Holy Trinity Trickery

March 31, 2011

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.


James P. McDonough


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.

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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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