For those who saw the official response yesterday by the official spokesman of the Boston Archdiocese, Terry Donilon, about the diocese now taking Holy Trinity off the real estate market, there is one image that comes to mind. The image is the cartoon character, Pinocchio, found to the right.
Coincidentally, a visit to Wikipedia reveals this explanation of the word “Pinocchio“: “Pinocchio is often a term used to describe an individual who is prone to telling lies, fabricating stories and exaggerating or creating tall tales for various reasons.”
As we know, former parishioners at Holy Trinity Church in the South End asked the Vatican on Monday 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 relegation to profane use process to convert it to secular use, which is required before sale to a secular buyer.
According to an Associated Press news story, here is Terry’s explanation after the archdiocese pulled the listing:
Yesterday, spokesman Terry Donilon said the listing was meant to gauge the market or attract a buyer from a Catholic organization. He said the archdiocese never intended to prematurely sell the property to a secular buyer.
To paraphrase another commenter yesterday, they must be spiking the incense at the Bethany Chapel in the Pastoral Center with something these days, because that explanation just defies believability. Our only question is whether Terry and the archdiocese truly believe it, or to what extent they are willfully and intentionally engaging in a Pinocchio-like behavior so as to deceive the Catholic faithful. Assuming it is the latter, then a strong case must be made that the Cardinal has to fire multiple people–and soon.
The last BCI and Catholic faithful heard a month ago, the Archdiocese had a process for soliciting input from Catholic faithful before selling properties. That was not followed here.
Terry obviously knew about the process when the archdiocese was quoted on Tuesday saying the following: “A spokesman said the archdiocese knows it can’t sell the property until that process is completed.” Then how do you go and sign an agreement with Sothebys to sell a property when they know the process has not been completed?
If you want to gauge the market for a property, you get a professional appraisal, and you can solicit proposals via an open request for proposal (RFP) process that does not immediately bind you to sell the building, but simply solicits proposals.
If you want to find a Catholic buyer, what in the world makes Terry Donilon, as spokesperson for Cardinal O’Malley, think anyone would believe that you would list the property for sale with Sothebys, a residential real estate broker, who has no reach whatsoever with a Catholic audience? Where is the listing in a Catholic newspaper, like, say our own Pilot, “America’s oldest Catholic newspaper”? Did anyone place listings to find a Catholic buyer in Our Sunday Visitor or the National Catholic Register, or other publications that reach Catholic audiences like Commonweal, America and the National Catholic Reporter.
And what ever happened to the “process” announced in 2007 after the St. Mary Star of the Sea fiasco?:
Before selling properties closed in reconfiguration, the archdiocese announced a process that would be followed when marketing those properties. Offers would be solicited over a 90-day period and evaluated based on many factors including financial terms, contingencies, proposed property use and social considerations connected with the offers. The archdiocese also said that it sought to maximize the financial consideration consistent with the needs of the communities served.
Lastly, lest new readers think the controversy over Holy Trinity is just a matter of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s in the canonical process to sell the building, you should know that long-standing questions remain over the original decision to close Holy Trinity back in 2004. A 2005 archdiocesan audit found that the former administrator of Holy Trinity had illicitly transferred $176,000 in Holy Trinity parish funds to St. James the Greater, the other parish he was administering at the same time as Holy Trinity. Those this is water that has long-since flowed over the dam, persistent questions have remained for years that the decision to shutter HT rather than St. James was based on flawed information about the financial health of HT vs St. James.
anyway, this whole thing smells of corruption and deception at high levels in the archdiocese. As a reminder from what we reported last July in “Cronyism”, the head of real estate for RCAB, Deb Dillon, worked for Jim McDonough at the Abington Bank. A commenter yesterday asked:
Do you really think Deb Dillon listed a $2.3M property with Sotheby’s in bad faith? “Just kiddin’ guys!” Do you really think Sotheby’s is in the habit of signing contracts and spending money on marketing for Deb Dillon because she’s a nice person? Or is it because they sell real estate for a living?
Do you really think Deb Dillon thought this up on her own? That Jim McDonough broke with the prior RCAB stated practice of listing all churches for sale in the Pilot and on the RCAB website, as a coincidence? And that Trinity slipped off the radar when the great survey went out on the re-use of closed church properties?
“This starts to smell worse than Saturday’s trash after Friday’s fish dinner.”
Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson said when the “great survey” went out
“To those skeptical” that their input will be considered, Erikson said, “I ask them to put their confidence in this process, which may be unprecedented, which is designed to be thorough, thoughtful and efficient, and which was developed with sincere intent.”
Objectively, the words of this archdiocese do not match actions and it is getting worse, not better.
- Multiple promises on the process for selling church properties have been broken. It is difficult to not conclude that the archdiocese, through Terry Donilon, just lied to the Catholic faithful about what has been happening with the sale of Holy Trinity.
- The canonical responsibility that the archdiocese be a good steward of assets and donor funds has been not been upheld by the ongoing practice of paying excessive 6-figure salaries.
- The entire archdiocese was deceived by Jack Connors and Jim McDonough regarding the process for finding a new head of development.
- A promise by the Cardinal to fund employee pension obligations from closed parishes was broken.
The list goes on and on. Why does our Cardinal Archbishop go along with this deception and violations of trust? How much lower must the donations to the Catholic Appeal drop before he gets the message that a dramatic change is required?
A wholesale changing of the guard in the area of financial and administrative leadership is needed sooner rather than later.
What do you think?