End of Year Message: Catholic Donations

December 31, 2010

A lot of readers have been writing to us lately asking about worthwhile Catholic causes they can donate to if they would not like to give to the annual Catholic Appeal at this time.  A good number of people tell us they are getting just plain fed up with the corruption, six-figure salaries, deception, cronyism, and other breaches of trust they are seeing, and just do not trust how the Archdiocese is going to use their money–at least for right now–until they see things change.

If you are looking for great Catholic causes, here are a few suggestions from Boston Catholic Insider. We asked the Cardinal and his cabinet a few days ago via email for their thoughts and suggestions regarding how we should respond to people who want to re-direct their contributions or earmark them for specific causes, and we did not hear back from anyone.  So this is the best list we can offer.  We are pressed for time, so can only list the names and brief descriptions.  All do great work. Visit their websites and you may find an organization you have never heard of that you want to support.

  • Your local parish: this is your spiritual home, and they always need your support.
  • St. Johns Seminary: contributions can count towards the Catholic Appeal goal for your parish, but go only to the Seminary, not to Central funds.
  • Daughters of St. Paul: publishing, media, and evangelization
  • Brotherhood of Hope: local community of religious brothers who staffs Catholic campus ministry at Boston University and Northeastern University
  • Sisters of Life: New York-based religious order that promotes the sanctity of life
  • Cor Unum: feeds hundreds of thousands of poor and homeless in the greater Lawrence area; affiliated with St. Patricks in Lawrence
  • St. Francis House: feeds the poor and homeless in Boston
  • Catholic TV (formerly known as Boston Catholic TV): daily Mass for shut-ins, rosary, and a lot more.
  • St. Michaels Media: these are the folks behind RealCatholic TV
  • WQOM (Queen of Mary radio): new Catholic radio station in Boston

None of these organizations have asked us to promote their needs, and we are listing them entirely on our own without their knowledge, just because we know they are doing great work and can always use financial support.

Regardless of your perspectives on donating to the archdiocese or temporarily redirecting your contributions, these organizations will always need your help.

Here’s to a 2011 fulled with integrity, honesty, transparency, ethical practices, merit-based hiring and promotion, careful stewardship of assets, pay commensurate with Catholic Church standards for similarly qualified people, and overall stronger teaching, sanctifying, and governance in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Best wishes for a blessed New Year!


More Deception from Chancellor Jim McDonough

December 30, 2010

Our email has been pretty well over-flowing regarding the news of Tuesday, so we apologize for the slow response.  Frankly, we have so many more things to say about it, we could go on for days.  For now, just a few words about the deception by the Chancellor in his announcement message.

Canon. 494 §1. says that “In every diocese, after having heard the college of consultors and the Finance council, the bishop is to appoint a Finance officer who is truly expert in Financial affairs and absolutely distinguished for honesty.”

What happens if the Finance Officer does not distinguish himself for honesty, or, hypothetically speaking, distinguishes themself for deception?

We already have the “sham search” that hired Kathleen Driscoll, orchestrated by Jack Connors and Jim McDonough, with McDonough having been already planning to bring Driscoll over to the Pastoral Center as early as the summer of 2009.  Most recently, we have the deceptive comments to the Boston Globe by the Chancellor that no one in the Pastoral Center had gotten raises for the past 4 years–when in reality, a lot of people got cost of living or other increases in 2007-2008 and the proof is not only public information but we also have dozens of examples we cannot share publicly. Now there is his latest message about the hiring of his new Executive Director of everything the Chancellor does not want to manage himself or does not trust his existing 6-figure-salaried staff to manage.

Here are some highlights of his message, and our responses below it:

Jim McDonough wrote: “In this position, John will provide Central Ministries with a valuable skill set that will enable stronger internal project management and help improve communication and coordination among our various staffs. John brings to this position a breadth of experience that will be of significant assistance to the Archdiocese as we continue the effort to rebuild and strengthen our local Church for the benefit of our 1.8 million Catholics. A graduate of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., John has served as Chief Financial Officer of the White House during the Administration of President George W. Bush and as Chief Financial Officer of the US House of Representatives.

BCI: We know he had those job titles, but what were the results?  The George W. Bush administration was not exactly known for reduced spending and balanced budgets at a congressional level.  (No partisanship here–the Obama administration is also not known for reduced spending and balanced budgets).So, besides holding a fancy title, what did he actually do and accomplish in those jobs?

Jim McDonough wrote: He previously served as an Associate Dean at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The addition of John as Executive Director of Finance and Operations is intended to provide improved management and oversight in these critical areas.  It also acknowledges the wide scope of the Administration and Finance Secretariat and provides the necessary management depth to effectively meet the diverse and complex needs of our parishes, schools and ministries.”

BCI: Why do we need to hire someone else for around $200K/year to “acknowledge the wide scope of the Administration and Finance Secretariat?”  Have we not sufficiently acknowledged that by paying the Chancellor $250K/year and him and his combined staff more than $1M a year?  What does it say about the current Chancellor that in his nearly 5 years on the job, he has not brought himself, developed, or hired the “necessary management depth” to manage basically the same needs of our (more poorly attended) parishes, (fewer) schools, and (underfunded, pared-back) ministries we had when he arrived in 2006?

Why was this position never posted or advertised? Since it was never posted or advertised, how did Stroub find out about it (e.g. which insider did he know who brought him in)?

What did Mr. Stroub major in at Catholic University?  Why was some prior leadership or service to the Catholic Church not required for such a senior role? (Was he not even a lector or usher somewhere in Scranton, PA or DC?)

Why were Mr. Stroub’s most recent 4 years as Vice President of Human Resources (not finance and not operations) for a company that ships and warehouses beverages, candy, and other consumer products conveniently not even mentioned in the announcement?  To his credit, at his previous employer, Kane is Able, he talked in an article about how he dramatically reduced employee turnover amongst the truck-drivers who operate the company’s “fleet of 200 tractors and 800 trailers.”  (And the relevance of that experience with truck-drivers to the archdiocese would be…??)  His hiring philosophy was described in this article as, “attitude first and aptitude second. “Instead of focusing on the number of years they have spent operating a particular piece of machinery,” he explains, “[we look] for candidates who [demonstrate] a passion for customer service. Essentially, we hire for attitude and train for skill.”

