Misreporting Moving of Tomb

July 30, 2011

By now, people who read the Boston Globe or The Boston Pilot know that the tomb of the late Cardinal William O’Connell was moved last week.  What most people reading these stories do not know is that there was a key detail published in both stories that was not exactly accurate, fed by a deceptive statement by the archdiocese.  BCI is always amazed at how the archdiocese spins things, and how the mainstream media often fails to fact-check this stuff.

First, an excerpt from the Boston Globe report:

Nearly 70 years after O’Connell’s death, his remains were quietly moved a short distance last week from a crypt beneath a small chapel in Brighton to a courtyard at St. John’s Seminary, ending an unusual court fight over what to do with the bones of one of the most influential Roman Catholic leaders in the city’s history.

The seven-year dispute pitted the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and Boston College against the living relatives of the late cardinal. The church and BC wanted to relocate O’Connell’s remains from land the school bought from the archdiocese in 2004 so that the college could redevelop the property.

But the cardinal’s relatives were determined to defend the wishes of their famous ancestor. O’Connell, they said, had clearly chosen the place of his own tomb, a little building on a hill to remind young seminarians to pray for an old cardinal’s soul.

Now, the cardinal’s remains are even closer to the seminary.

“In accordance with an agreement reached with the late cardinal’s next of kin and in keeping with the wishes expressed in his last will and testament, his remains have been re-interred on the grounds of St John’s Seminary with prayers performed . . . by Bishop Arthur Kennedy, rector of St. John’s Seminary,’’ the archdiocese said in a statement yesterday.

The deception is in the last statement in the passage BCI has marked in bold.  If you have not figured it out yet, read on.

By the way, below is a picture of the chapel and mausoleum that used to be there serving as the burial location for the late Cardinal.  

The structure has now been demolished.

The Boston Pilot reported the following:

BRIGHTON — The remains of the late Cardinal William O’Connell, who was Archbishop of Boston from 1907 to 1944, have been moved from from a vault in a chapel on Boston College grounds in Brighton to a new burial location at St. John’s Seminary also in Brighton.

The reinterment marks the end of a contentious process that started in 2004, when BC purchased from the archdiocese much of the grounds of the former chancery in Brighton including, the chapel that served as burial place for Cardinal O’Connell. The archdiocese used much of the proceeds of the sales to pay for settlements related to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

At the time of the sale in 2004, the archdiocese agreed with BC to relocate the cardinal’s remains to a new location. In the agreement, BC retained $2 million from the sale pending the completion of the removal of the remains from their grounds.

In a statement to The Pilot released July 27, Donilon confirmed the move of the remains and explained that an agreement was reached with the cardinal’s heirs.

“In accordance with an agreement reached with the late Cardinal’s next of kin, and in keeping with the wishes expressed in his last will and testament, his remains have been reinterred on the grounds of St John’s Seminary with prayers offered by Bishop Arthur Kennedy, Rector of St. John’s Seminary.”

Cardinal O’Connell moved the archdiocese’s headquarters from Boston to the Brighton campus. He had repeatedly stated his wishes to be buried on the Brighton site. He was buried in a concrete vault beneath the marble floor at the foot of the altar in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, constructed in 1928.

In 2009, BC won city approval to develop the former archdiocesan chancery grounds where the chapel is located as the school’s Brighton campus.

“Out of respect for the late cardinal, we do not think that it would be appropriate to have a gravesite on a college campus, especially on a site in close proximity to a proposed parking facility,” BC spokesman Jack Dunn told the Pilot in 2009.

Once again, note the passages in bold.  Anyone see the deception yet?

The deception is that the statement from the archdiocese and comment from the BC spokesman pretend that St. John’s Seminary actually has “grounds”  of its own. The reality is that there are no “grounds” of the seminary any more–those grounds were sold off and are all owned by Boston College, not St. John’s Seminary any more.

Last October, we reported in “Seminary Squeezola: BC Brighton Campus Plans”  that  St. Johns Hall is all that remains of the former St. Johns Seminary property for the seminary, and even that building sits on land now owned by Boston College.  The building itself is legally considered a “condominium.”  You can verify that in the St. Johns Seminary 2010 annual report on page 9, where it says: “The Seminary retained an ownership of a condominium in St. John’s Hall.”

Bottom line: there are in reality no more “grounds of St. John’s Seminary.”  BC owns all the land. Thus, the remains of Cardinal O’Connell were moved from the former chapel and mauselium that was on land currently owned by BC, to another plot of land that is also owned by BC, which is very close to St. John’s Seminary. Cardinal O’Connell was re-buried in a gravesite which is today legally Boston College property, not the “grounds of St. John’s Seminary.”

That is the reality, but BCI figures that would not have sounded so good in probate court or in the press statement.  What do you think?


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