Cronyism: Part II

July 29, 2010

We are working hard to keep our cool after getting yet more reports of cronyism in the Archdiocese of Boston.  With so many former Abington Bank employees now working in key roles at the Pastoral Center, “Fr. Ned” wrote and asked us to sponsor a contest to rename the archdiocese.  His two submissions were “Abington Bank Employee Alumni Association” and  “Archdiocesan Bank of Boston.”  If readers have other ideas, feel free to send them via confidential email or public comments.

You read in Conflicts of Interest Part I and Part II about how Ann Carter, a former Abington Bank board member whose PR firm is paid perhaps as much as $1 million/year or more from the Archdiocese, played a key role in hiring former Abington Bank CEO James McDonough as Chancellor.  (Ann did PR for Jim at the bank and made lots of money when the bank was sold, and now Jim watches over how much Ann’s firm is paid after she helped hire him).  We wrote to the archdiocese and Ms. Carter asking for answers to a few questions about the conflict of interest and are still awaiting a response. Earlier this week you learned how a former head teller and branch manager at Abington Bank, Judy H, became executive assistant/office manager for Cardinal O’Malley with no prior church experience after a “worldwide search.”  There is more we can barely keep up with.

The director of real estate for the Archdiocese today is Ms. Deborah D, who replaced a long-time archdiocesan employee.  Here’s what they do:

The Real Estate office assists in the sale, purchase or lease of all Archdiocesan real estate as well as all parish property. The Real Estate office acts a liaison between the realtors, attorneys, tenants and the parish. The Real Estate office facilitates the hiring of all appraisers, realtors and counsel, when needed. Additionally the Real Estate office will manage all approvals for sale/lease/purchase transactions.

Where did Ms. D work before this that prepared her for her job in the church selling real estate?  You guessed it–she was at Abington Bank, as Loans Review Officer.

Then there’s the new “executive assistant” in the Chancellor’s office, Ms. Joanne S.  Where did Mrs. S. work before this?  She  is listed as “clerk” in this Abington Bank proxy statement.  Many insiders report that Chancellor McDonough’s exec admin makes more than $100K/year.  Apparently a loyal, long-time admin for the chancellor’s office was pushed out on “early retirement” to make room for the newcomer.

The Chancellor’s office also has on staff a full-time “operations associate,” Mr. Jed H.  We are told he is a  recent college grad with no prior church experience getting paid a salary well above normal college grad starting salaries and more than many long-time Pastoral Center employees. We are trying to determine exactly what he does that is different from the administrative staff in the Chancellor’s office. [UPDATE: We have been told he may no longer be at the archdiocese]t

Is anyone wondering how much of the 18% tithe they need from parishes is going toward these sorts of expenses?  Didn’t they just lay people off to save money and balance the budget?

Not to be forgotten about is Mrs. Carol G, the Executive Director of Human Resources, who oversees all of this hiring.  She of course reports to the Chancellor himself.  Mrs. G has also become a protege of Fr. Bryan H, who apparently authorized having Ann Carter (the PR vendor) on the search committees for both  the Chancellor and the communications secretary despite the clear-cut conflict of interest.

It is normally a positive sign when a business leader attracts former employees who want to work for him or her again–BUT that holds when it is a similar business or organization.  If Jim McDonough were CEO of another bank, it would be a good thing for him to bring former “rock-star” employees experienced in banking to work for him again where their experience would help the business.  But this is the Catholic Church, not a bank.  It’s a non-profit that can’t afford to pay high salaries with a mission to spread the gospel and carry out the saving ministry of Jesus Christ, not a bank where people get paid high salaries and the goal is making money.

To summarize for today, we reference several of the Pastoral Center Operating Principles

We seek to give glory and honor to God and rebuild trust in Christ’s Church, following the guidance of the Holy Father and Archbishop of Boston.

We treat each other and those whom we serve fairly, with dignity and with honor, holding ourselves accountable for our commitment to service.

In consideration of the grave conflicts of interest this blog has reported already, we welcome your comments on how you think the archdiocese is doing in the trust and accountability departments these days?


Cronyism: Part I

July 26, 2010

cronyism [kroh-nee-iz-uh m]
noun the practice of favoring one’s close friends, esp. in political appointments.

You should note that we the blog writers cannot verify every comment posted by a reader—some are accurate, some are not necessarily—but the comment posted on July 22 by “concerned” in response to Conflits of Interest: Part II is consistent with what we have observed and what many other  people have told us.   “Concerned” wrote: “ There were a lot of long-term and loyal employees that were forced out. It’s interesting that the place has actually gotten worse with all of the McDonough clones now there. Somewhere, there should be a balance between Christianity and good business practices. Right now neither Christianity nor good business practice exists.”

Thus, we continue our reporting about conflicts of interest with a small but important example.  When the Cardinal’s office was purged of all the experienced staff except one, the HR director, Ms. G.  contacted an outside search firm to fill the position of executive secretary (administrative assistant) to the Cardinal.  After a worldwide search, they ended up hiring the former head teller from the Abington Bank, Ms. H.  We are told that she literally did not know how to spell “Monsignor.”  You can see her background easily yourself.  Just check out the Pastoral Center directory here and look for the person who is Office Manager in the Cardinal’s Office.  Now look here, or here to see who held the branch manager for Sovereign Bank (which acquired Abington Bank) here.

