Archdiocese of Boston uses parish funds to repay sexual abuse settlement costs

The stories about St. Francis of Cabrini continuing to protest their closing and occupy the church  ten years after it was ordered closed and comments by Communications Secretary Terry Donilon merit a response.  In particular, the deception by Donilon about how the Archdiocese of Boston uses parish funds just cannot sit uncontested. Donilon said a fund of resources of parishes cannot be tapped by the archdiocese for any purpose the archdiocese chooses. Maybe that is true. But if so, then how exactly does Donilon explain how closed Brighton parish properties were recently transferred from the archdiocese to another related entity to help pay off sexual abuse claims?  Later in this post, we also show how little progress the Boston Archdiocese has made with these church squatters.

First, regarding the Scituate situation, here is an excerpt from one article with the Donilon quote:

Canon law consultant Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes, who’s been helping diehard parishioners of deconsecrated Mount Carmel Church in East Boston stave off a wrecking ball, told several dozen supporters — some openly weeping — “the whole rationale for turning this church into condos” is contradicted by the Archdiocese of Boston’s latest public annual report, which he said shows the nonprofit reaped $41 million in surplus revenues in Fiscal Year 2013.

Archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon responded, Mr. Borre is misleading people. The $41 million is mostly money raised by parishes for the parishes. So even though it shows up on the combined statements of the archdiocese’s books, it can not be tapped by the archdiocese for any purpose it chooses (i.e., their suggestion to reopen St. Frances). These are the resources of the parishes.

BCI agrees that Borre is misleading people–the Boston Archdiocese has no operating surplus. And we are not supporters of him or the Scituate squatters. But Terry Donilon is also apparently misleading people.  Terry, if what you said is really the case, then how do you explain the recent transfer of the closed Our Lady of Presentation and St Gabriel parish properties in Brighton to St. John’s Seminary to pay off $3.9M worth of a promissory note to the seminary–a note which is repaying money the Boston Archdiocese got from selling off St. John’s Seminary property in order to pay sexual abuse claims?

Loans that Funded Sexual Abuse Settlement Paid for with Parish Property

Most people know how the Archdiocese of Boston took out a number of loans between 2002-2003 to stay afloat and pay off sexual abuse claims, including $37M from the Knights of Columbus and $97M from a combination of commercial banks, the Clergy Fund and the Cemetery trust. The lion’s share of the funds to repay the archdiocesan debts came from the sale of the former Chancery property and St. John’s Seminary property. As we reported here at BCI in this 2010 post:

“… in 2004, the Boston Archdiocese was under heavy pressure to pay additional sex abuse claims, and was without the resources to do so….Assets of approximately $56 million were transferred from the seminary to RCAB so that it could pay its claimants, and at that time, the Cardinal pledged that $30 million would be given to the seminary so that an endowment could be begun. RCAB received a smaller payment from its insurance companies than it expected, such that it could give the seminary only $21 million and a promissory note for $4.8 million (that came due in 2011).”

In 2007, almost all of the remainder of the St. Johns Seminary property was sold to BC for $65 million, and the proceeds of the sale went not to the seminary but instead to the Boston Archdiocese to be applied “where it is needed.”   In the end after the two sales of Seminary property valued at a total of $111 million and repayment of $21 million, what was promised to St. Johns Seminary as future repayment were two notes: one for $4.8 million (due in 2011) and another for $36.4 million (due in 2017).

To repay the $4.8 million note, in 2013 the Boston Archdiocese transferred property from the closed Our Lady of Presentation and St. Gabriel’s parishes to the Seminary.  Here are the references in the 2013 Annual Report (p. 21):

Corporation Sole agreed to canonically transfer all of its rights, title and interest in Our Lady of Presentation
Church, Rectory and parking lots and the St. Gabriel rectory and school to the Seminary. The properties have a
collective appraised value of approximately $6,070,000 and a book value of $566,000.

During the year ended June 30, 2013, Corporation Sole transferred the Our Lady of Presentation property with an
appraised value of $2,850000 to the Seminary to discharge a portion of the note. In accordance with the MOU, the
Seminary agreed to forgive the remaining note balance of $1,038,000 which is included in gain on settlement of note
payable in the statement of activities.

