Cardinal O’Connell’s Great-Nephew Comments on Relocation of Tomb

August 8, 2011

If you have not yet read our post from Sunday, Diocesan Demolition: Correction and Updates, do check that out before reading our post for today.

BCI received a message on Saturday from Edward Kirk, great nephew of the late William Cardinal O’Connell, that we are pleased to republish with his permission below.  Ed Kirk is a lawyer and has been a party to the lawsuit over the relocation of the remains of the late Cardinal.  For your reference, he has been quoted in these articles, among others:

Over His Dead Body (June 2008)
“BC, the owner, has not informed us, the family, about the reason why they would want him removed,” says O’Connell’s great-nephew, Edward Kirk. “We didn’t see any real reason why he couldn’t stay where he is.”

Church seeks to move body of O’Connell (September 19, 2009)
“…attorney Edward W. Kirk, has been the leading opponent of moving the body of the late cardinal. In a brief interview yesterday, Edward Kirk would say only that “we want to explore every opportunity for a satisfactory resolution of this by agreement.’’

Boston in Uproar Over Cardinal O’Connell’s Body (December 5, 2009)
“Here you have a man whose connection to both of those institutions is intimate and intricate, and yet here those two parties are suing his family for his removal,” Edward Kirk said.  “It is very strange and it’s most unfortunate that it had to come to this.”

For cardinal, a new final resting place  (July 28, 2011)
Lawyer Edward Kirk, a relative of the late cardinal and a party to the lawsuit, confirmed that the dispute had ended with an amicable agreement. “He had wanted to remain in close proximity to the seminary,’’ said Kirk, speaking of his distant uncle. “When the day comes, and if our paths are ever to cross, I hope he’ll be happy for what we did for him.’’

Without further ado, here is the message from Edward Kirk:

From: edward kirk
Date: Sat, August 6, 2011
Subject: [Boston Catholic Insider] Contact Us

Dear Insider,

I can clarify some of the issues surrounding the reinterment of my grand uncle, Wm. Cardinal O’Connell:

1. It was our specific request that the Chapel be removed, once we agreed that his remains could be removed and reintered in the Courtyard.

2. The photos of the Chapel as it once appeared, are not an accurate representation of the condition of the Chapel over the last several years. The Chapel itself and the Burial Lot on which it was located had been long neglected and disrespected.

3. In the event that the St. John’s Hall were to be sold to Boston College, the new burial lot will remain and the RCAB and/or BC have agreed to maintain it.

4. There was only one Sulpician buried on the Seminary grounds when then Archbishop O’Connell requested the “resignations” of the Sulpicians as faculty and  installed priests of the diocese as the faculty of St. John’s. The “Lone Sulpician” remained at rest until Cardinal O’Connell commenced construction of a series of buildings several years later, and the remains of that former faculty member was transported back to the Sulpician headquaters with the agreement of all concerned parties. The oft repeated myth that the Cardinal ordered a mass exhumation is not true.

5. The myth that the Cardinal’s casket was encased in yards of cement in order to prevent his disinterment is also untrue.

6. Both Boston College and the RCAB, and their attorneys and personnel were most cooperative and respectful of the concerns of the Cardinal’s family once we had an opportunity to engage in practical dialogue.

7. The contribution of Bishop Arthur Kennedy, (the current rector of the Seminary) to the process was essential to a satisfactory conclusion.

Ed Kirk

BCI had a brief email exchange with attorney Kirk, and he passed along one more piece of information:

“We fully understood the new gravesite would be ‘unmarked’ for a short period of time, until the new burial vault and the earth over the vault had settled sufficiently to accommodate the 4 x 6 engraved stone marker, posts and chain railing which will be installed to set the Burial Lot apart.The finishing touches around the burial lot, and the engraved stone marker which will be placed on the grave site will be very dignified and fitting for a man of  WHO’C’s accomplishments. We are more than satisfied with the final result.”

So there you have it.  BCI has said all we have to say–at least for now–on this topic and has nothing more to add at this point beyond what attorney Kirk has just communicated.

Diocesan Demolition: Correction and Updates

August 7, 2011

In follow-up of our posts about the demolition of the mauseleum that housed the remains of the late Cardinal O’Connell and the moving of the tomb of the late Cardinal to St. John’s Seminary, BCI has a correction and some clarifications to make.

First, the correction. In our last post, Diocesan Demolition: Tomb of Cardinal O’Connell, we initially published photos of the chapel and statues of angels as they looked in 1944, and when compared to pictures of the angel statues as they lay on the ground after the demolition, we may have incorrectly implied that the statues were damaged in the recent demolition process. We subsequently learned the extent to which the Chapel of the Virgin Mary had fallen into disrepair before it was demolished and that the staffs of the angel statues were damaged prior to the removal of the mauseleum. BCI apologizes for that error.

Second, BCI stands by our criticism of how the sacred objects in general and one particular sacred object, the cross, were handled. Commenter, “Voice of Reason,” apparently from Boston College, initially said the cross and angel statues “could not be saved,” to which BCI responded, “BCI does not understand why these sacred objects“could not be saved. What exactly has become of the cross and the statues? BCI maintains that the handling of the sacred objects as depicted in the photos amidst the other rubble from the demolition still speaks for itself.”

After that, a reader, who prefers that her name not be cited publicly (identified simply as “M” here), forwarded an email exchange she had with both the archdiocese and Boston College about the matter of the handling of the sacred objects. “M” told BCI she was pleased and satisfied to receive the responses, and BCI learned something valuable from what the reader heard back–thus the above correction.