A lot of sensitive information passes through the Cardinal’s office.  Most priests, pastoral center employees, and laity would no doubt like to know that whomever is immediately serving the Cardinal have some history in the Church and knowledge of the Church, has primary loyalty and trustworthiness to the Cardinal rather than another cabinet member, and came into the role solely on their merits.   In this case, what we know is that the Chancellor came into his role via a conflict of interest with influence from a former board member of his bank on the search committee who is also friends with Jack Connors, and then the new office manager for the Cardinal’s office came into her role via prior working relationship with Chancellor at the bank he was running.  We often hear that people write personal and confidential letters to the Cardinal and do not get any response.  A reasonable person might ask whether this has something to do with it.


Conflicts of Interest: Part II

July 22, 2010

Here is the next installment in the discussion of the Rasky Baerlein/Ann Carter/Boston Archdiocese  conflict of interest. As you may recall from Conflicts of Interest: Part I , Rasky Baerlein is the long-time PR firm for the Archdiocese, and there are some aspects of their relationship with the archdiocese that appear inconsistent with good governance of any organization, whether it be Catholic or secular.

We mentioned in Conflicts of Interest: Part I that Ann Carter , CEO of PR firm Rasky Baerlein, played a key role on the archdiocesan search committee  that hired Chancellor Jim McDonough, and was previously on the Board of Abington Bank when Jim McDonough was the bank’s CEO.  Ms. Carter joined the Abington Bank board in 2002 for a two-year term, and her term was extended to 2006 by a shareholder vote in July 2003.  (She chaired their Audit Committee during the same time period when the bank was restating their 2001 earnings and revising 2002 financials due to an accounting error).  According to Abington Bank’s July 2003 annual shareholder meeting financial disclosure, Carter held 12,400 shares of stock (or .32% of the shares outstanding).  Jim McDonough held 244,665 shares or 6.28% of the stock.  (These shares are often given as an outright grant to board members, or as options to purchase stock at a pre-determined price).  What that means is that when Abington Bank sold to Seacoast in June of 2004 for $139.4 million, it is fair to estimate that Ms. Carter’s shares were worth .32% of $139 million or about $450,000. If these share were granted to her as a board member, then that would have been all profit for her.  Mr. McDonough’s shares would have been worth about $8.7 million.  Within months, even before that acquisition was even complete, Seacoast sold itself to Sovereign Bank  for $1.1 billion.  So, those shares worth $450,000 in June of 2004 were worth even more in the subsequent sale months later, but we do not know how much more.

What is important for you to know is that in late 2004-mid 2005, Ms Carter made a substantial amount of money on the sale of Abington Bank by virtue of  Jim McDonough having her serve on the Board, and then in December of 2005, Ms Carter (who is also a friend of Jack Connors) was put on the Archdiocesan search committee and played a key role in hiring Jim McDonough as Chancellor.  His appointment was announced on June 5, 2006.  As we stated previously, she was also on the search committee that selected communications secretary, Terry Donilon.  Both of these cabinet officials have decision-making authority over how much Carter (the person who helped select them) would be paid for work by the archdiocese.   We have been told by several sources that staff members at the archdiocese objected to this conflict of interest, but were overruled, and we have been told that their concerns at the time were overruled by current Secretary for Healthcare and Social Services, Fr. Bryan Hehir.

In addition, we know that Rasky Baerlein PR services are used by four different groups in the Archdiocese corporation sole—the Communications secretary (Terry Donilon), the Office of the Delegate (that handles sexual abuse claims), Caritas Christi, and Catholic Charities.  But Rasky has a billing arrangement where they charge each entity separately and where the archdiocese does not aggregate those four  separate charges to show if the annual payments were to make Rasky Baerlein a “top-paid vendor” in the archdiocese’s annual report.    Hypothetically speaking, if each entity were to pay Rasky $25,000/month for services, the Archdiocese would be paying Rasky $100,000/month or $1.2 million annually, but it would not show up on the annual report as a “top vendor” because the charges are billed to four separate agencies.  Even if that is an acceptable accounting practice, it would defeat a purpose of giving transparency to top vendor charges when ones like this are excluded from the archdiocese’s annual report. We do not know the actual amount Rasky is paid and welcome the archdiocese clarifying for us the exact amount of the Rasky billings. If we are mistaken they would be a top vendor we will make an appropriate correction.

It is difficult to understand how the Communications Secretary and Chancellor–who owe their current jobs at least in part to Ms. Carter, who served on their search committee amidst a clear conflict of interest–could responsibly decide on how much to pay her and her firm today, or even on whether to continue using this firm vs other less expensive PR agencies.  This conflict of interest also raises major questions over whether all qualified candidates were objectively considered by the search committees for these roles, and how many qualified candidates may have been passed over.  Furthermore, it is difficult to understand how this arrangement benefits the archdiocese today, and it is also difficult to understand how failing to disclose the aggregate amount paid to Rasky by the various archdiocesan agencies is consistent with the stated goal and principle of financial transparency.  Twenty one positions were recently eliminated at the archdiocese to save money.  Healthcare benefits to priests have been cut.  The clergy and employee retirement funds are underfunded by tens of millions of dollars.  Parishes are being asked to give a mandatory 18% of their contributions to the archdiocese.    Something does not feel ethically right about this arrangement with Rasky Baerlein and Ann Carter.

