Saturday, August 09, 2003

O'Malley's mysterious signals. Archbishop Seán O'Malley today is receiving well-deserved credit for making a concrete (if underfunded) proposal to settle with the victims of pedophile priests (Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here), and for announcing that he'll move out of the archbishop's mansion in Brighton.

What strikes me as a ruse, though, is the notion that the archdiocese will not sell the chancery property even though O'Malley will decamp for more-austere quarters in the South End.

The Herald quotes a "source familiar with church finances" as saying, "The chancery is categorically not for sale." The Globe offers, more obliquely: "O'Malley suggested he did not plan to sell the heavily mortgaged Brighton residence, which is coveted by Boston College, but instead would use it for church offices."

Why would O'Malley want his staff across town, inaccessible to him? Why does he need to keep St. John's Seminary, also located on the property, when the number of priest candidates is way down and another, cheaper location could easily be found?

The answers are obvious. Which is why it makes sense -- purely as a matter of sheer speculation -- that O'Malley is being coy in order to drive up the price. If he publicly announced he was going to sell the property and commenced negotiations with Boston College, then BC would hold the upper hand in a down market.

This way, he can delay negotiations indefinitely, and allow another potential buyer to come along and blow him away with an offer that he can't refuse. Assuming the settlement is behind him by then, that would mean more money for the Church's mission -- including its extensive social-services network, which has been badly hurt at the worst possible time by the mind-boggling misdeeds of his predecessors, especially Cardinal Bernard Law.

If I'm right about what O'Malley may be thinking, then he deserves all the credit in the world.

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