Archdiocese committed to stay in Brighton, Bishop Lennon tells employees

Bishop Richard G. Lennon, moderator of the curia, met with chancery employees April 22 to explain the details of the $100 million sale of land and property to Boston College and to ease their anxieties about the possibility of a total relocation of the chancery from the Brighton campus.

“Archbishop [Seán P.] O’Malley is determined to hold onto the chancery and St. John’s Seminary,” Bishop Lennon assured the employees in attendance. “The archbishop is committed to staying here on the land in Brighton, so right now there is a commitment that we are not going to move.”

A clause in the sale agreement between the Archdiocese of Boston and BC states that the university will buy the chancery buildings and St. John’s Seminary for $60 million if the archdiocese chooses to sell them.

Bishop Lennon would not rule out that possibility saying “things could change years down the road,” but reiterated several times during the meeting that there are no immediate plans to relocate the chancery or the seminary.

He also told employees that the archdiocese had been “too optimistic” about its insurance companies, Kemper and Travelers, reimbursing a significant percentage of the money borrowed to fund the clergy abuse settlement. The insurance companies offered insufficient settlements to the archdiocese, making it necessary to take them to court to recover the funds, a process Bishop Lennon said “could take years.”

As a result, he said, the archdiocese was prompted to sell more land and property than originally expected in order to pay back settlement loans as quickly as possible. In December 2003, when the archdiocese made public its intention to sell the property, they had originally planned to sell 27.6 acres of land and the former Cardinal’s residence.

BC was among three parties “seriously” interested in the property, Bishop Lennon explained. However, the archdiocese chose to sell to BC because the university was able to pay for the property in short order. The other two parties were interested in building multi-unit housing and, because of the zoning laws, it would have taken years to obtain the appropriate building permits and to pay the archdiocese for the property and land.

“We were not going to wait until they got all the permits,” Bishop Lennon said. “We could not wait years.”

By selling the land and property to BC, the archdiocese will save approximately $4 million on interest on the loans used to pay the settlement, Bishop Lennon stated. The archdioceses took out two, two-year bank loans, which they will be able to pay off 17 months early, he said.

Although BC officials have said they will use the space for playing fields and parking, some chancery employees expressed concern that the university would one day seek to build high-rise dormitories. If this were to happen, some employees said they felt it would be difficult for the archdiocese and BC “to coexist” on the property.