We will email all of the parties involved in this from the archdiocese and ask them to disclose why this conflict of interest was permitted, why the arrangement remains in place today where people even somewhat indebted to Ms. Carter decide on how much her firm is paid for services, and what steps are being taken to immediately address these conflicts for the common good of the archdiocese and to restore trust with priests, chancery workers, donors, and laity.  If any readers would like to add more to this, we invite you to comment below or to send us confidential email at (bostoncatholicinsider@gmail.com).


Conflicts of Interest: Part I

July 19, 2010

If you did not get to read our last post, “Responses to Injustice? Inconsistency?” we invite you to read it.  Today we begin a series of posts that focus on grave conflicts of interest, and illicit, perhaps corrupt behavior in the Pastoral Center/Chancery which affects everyone in the Archdiocese—pastors, priests, laity, donors, and Pastoral Center employees.  We have been asked to cover this for weeks and start today with the Archdiocese’s relationship with Ann Carter of public relations firm Rasky Baerlein.  Today you will learn about ethical conflicts in the hiring of Cabinet Secretaries Terry Donilon and Jim McDonough.  Next post we will cover financial irregularities and more about the conflicts.

Ann Carter (also known by her married name as Ann Jameson) is CEO of PR firm Rasky Baerlein, the long-time communications firm used by the Archdiocese.  Many people have seen her name appear in public statements from the Archdiocese.  She also is a close friend of Jack Connors, Jr.

Ms. Carter was on the search committee in early 2005 that selected Communications Secretary, Terry Donilon–the position that would determine when she was retained, how often and for how many hours she was retained, and what she and her firm would be paid. She was quoted in the Boston Globe on April 15, 2005 in their announcement of Donilon’s appointment saying, “Terry Donilon is an experienced communicator who loves the church.”   The person quoted in such announcements is usually the person who led the search.  People inside the archdiocese familiar with Terry’s work indicate that he is spelling-challenged and writing-challenged.  We are told that resumes of far superior candidates interested in the job never made it to the full search committee.

Ann, the PR vendor for the Archdiocese,  was also on the search committee that selected Jim McDonough as Chancellor in 2006. Jim was former President and CEO of Abington Bank, where Ann had served on the Board of Directors and also as Chair of the Audit Committee.  According to the bank’s Annual Report, Ann served in these roles while Jim was running the bank.  She would have made a substantial sum of money when the bank was subsequently sold, but that is a topic for a future post. The Chancellor search committee was led by banker, Neal Finnegan, and included banker Giles Mosher, HP Hood head John Kaneb, Fr. Art Coyle, philanthropist Joanne McGrath, and venture capitalist Jo Tango.  We are told that Finnegan chaired the committee mostly in name only and followed Carter’s lead to select the former CEO of the company where Ann had served as a vendor (in a PR capacity) and financial stakeholder in a Board capacity. The chancellor approves the budgets and expenditures for every department, including Communications.

In the case of both search committees (Communications and Chancellor), the Archdiocese was warned by archdiocesan staff members against the absolutely unethical conflict of interest of having a vendor/contractor (Carter) on the search committees to hire those who would determine whether her firm was engaged and how much her firm was paid, but those concerns were overruled.  We are investigating how those concerns came to be overruled (and by whom) and we welcome your anonymous comments and emails on that area. Clergy, laity, and employees may all wish to ask how this conflict of interest serves the good of the Church fiscally.

In our next post we will also discuss how the separate billings from Rasky to multiple entities across the Archdiocese corporation sole have been orchestrated so the high aggregate fees paid to Rasky are hidden from financial disclosure documents and “top vendor expense” listing by the Archdiocese.


Responses to Injustice? Inconsistency?

July 16, 2010

Our post “ Injustice? Inconsistency?” (about how priests are treated by the Archdiocese in various situations) has stimulated some comments and emails that we feel compelled to share with readers and with the Archdiocese.  Here’s what we received from a reader, ‘Marilyn.”  We are publishing it exactly as written, but we have added a few extra details in [brackets] for additional clarity.

 To Boston Catholic Insider:

One of your examples [Fr. C.] is said to live with the man commonly understood to be his longtime “boyfriend,” also a priest [Fr. K], in a rectory [St. A.] where the “boyfriend” is assigned as parochial vicar.  If it were his longtime girlfriend, would it be tolerated?  Their close friends, another pair of ordained men, keep busy as a pastor [Fr. J.] of a parish near 128 [St. S], the other one allegedly no longer in ministry [Fr. B], but tell that to the people who are devoted to him at a church downtown. [P.C.]

These men enjoy full benefits in exchange for toning down their rhetoric bashing the church, and no longer publicly promoting same sex marriage.  They live in rectories.  They have vacation homes and lots of time off and cars that few priests can afford (because two of them have private incomes).  And they will have pensions and benefits from the RCAB.  Two of them were not allowed to remain as pastors due to audits that showed significant financial misconduct.  (Ask the auditors.)  Meanwhile, the combined Mass attendance served by the parochial vicar and the pastor at the two parishes don’t total 500 people.  Give those micro parishes to the priests in the next parishes to cover, and shutter the rectories that are now home to the men who shatter their vows.