So, despite Cardinal O’Malley’s comment in the National Catholic Register in a 2012 interview that the financial transparency implemented early in his tenure in Boston was intended to help “demonstrate that we were not using parish funds, parishes were not being closed to pay for the sex-abuse crisis,” in 2013, parish property was indeed used to pay for some costs of the sexual abuse crisis, by means of parish property repaying a sexual abuse settlement loan.  And there are precedents for the Archdiocese of Boston taking funds or property canonically intended for one purpose and using it for another purpose (e.g. St. Johns Seminary property sold to fund the RCAB and sexual abuse settlements; St. Gabriel and Our Lady of the Presentation property transferred to the Seminary to repay a loan, diocesan Revolving Loan funds used to finance construction of a Catholic school in Dorchester).

So, Terry, back to you.  How do you explain this apparent contradiction?  When exactly was it that the policy changed and it became OK to use parishes to pay off sexual abuse settlement costs, such as loans used to pay the claims? Why should anyone believe the $41M in parish funds referred to above is safe from being used for purposes other than the parishes, when the precedent is already set for that happening elsewhere?

The Insanity Over the Scituate Squatters

Beyond the matter above, both Terry Donilon and the Scituate squatters continue to propagate some level of insanity over the situation.  Donilon should look back on his previous quotes in the press over the past few years:

  • In December 2008, Terry Donilon was quoted in the Boston Globe saying: “These vigils have to end at some point. It’s an issue of fairness to the parishes that are open and struggling to serve people.”
  • In July 2011,  Donilon was quoted in the Globe saying: “We’re not looking for a confrontation, but at some point, the vigils are going to have to end.”
  • On August 2, 2014, Donilon was quoted in the Boston Herald saying, ““We’re going to work for a peaceful and prayerful resolution, but this is not going to go on forever. It can’t go on forever.”

Terry, the vigil has been going on for almost ten years, and you have been saying the same thing about the situation for nearly six years. When are you guys going to end it?

And as for the squatters, their having volunteers leading lay services, and the idea of operating St. Frances X. Cabrini as an “independent Catholic church” outside the archdiocese and the church hierarchy as a breakaway, progressive “American Catholic Church” are silly and just not Catholic. Are these folks attending their own lay services and committing a mortal sin every week by missing Sunday Mass? Terry Donilon and Cardinal O’Malley should remind these folks that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is where Catholics encounter our Eucharistic Lord. Here’s a passage from a great work by St. Leonard-Port Maurice, The Hidden Treasure of the Holy Mass:

The principal excellence of the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass consists in being essentially, and in the very highest degree, identical with that which was offered on the Cross of Calvary: with this sole difference, that the Sacrifice on the Cross was bloody, and made once for all, and did on that one occasion satisfy fully for all the sins of the world; while the Sacrifice of the Altar is an unbloody sacrifice, which can be repeated an infinite number of times, and was instituted in order to apply in detail that universal ransom which Jesus paid for us on Calvary.

We worship God at Mass. We receive graces from God by being nourished by the Word of God—God’s eternal truth revealed to us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We remember and profess our faith in the mystery of our salvation, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered, died, and rose for our salvation. The saving actions of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday come together in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy says, “For it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, ‘the work of our redemption is accomplished,’ and it is through the liturgy, especially that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true church”  If we we are in a state of grace, we can receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. As Catholics, we believe that our Lord is present in the Holy Eucharist, and that we receive His body, blood, soul, and divinity in Holy Communion. Not only does the Holy Eucharist unite us intimately with the Lord, but also unites us in communion with our brothers and sisters throughout the universal Church.

Do the squatters realize this is what they are missing?  Terry, do you realize this is what they are missing?

Furthermore, does anyone realize that the Rogers’ who lead this vigil/occupation and other occupation leaders are folks who were not regular Mass-goers at St. Francis before it was ordered to close?  The Mass-going couple who filed the original appeal in Scituate went to the receiving parish. They have had nothing to do with the Rogers’ and the occupation.  BCI is told that the Rogers’ are abutters and appear to want control over who was or is allowed to buy the property and how it would be developed.  BCI is also told that when the first appeal that was filed by the faithful parishioners failed, Peter Borre asked the Rogers’ to take it over.  Then there is the matter of abuses of the Blessed Sacrament that have taken place there: we are told that the Blessed Sacrament has been present during social gatherings and sleepovers on or around the altar; dinners have been held with pizza on the altar set out like a buffet.  But Terry, Fr. Bryan Hehir and the PR folks at Rasky Baerlein don’t know know how to talk about these topics either.