Looking for a positive attitude for machinery operators is fine, but last time we checked, aptitude–namely, a talent, capability, readiness or quickness in learning; intelligence–was generally an innate personal characteristic that does not change much after someone shows up at the office.  Great–so does this mean we will hire more people like we already have hired in the past 5 years who know nothing about the Catholic Church or about their area of expertise?  Then after people who know nothing about the Church but are enthusiastic about a high-paid job are put on the dole using donor funds, we will just teach them about the Church and their functional area?  And over time, they will develop aptitude?

BCI critics will say we are attacking the guy before he has even started and should give him a chance.  Nothing personal against John–maybe he will be good and will put in-place a discipline for goal-setting–and the fact that we can find almost nothing about him via research online is a non-issue, he has no demonstrated service to the Catholic Church in the announcement, and the manner in which he has been hired and introduced is just terrible.  Maybe that hiring perspective just applies to blue-collar workers in the shipping and warehousing space, and it will be different here in the archdiocese.  We do not know. But when the hiring process is flawed or suspicious and the announcement withholds basic information, it is grounds for concern.

Jim McDonough wrote: “The Cardinal, Fr. Erikson and I are keenly aware of the need to do more with less. We recognize that everyone has taken on more and we are gratified by your tremendous work ethic and devotion to serving Christ and the Church. As Chancellor, I have endeavored to lead by reducing the most staff so that other ministries would be spared. Since I arrived at the Archdiocese, the staff headcount of my Secretariat has been reduced by 23%, declining from 91 to 70 persons.

BCI: This is where the real deception occurs.  What is the actual reduction in cost?  As “Priests for Transparency” asked, “How much have total salaries INCREASED in his Secretariat over the same time period?  Before and after consultants?”  How many of those “reductions” came about not because the position was eliminated, but rather because the position was simply moved from the Chancellor’s headcount to another departmental headcount?  Does the archivist count, who now reports into the Vicar General?  Does Carol Gustavson count, because her salary is paid by Benefits Trust?  What about the minor detail he did not mention about how the administration secretariat was spared in the previous 2 rounds of cuts before he joined, so some of his cuts are “just playing catch up”, as PFT noted yesterday?

How are some of the Chancellor’s ill-conceived and ill-thought-through reductions hurting the bottom line for every parishioner and pastor in the Archdiocese and resulting in hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in excessive costs?  How is the “reduced staff” doing managing the $5.5M+ spent over recent years on Lawson Software, consulting services, and hosting along?  How did getting rid a couple of the property management people work out?  How does saving money from those salaries–and now having a person responsible for real estate and properties who was a former loan officer and knows nothing about property management–help the archdiocese, when the current less qualified crew participated in the mismanagement of the St. Cecilia (Boston) renovation project?  What was the starting vs final price-tag–was it $14M (which the parish had in the bank) and is now ballooning to more like $20M by the time all work is done?  Why does the parish now need to take out a loan from the archdiocese and figure out how to mount a capital campaign to pay for some $6M of the renovation cost AFTER the majority of the project work has been completed?  Usually, the parish raises money BEFORE the project is launched, not after.  Whose oversight led to that situation?  And, um, how is that $50K new roof doing at St. Mary’s in Plymouth–you know, the one that should have been good for at least 15+ years but is now leaking? Has anyone been able to find the paperwork for the job, or the contractor yet?

Beyond that, in this time of huge heating bills for parishes and schools, exactly who on the Chancellor’s team is competent and qualified to help parishes and schools figure out the efficiency of their decades-old heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems, and whether there is an ROI benefit to upgrading those systems?  How much money is being poured down the proverbial “heating oil drain”?

How many hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in donor funds are being wasted because of mismanagement by the Chancellor and his team due to him letting qualified people go (so he can either claim he reduced head-count or bring-in his own cronies), hiring  people not qualified to preside over critical functions, and not finding a way to replace critical functions with competent in-house or outsourced resources?

And as PFT commented said, “Why does only McDonough get to reorganize by INCREASING staff/headcount? The Schools Office continually said that the 3 new associate superintendent positions came from 5 positions that were eliminated. Of course he’ll say that Gustavson is now on a different payroll – but that’s garbage.”

Jim McDonough wrote: Throughout this time we have directed available resources to serve our parishes. John’s position, and the experience and love for Christ and the Catholic Faith he brings to us, is intended to continue to build on that goal as a commitment to our culture of support to parishes, schools and ministries.”

BCI: Yeah, whatever resources were available after the Chancellor and the administration spent $4+M on six-figure salaries and the legal department.  Sorry, which goal is that John coming on-board is building on?  Is that the goal of doing more with less?  Wording about “love of Christ” sounds vaguely familiar as well.  Hmm, where did we hear that before?  Seems that when Terry Donilon was hired, we were told, “Terry Donilon is an experienced communicator who loves the church.”  If John Stroub loves Christ and the Catholic Faith, how come service to the Church is nowhere in his biography up to now?

How do we justify yet another six-figure salary in finance and administration, while the lay pension plan has been frozen and both the lay and clergy retirement funds remain underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars?  What exactly is being done to re-fund those and fulfill the legal, moral, and canonical responsibilities and commitments to 10,000+ people?  The $1M raised at the Priest Appreciation Dinner was nice, but where will the couple hundred million dollars come from needed to shore up both funds?

Lastly, unstated in the communication was anything about what the $250K/year Chancellor will be doing, now that he has fewer direct reports.  Commenter “Carolyn” asked: “So with only three employees reporting directly to McDonough, and with no direct responsibilities of his own, what does he do?  How does he while away the time?  Besides sitting in meetings spinning the wheel on his Blackberry, what does he do?  Maybe he could take up knitting.”

When the Chancellor joined the archdiocese in June of 2006, he said in the Boston Business Journal, he was “very blessed and didn ‘t need a job.”

That is good to hear, since under Canon Law, some might say it appears that the behaviors demonstrated by James McDonough disqualify him from holding the job of chief Finance Officer.

What do you think?  If Jim McDonough doesn’t need a job, should he take up knitting?  Or better still, maybe work on his golf game?