If these men’s domestic arrangements involved women, what would happen?  When a priest thumbs his nose at his vows, let’s get him out, no matter who the other party is.  Priests who are living the vowed celibate life as it was meant to be lived, meanwhile, work without days off, have only their stipends to pay their expenses, and cannot retire until their wheels fall off.  (One pastor I know of is over well over 75 and celebrates nine Masses per week, including one at the nursing home.)

Where’s the leadership?  Why are the vows of matrimony expected to be kept by those to whom they are made (spouses), but vows made to the ordinary aren’t expected to be kept if the parties involved are sufficiently obnoxious?  And why does the ordinary think the people don’t notice?

 [Wow!  Marilyn, thanks so much for writing this powerful message.  Just to expand on what you have written, as was mentioned in our previous post, one of the priests cited above testified to the Massachusetts Legislature in favor of gay marriage, and though his testimony was corrected by the Mass Catholic Conference, the act of his testifying against the Church was never publicly addressed  by the Archbishop or Archdiocese of Boston.  Yesterday, Catholic News Agency reported that Archbishop Carlos Jose Nanez of Cordoba has begun canonical proceedings against a priest in Argentina who promoted same-sex ‘marriage.’  

Fr. Jose Nicolas Alessio received an enormous amount of media attention for his statements supporting gay “marriage” while he was pastor of St. Cajetan’s in the city of Cordoba. According to AICA, the priest has continued to make statements to the media in support of same-sex “marriage.” “As a cautionary measure, the archbishop has prohibited him from the public exercising of the priestly ministry, which means he cannot celebrate Mass or administer the sacraments of the Church publicly, and therefore, cannot continue as pastor,” the news service reported.

Regarding Fr. J , we also extend Marilyn’s powerful message.  As she mentioned, he was on the record in support of gay marriage, and a commenter on an article at Boston.com in 2004 wrote te following about him:

I am reminded of how he was chased out of St. B’s. Fr. J verbally attacked and threatened a group of parishoners for whom he blamed for his demise. Telling one woman she would “rue the day”. In fact, Fr. J performed a “homosexual marriage” in the church even though it was against the doctrine of the Catholic Church. That is the reason he was told to leave St. B’s and never come back. Fr. C was guilty by association. Fr. J managed to alienate several parishoners and his friend, Fr. B wrote scathing letters to several parishoners in St. B’s.

Beyond that, his current parish, St. S, near Route 95/128 was targeted for closing in 2005 but he and the parish fought the decision.  Fortunately for the pastor, they had an ally on the Meade-Eisner Reconfiguration Review Committee, namely powerbroker Jack Connors, Jr, who is a native son from the same town as the parish.  The parish got an unusual reprieve by the Meade-Eisner Committee. They were to stay open until March of 2008, when the six-year term of the pastor was to end, at which point Cardinal O’Malley said he would reassess the future of that parish. They are still open today with the same pastor, so apparently the pastor’s term was renewed and the Cardinal did not have a problem with the situation described above. 

In Argentina, a priest publicly opposes the Church’s teaching on marriage, and when he refused to “amend his ways and retract his statements” in support of same-sex “marriage,” the archbishop undertook a canonical procedure to remove him from public ministry.  In Boston, they give a priest who has done the same thing a nice job in campus ministry where he can get a second income or they keep him in a pastoral leadership role.  And apparently they also let them live in a rectory with their “boyfriend” to scandalize the faithful, while also rubbing this scandal in the faces of hard-working priests who are living their priestly vows working tirelessly with no days off on a small stipend, and who can’t retire until they are 75. 

Meanwhile, back at the Pastoral Center (Friday afternoons off in the summer), they wonder why there are morale problems in the Boston presbyterate, thereby making it tough to get new vocations to the priesthood.  Perhaps the senior Cabinet steering committee might want to take this post up as a topic of discussion at an upcoming meeting.  We welcome comments and additional confidential messages. Just click on Contact Us.


True Cross Relic Stolen, Caritas/Cerberus Update

July 14, 2010

We will cover two different topics briefly today–the theft of the True Cross relic from the Holy Cross Cathedral, and a short update on the sale of Caritas to Cerberus. 

Most people have probably heard about the theft of the relic of the True Cross from Holy Cross Cathedral, first noticed on July 1.  This is one of the oldest and most treasured possessions in the archdiocese, and we need to all pray for its return.  Beyond the troubling reality that a priceless relic like this was stolen, a few other aspects of this should raise eyebrows.  First of all, why 12 days pass after the theft was detected before the Archdiocese said something–and only after Catholic blogger, Kelly Thatcher, (Lady in the Pew) posted about this and spread word asking for prayers.  Maybe the police asked that it be kept quiet for a few days in order to investigate in some secretive manner.  But could someone at the $5.5 million/year communications machine of the Archdiocese let us know what other big things they’re working on we haven’t noticed that left them unable or unwilling to respond to the Globe’s diatribe on Sunday and more importantly, tell Catholics about the theft and ask for prayers?  Is someone asking wealthy Catholics like Jack Connors, who the Globe reported is worth $500 million, to establish a reward for the return of the relic?   Where is the passion and urgency in the communications to try and get this back ASAP?  Another blogger said to us, if the Cathedral had money to spend replacing a beautiful ambo that didn’t need replacement, why couldn’t they have installed a security camera or webcam to protect the relic?  Intelligent, “smart” IP video surveillance systems have become very inexpensive, and can remotely watch a location like this and instantly send an alert when something changes in a scene.  Had something like this been in place–costing on a one-time basis a fraction of what the Archdiocese pays Rasky Baerlein for their public relations retainer every month–the theft might have been prevented entirely, or if not prevented, then recorded AND within a minute afterwards, cathedral and security officials could have been alerted.  In addition, we could not help but notice the unusual theological depth to the statement by Communications Secretary, Terry Donilon, “The relic of the True Cross is an important sacramental that helps Christians contemplate the crucified Savior and the great suffering He endured for the salvation of the world.”  Has Terry been taking a theology course in the MAM program, or did someone feed him the quote?  Lastly, this comment on another blog from “TheLastCatholicinBoston” merits reposting: 