Bottom line: the Boston Archdiocese set a precedent in 2013 for using parishes to fund repayment of a sexual abuse settlement loan. This is clearly described in their 2013 Annual Report. If they will redirect funds in that manner and have done so in other situations, there is nothing to stop them from doing similar again. And the Scituate occupancy should be ended–for the sake of the souls of those occupying the church and because this thing has more than run its course through all canonical appeals.

This is what BCI thinks. What do you think?


23 Responses to Archdiocese of Boston uses parish funds to repay sexual abuse settlement costs

  1. Joe says:

    This is a long post, but a very good one! I think it’s clear that Terry Donilon doesn’t understand much about the Catholic faith–certainly none of the points you made. I had heard similar about the squatters–though some of those there today may have been parishioners, many are not. No one ever asks the Rogers whether they were lectors or choir members or Eucharistic ministers–or even active parishioners before the church was closed, or where and when they go a true Catholic Mass today. Sad for them.

  2. S W says:

    I think you are dead wrong on several counts.
    Terry Donilon’s brother was at the Bilderburg meeting this year. If anybody thinks that the Braintree command post represents anything Catholic at this point they are smoking the incense. Sure, there are some quaint ceremonies, but honestly if you actually consider what is required for valid sacraments: form, matter and intent. The RCAB offers licit but invalid sacraments on a regular basis. One does not need to be Thomas Aquinas to see that passing the Eucharist through a fence to make a political statement would likely make it invalid. Another great photo op for sure, but invalid just the same.
    Re; The money, no great mystery here, they lie.
    Scituate: BCI is on the wrong side of the battle. The diocese was hoping they would simply die and go away. Literally. I would recommend that folks go visit and offer support. It is a surreal scene yet I think it really represents the damage that the current heretics in the Church have left. We don’t know, the graces poured forth on the community in years passed may be more than enough to carry them through. Historically what did the persecuted church do when the enemy was at the door? Often, they just hunkered down and prayed. Receiving the valid and licit blessed sacrament is not a requirement of eternal salvation, remaining in the Ark is. It would be great if some ‘renegade’ traditional (Latin Mass) priest could offer the Mass in Scituate as Fr. Keene (RIP) once did. If the quirky group in Scituate is an annoyance to Braintree, they must be doing something right – BCI should support them.

    Given the big picture, I think even an apology is in order.

    • Thank you for your comment. BCI believes we may be more in agreement than you think.

      We have little positive to say about the Catholicity or “Catholic Lite” coming out of Braintree or Cardinal O’Malley’s episcopal leadership. If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you would certainly know that.

      We thought the Mexico publicity stunt by Cardinal O’Malley with the Eucharist being passed through a hole in the fence was terrible.

      Seems that we agree on the above. Now, onto Scituate, where there are multiple issues:

      –Then Archbishop O’Malley, in 2004, pledged that no parish funds would be used to pay for sexual abuse claims. Here is the letter. He said, “…let me say again none of the assets from suppressed parishes will be used to fund clergy sexual abuse cases.” That pledge has been broken. How do you feel about that?
      –Who are the vigil occupants and leaders, and what was their involvement in the parish prior to the closing announcement? Some were active parishioners. Some apparently not. Can you ask the Rogers to come clean on this if you are close to them? If BCI is mistaken with the information published here, we will correct ourselves, but we have good reason to believe we are correct with what we posted about them.
      –Eucharistic abuses in Scituate. We also have reliable information on these. Do you believe we are incorrect here, or do you just believe Braintree abuses are no better and perhaps worse?
      –Archdiocesan action. We agree here that the archdiocese originally hoped the vigil would fizzle out. What you may not know is that the archdiocese missed a window of time early on when they could have prevented the occupancy.

