Bishop Accountability

Boston Herald
August 28, 2002

[The following editorial accompanied a two-part article {1} {2} in the Boston Herald, printed with a table of land owned by the archdiocese, with assessment values listed. has also sorted that table in descending order of assessment value. The archdiocese of Boston published a reply to this analysis in the Pilot, its weekly newspaper.]

It's not unknown for defendants in lawsuits to go around poormouthing their situations, but the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston takes the cake.

In yesterday's Herald, reporters Eric Convey and Jack Sullivan inventoried the real property owned by the archdiocese in the 144 cities and towns it covers and found an astonishing $160 million worth NOT BEING USED BY THE CHURCH OR ITS AFFILIATES The actual value of the nearly 2,000 parcels likely is far more - $160 million is the sum of assessed valuations, which lag market values.

Some properties are rented to others, but many are vacant - and excess acreage that could be split off and sold at the locations of active churches and other facilities was not counted at all.

A Superior Court judge is awaiting writen arguments before she decides whether the archdiocese broke an agreement to pay up to $30 million to the 86 abuse victims of defrocked priest John J. Geoghan, or whether there was no agreement and the Finance Council of the archdiocese was within its rights to refuse to go forward with what was really a proposed agreement.

The council said coming up with $30 million would have crippled the church and exhausted the resources that could reasonably be expected to be available. Perhaps now somebody from the council will pass out a handout declaring that statement inoperative.

The position of the council and the archdiocese is not pretty, and not likely to arouse sympathy among judges. Either they knew of all these properties but hoped nobody would look behind their sky- is-falling words, which is an attempt to deceive, or they did not know. If they did not, they stand revealed as incompetent advisers and stewards.

It certainly appears that with available insurance, the archdiocese can settle the Geoghan cases, and an estimated 400 others, without interfering with church operations after all. This should be its principal aim. Justice demands prompt action, and the longer the lawsuits hang around, the worse for the church.


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