Church Schools Face Axe in Boston Crisis

Total Catholic [Boston MA]
Downloaded February 13, 2003

Faced with 70 new sex abuse lawsuits and a growing operating deficit, the Boston Archdiocese has taken steps to sell at least 11 properties and is reportedly planning to close financially troubled schools.

Bishop Richard Lennon, apostolic administrator of Boston since Cardinal Bernard Law resigned in disgrace last December, has spoken at length about archdiocesan financial difficulties, saying that bankruptcy 'certainly is an option,' but selling off property and using insurance money remain his current focus in efforts to settle the hundreds of lawsuits filed by alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse by Boston priests.

He told the Boston Globe: 'We have severe financial problems and I cannot underestimate those or understate them. I have to live with reality.'

It was reported that he had received permission from the archdiocesan consultors to sell 11 properties with a combined market value between $10 million and $15 million.

The Boston Herald reported he was about to sign off on the closing or merger of several struggling Catholic schools.

'The financial challenges the diocese is facing on the one hand, and also the reality of the schools not meeting the standards (of viability set by the archdiocese following a 1991-92 study), is going to result in some of the schools being closed,' he told the Herald. 'The parishes just cannot support them.'

The day Bishop Lennon gave the series of interviews, attorney Mitchell Garabedian filed 70 new sex abuse lawsuits against the archdiocese, raising the number of suits it faces to about 470.

The new suits, covering alleged incidents dating from 1941 through the 1980s, reportedly contained accusations against 40 priests and a former church worker, including 16 priests not previously named; at least 10 of them are dead but three are still in active ministry.

Attorney Roderick MacLeish, whose firm is involved in numerous sex abuse lawsuits, said new records produced by the archdiocese revealed 24 more priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors.

The files, he said, had been erroneously grouped with those of priests accused of misconduct with adults.

In June 2002, the archdiocese announced that it was eliminating 15 jobs and slashing its central operating budget by one-third, from $24 million to $16 million for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Among the cuts announced at that time was a 15 per cent reduction in grants or other aid to some city parishes and schools.


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