BCI also found that the message officially validated some of our criticism.  Because the archdiocesan spokesman, Terry Donilon, said M could “feel free to share this information as you see fit,”  BCI is publishing part of the explanation:

M. wrote to Mr. Donilon: “The cross, I gather, should have been intact at the top of the mausoleum before the work to remove the mausoleum began, but the photo shows it broken on the ground. There was a bronze statue of Mary above the doorway entrance. Was that saved?  Maybe I overstated things when I said reckless disregard for the sacred objects based on the photos without knowing more, but they look like they were tossed aside on the ground recklessly rather than some attention being put to protecting them.”

Terry Donilon responded: “The cross was atop of the mausoleum as you note, and built directly into the structure.  Workers attempted to remove it by strapping and gently lifting to see if the bottom of the cross would make a “clean” break from the building. They expected it could not, but they made the effort to lift it and it broke away from the mausoleum at the bottom of the cross.  The cross was slowly maneuvered  with the boom of the excavator to workers, and was saved.

The angels were broken prior to the work on the mausoleum.  The angels were moved in the similar manner as the cross. They were intentionally placed them on a lower level of the hill, so workers could have access to them when demolition of the mausoleum was finished.  Also, we thought they would be safer in the wooded area where they were carefully placed. They too were saved.  The bronze statue of the Blessed Mother was also saved.

BCI is glad to hear that the angels, the bronze statue of the Blessed Mother and what remained of the cross were saved. But, BCI is also disappointed to hear that the work team tried to lift the cross off the top of the building by “strapping” it, when they expected beforehand it would not make a clean break.  If they expected beforehand that this approach was not going to succeed in keeping the cross intact and had a good chance of breaking the cross itself, then why exactly did they go forward with that approach anyway? Why not try an approach that was likely to succeed instead?

BCI is not expert with demolition or stone masonry, but a simple Google search reveals a variety of methods and tools used for stone carving and breaking stones and concrete, including conventional hammers and chisels, air hammers and chisels, and concrete and stone-cutting chain saws.
Here is a video of a concrete chain saw that cuts through concrete, brick, stone, and masonry. These concrete-cutting chainsaws can be rented for $148/day and a do-it-yourselfer can easily use one as seen below.

Why would a team expert in salvaging sacred objects who wanted to save the cross intact not just have had a person skilled in cutting stone or masonry cut through the base of the several-inch-thick cross using a specialized tool to remove the cross intact?

Third, we got word via a comment on the blog and an email forwarded by “M.” that some of the powers-that-be at both Boston College and the Archdiocese of Boston were not pleased with our posts on this topic. BCI was accused of making “character attacks” (which we did not do) and being “slanderous” (which we were not).

BCI was critical of what appeared to be evidence of disrespect shown for the sacred statues and objects by those responsible for removing the chapel. BCI asked, “Were there no other efforts possible and practical to preserve these statues and the cross, so that perhaps they could have been used at the new burial location or elsewhere?”  Furthermore, BCI said, “Fr. Leahy at Boston College and the leaders at the Archdiocese of Boston (to the extent they were involved in this) owe an explanation to the faithful…”

That is not a personal/character attack or slanderous claim. There was photographic evidence of disrespect for the sacred objects.  At the same time the archdiocese says that “great care” was taken to save the sacred objects, the archdiocese has confirmed that the approach taken to remove and preserve the cross was expected in advance to not work. This validates the issue raised by BCI that sufficient care was not taken. BCI said that the leaders of BC and the Archdiocese owed the faithful an explanation. No one by name was specifically criticized. What makes the criticism of the process and approach taken with the demolition a personal attack or slanderous?

Though initial news reports in the Boston Globe and the Boston Pilot did not make clear who hired the firm that did the demolition, it is now clear that the firm was hired by the Boston Archdiocese. However, since the land is owned by Boston College and they were clearly the driving force behind the demand that the remains of the late Cardinal be relocated, BCI felt it reasonable and appropriate to cite Boston College in our criticism. Furthermore, the publicly documented refusal of BC early-on to meet with the family of Cardinal O’Connell to discuss their reasons for wanting the remains relocated was one of the key reasons this ended up in probate court and in the mainstream media.

This post is not quite the end of the saga.  BCI received an email from a member of the family yesterday to explain matters further. Stay tuned next post for more.

Diocesan Demolition: Tomb of Cardinal O’Connell

August 2, 2011

UPDATE: This post has been updated as of 9pm on August 3 to reflect new information.

BCI has been writing about the moral, ethical, and fiscal demolition of the Boston Archdiocese and squandering of patrimony for more than a year now.  For those who find it difficult to believe that all of the astonishing things we write about at BCI are really happening–and they are– we offer today an unexpected continuation of our series on the relocation of the remains of the late Cardinal O’Connell by showing you a few pictures of the physical demolition of the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

To be fair, the land is owned by Boston College and BCI was not sure of exactly who retained and managed the demolition crew when we first wrote this post. (Wednesday evening, a commenter said that in fact it was the RCAB who hired the demolition team).

Here, once again, is a photo of the chapel before the demolition, and then several pictures sent to us yesterday by “Brighton Neighbor” from during and after the demolition.

Below are pictures of the site after the chapel was demolished.
War zone?
Even though the staffs on the statues of the angels were damaged before the demolition, BCI is appalled at the clear evidence of disrespect shown for these sacred statues and objects by those responsible for removing the chapel. How can faithful Catholics be asked to trust our Catholic leaders? Were there no other efforts possible and practical to preserve these statues and the cross, so that perhaps they could have been used at the new burial location or elsewhere?  Fr. Leahy at Boston College and the leaders at the Archdiocese of Boston (to the extent they were involved in this) owe an explanation to the faithful for why they allowed this to happen, what the consequences will be, and what steps are being taken to ensure that all sacred objects from religious buildings that are no longer kept open are preserved for use elsewhere and treated with the appropriate degree of respect.

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