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In keeping with its promise not to use parish, appeal or capital campaign funds to finance the $85 million sexual abuse settlement, the Archdiocese of Boston announced Dec. 3 that it would use insurance money and sell a portion of its Brighton campus, including the former Cardinal’s Residence, to pay for the settlement.
The archdiocese plans to sell approximately 28 acres of land, about half area of the 59.7 acre campus. Nine acres of the 28 acre parcel are connected with the residence and 19 acres are underutilized property belonging to St. John’s Seminary. The land belonging to seminary houses a gymnasium and a parking garage.
The decision to sell the property was announced after a meeting between archdiocesan officials and the board of trustees for the seminary.
"I did not want to have to use parish funds, parish properties or other diocesan agencies" to pay for the settlement, Archbishop Seán P. O'Malley told The Pilot. "There really were not a lot of choices left."
The residence, he said, has a “great historical and sentimental value,” but is the only large parcel of land that the archdiocese has. While he “would have preferred to have another solution” he feels that it is “very important for the archdiocese to step up to the plate and make whatever sacrifice is necessary to bring about a settlement and thus further the process of healing and reconciliation in the archdiocese.”
The archdiocese decided to sell this land, “rather than to go into debt permanently or divert monies that could be used for Catholic education or the ministries of the archdiocese in the parishes,” said the archbishop.
He added that the land and the buildings on it are not “essential for us to be able to carry on the mission of the archdiocese.”
"I feel that our options were very limited, but this was a blessing that we had this land," Archbishop O'Malley continued. "It has allowed us to show to the Catholic people and the world how we are paying for the settlement in a way that is really transparent."
Father Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, said that the amount of money the archdiocese will receive from its insurance carriers to pay for the settlement is still being negotiated. He also said that it is “too early to tell” how much money will be made from the sale of the 28-acres of property.
"We're hoping that the two sources combined will realize the $85 million," Father Coyne said.
Father Coyne said that since the archdiocese “would not have the money in hand” from the sale of the property and from its insurance carriers to meet the Dec. 21 deadline by which the settlement money needs to be available, the archdiocese plans to take out a loan to cover the amount. The loan would then be repaid once the money becomes available.
Father Coyne stated that the archdiocese would announce the source of the loan in the “very near future.” Victims participating in the settlement will receive checks by the end of the year.
The archdiocese, Father Coyne said, hopes to sell the property within the next one to two years. William F. McCall, chair of the archdiocesan real estate committee, will oversee the appraisal and sale processes. A broker for the sale has not yet been decided.
While the archdiocese would like to get the “best return” possible from the sale of the property, Father Coyne said considerations other than money will be taken into account when selecting a buyer.
"We're not just going to sell the property to the highest bidder," he said. "Other factors need to be weighed as well--what the buyer intends to do with the property, the past history of the company or the buyer, how it will impact the neighborhood, how will it impact the chancery and the seminary."
Father Coyne said that a “number of parties” had expressed interest in the property in the past. He expects that number to increase now that the archdiocese has announced its intention to sell the property.
While this decision may be regrettable to some, Father Coyne said that the sale is necessary.
"There will be some Catholics who will say that this is the right thing to do--the right thing to do for all kinds of reasons," he said. "There are others within the community that will say that it is a shame that it came to this."
"In the long run what's important is that we settle the cases, take care of the survivors and their families and continue the healing process that we've been undergoing as an archdiocese for all these past months," he said.
Antonio Enrique contributed to this story