It certainly is a very symbolic loss. To think of the martyrdom who died for such causes, and the archdiocese makes a statement after 10 days. They watch the nickels as the priceless is stolen from under their noses. They capture Internet space with Catholic TV and blogs yet can’t keep a watchful eye on the True Cross. The devil’s undercover blood martyrdom of abortion in America is similar – the thief is in our midst, seeking the ruin of souls. 

On to the next topic, Caritas/Cerberus.  Everyone seems to be piling on the bandwagon finally raising concerns publicly.  The Globe had a column on it last week focusing on the likelihood of competition vs smaller community hospitals from a for-profit Caritas.   A couple of pro-life organizations have weighed-in, and we would like to correct a few errors in what these other organizations have written in recent days. The American Life League, in their post, “CERBERUS, HADES AND THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON” said: 

But we already know that adherence to Catholic moral standards is unlawful for any hospital that participates in the Massachusetts universal health care insurance program (the model for ObamaCare), because the program requires participants to provide abortion, contraception, sterilization, etc. In fact, the archdiocese’s inability to participate in the Massachusetts program is precisely the reason why Caritas is unprofitable and is being sold. So the termination of Catholic standards is inevitable. Why the charade to mislead the public that Caritas will remain Catholic? 

Most of their post is spot-on, the first part of this passage is correct, and there is indeed a charade to mislead the public into believing that Caritas will remain Catholic ahead (as we have reported previously).  But Caritas IS actually profitable, so it’s not the case that the inability to participate in the Massachusetts program is the reason why Caritas is being sold.  

An email from Mass Citizens for Life also gets most of it right, but has a few things wrong or communicates them in a way where people will reach the wrong conclusion.   

The Board of Directors of Massachusetts Citizens for Life has expressed serious concern about a proviso in the sale of the Caritas Christi Health Care system by the Archdiocese of Boston.  The Board urges the Archdiocese to remove this proviso or to work with the buyers to appoint an independent committee consisting of experts in the fields of medical ethics and health care financing, who have proven adherence to the Caritas commitment to life, to fully vet any decision to end compliance with the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

 Aside from the fact that MCFL didn’t tell people what the concerning proviso is–namely, an exit clause should maintaining the Catholic identity prove “materially burdensome”–MCFL is basically saying to either remove the proviso, or appoint pro-life people to an independent committee who would review a decision to drop the Catholic identity but have no authority to over-ride it.  Removing the proviso should work  but it does not seem like a commitee with no authority to change anything will be able to change anything. 

MCFL further says the following: 

The Steward Health Care System, a subsidiary of Cerberus Capital Management, will be running the hospitals.  Steward has agreed to abide by the ERDs, thus continuing the pro-life commitment of the hospitals.  If, however, Steward decides that compliance with the ERDs would jeopardize the welfare of its patients, employees, or the community it serves, it can pay the Archdiocese twenty-five million dollars to end compliance. 

 This is partically correct.  The agreement says if Steward decides that compliance with the EDRs would become “materially burdensome” (very broadly defined as anything which would “jeopardize the welfare of its patients, employees, or the communities in which it operates,” the determination of which will be in “the sole discretion of Steward”), the system’s Catholic identity could be abandoned upon payment of a $25 million fee to a charity of the Archdiocese’s choosing.   The rest of what MCFL wrote is correct:

The MCFL Board reasons that this escape clause provides inadequate protection to pro-life physicians and patients and threatens the existence of pro-life hospitals in Massachusetts.  It could result in the Caritas hospitals providing abortion and rationing care, thus ending the systems commitment to pro-life principles.

According to Anne Fox, President of the organization, Massachusetts Citizens for Life has always been grateful for the hospitals in the Caritas Christi Health Care system. While MCFL is a non-sectarian organization, having hospitals where patients can go to receive ethical medical care has been very important whether it be a woman with a problem pregnancy or a person who needs food and hydration administered artificially.  Pro-life medical professionals have been able to practice in good conscience. We feel every effort must be made to ensure continuation of these ethical standards

 

  

 


Unbelievable

July 12, 2010

We were just copied on a post from another blog that picks apart the essay in yesterday’s Boston Globe Magazine entitled, “What I Believe.”  We are not yet in the practice of endorsing other blogs, but the  Globe’s essay is a distortion of the Catholic faith and this particular blog post makes some valid points.  Any of a number of entities in the Archdiocese could respond to the Globe’s piece, starting with Cardinal O’Malley on his blog, and on down to Terry Donilon in PR, The Pilot, the website, or Catholic TV.  It cost $3.4 million to operate CatholicTV last year, around $1 million to publish The Pilot,  they spent a quarter of a million dollars to build a new website, and the salaries and PR fees across the Catholic Media group and PR teams (separate budget and funding sources) are easily another $1 million.  For $5.5 million a year, you’d think somone could crank out a response within 24 hours. If they cannot do something this basic, then maybe some of that money should be redirected to the Clergy Retirement Fund deficit.