Newsflash: Welcome Another Six-Figure Salary to 66 Brooks Drive

December 28, 2010

Welcome back, post-blizzard, to the latest edition of Boston Catholic Insider.  We are now back in town safe and sound and were primarily going to focus on another topic today—namely, the fungible nature of fund-raising from the Archdicoese, but the alarm bells are going off over the latest move by Chancellor Jim McDonough—the hiring of an Executive Director of Finance and Operations, making in the high six-figures, along with yet another organizational change.  Anyone thinking about making an end-of-year donation check to the Catholic appeal may want to read further before you break open the checkbook.

First, has anyone else noticed that for the first time in six years, there is no published fund-raising goal for the 2010 Catholic Appeal?  Parishes have a number they are each supposed to raise and pastors are hounded by the fund-raising team to meet that goal, but the new Jack Connors/Jim McDonough-conceived archdiocesan fund-raising apparatus as a whole has no published goal?  (When the campaign launched earlier this year, they only said they wanted to “match last year’s success.”)  Does that mean enthusiasm level, or the numerical goal of $15 million?  How are Kathleen Driscoll and her “dream team” of people from the Campaign for Catholic Schools going to be measured and held accountable?  What are the consequences for their future employment if they miss?  By the way, who knows how far off their target the Campaign for Catholic Schools “2010 initiative”–whose name suggests the campaign ends in 3 days—will fall?  When Kathleen Driscoll was announced to head the new development entity, they were $12 million short of their $70 million target.  Will the team that will probably fail at hitting that goal also fail to reach the unstated target for the Catholic Appeal? 

With the economy still depressed and 40% of parishes in the red, what is the exact amount raised to date in the 2010 Catholic Appeal?  How far off are they expected to be and what will happen to make up for the shortfall?   We hear there are already tensions between pastors and Ms. Driscoll over the Appeal, so who knows what will happen as the extent of a potential fund-raising shortfall becomes clearer.

People who work for the Pastoral Center know the routine when it comes to pruning from the budget.  Shortly after the appeal closes, former banker, Chancellor McDonough, will know how much money he has in the bank, and then the annual expense reduction panic will set in. Meetings with each department head will be scheduled and tracked in a spreadsheet to discuss how they will cut money (expense or heads) from their budgets. Some pastoral ministry or ministries that previously were important will now become less important as they are put on the chopping block, and some long-time loyal employee(s) working for $40-50K will be put on the 2011 layoff list.

This all is a backdrop to the news du jour, namely, that Chancellor Jim McDonough has hired a new Executive Director of Finance and Operations.  Here is the email notice. 

From:McDonough, James P. [mailto:James_McDonough@rcab.org]
Sent: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 8:57 AM
To: _Pastoral_Center
Subject: Welcoming John Straub, Executive Director of Finance and Operations for Central Ministries

Good morning, I am pleased to announce that Mr. John Straub will be joining the Archdiocese of Boston as the Executive Director of Finance and Operations for Central Ministries. John joins the Finance and Administration Secretariat and will report to me. John will start on January 2nd. His office will be located on the fourth floor of the Pastoral Center.

In this position, John will provide Central Ministries with a valuable skill set that will enable stronger internal project management and help improve communication and coordination among our various staffs. John brings to this position a breadth of experience that will be of significant assistance to the Archdiocese as we continue the effort to rebuild and strengthen our local Church for the benefit of our 1.8 million Catholics. A graduate of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., John has served as Chief Financial Officer of the White House during the Administration of President George W. Bush and as Chief Financial Officer of the US House of Representatives. He previously served as an Associate Dean at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The addition of John as Executive Director of Finance and Operations is intended to provide improved management and oversight in these critical areas. It also acknowledges the wide scope of the Administration and Finance Secretariat and provides the necessary management depth to effectively meet the diverse and complex needs of our parishes, schools and ministries.

John will have the following individuals as his direct reports:
· Joe McEnness, Director of Risk Management
· Kevin Kiley, Director of Budget and Planning
· Glen Mattera, Director of Finance
· Jim DiFrancesco, Director of Human Resources
· Director of IT (search underway)

I will continue to have Carol Gustavson, Pension/Medical Plan Trust Administrator, as a direct report.

In addition to her role as Trust Administrator, Carol will continue to coordinate Building Operations and the central telephone operations as well as the building floor plan.

Denise McKinnon-Biernat, Director of Parish Services, will be a new direct report to me.Denise plays a critical role with the Improved Financial Relationship Model and plays a major support role in Pastoral Planning. Deb Dillon, Director of Real Estate, will report to Denise.

The Cardinal, Fr. Erikson and I are keenly aware of the need to do more with less. We recognize that everyone has taken on more and we are gratified by your tremendous work ethic and devotion to serving Christ and the Church. As Chancellor, I have endeavored to lead by reducing the most staff so that other ministries would be spared. Since I arrived at the Archdiocese, the staff headcount of my Secretariat has been reduced by 23%, declining from 91 to 70 persons. Throughout this time we have directed available resources to serve our parishes. John’s position, and the experience and love for Christ and the Catholic Faith he brings to us, is intended to continue to build on that goal as a commitment to our culture of support to parishes, schools and ministries.

Thank you,
Jim

James P. McDonough
Chancellor

Archdiocese of Boston
Pastoral Center
66 Brooks Drive
Braintree, MA 02184
P: 617-746-5670
F: 617-779-4571

We have so much to say about this, it has taken a little longer to put together all of our thoughts.  Here are a few initial reactions.

