Changing symbols

The meaning of some symbols never changes. Other symbols change almost imperceptibly, but they evolve with the passage of time. I think that that is the case with the archbishop’s residence in Boston, even though under recent archbishops it has housed many office workers, Boston Catholic Television’s daily Mass broadcast, meeting rooms and has functioned as much more than simply an archbishop’ residence.

There was a day when many of the trappings surrounding the bishop were an expression of the longing of immigrant Catholics for acceptance in their new homeland. It was the way Catholics said: “We are here too. Our Church is an important institution and we are important.”

With the passage of time, the Catholic immigrant community has become mainstream, with many proud accomplishments that have been won by hard work, struggles and perseverance. We no longer need all the symbols of the past, especially when those symbols now seem ambiguous at best, and a contradiction of some of our Gospel values at worst.

Accordingly, I have decided to move to the rectory of my Cathedral parish. I regret that this move comes under the glare of media attention. I would have preferred to sneak out with my suitcase in the middle of the night, but that is not feasible. It is my intention to make this move within the next couple of months.

I am embarrassed by comparisons that have been made between my predecessors and me. I can assure you that Cardinal Law, Cardinal Medeiros and Cardinal Cushing were not worldly men who sought a “fancy pad.” My impression of them is that they were detached and uninterested in material things. They lived in this house to follow a tradition, begun by Cardinal O’Connell, that in the past was cherished by many Catholics of this archdiocese.

A move to the Cathedral rectory is also motivated by my conviction that a bishop should be close to his Cathedral whenever possible. The parish is the venue of the pastoral life of the diocese and living in a rectory is a statement about this reality.

I am grateful that Msgr. Fred Murphy has graciously invited me. Some rectors might not be so anxious to have the bishop living upstairs.

The archbishop’s residence will continue to house the offices in use there, as well as be home to the Mass televised by Boston Catholic Television. As we consolidate our diocesan properties, other offices may also be moved to this site.