Injustice? Inconsistency?

July 11, 2010

We pause from our discussions of archdiocesan finances, layoffs, and the Caritas Christi sale to respond to email requests that we discuss certain practices by the Archdiocese that seem unjust and inconsistent.  These practices have to do with how priests are treated in various situations—ranging  from what happens when an accusation of sexual abuse or wrongdoing comes forward, to how the archdiocese goes about reducing or eliminating medical or retirement benefits . We have received so many comments on the clergy retirement and employee pension funds that they will merit their own future post.  We are not sure how exactly to tackle this topic and are trying to make sense of what we have gotten as input.  Here goes…

As we all know, the sexual abuse crisis resulted in many legitimate claims against priests for inexcusable and deplorable acts which deserved to be punished both in civil law and canonically.  Given the media visibility, large numbers of claimants who filed and negotiated as a group, and availability of cash settlements, one cannot help but believe that the huge majority of legitimate claims are behind us. To be fair, there may still be unreported claims, new cases, or repressed memories that suddenly become unrepressed.  And if the situation of a Walpole priest recently arrested for allegedly making unwanted sexual advances on a 21-year-old in the woods at a known gay cruising spot in Canton turns out to be as reported, then we have further evidence of active homosexuality in the Boston presbyterate. The latter would be the topic for a future post (around the theme of “Crisis and Reform.”)  None of this should be trivialized.

But, what happens to priests who face claims that are questionable or have never been proven?  The worst nightmare some priests have faced was getting a phone call telling them there has been a claim.  They had to move out of the rectory immediately and a press release was issued whose wording suggested a presumption of guilt that would forever damage their reputation.  And what has happened to priests who did stumble or commit a sexual sin, but with an adult woman, not a child or a minor?  Is the rule, “One strike and you’re out,” with no possibility for mercy and redemption, ever?   And what about priests whose main failing is not a sexual sin at all, but rather is health-related?  There is a sense by some priests that they can be cast-off too easily if they become a burden.   Here are some examples:

  • Fr. B, then 67-years-old, was accused in 2001 of molesting a youth 30 years earlier. The one allegation that was made against him could not be substantiated. At the time, Father B. was prevented from proclaiming his innocence to the public or his peers. Although the claim was dismissed after a 2-year investigation and he was returned to full ministry in 2003, according to his January 2010 obituary, Father Bolduc’s “reputation was shattered and his life was changed forever. Due to this ordeal his health suffered greatly and continued to decline as time went on.”  Several bloggers reported earlier this year that he was one of six falsely accused priests, ages 71 to 88, thrown out of Regina Cleri who also had medical benefits cut off for no apparent reason.
  • Fr. Gordon McRae, a 57-year-old priest of the Diocese of Manchester, has been imprisoned since 1994 for alleged crimes where there was never any evidence or corroboration whatsoever. The claims were accompanied by lawsuits settled for hundreds of thousands of dollars despite substantial evidence of fraud. On April 27 and 28, 2005, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The Wall Street Journal published an account of the travesty of justice by which Father Gordon MacRae was convicted, a story described in First Things magazine as one of “a Church and a justice system that seem indifferent to justice.”  Current Bishop of Manchester, John McCormack, was formerly a senior aide to Cardinal Law in Boston, and has done little to help McRae’s cause.  Fr. McRae blogs at These Stone Walls: Musings from Prison of a Priest Falsely Accused.
  • Fr. M. of Boston, 82-years-old, was just placed on administrative leave for a claim of sexual abuse alleged to have occurred 50-years-ago, the only charge ever made against him.  Shortly after that charge was made public, attorney Mitch Garabedian came forward with a client who alleges he was abused by the same priest between 1963-1968.  Garabedian said his client began recovering repressed memories of the abuse last year, and recent media coverage of the Rev. M complaint led his client to tell his story.
  • Fr. G, who drunkenly propositioned and made inappropriate sexual comments to a woman and her daughter on one occasion at a restaurant/lounge in 2005 admitted he was drunk at the time, underwent evaluation and treatment over more than a year, had all charges dismissed by the court in 2007, and was deemed fit to return to ministry. He is on the Emergency Response Team unassigned to a parish.
  • Fr. T, who got rid of bingo and instead brought perpetual Eucharistic adoration to a parish in the western suburbs, had a consensual relationship with a woman in 1999, left the parish in 2001, underwent 14 months of counseling and treatment, and publicly admitted his sins to parishioners in 2003.  He has been gone from the archdiocesan Catholic directory since then, is off the diocesan payroll and lives in a religious community outside of the archdiocese.