  1. Another big salary.  Did this one run through the new anonymous “Compensation Committee”?  Is Jack McCarthy, the vice chair of the Finance Council, paying attention to all this?  And is the Finance Council approving all this?
  2. What does this say about the ability of Chancellor McDonough and/or his direct reports (making six-figure salaries) to get the job done for the $1+M they all are already being paid collectively?  Who exactly has now been determined to be incompetent and thus will be shown the door some time soon?  The Chancellor?  one of his previous deputies?  The Archdiocese is shrinking every year, not growing, so why is it the Chancellor cannot keep up with his duties?  Is he busy engaged in activities not on his job description?  (wherever that job description may be…)  At one point, Kevin Kiley was supposed to be the Chancellor’s #2 person, but that did not work out.  Then Carol Gustavson was to be the #2, but she had the minor complicating factor of not being able to get along well with people. (Not a personal attack–objectively true).  Now we have this new person.  Is the new person being positioned to become the next Chancellor, should the current chancellor, hypothetically speaking, find his term not renewed or leave voluntarily? 
  3. What exactly are the job descriptions, goals/success metrics, accountabilities, and competencies needed for the positions that Kevin Kiley and Carol Gustavson hold today?  Are they maintaining their jobs because they are highly competent and capable of doing these jobs, or because the Chancellor sees them as loyal to his agenda?
  4. Who has decided to pay Carol Gustavson $150K to manage benefits, the building floorplan and the phone system, or even keep her–a trained, non-practicing attorney–in a job in view of the reduction in responsibilities? She is no longer listed as head of HR in the memo, so has her pay been reduced?  How many minutes a month could managing the building floorplan for a continually shrinking Pastoral Center staff possibly take?  Does everyone not already have a cube, or are they planning a New Years game of musical chairs along with the reorg? Or might the Chancellor, hypothetically, simply want or need to have a loyalist continue to control who gets cubes vs offices, and the size of offices for those who get them? Regarding the telephone system, did they not get rid of the phone operator, as it is mostly automated now? By the way, is Carol managing the mailroom delivery as well?  That should add lots of extra burden on her schedule–what, with a relatively new person on-board who replaced the long-term loyal mail-room guy with decades of service who was laid off because they did not realize he was really needed, then never rehired, and replaced by a newcomer? 
  5. Does no one see that $150K/year for the proudly ex-Catholic Gustavson as excessive spending for that role?  Has anyone compared that compensation to other dioceses?  (We have, and the information we got back said it objectively excessive).  She cannot even publish a list of trustees for her Benefits Trust. Can that same job not be done for around $75K/year instead?   By the way, were there not people previously in HR at the RCAB skilled with benefits doing basically this same job for much less pay who are now gone?
  6. Was this an open search?  How many candidates were interviewed?  Why is it that the announcement mentions nothing of Mr. Straub’s most recent job stint for 4 years in a largely non-relevant role as VP for Kane is Able, a small Scranton, PA-based family-run third-party logistics provider that helps consumer packaged goods companies warehouse and distribute goods?  How is it that, coincidentally, that the new person just happened to have previously been at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where Fr. Bryan Hehir earns his own six-figure salary and cushy future pension that will afford him freedom from any of the retirement-related worries that other less well-connected diocesan priests have to worry about?
  7. The comment that “As Chancellor, I have endeavored to lead by reducing the most staff so that other ministries would be spared” needs to be explained more completely.  How many lower-level staff were laid-off and replaced by much more expensive staff?”  How much has he spent on consultants?  How much has been spent on the ill-conceived Lawson Software project?  The comment “Throughout this time we have directed available resources to serve our parishes,” is also deceptive. We will go into this more separately.
  8. Where is the publicly posted copy of the 2010-2011 operating budget, as part of the financial transparency and improved financial relationship model?  The 2010 budget is posted, but here we are half-way through the fiscal year, and no sign of the 2010-2011 budget.  Why is it so difficult for the Chancellor or someone on his $1.1M staff to post the budget?  Exactly how far through the year are you going to tell pastors who are asked to break their backs raising money for the Appeal how you are spending that money? 

Apologies for any excessive emotion that comes through in this post.  We are livid and believe every pastor, priest and lay person in the archdiocese should be as well. 

We have been told, and we concur, that there are 3 things that drive some action by this archdiocese–lawsuits (or threat of them), bad publicity (or threat of it), and money.

It is clear that the current leadership does not get it, and they need a wake-up call from both the clergy and laity.  Something radically different needs happen quickly with governance in the archdiocese.  We have a few ideas, but will save those for a next post.


Belated Merry Christmas

December 26, 2010

We thought this post went out yesterday, on Christmas Day, and just realized it was somehow unpublished and never went live.

Now that it is a day late getting to you, we hope all had a very happy, healthy and blessed Christmas–full of the peace and joy of our savior Jesus Christ!   We took the day off from blogging, and intended yesterday to offer you Cardinal Sean O’Malley Christmas message, as it appeared in The Pilot.

Cardinal O’Malley’s Christmas message for families

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley
12/24/2010

At Christmas we are summoned to Bethlehem where faith gathers us to witness the Incarnation. With the eyes of our heart we gaze at God’s humility and love which comes to us as a child. Like Mary we ponder this mystery in our hearts. God has become one of us. He is part of a family.

Jesus’ longest sermon is the 30 years of his hidden life at Nazareth. Our Savior wants to teach us about the importance of family life. With Mary and Joseph, Jesus lives a life of family, of community, of love, of prayer, of work and of play. It was a life that prepared him for his mission.

The Christmas cards we send and receive — the stained glass windows in our Churches, the manger under the tree — are the family album of our family, the family of Jesus.

Jesus’ love and humility and his obedience to the will of the Father are an example to us and the secret of building a strong family life. We begin our life of discipleship in baptism. There God gives us newness of life and calls us to holiness. We must discern our individual vocation in an atmosphere of prayer and trust. For some, the path to God and to holiness leads through the carpenter shop, the factory or the office. For many, the call is to marry and raise a family. The vocation of Catholic marriage is “to marry in the Lord,” to make a life-long covenant with one’s spouse and with God. It is a profoundly religious act and has far reaching repercussions in the life of the community.

To a believer, love means a decision, a surrender and self-sacrifice. Love requires great strength and great humility. Learning how to love is the best preparation for marriage and family. We learn love by experiencing God’s love, and we teach love by loving. In the Church we talk about conversion; what it means is learning to turn our back on our selfishness and sin in order to grow closer to God, the source of all love. Some people fear that loving God diminishes our capacity to love our family and friends. Actually, quite the opposite is true. The greater our love for God, the more it will enhance our love for others. Certainly the life of Mother Teresa is a clear indication of this.

For the family to be a school of love, it is necessary for the members of the family to have time together. This is often difficult in today’s world because of work schedules and the many demands on our time. Nevertheless, if the health of the family is going to be a priority, the family must come together, especially at the dinner table. The dinner table can be the altar in the home. More than all the negotiating tables at the United Nations or the White House, what happens at the dinner table can profoundly affect people’s lives and the future of society. When a family can pray together, get to know one another and share their aspirations and fears, they experience a sense of belonging, an identity.