      Seems we disagree on the need for these folks to attend a licit Mass every Sunday, and we disagree on whether the church should be open or not. Objectively, it seems there is no way to justify not going to a licit Mass as we are obliged to do, and there is no way to replace the graces that come from receiving the Eucharist and attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If we do not agree on the reasons for attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist, then we will probably also disagree regarding the closing of the parish.

      • S W says:

        – I think the Cardinal asked the question of his staff and they told him “no parish funds would be used to pay for sexual abuse claims”. He trusted the snakes and went with it.
        – I do like ‘vigil occupants’ rather than squatters. At this point in the game if you call yourself a ‘good catholic’ then you are one. ‘Active parishioner’ is not an ecclesial definition. Personally I would rather see the roofs cave in on the empty faith than see the cluster scam and a few buffed up buildings of a dead church and a; lets ‘play catholic’ mentality. I do not know any of the players in Scituate. You want me to ask somebody to ‘come clean’ on what?
        Gafaw. Did I tell you Terry Donilon’s brother was at the Bilderburg meeting this year? That’s not a joke.
        – Specifics on Scituate etc. To me it is a flag on a hill against the enemy heretics within the church who are in charge. I don’t care who put it there. Re: Eucharistic abuses? Start with communion in the hand and get back to me OK? There is a cultural lag here at BCI. We have reason to hope, but I’m not a dope. If they are not publicly selling consecrated hosts to The Witches of Eastwick I would think the lay people involved would have less culpability than a Cardinal shoving it through a fence for politics and an international news audience. No? I am grateful The Faith protects the Eucharistic. What happened to the Hosts that were consecrated during the Arian heresy? There is no sacrilege when there is no True Presences. It certainly would be a merciful God that would suspend transubstantiation in the face of a church where .00001 in attendance go to confession or even loosely understand the concept of The State of Grace.
        – illicitness and invalidity, now you’re talking!
        I have no idea what the Scituate folks are up to spiritually. They could get up early and attend the 7am somewhere else for all I know. Just as I can not known the disposition of any one at any Mass. It is the clergy’s job to secure the sacraments, not mine. As a life long church going Catholic in Boston I have never heard whispered a word about illicitness and invalidity.
        There are 4 reasons we attend Mass.
        Adoration, Petition, Intersession and Reparation.
        Please do correct me if I’m wrong.

  3. David W. Smith, retired Chancellor says:

    It is shameful to see the use of parish reconfiguration funds to pay sexual abuse claims. Bishop Lennon clearly announced permitted uses of the reconfiguration funds and promised that none of them would ever go to settle claims.

    The Lay and Clergy pension funds being were to be substantial uses of reconfiguration funds. Both of these funds are underfunded by tens of millions of dollars.

    Instead of living up to Bishop Lennon’s promise and the Cardinal’s duty as Trustee of both the lay and Clergy funds, Cardinal Sean’s management team is scheming to reduce promised benefits to both lay and Clergy and diverting money outside of the promised use of funds. Scandal is the only word that comes to mind. What happened to the oversight committee that we set up to audit the use of these funds?

    • Concerned Parent says:

      The exorbitant salaries of the upper echelon of chancery employees (documented by BCI and others) further exacerbate the scandal. The management team is financially squeezing the priests and lay employees while feathering their own nests.

      And how about the Cardinal’s travel expenses? He sure gets around. What is the cost to the diocese for his globe-trotting, his journey to the border and other pro-immigration activities, his trips to D.C., and his public appearances with pro-abort politicians who hold Church teachings in disdain?

      • Michael says:

        Just be thankful he’s not golfing with Obummer on the vineyard. And as far as the exorbitant salaries go, they would say that they could make a lot more money somewhere else. You know what I say to that? Leave and prove it.

  4. AJD says:

    I would like to pass on some important info on why the money might have been used in these settlements, tho not exactly proof…but I think I have at least part of an explanation about these prior diversions of parish collections. I am involved in a charitable organization that collects monthly donations from parishioners specifically for a very well known fund (will not name here) that, in turn, distributes 100% of its colletcions to people in need. Turns out that only up until recently, the Church did not separate our collected funds from other moneys/revenues, hence anything was fair game when the Church was sued. Why it took 2 decades to realize that different revenue sources had to be handled in a certain legal fashion to keep them safe is beyond me, and certainly makes me wonder why, with the enormous payroll the Chancery maintains, none of their Ph.D’s thought of doing this until calendar year 2014. Regional representatives (unpaid) for this particular charitable organization laid down the brand new policies and procedures which have been established to keep our money from ending up in accounts that may be seized by plaintiffs against the Church, past, present, and future.