The circumstances around each of these situations and dozens of others are uniquely different.  For some priests, indeed their sins (or crimes) are such that they cannot be assigned back to full-time ministry for any of a variety of reasons, while for some priests, the outcome seems to be unjust or extreme.  At the same time priests who may not be a threat to anyone are removed from ministry,  people see the following occurring:

  • Fr. C, who advocated in favor of gay marriage to the Massachusetts legislature and to his parishioners and was later removed from his parish for financial irregularities is assigned as chaplain at a local college campus, where he educates young people and is free to share his values with them.
  • Shortly after Fr. L resigned as pastor of a South Shore parish for stealing significant amounts of money from his parish, the Archdiocese sent in as a replacement, Fr. P, who himself was caught stealing significant amounts of money from his prior parish several years earlier.
  • Fr. B blogged in April about how priests should not be celibate, how the priest who laid on the chausible at his first Mass after ordination had abused “countless altar boys” but Fr. B had said nothing about it even 19 years later, how the sexual abuse crisis in the Church was not “about being gay”, and how the crisis is about an unwillingness by the Church to deal honestly with the psycho-sexual health of Church leaders — both priests and bishops, gay and straight.”  Apparently no one in the archdiocese read this, or if they did, no one reached out to Fr. B.  2 months later he was arrested for sexually assaulting a 21-year-old man in the woods.
  • A different Fr. C, known for preaching against the teachings of the church on marriage and other moral issues, was reassigned from his South shore parish to the Emergency Response Team, but later made pastor at another South Shore parish where his recent parish bulletin invited parishioners to a book-signing by noted dissident Catholic James Carroll, sponsored by two affiliates of Voice of the Faithful.  Carroll’s new book criticizes the Church’s teachings on abortion, gay marriage, papal infallibility, birth control, male-only priesthood, celibate clergy, and other issues.

Boston Catholic Insider readers see somewhat of an inconsistency here.  The Archdiocese wants to protect children and ensure that any priests who could harm children are not in a position to do so—which is of course the right thing to do.  At the same time, we are told that priests who may not pose any threat to children are put in limbo and/or cleared off the payroll, or for priests with health issues, their  benefits are slashed when they become a financial burden in their old age–while those whose preaching and false teachings may lead hundreds of “children of God” to sin continue in active ministry in good standing.  (“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Mark 9:42)

We know what we have written is likely to spur controversy.  Is the Archdiocese putting millstones around the right necks or wrong necks?  What do you think?


Reaction to Layoffs and Trust

July 7, 2010

Based on the emails we are getting–over yesterday’s Boston Globe puff-piece about mandatory payments from all parishes to the diocese, the Caritas sale, and layoffs–it feels like the archdiocese is in a very tenuous situation right now.  Here is a small sample of what we received in the last few days:

From “Carol”

Two truths:
1.  The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has no business paying anyone more than $150,000.00, and then only when there is great demonstrated competency.  The schools are going down the drain (Grassa-O’Neill), the chancellor and Mr. Hehir work for Jack Connors (a/k/a Partners and Boston College) and Mr. Donilon, based on his news releases, struggles with English as a written language (e.g. in today’s email about the Wangsness soft-toss, it’s “assess,” not “access” when you’re evaluating parish financial health).  When salaries have benefits and FICA/Medicare employer contributions added in, the top salary is over $350,000.00.  How many people are paid over $100,000?  What’s the total payroll for those people?  What’s the average salary of those paid less than $100,000?

2.  Skimming from parish revenue (offertories, rents and all other donations except bequests) to the tune of about 24% per annum (schools tax + RCAB tax)is just plain wrong.  When salaries in Braintree look more like the paychecks of those giving the money, we can talk.  Parishioners have already caught on and begun plans to find other ways to support their parishes.  Why didn’t the Globe article interview someone besides those whose job it is to sell the plan, and those who were most caustic about parish closings?  There are hundreds of priests (particularly pastors) and thousands of lay people who are saying, “Not so fast.”  The Globe didn’t seek them out it seems.

Meanwhile, why has no one asked what the RCAB spends on heating, plowing, mowing and capital repairs to the not-really-occupied former parish churches?  My guess is $750,000.00 per year, based on what it costs to maintain one parish church — and they are maintaining a half dozen of these places at a residential standard.  Show us the common sense, RCAB, and then maybe we’ll show you the money.

Last, but not least, who would be willing to take the bet that Cerberus has had discussions or some pre-existing agreement with Partners to sell the hospitals in 2012?  $25M is a drop in the bucket to buy off the “Catholic” part of the deal.  How can the cardinal sleep at night?  Or is he asleep all the time?

From “Paul”

What Boston Catholic Insider is doing is a good start, but you guys have barely scratched the surface on the corruption in the Pastoral Center.  Talk to some more chancery workers and pastors.

One of the laid-off staff members has been at the Archdiocese for 30 years; she is the main source of family income as her husband is ailing and they rely on her insurance…all that will be gone in 4 months…Not that the Archdiocese should employ everyone if there is simply no job.  But, hey, J. Bryan Hehir: What about social justice for the little people, not just more big “ideas” to solve the “complex” multi-dimensional problems in our  complex pluralistic society?  Meanwhile, there are at least 20-25 people earning 6-figure salaries, not including benefits.  Not one was laid-off.