A family also needs to share together at the Lord’s Table, the Sunday Eucharist. It is there that we experience our spiritual family in the parish and are nourished by the Word of God and the Bread of Life, Holy Communion.

One of the painstaking, yet beautiful tasks of young parents is teaching their children to speak. I am always touched to see a young Mom or Dad patiently repeating a sound, a word or a phrase. Every parent accepts that responsibility lovingly because they realize how important speech is. By the same token, these parents must be teachers of prayer. They must teach their children to speak to God. Children are often bored at Mass if they do not know how to pray. When we pray, going to Mass makes sense.

One of the best ways to revitalize the family is to recapture the sacredness of the Lord’s Day. At our Sunday Eucharist we gather as the household of the faithful. Together we witness to the world that Jesus Christ is risen and we recognize him “in the breaking of the Bread.” The miracle of the Mass takes place to forge us into a spiritual family, the Body of Christ, the Church.

The Eucharist finds its origins in the Infant in the manger at Bethlehem. It is because Christ is born with a human body, of the Virgin Mary, that he can later give us the same body under the form of bread and wine. The very name Bethlehem means “House of Bread,” and the first crib was a manger, a box containing feed for the flock. Now the tabernacle is the manger that contains the body and blood of Christ, there to share our poverty and to feed us, strengthen us for our mission in the world.

Nothing is more formative of children than the example of parents and their involvement in the religious formation of their children. Catholic parents are usually very good about sending their children to religious education, CCD, especially so that their children can make their First Communion, and receive Confirmation, but this is not enough. The parent’s example and interest are paramount in the faith formation of their children. Parents must speak to their children about God, the Church, the Sacraments and the Commandments. Children need to see the faith lived in the lives of the important people in their lives. The selection of godparents and sponsors should reflect this concern to provide the children with role models whose lives and values allow the child to see our faith as a way of life, a life of spiritual relationships that bind us to God, to the saints, to all our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Parents, when you take your children to visit the creche in your parish Church take them also to the tabernacle to adore the Messiah who received the homage of the shepherds, the Magi and of all creation. Talk to your children about Jesus’ love for them, his desire to be close to us, to feed us.

The manger scene also teaches us about what is truly important. The center is Christ. The center is a baby. The baby is surrounded by loving parents and not much else. The greatest thing a man can give his children is to love their mother. The greatest thing a mother can give her children is to love their father. The love of Mary and Joseph is the only treasure the Christ Child has. Being born in poverty and simplicity is God’s way of speaking to us about what is truly important. Eisenhower used to say: “When I was young, we were very poor, but we didn’t know it.” He did not notice his family’s poverty because there was so much love and joy in his home.

As you explain to your children that “There was no room at the inn,” teach them to have compassion for the poor, the sick and the suffering. Teach them that we need to share what we have received. When we do that, we are giving gifts to the Christ Child Himself. It might also be an opportunity to tell our children that success is not measured in money but in goodness and love.

What will the future bring? Much depends on our families and our ability to form new generations of families firmly committed to following Jesus Christ. To do that, we must love them very much, pray together, spend time together and teach our children how to love by showing them what love is. The star is over the manger. Let us go to Bethlehem to glimpse God’s love in the face of a child in a loving family.


BCI’s Six-Month Anniversary: Statistics and FAQ

December 23, 2010

We are pleased to share with you that today, December 23, marks the six-month anniversary of the blog.  We take a break from our normal fare to just give you a few statistics, and answers to frequently asked questions.

  • First Post: was on June 23, 2010, shortly before 10% of the Pastoral Center staff was cut.  In that post, “Inside the Archdiocese of Boston,” we talked about some of the key staff and their salaries, and we shared the org chart as it looked on-paper.  We also observed, “It is not clear to us what Cardinal Sean’s vision for the archdiocese is, and where we would find a written statement of that, so it is also not clear to us how anyone…would make it reality.”  We think our call on June 23 was accurate then, and is still accurate today.
  • Total # of Posts in Past 180 days: 96, including today.
  • Blog Hits, Visits, and Visitors: 142, 129 hits, 88,154 visitors, 55,781 unique visitors, 32,373 returning visitors
  • Amount of time spent researching and writing the blog: Average of 2-3 hours/day since June 23.  All things included–responding to emails and comments, researching, verifying information, writing, editing– each post on average requires 4-5 hours of work
  • Reason for anonymity: Fear of threats to livelihood and retaliation by the archdiocese.  The Chancellor and other archdiocesan staff have met with lawyers to try and determine what kind of legal action was possible against the blog and bloggers.
  • Location of blog server: WordPress.com.  Not on any archdiocesan or parish server.
  • Number of people behind the blog: We are not saying.
  • Primary sources of information: Outside of 66 Brooks Drive
  • Anonymity of submissions and newstips to BCI: We never reveal sources.  You can create an anonymous Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail account and send us information without ever identifying yourself if you wish. It does help if you use a functional email account, so we can respond back with questions. 
  • Number of times the archdiocese has reached out asking to meet: one time, on Sept 7. 
  • Proudest moment: Hearing that Bishop Kicanas was not elected President of the U.S.C.C.B., and that Catholic blogs, including BCI, had apparently made at least some small impact in the grand scheme of that election.

Many thanks to all those who have contributed to the blog in various capacities and to everyone who has read the blog and/or has passed on word to your friends and family members.  The blog really is a collective effort that would not be where it is today without the contributions, support, and encouragement of a lot of people. 

We hope and pray that you are have a blessed Christmas.


Top 10 Ways to Improve Cardinal Sean’s Blog and Address Governance Concerns in Boston : Part 2

December 21, 2010

Along with the snow last night, we have sparked quite a flurry of comments in the last 24 hours with our Monday post about Cardinal Sean’s BlogIf our posts might be classified as either primarily “News” or primarily “Opinion,” allow us to tell you in advance that this particular post is primarily “Opinion.”  Grab a cup of tea, coffee, hot cider, or hot chocolate, as this post will take you a few minutes to read.

Our wording and the subject of our post yesterday on Cardinal Sean’s Blog may not have made it sufficiently clear we were raising two separate but related issues: i) The blog–what is covered on it and the manner in which it is used as Cardinal Sean’s primary communications vehicle with the people of the Boston archdiocese, and ii) If Cardinal Sean’s blog does accurately reflect how the Cardinal spends his time, what could be done about both the blog and the leadership shortcomings that are manifested in a variety of ways, just one of which is the blog.

