spend their resources marketing and selling this building so the archdiocese could merely gather information for the consultation process?  Why was the previous process of placing a listing in The Pilot not followed?  What about the Sotheby’s website ad was expected to more effectively identify a Catholic buyer vs listing it in Catholic newspapers across the country?  Are we to infer that if the archdiocese finds they can get a lot of money for a building, that will increase the likelihood of relegation to profane use and sale, but if there is not so much money to be realized, they might keep the site for Catholic worship? How come they were able to gather all of this same information for the other seven properties that were the subject of the Consultation 2011 survey process without listing them for sale with residential real estate brokers, but that was somehow not possible with Holy Trinity?

It has also not gone unnoticed by those who care about this situation how the language on the archdiocesan Real Estate website underwent a bit of a metamorphosis recently.   On its website,  the Archdiocese now makes the following statement about properties that it lists for sale.  Since this statement is backdated to March 8, it clearly would have applied to Holy Trinity when it was listed for sale:

“Offers, solicited over a 90-day period, will be evaluated at the conclusion of that process.   At the conclusion of the process the Archdiocesan Real Estate office and the Real Estate Advisory committee will review the offers.  They will make their recommendations to the Chancellor.  The Chancellor will review the financial terms and social considerations connected with the offers and forward his recommendations to the Archbishop through the Vicar General.  If the Archbishop is inclined to accept offers, permissions will be sought from the College of Consultors, the Finance Council and, where needed, from the Holy See. “

Unfortunately, the website statement now dated March 8 about the intended process for selling properties apears to conflict with the above statement of the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, James McDonough, in his letter to Holy Trinity parishioners dated 17 March 2011.

Given no such sale listings were done for the other seven properties, it is difficult to believe the explanation that the website listing of the property on Sotheby’s for a selling price of $2.3M was really an effort to gather information about the market value of the property and find a Catholic buyer.  Rather, it sure looks a lot more like the archdiocese was accepting offers from potential buyers, as it now states on its real estate web page.

Last Wednesday, March 23, a story about Holy Trinity’s listing for sale and emergency appeal appeared in the online edition of the South End News.At the end of the story, an anonymous reader using the handle “BRA_scandal” wrote the following comment.

“Developers want to declare those blocks as part of Chinatown, so that they can build huge characterless buildings unlike the neighboring South End. Big money wants to demolish Holy Trinity.”
We do not know if that is true or not, or what is really going on.  We simply share with you the facts and objective information. It would be nice if the archdiocese just told faithful Catholics the truth. Is that too much to ask?
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28 Responses to Holy Trinity Trickery

  1. FR B says:

    OVER THE YEARS THE EMINENT FRIAR HAS BEEN WITH US, DIRECT PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE IS A RARE COMMODITY …
    TO HAVE PERSONAL LETTER FROM THE CARDINAL O’MALLEY MIGHT SOME DAY FETCH A NICE PRICE AT SOTHBY’S BECAUSE THERE WOULD BE SO FEW … THE CARDINAL CERTAINLY DELEGATES + BOY! HE KNOWS HOW TO PROTECT HIS ABILITY FOR DENIABILITY i.e. AVOID RESPONSIBILITY…
    LESSON: IF YOU POSSESS A PERSONALLY SIGNED LETTER FROM THE EMINENCE … TREASURE IT! … IT WILL BE A COLLECTOR’S TREASURE!

    • WOW! says:

      How very true! I hadn’t really thought too much about it but HE really doesn’t put anything in writing with HIS signature on it. More reason not to trust anything in the RCAB.

  2. Objective Observer says:

    James McDonough said:
    “The second step in this process is the consultation of the Catholic faithful. At present, we are in the midst of this stage of the relegation consultation process for seven area churches. Holy Trinity was not included with this grouping because we had not yet obtained the needed information for the consultation. Cardinal O’Malley will be announcing a new series of consultations soon and this grouping will include Holy Trinity Church.”

    That simply is not true, according to the massive amount of information RCAB has had since 2004 about the Trinity property, and especially since May of 2006. There have been numerous comprehensive evaluations of the property since SG&H first made their report in 2001. RCAB, and specifically the Real Estate department, has had more information about Trinity than Saint Therese’s in Everett, Saint James in Wellesley, and all the others in the online comment process. Why? Because the information was developed by both the parishioners and the management company paid by the diocese, as well as by experts retained on behalf of RCAB, and supplied to the chancellors and their respective real estate department heads since 2001 — that’s ten years, folks.

    Second:

    “The first step in the relegation consultation process is to work with the pastor of the parish who received the Catholic faithful from the closed parish of the church under consideration. The pastor serves as a point of contact for the former parishioners of the closed parish and helps lead our discussions with them. During this initial stage, we gather information that will assist the pastor throughout the consultation. Our present actions regarding Holy Trinity Church have been taken for the purpose of gathering that information, including determining the possible market value of the property and whether there may be other Catholic groups who are interested in making use of it.”