The Clergy Retirement Fund has been mismanaged.  Based on what was promised when it was created, it needs more like $200 million to be funded as promised, but what’s a promise anyway?  That is not alot of money when you’re flushing millions down the toilet elsewhere, like for PR, law firm fees, Catholic school superintendent and associate superintendent salaries and at schools to educate mostly non-Catholics (like Pope John Paul II Academy in Dorchester) or  hospitals and charities that are mostly not Catholic any more and will disappear in a few years anyway.  How exactly they will close even a $100 million retirement fund gap is still mostly smoke and mirrors.

The annual report for the year ending June 2009 came out in June of 2010.  The Chancellor is paid $250,000/year and has a $100K+/year administrator and it takes them a year to issue a financial report?  FY 2010 just ended.  People should ask when they will see the 2010 report and all of the supplemental reports missing from 2009 still. Because the Chancellor controls the money, everyone kow-tows to him.

Meanwhile, older priests still in active service have been pushed off private medical plans  onto Medicare at a considerable extra out-of-pocket cost to the priests for office visits and prescription medications. 

 If 1/3 of the pastors stood firm and said they would NOT participate in the new mandatory parish payment program and curtailed the money-flow from parishes to the chancery, that would immediately stop the insanity.   If Boston Catholic Insider has a way to communicate with more priests and pastors, you guys will get an earful, and you should definitely publish what you hear.


Trust

July 6, 2010

It has gotten so that one never knows who one can trust any more.  If people use words like “permanently” and “forever,” one naturally would believe that means until the end of time.  But one never knows that will hold in the Boston Archdiocese. 

We leave the discussion of Pastoral Center layoffs and return to the topic of the sale of Caritas Christi because the latest disclosure makes it clear that we do not know who we can trust.   We know we cannot trust the management or spokespeople at Caritas to give us the whole story.  We assumed we could not trust Cerberus because their business is to buy and sell underperforming companies for a profit.  But for a diocese that is priding itself on transparency, it seems that we also cannot trust what Fr. Bryan Hehir, Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson, or Cardinal O’Malley have said in this matter either. If we cannot trust them to tell us what is really happening with Caritas, then on what other important matters should we also be skeptical?

On April 28, the Boston Globe reported the following, “Christopher Murphy, a spokesman for the network, said the stewardship agreement would be designed to permanently maintain the hospital’s Catholic identity. That is significant because Cerberus may not be the owner for long; the investment firm often buys underperforming companies, turns them around, and then sells them at a profit.

“The main point is that it’s designed to last forever.  That’s the prevailing hope of everyone involved, that . . . the Catholic tradition of Caritas Christi stays in place forever.’’

On Cardinal Sean’s  May 7, 2010 blog, he wrote:

Our conversations between Caritas Christi and Cerberus Capital Management have continued, and it looks very positive. We announced yesterday that an agreement has been reached with Cerberus that ensures the Catholic identity of the Caritas Christi hospitals. The sale is still pending as the Attorney General has to review it, but this stewardship agreement was a key component for us because it will preserve the Catholic identity of Caritas.

The May 14 edition of The Pilot quotes Fr. Richard Erikson saying:

The Stewardship Agreement memorializes Steward’s commitment to maintain the Catholic identity of the Caritas Christi Healthcare system and its fidelity to the mission of the Church’s healthcare ministry.”

The Pilot also quotes Fr. Bryan Hehir as saying,

This is a substantive and structural commitment by the archdiocese and Steward to operate this hospital system by the religious and moral directives of the Catholic Church.”

Diamonds may be forever, but it turns out that Catholic healthcare in Boston is not.  Thursday night the Chair of the Caritas board of directors, James Karam, testified that in fact he cannot guarantee the continuing Catholic identity of Caritas after it is sold to the Steward Health Care System, a subsidiary of Cerberus Capital Management. According to the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts:

Addressing a packed audience in Dorchester Thursday night at a public hearing held by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office on the future of Carney Hospital, Karam said he told Cardinal O’Malley that he could not guarantee the future Catholic identity of Caritas, but could guarantee that the hospitals will be closed without the sale.

Karam’s statement contradicted repeated assurances by both Caritas Christi and the Archdiocese of Boston (including some given at the same hearing) that the system’s Catholic identity and mission, and its Catholic medical ethics, would be preserved under the new owners. The Catholic Action League has repeatedly cited the termination clause of the Notice of Transaction — which allows Steward to end the Catholic identity of Caritas at any time for virtually any reason provided it pays just 3% above the purchase price — as evidence that the so-called guarantees are meaningless.

Readers should note that the actual exit clause says they can abandon the Catholic identity for a charitable contribution of $25 million–it does not say “3% above the purchase price.”   Since a “purchase price” has never been disclosed–they only discuss a total investment amount that includes spending from Caritas’ future operating profits and cash assets–to say the $25 million represents “3% above the “purchase price” is not necessarily accurate. 

Also as we said in an earlier post, we do not yet know if the Caritas sale was really necessary to avoid closing hospitals, whether the healthcare system could have continued on its own without the sale, or whether this a good deal or not.  However, Caritas turned a profit of $30 million last year, they had their debt rating upgraded, and a $100 million bond issue planned for 2010 would have given them the funds needed to make most of the same capital improvements Cerberus is funding this year.  

We shared these concerns again with Mr. Karam, Dr. de la Torre, Cardinal O’Malley, and the Attorney General’s office over the weekend.  If we get a  response we will share it with you.

But do not hold your breath waiting.  Even if they respond, we are not sure we can believe whatever  they might say in that response.


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