We see the two—the blog, and the questions about the Cardinal’s commitment to diocesan leadership–as connected. Objectively, it is hard to look at Cardinal Sean’s blog and not see it as having become primarily a diary of the Cardinal’s travel and social schedule.  Objectively, it is also hard to look at the current leadership situation in the archdiocese (as documented here on this blog since June) and not see a crisis of governance or evidence of abdication of episcopal responsibility.(If you do not agree with the last statement, just read the past six months of blog posts). The Cardinal’s blog is a very public manifestation of what many people see as a grave leadership void and governance crisis in Boston that is getting worse, not better.  That is why we wrote the post yesterday and are continuing it today.

As is often the case, people posting in the BCI comments sometimes say it much better than we did.  We will give our complete list of suggestions further down in the post, but first we share comments from “Carolyn” that restate the situation regarding Cardinal Sean’s blog and how it manifests concerns about his leadership:

He avoids being present in his office, and he avoids contact with the priests and with the faithful unless the venues are large or carefully orchestrated.  He can speak to a church packed with 1,000 people at a parish anniversary and seem very in touch, but he will sit in a meeting with ten people discussing a critical need in his diocese and stare blankly at his notebook without giving any spoken or personal follow-through to indicate that he has understood the gravity of the situation.  This is not OK.

He does not delegate, he abdicates. There is a serious and deeply troubling difference.

The [Cardinal’s] blog is a squandered opportunity.  It can certainly play a large PR role, but it should also be a platform for the formation of the people of God.  It can be a public record of his photo ops, but it should also contain unequivocal statements of support for the teachings of the Church.

If you are a Catholic living in the Archdiocese of Boston, and you know where the Church’s primary strengths and weaknesses lie, you are hungry to know that the ordinary knows — and is acting to build up the Church.  Compare the public statements of Bishop Olmsted in Arizona, Bishop Neinstadt in Minnesota, Archbishop Dolan in New York, and so on, to the Boston Archbishop’s public statements.  Compare the public record on finances and other serious matters, to the discharge of his pastoral and executive responsibility with the reality on the ground in the RCAB.

Knowing these things and reading the blog would leave one believing that the central administration of the Archdiocese of Boston is in disarray, and its ordinary is not personally attentive to (or even completely aware of?) the crises of the local church.

The blog is a squandered opportunity, and a somewhat frightening illustration of what people believe constitutes the governance of the Archdiocese of Boston because it is the only forum in which the ordinary communicates with his people on a regular basis.  BCI…does a service to point to such a public example of the disconnect between what is required of the ordinary, as opposed to what the public record indicates he actually accomplishes.

What to do about this?

First about the blog alone. As we said yesterday, we suggest the Cardinal and those responsible for the blog filter out content not likely to be interest to the average Catholic in the pews or priests & religious (ie. his travel and social schedule–especially when it involves photo-opps with rich and famous, trips outside of Boston that seem to have no teachings/sanctifying/governing purpose, travel to be with friends and family, weddings performed).  We assume this could save the Cardinal and/or his staff at least 2-4 hours per week, which can be put towards other more meaningful efforts.

Among those more meaningful efforts would be to proactively put together an editorial calendar of important blog topics that help advance the mission of the Catholic Church in Boston.  That calendar would be used to drive blog content. (ie. prayer, the sacraments, evangelization, defense of life, marriage and family, bringing God into every moment of your day, etc.).  The Cardinal’s celebration of Masses at local parishes and visits to local priests/religious are worthy of coverage still.  This editorial calendar would complement that, and be followed weekly as a replacement for what today is almost entirely just a travel and social diary.

Secondly, about the leadership crisis, manifested in a lot of different ways, including the blog. Instead of the Cardinal spending even 1-2 hours/week blogging about his travel and social schedule (and/or dictating the blog), or much worse, him consuming many days each week traveling–which then creates the perceived need to photograph and blog the travels–we suggest he curtail unnecessary travel outside of Boston and instead use that time for Boston-related teaching, sanctifying, and governance, most of which then creates better blogging opportunities!

Here are our newly updated Top 10 Ways to Improve Cardinal Sean’s Blog and/or Help Address Governance Concerns in Boston.