    The language in this section is self-contradictory. RCAB has always accomplished what it states in this paragraph via the Request for Proposal Process, together with having a third-party appraisal process, as well as engineering reports. Also, the pastor in question either knew or did not know of the real estate sale listing when it was made. So he either knew and didn’t tell the Trinity people, or the chancellor listed the property without telling “The pastor [who]serves as a point of contact for the former parishioners of the closed parish and helps lead our discussions with them.”

    Why would the chancellor list the property to develop information for the pastor without telling the pastor?

    Which was it? Who decided that the former parishioners, who are in regular contact with the pastor in question, could be left out of the loop? Like they might never notice a massive Sotheby’s marketing push to sell the property?

    What is most troubling is that this section of the letter avoids two of the main issues:

    *Signing a listing contract with a realtor is a very real, binding legal agreement. The realtor makes expenditures to market and list the property in reliance on compensation from the sale. Most importantly, the seller WARRANTS that they have good title to the property, and that the property IS FOR SALE. So did RCAB sign that contract in bad faith? Or did RCAB sign that contract because they were initiating the process of selling the property?

    *Did the chancellor sign the listing contract with his fingers crossed behind his back? Or did he absolutely intend to offer the property for sale outside the RFP process, and think that selling the property without prior consultation was easier than mucking about with broad consultation and understanding before listing it?

    Last big question:
    Who gets the money when the property is sold?

    If the suppression decree stated that the assets and liabilities of Trinity were made the assets and liabilities of the receiving parish, the proceeds of the real estate sale go to the receiving parish. Has that parish spent significant sums recently and pledged the Trinity proceeds to repay the diocese? Or is the pastor baffled by this whole process, and feeling like the chancellor and real estate department have not “worked with” him as they state in the letter?

    If all these statements made by the chancellor in the letter above conflict the facts, who, if anyone, is telling the truth?

    Read again the cardinal’s statement about re-upping the chancellor. Did Sean Cardinal O’Malley actually write those words? Did he even know they were written? If so, did he have his fingers crossed behind his back when he said it? Or can he not comprehend the reality surrounding him?

  3. Is anyone at the Archdiocese ever going to tell the truth?

    Certainly not McDonough!

  4. Former Employee says:

    I would suggest everyone email the following : info@sspx.org and ask them to set up a straw man for the purchase, not ideal, but at least then the building would be perserved.

    I already emailed them with the listing.

    • Devoted Catholic says:

      Certainly the Society of Saint Pius will take the building but they are against the Church. They are a Pre-Vatican 2 group. I would strongly urge everyone to keep in mind the groups agenda which is anti-Jewish, anit-Vatican 2, and do not support our Holy Father. Try to fight to keep it open within the RCAB!! Cardinal Sean why are you doing such awful things?

  5. TheLastCatholicinBoston says:

    “The listing was done in order to gather the necessary information to facilitate transparent conversation with the former members of Holy Trinity parish when the planned relegation consultation meetings occur.”

    That’s funny. If you ask anybody involved with Real Estate “Why do you do a listing?” The answer is “You list a property in order to sell it.”

    By the way, I think you need a ouija to facilitate transparent(invisible: the kind you can’t see) conversations. If you mean Honest conversation; that will take integrity, and you can’t get that by simply listing a property with Southeby.

    Holy Trinity Church in the South End was never ‘just another empty Catholic church.’ The Immigrant German community built it and the Tridentine Latin Mass community joyfully joined them to really build a flock. As the only Latin Mass in Boston it was well attended and was a Sunday ‘pilgrimage’ location for those who appreciate the Extraordinary Form, some traveling 50 or more miles to attend. It also was a welcoming place for a small marginalized city-dweller contingent. It was a refreshing down to earth urban parish, it could be said the smells, wear and tear and lack of adequate heat made it ‘undesirable’, but I never figured Jesus would have minded at all.

    PS. You’ll likely find it imprudent to trust anybody who uses the words “Catholic Worship space” in reference to a Catholic Church, as used in paragraph 5 of the correspondence. In a Catholic church you will find an alter on which a Tabernacle in placed, in which you will find Jesus Christ truly present; body, blood, soul and divinity in the form of bread.
    In a ‘Catholic Worship space’ you will find a circle of really, really, really nice people often holding hands singing summer-camp style songs. The later may or may not have anything to do with Jesus as revealed through time and the magisterium.

    Holy Trinity should be given (sold) to one of the growing traditional orders that offer the Latin Mass. It has been reported here and other places that a few have expressed interest in it.

    The Cardinal needs to know in no uncertain terms that as leader and true custodian of the Boston Catholic heritage that this may in the short run seem financially imprudent but that he has a very real moral obligation to the communion of Saints gone before us here in Boston. He needs to also realize there are many snakes in our midst who just want the dirt under the temple to sell.

  6. FR B says:

    Not unlike aspects of the U.S. Foreign Relations… Beware!
    Today’s ally may well become tomorrow’s enemy …
    In the delegating skills of the present occupant of the cathedra … if the delegated underling wins public odium + failure,he or she is blamed i.e. ‘left holding the bag’…
    Following only traceable SIGNED documents sucessfully leads you away from SPO + a new stooge is “elected”… that has been the pattern!

