Misreporting Moving of Tomb

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?

15 Responses to Misreporting Moving of Tomb

  1. John A. Cronin says:

    Why? Why does the RCAB feel the need to continue the deception of it’s flock? It is time to tell the truth…always! We all know who is the master of deception. It is time for the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston to clean out his staff and start a courageous new beginning for His Church..

  2. Serviam says:

    What galls me is that there to have been no provision made to dismantle and relocate the Chapel of the Blessd Virgin Mary. It was simply demolished. So goes more of our physical patrimony that reflects the Faith of our forebears. Is anything sacred with these people? They are shameless pragmatists that have little value in past reminders of the Catholic Faith in Boston. It’s all business.

  3. Regular BCI reader says:

    I’m with Serviam, I also find it very upsetting that no effort was made to find a way of relocating the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s very valuable to have a resource like BCI that keeps Catholics informed of these shenanigans.

    I know this is off-topic, but BCI, are you open to being nominated for a Catholic New Media award?


    Nominations close Monday, August 1. If you’re open to being nominated, you should let readers know.

    • Regular reader,
      We are glad to hear that you find BCI to be a valuable resource. BCI was not previously following these awards. If you would like to nominate us, you may feel free to do so!

  4. Mark Frances says:

    Very good article! At first glance, it appears that you “doth protest too much”. However upon further review, it is obvious that this is a pattern of dismantling the “old Church” in order to replace it with something new. Cardinal O’Connell had to be “dismantled” in order to snuff out his influence on the new seminarians who were supposed to pray for him and to hold his memory near. This entire issue is becoming one of “reeducation camps” just like in Vienam after the shameful manner of withdrawal by U.S. forces which included the horrific treatment of the Hmong who were exposed to retaliation by the Viet Cong. As a Vietnam-era Navy vet, there is no doubt that we left troops behind in underground prisons. John McCain was “one of the lucky ones” who was only held for five years. There is no doubt that this “new Church” is laying the groundwork nation-wide for some future unforeseen event which will allow this “reverse catacomb” Church to spring into the open. There are plenty of predictions that this is the “last Pope” before the final one who will be Peter II and the anti.

  5. j says:

    The demolition/transfer was done at 5am in the morning. Though I hate the loss of the Chapel elements, Cd O’Connell had Himself encased in the foundation, under many layers of concrete; probably would have been hard to move Him without destroying the Chapel.

  6. A Boston priest says:

    The chapel was originally built in 1928, and Cardinal O’Connell died in 1944. Since they buried him in a tomb beneath a chapel that was standing for 16 years before his death, then presumably it should have also been possible to remove the casket without destroying the chapel, or to disassemble, rather than demolish, the above-ground structure with the intention of re-assembling it elsewhere.

    • Serviam says:

      I wholeheartedly agree that all the stonework above the grade line could have been full documented and dismantled for for future re-erection. If original Construction Documents were not available, it would have been fairly simple to have an Architect do a field survey, including a numbered stonework map, along with plans and elevations. This would have required little additional time and effort, in context with the rest of the multi-million dollar development. This approach is standard practice with any historic or important cultural site. I find it hard to fathom, with $2M retainage, the services of a Preservation Architect were not employed with such a significant element of the site.

      Even public projects require no less, often including an archaeological site survey. What happened here? $2M for dis-internment, demolition and re-internment seems rediculously high in itself, where there is little hand labor involved. I suspect that typical Boston ISD ‘As of Right’ permitting may have been appied to this site, where the owner (BC), is allowed to demolish or construct at will, with little or no restriction from the City. Someone has been asleep at the switch, to let this get by.

      Perpetratrion of this barbaric affront to our collective patrimony, for short term gain, truly needs to be exposed. The signifcance of this loss is absolutely stunning. What’s next…Holy Trinity being conveyed and leveled for the short term benefit of fixing our fiscal hemorrhage? As with a contribution to any ‘black hole’, what is the benefit Church in Boston, if our 200 year patrimony is being sold off with the consideration of a ‘Fire Sale’. Once it’s gone …it is GONE.

  7. bitsnbytes says:

    Since Cdl. O’Connell booted out the Sulpicians from the Boston seminary, including demanding the removal of their cemetery, demolishing his tomb may have been a symbolic act of revenge by the Jesuit university on their behalf. We shouldn’t have too much sympathy with O’Connell, except as a fellow sinner. While he boosted the institutional standing of the Church in society, he was apparently personally decadent and even lied to the Pope to cover up for the secret marriage of his priest nephew.

    Keeping his tomb visible on campus would not be a daily encouragement to the seminarians, but a daily reproach.

    • Mark Frances says:

      In today’s society, “personal decadence” can only connote one thing when it is mentioned in the same breath with a priest. I find it offensive that you would state such without any proof. The story about his nephew is also based on innuendo. It appears that you are justifying the attack on the Archdiocese by the Jesuits at BC. If you are only “whispering” rumors, then you are committing a sin of false witness. I believe that Bishop Sheen was wronged by Cardinal Spellman but as you notice, he said nothing and suffered in silence.

  8. Frank M. says:

    A little piece of Ecclesiastical History. A friend of mine’s Uncle was a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and one of Cardinal O’Connell’s private Secretaries/Master of Ceremonies. This priest died at age 93 and told us this story: One day Cardinal O’Connell and a visiting Italian Cardinal were out walking on the grounds of the Cardinal’s Residence. Cardinal O’Connell wished to show his guest his new Chapel/Tomb. Accompanied by this priest both Cardinals entered the Chapel and observed the open vault. The Italian Cardinal said to Cardinal O’Connell ” I thought in the US people are buried 6 feet below ground.” Cardinal O’Connell replied ” you are correct.” The Italian Cardinal then said ” your vault is only 3 ft., why?” Cardinal O’Connell responded ” I chose 3 ft instead of 6 ft. so in the future when the grave diggers come to exhume my body for my Canonization they will not break their backs.” The priest said that Cardinal O’Connell was dead serious when he made this statement. There are many more stories I could tell. You will not find them in any books: all Oral History from this priest friend.

    • Serviam says:

      God rest his Soul.

      O God, who didst raise Thy servant William to the dignity of bishop in the apostolic priesthood; grant, we beseech Thee, that he may be joined in fellowship with Thine apostles for evermore. Through our Lord Jesus Christ thy son: Who liveth and reigneth, God, with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

      May we never suffer this indignity in our repose.

    • Mack says:

      That’s hilarious! Talk about self-canonization…

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