  1. Teaching: Cover some teaching in Cardinal Sean’s blog from the lectionary’s scriptural readings of the Sunday Mass.  Maybe it is a written excerpt from the Cardinal’s homiletic preaching on the Sunday Mass readings.  Lately, on the rare occasion when there is a homily posted to the blog, it is usually via video, not text, so many people skip it. Better to write out the key points so people can read them and/or share them, even if a video accompanies it. If the key points come from a hand-written outline of the homily, it is better than nothing.
  2. Parish Support and Outreach: We assume that the Cardinal and his team are meeting with pastors of the 40% of parishes currently in the red to brainstorm, apply the best minds and resources from the Pastoral Center, cut archdiocesan fees, share best practices from other parishes, and figure out how to help as many as possible become financially solvent ASAP. The ideas generated from these sessions could be blogged to show what the Cardinal and archdiocese are doing to strengthen parishes.
  3. Central Ministries Governance (Salaries): We assume the Cardinal is concerned with the high salaries paid to a small group of archdiocesan leaders and how this takes away from funding other important initiatives to advance the mission of the Church. His blog can cover how the Cardinal is (hopefully) diving into the issue of the six-figure salaries of his top 10-15 lieutenants, and directing his team and the Finance Council to quickly research comparable salaries in other dioceses and cut $500K-$1 million in unnecessary expense from those salaries, so those funds can be freed for ministries and advancing the main mission of the Church in Boston. The blog can also share the committed timeframe for implementing those cuts.
  4. Central Ministries Governance (Team): A key challenge for the Cardinal going forward is to make sure he has the right team in-place. Among Jesus’ first public ministry actions was picking his team.  He chose the disciples and immediately began proclaiming a powerful new vision of the Kingdom of God. Does Cardinal O’Malley have a team of senior people who share a sense of holy dissatisfaction with the status quo of corruption, conflicts of interest, ethical breaches, cronyism, excessive compensation, and deception?  If not, then he should undertake a process of reviewing his team and replacing people (full-time staff and outside advisors) with Catholics who accept and believe what the church teaches and first and foremost want to serve the Church in an ethical manner and build the Kingdom of God.  As part of this effort, for those people kept or those who newly join the leadership team, the Cardinal can share on his blog how he is asking HR and functional managers to define job descriptions for each key executive role, objectives, accountabilities, and measurements of success (credit blog commenter, A.J. Constantino, who recommended this as Standard Operating Procedures in his Dec. 9 comments).  Those goals, high-level job descriptions, and measurements of success can be published on the Cardinal’s blog for the most important positions when people are announced, and would also be shared by the Vicar General in communicating new hires internally.
  5. Pastoral Leadership and Support for Priests: If the Cardinal can save 2 hours/week from blogging his travel schedule, that time could instead be put towards meeting one-on-one with 4 priests a week for 30 minutes each to listen to and respond to their needs and concerns. In a years’ time, he will have met with 200 priests and in two years, it will be 400 priests. Officially renewing the terms of pastors that have expired and not leaving them in a state of “limbo” as far as how long they will remain pastor of a parish would be a good part of this effort.We would see the needs of priests and action the Cardinal takes to address their needs as private information and not appropriate for blogging.
  6. Central Ministries Governance (Spending): We assume the Cardinal and Finance Council wish to get to a Corporation Sole Central Ministries budget that has income and expenditures balanced without the one-time drawing down of special funds (e.g. insurance fund-type assets) done by Chancellor McDonough in 2010 which cannot be repeated year-after-year. Are funds being spent responsibly across every department, and appropriately on the most important ministerial priorities? Are all important ministries provided for and funded in the future, even after certain restricted funds that currently pay operating expenses are exhausted?  What efforts are underway to eliminate wasteful spending?  The important ministerial priorities can be blogged, as well as the specific efforts to advance those ministerial priorities and to eliminate wasteful spending so that limited donor funds are used most effectively.
  7. Boosting Mass Attendance: Archdiocesan statistics have said that only about 17% of Catholics in Boston attend Mass regularly, and we hear the number has actually dropped to more like around 12% . Beyond the investment in the “Catholics Come Home” initiative (television advertising, parish events and personal invitations), do we understand why such a small number attend Mass?  Are there parishes where a lot more Catholics attend Mass regularly?  If so, why?  Which parishes are good at evangelizing fallen-away Catholics?  How are lessons learned being shared? For those parishes or regions where it is lowest, why is it so low?  We assume the Cardinal, the Presbyteral Council, and Archdiocean Pastoral Council have discussed the factors leading to low Mass attendance and best practices for evangelization as the foundation for launching “Catholics Come Home”, and those findings seem like they would be interesting for everyone in the archdiocese to hear more of via Cardinal Sean’s blog, so we know how deal with them and can best support the new outreach initiatives.
  8. Topics discussed at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council Meetings and/or Presbyteral Council Meetings: Within limits of what is considered confidential, if a topic was considered worthy enough to discuss at a quarterly meeting of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council–and those members are asked to share the news back with their own parish and neighboring parishes, and the minutes are posted publicly–why wouldn’t the Cardinal blog about the same topic for everyone in the Archdiocese to hear? Same would hold for a high-level list of non-confidential topics discussed with the Presbyteral Council, or even the Finance Council.
  9. Responding to Mail: It is rather well-established by now that most people who write a letter to Cardinal Sean will never see a response—even if the letter is marked “personal and confidential” and handed to him in-person.  With some of the time saved from less travel and less blogging about travel, we suggest the Cardinal apply that time towards reading and responding to his personal and confidential mail from the past year or six months, or ensuring that someone on his staff personally responds to all messages that were not of a confidential nature.
  10. Communication with Catholics in Parishes: The Cardinal went to Dublin and said he was there to listen, but here in Boston we have had no opportunities for the same. Commenter, “Angry Parish Council Member” suggested the following: “a series of ‘Town Hall’ meetings in different regions of the Archdiocese with the Cardinal presenting his priorities for the diocese and people getting to ask him questions and hear his responses. Then he would blog the most frequently heard comments and his responses and follow-up. Just like they are promoting “Catholics Come Home” to bring fallen-away Catholics back to the church, they could call this “Cardinal Come Home” since it would be bringing the Cardinal back in contact with his diocese.”  Prior to rolling out the Town Hall-style meetings, perhaps every time the Cardinal says Mass in a local parish, the parish can host a 30-minute coffee hour afterwards so the Cardinal can talk about the top priorities for the diocese and also invite a few minutes of open Q&A.

So, there you have it now—the exclusive Boston Catholic Insider list of “Ten Ways to Improve Cardinal Sean’s Blog and/or Help Address Governance Concerns in Boston.”  Any one can be chosen individually, several can be combined from the “a la carte” menu, or for the episcopal leader with a hearty appetite, the buffet offering is also available.

Critics of BCI or this post specifically may say it is inappropriate, disrespectful, and presumptuous of us to publish such a list. We disagree.  We believe we are communicating the needs of the faithful in a respectful way, as called for under the Code of Canon Law, Canon 212, which says:

§2 Christ’s faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, and their wishes to the Pastors of the Church.
§3 They have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.

We hope that you, our readers, and Cardinal O’Malley and his team receive this in the spirit in which it is intended–that described in Canon 212.

Please avoid personal attacks via comments.  If those come through, they will be moderated.


Top 10 Ways to Improve Cardinal Sean’s Blog

December 20, 2010

This week, we will hit our 6-month anniversary blog post.  Before we get to that milestone, in response to reader complaints and frustration with the content of Cardinal Sean’s Blog, today we weigh in with some thoughts on his latest post and his blog in general.

We respect the significant commitment the Cardinal has made to his blog as a means of communicating, and he obviously has been at it a bit longer than us.  Still, we have learned a few things over 90+ posts and felt he and the people who support him with writing, editing, and technically implementing the blog content might benefit by some feedback.

In the Cardinal’s most recent post it took digging through 53 pictures and photographs and 35 page-downs to learn what Cardinal Sean did in Paraguay: he stopped in Buenos Aires en route, celebrated a number of Masses, visited the nuncio and his menagerie of animals, received an honorary doctorate degree and medallion, gave a talk on Catholic education, met with some Paraguay bishops, had a service at a Capuchin church, flew on a small prop jet to the City of San Pedro, received a key to the city from the mayor (in appreciation for benefactors in Boston who supported initiatives to feed local-area poor families and children), and met with the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay and President of Paraguay. 