  7. theophilus says:

    As a broker, I would say that I find it beyond belief,that an agent would take a listing,waste time and money,just so the diocese could gather information.That appears ridiculous. That ‘s what appraisers are for, as I am sure the chancellor knows. Agents take listings for one reason: in order to sell and make a commission. Period. That is their livelihood. Also,a broker could put themselves in a very precarious position legally, if another broker submitted the offer of a ready, willing, and able buyer, and their client, the seller, was dealing in bad faith. Of course, the more likely scenario was, due to the firestorm of protest, the diocese requested that the listing be pulled from the market.

    • Pssst ! says:

      You said, “a broker could put themselves in a very precarious position legally, if another broker submitted the offer of a ready, willing, and able buyer, and their client, the seller, was dealing in bad faith.”

      Bingo!

      I wonder if it has occurred to anyone that the folks at Sotheby’s, upon being notified of the “firestorm of protest,” had a few choice words for the folks on Brooks Drive and canceled the listing themselves? Considering McDonough’s hubris, the realtors may well have felt more fearful than the Archdiocese of the consequences of continuing to list the property. After all, Sotheby’s would have faced civil action, while McDonough feels untouchable, and would just shrug it off as a mistake.

      Theophilus’ post contains an (unintentional?) irony – “…the seller … was dealing in bad faith.” Yeah, that pretty much describes McDonough and his cronies – the bad faith bears.

  8. CBrassil says:

    “The Last Catholic in Boston” has it right: Holy Trinity was never just another empty space….The immigrant German Community built it…” My German family (Eichorn) were among the early families at Holy Trinity; my parents were married there,my mother sang in the German choir, I was baptised there, my sister went to school and later was married there.

    Our extended families were part of the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters who socialized regularly at Casino Hall, across Shawmut Ave. from the Church. (A beautiful stained glass window picturing St. Patrick was purchased by the MCOF and is situated in the downstairs church).

    There isn’t enough space here to expound on the historic beginnings of Holy Trinity, and its place in America’s culture: e.g. the Christmas tree; Christmas Cards; “Silent Night” (the first Church in America where “Silent Night” was performed, of course in German.)

    It was indeed, a “Sunday pilgrimage” for those of us who returned to Holy Trinity from the early 1990s to attend the Tridentine Mass.

  9. Al says:

    Maybe somebody should check with Sotheby’s for their side of the story.

  10. Longtime K of C says:

    Objective Observer ask a sad but pertinent question about whether Cardinal Sean can even comprehend the reality surrounding him. I don’t say this lightly or maliciously, but I too have long wondered about the Cardinal’s mental fitness to lead us at this time.

    Back in 2004 in his letter on the parish closings, the Cardinal shocked me (not sure about anyone else) with “At times I ask God to call me home and let someone else finish this job.” Although the quotation is brief, those words and the Cardinal’s performance in the seven years following, raise a multitude of questions about whether he’s depressed, overwhelmed, disinterested or worse. Just one example out of bizarre stewardship out of many, is the contradiction of outrageous salaries for his lay staff, while for years the Cardinal has disavowed personal wealth and the trappings of office. I have to wonder what his thought process is, just on the salaries alone.

    Of course there will always be sharks around (McDonough, Connors, etc.) but it almost seems like control has shifted to the sharks while the Cardinal is adrift and possibly oblivious on a lifeboat. Again, this isn’t meant to be malicious and I pray for the health of both the Cardinal and the Archdiocese, as we all should. Vivat Jesus.

    • FR B says:

      I have shared your concerns … ergo I do pray for him.

      • FR B says:

        The above does not change the realities of a kind of ‘business takeover’ by the ‘good samaritans’ who have come to his aid viz. the legal eagles, the high roller financiers and the investor-broker types all of the “Team of Experts” who have little or no training in Theology, Ecclesiology or Canon Law. All of this is the quagmire which engulfs perhaps a good man in a weakened condition.
        PRAY PRAY PRAY But FACE reality + Confront it!

      • In The Pew says:

        I did not know the Cardinal was in a weakened condition. Is he ill? I will of course continue to pray for him.

  11. In The Pew says:

    Is this real or an April Fools joke by one of you?

    http://bittercatholicinciter.wordpress.com/

    • Carolyn says:

      I wonder if it’s a way to capture the ISPs of those who click on it?

      • In The Pew says:

        I didn’t think of that. I didn’t think WordPress blogs could do that! How can I find out?

      • Luke says:

        WordPress does not gather IP addresses. All IP addresses are always captured somewhere, but WordPress has a legal approach that they do not provide them and remain neutral on content so they are not held liable.

    • This is the first we are hearing about that other site. BCI has nothing to do with it.

  12. Luke says:

    It can’t be an April Fools joke, it has posts from March too. Its kind of funny but its not. BCI, did you do this?

  13. K&JSR says:

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/04/05/veteran_civic_leader_to_run_boston_redevelopment_authority/

    Bad news for Holy Trinity; the listing was premature, now Jack has a man on the inside of the BRA

  14. Jerry says:

    Where does the money go after the sale? I.e. who benefits!

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