  5. Susan Goeller says:

    Number one, the BCI must be driving the Archdiocese crazy. Thank God there is someone to let the laity know what is really going on. Shedding light, yes. One comment made me stop, that
    Terry Donilon’s brother was at the Bilderburg meeting this year. Been trying to follow them and well as many know they are one world governmenters who hate the US and love the UN. Is the break down of the Catholic Church part of the plan? Just wondering.
    The closing of the churches is heart breaking, so many of them were unnecessary. It also seemed in my area it was the churches that has the marble communion railings that were closed down first. It was not a money issue and I no longer believe the one about a lack of priests (plenty in Poland and from the Saintly order of Saint Peter)
    As for the laity that are not receiving the Holy Eucharist, they are missing what it means to be Catholic. They are miss guided and are in darkness, they missed the boat.

  6. S W says:

    Could BCI confirm the Bilderburg thing? I’m a loose cannon for sure.
    Don’t trust me on it.

  7. Joyful Noise says:

    Yes, Donilon brother is listed as attendee.

    Very caustic description of VIGILERS. If RCAB is as corrupt as alleged here, those who call out that corruption and put truth to action should be applauded, not mocked.

    Those who fold early and run to the “receiving” church are sheeple, not necessarily the most faithful at all. Why such support for them? Those who take leadership rolls in opposing closure do so because they have the skill set required.

    • Joyful Noise, Thank you for your comments. Just to clarify, we do believe the Boston Archdiocese leadership has a problem with corruption–moral, spiritual, and in governance. And we believe those who call out that corruption should be supported. We have been doing that here for four years.

      When a parish is closed without apparent justification or grave reason, we believe the parishioners should appeal that closure. The recommendation that Holy Innocents in NY City be closed is a good example of this. We hope and pray those parishioners appeal continually through all channels possible if there is an order that very orthodox parish be closed and merged with a “gay-friendly” nearby parish. Closing orders in the Diocese of Cleveland have been successfully appealed and reversed. A church closing in Everett was reversed.

      Apparently BCI sees the situation in Scituate somewhat differently than some other readers. 1) Clearly, in Boston there are not enough priests and active Mass-going Catholics to justify the number of parishes we have, and keep them all open, maintained and staffed. Something must give. 2) If and when a parish is ordered closed, we absolutely support the parishioners complaining and appealing. But as we have said before, we believe that should be done without people occupying the church building. And the parishioners need to go to Mass elsewhere every Sunday and not convince themselves that their lay-led services are a replacement for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass 3) If indeed those leading the appeal in Scituate were not really parishioners or going to Mass there before the closing was ordered, it calls their motives into question 4) When all appeals have run their course, then we feel it is time to accept that outcome and move on. 5) The reports about Eucharistic abuses and ideas about a breakaway “American Catholic Church” coming from there are troubling. This gives the very strong impression that folks there are not faithful Catholics. Thus we are not sympathetic to their cause.


      • Joyful Noise says:

        I have followed BCI for several years now and overall applaud the coverage and depth of verification.

        I do not know much about the practices at St. Francis Cabrini now. Never been there. Have met and spoken with one of the vigilers there who is an attorney. She is a practicing Catholic who actually does attend traditional Mass elsewhere. Not sure of the others. I suspect what you are now perceiving as their practices never existed way back when closure was ordered. Rather, closure was ordered based on $$$$$$$$ and infinite marketability of that wonderful property. Closure had all to do with that and nothing to do with any “new age leanings.” Reopen that church and give then a priest and they will be overjoyed.

        I find it just intolerable that a group of American Catholics, much more resolute in their faith than most parishes I have seen, are portrayed as fringe, anti-Catholic, upstarts, sacriligious etc. Do we hear anything from the RCAB or most Catholics about the new fangled charismatics who have descended upon really traditional parishes and literally moved in?? Somehow, we as American Catholics are supposed to appreciate and tolerate and support and nurture people who in any other physical or professional context would be considered psychotic! Any variant of the Mass that they practice is classified as cultural. So, when in a traditional old school ethnic parish you suddenly have people up on the altar in bare feet dancing and chanting and “speaking in tongues” directly in front of the tabernacle, that is OK. Don’t criticize that. Support that. In fact. RCAB literally and financially imported that. .

        This is one disgusted Catholic.


      • BCI is equally unhappy with the newfangled Catholics, people dancing around the altar during Mass, and things like the Neocatechumenate Way para-liturgies.


      • S W says:

        Is there some sin taking place in Scituate?
        If so BCI should admonish them, if not you should stop gossiping or speculating about our brothers and sisters and the course their conscience has led them to.

  8. R. Al Sallese says:

    Joyful Noise: would you pls tell me where you experience those “praying in tongues” Charismatics, prancing around the Altar! I know of no church “on a Sunday” that does this. I know of many faithful Charismatics who worship on a weekly basis in their Parish on a weeknight. In fact, I started a group 35 years ago and they still worship every Wednesday Night. As I said, I’m JUST WONDERING!!

    • Joyful Noise says:

      This is my quote;

      “I find it just intolerable that a group of American Catholics, much more resolute in their faith than most parishes I have seen, are portrayed as fringe, anti-Catholic, upstarts, sacrilegious etc. Do we hear anything from the RCAB or most Catholics about the newfangled charismatics who have descended upon really traditional parishes and literally moved in?? Somehow, we as American Catholics are supposed to appreciate and tolerate and support and nurture people who in any other physical or professional context would be considered psychotic! Any variant of the Mass that they practice is classified as cultural. So, when in a traditional old school ethnic parish you suddenly have people up on the altar in bare feet dancing and chanting and “speaking in tongues” directly in front of the tabernacle, that is OK. Don’t criticize that. Support that. In fact. RCAB literally and financially imported that. .

      This is one disgusted Catholic. ”

      I had to reread since I did not recall mentioning anything specifically about a Sunday.and I did not Glad your group is working out for you. So, are you parsing activities based on whether or not it is Sunday?? So, any group is fine because it is not Sunday?

      I spoke from personal knowledge. My observations were first hand. I only hope that the respect for and nurturance of such diverse customs under the guise of cultural would extend to American Catholics as well.

  9. Downhill says:

    Another financial scandal is the property taxes paid on closed churches, such as that of Holy Trinity in Boston (which is two parcels, 136 and 140 Shawmut Avenue in Boston): and On August 1, the Archdiocese paid $15,130.37 in taxes; the cumulative total, since taxes were first due in February 2011, is $261,839.36. The Cathedral Parish, to which Holy Trinity belongs by decree, has been forced to take a loan to pay the taxes and will presumably receive the proceeds of the sale. ( The Boston Chinese Evangelical Church, which has purchased the adjacent building as a sort of pastoral center, is an interested buyer, even though the Boston Business Journal intimates that condo redevelopment is planned for Holy Trinity. (

    Oh, if only the Cardinal had the heart and vision for urban ministry that the Chinese Evangelical pastor does! New development will swarm the area surrounding Holy Trinity, with close to 2000 new units of housing planned for the South End, and more for South Boston, which will have increased road connection to the South End according to the Harrison Albany Corridor Strategic Plan, which is now the zoning code for the area. The Cathedral of the Holy Cross is now the South End’s only Catholic Church. The famous Jesuit Church, the Immaculate Conception, went from reckovation to closure to condos. However, there is a need for the Catholic Church to EXPAND in the South End/South Boston area. The clever urban planners think they have covered everything that man needs, with bike rental stations and Whole Food supermarkets, but no churches are being constructed in the South End and Innovation District in South Boston, Man does not live on bread alone!

    • Joyful Noise says:

      IMHO, the taxes were all avoidable so long as RCAB allowed even one Mass per week. While BCI jumped all over me when I suggested this previously, this is why it is a really good reason to NOT eject vigilers who.conduct services.

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