A lot of activity and photos in one trip, but one might ask, how did any of this help the Archdiocese of Boston, or even Paraguay for that matter?  We cannot tell from the post. 

We realize there are certain things one has to do as Cardinal.  But the question we keep asking ourselves every time we read his blog is whether Cardinal Sean’s blog reflects what he is actually spending most of his time doing, or does it just reflect the parts of his weekly schedule that he and his advisors feel are of interest to Boston Catholics?  Either of two situations must be going on:

Situation I
The blog does accurately reflect what the Cardinal spends most of his time doing—traveling outside of Boston, attending fund-raisers, performing ceremonial functions, and celebrating Masses in different locations.  If so, then what should the priests and laity of the archdiocese do to encourage the Cardinal to limit his travel and whatever even small amount of time is spent blogging, and instead spend more time on the responsibilities of the ordinary to teach, sanctify, and govern in Boston?

OR

Situation II
The blog and other public communications do not accurately reflect what the Cardinal is doing to teach, sanctify and govern in Boston. If so, perhaps if the Cardinal and his team get some feedback that people want to see his teaching, sanctifying, and governing more strongly demonstrated publicly, then he might change the content of his blog, his public schedule and other public communications to address this need—all for the greater good of the archdiocese.

We do not have direct access to the daily schedule for the Cardinal so cannot tell you definitively how many days per month he spends in Boston vs elsewhere and whether we are dealing with Situation I or Situation II.  We will simply share thoughts on the blog in general that would apply in either case.

Why People Want to See More About Teaching, Sanctifying, and Governing

In Pope John Paul II’s general audience of October 28, 1992, he said the following:

As successors of the apostles, bishops are called to share in the mission which Jesus Christ himself entrusted to the Twelve and the Church. ..The mission of individual bishops is fulfilled within a strictly defined sphere…The individual bishops…exercise their pastoral government over the portion of the People of God committed to their care, and not over other churches nor over the universal Church” (LG 23).

The majority of bishops exercise their pastoral mission in dioceses…We read again in the [Second Vatican] Council: “Individual bishops who have been entrusted with the care of a particular church–under the authority of the Supreme Pontiff–feed their sheep in the name of the Lord as their own ordinary and immediate pastors, performing for them the office of teaching, sanctifying and governing” (CD 11)

Are we in Boston entitled to want to see these sorts of activities more visibly demonstrated and communicated by our bishop through venues that might include his blog?  Does Cardinal Sean’s blog reflect this exercising of his office?  We wish it did, but just do not see it in the blog. 

What Could Be Improved with Cardinal Sean’s Blog

The most typical complaints we hear about what is posted to his blog are the following: too many pictures, too many functions that seem to have nothing to do with Boston, too many parties and photo-opps with big-money donors and wealthy advisors, too much travel outside of Boston, too little use of the blog for teaching, and too little about governing in Boston. 

We also hear complaints about how the Cardinal (or his writer, Pilot editor Antonio Enrique) expresses his experiences amongst the rich and famous.  Here are a few examples:

  • Last September, in communicating his presence at the funeral of Sen. Ted Kennedy,  Cardinal Sean wrote:

 “the music was outstanding with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus enriching the liturgy along with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham who later sang an absolutely striking rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”  Cellist Yo-Yo Ma graced us with his beautiful solo performance of Bach and later joined Placido Domingo, who sang the “Panis Angelicus.”  Placido has a superb voice.  I told him how much I like the Zarzuela, the Spanish classical musical theater productions.  His family had a troupe that presented Zarzuelas in Mexico and he promised to arrange a performance.”

On July 23  of this year, the Cardinal wrote about presiding over the wedding of billioniare philanthropist Peter Lynch’s daughter, Elizabeth, to a French count.

Peter Lynch’s daughter Elizabeth married a French count, Gonzague de Montrichard, a very fine Catholic gentleman. Peter Lynch, a Fidelity executive, has been involved in the Catholic Schools Foundation and is a promoter of Catholic philanthropy.

The wedding was very beautifully executed. The boys from our choir school at St. Paul’s in Cambridge sang. The reception was at the Lynch’s home. The dinner was preceded by spectacular fireworks — they could have been in Washington, D.C. at the mall for the Fourth of July! There was 40 minutes of music in the background, and the fireworks show was over the water. It was quite amazing.”

We recognize we are not exactly Shakespeare ourselves so are not exactly in a position to criticize the writing style of others. Still, in the wording of these posts and in others as well, it is no doubt unintentional on the part of the Cardinal or his writer, but the wording causes the Cardinal to come across sounding somewhat awestruck by the trappings of wealth and fame he is exposed to. That is not a personal attack—it is just the objective reality of the blog topics chosen and the wording in the posts.

Let us for purposes of this post give the benefit of the doubt that maybe the Cardinal or the people who photograph his every move and/or help him write the blog just do not realize how the blog is making him appear: increasingly detached from the day-to-day needs and governance of the Boston archdiocese and increasingly associated with the rich and famous. 

That being said, we offer what hopefully will be seen as helpful suggestions for consideration to help address the issues we have described in this post: #1-5 of our Top 10 Ways to Improve Cardinal Sean’s Blog

  1. Put an editorial calendar of topics in place and use that to drive content.  (We shared a list of topics on Nov. 8, and you will see we have slowly been picking through them).  Instead of just having the blog chronicle the Cardinal’s comings and goings somewhat randomly like a travel diary, create a list of important topics that help advance the mission of the Catholic Church in Boston (ie. prayer, the sacraments, evangelization, marriage and family, bringing God into every moment of your day, etc.), and follow it weekly.
  2. Filter out content not likely to be interest to the average Catholic in the pews or priests & religious. Limit photographs to no more than 5-7 per post, and cut out most of the details of the Cardinal’s travel and social schedule—especially when it involves the rich and famous–so the blog can instead focus on the important topics of #1.  The rest of our items #3-10 are related to topics we think people want to hear about.
  3. Cover some teaching from the lectionary’s scriptural readings of the Sunday Mass.  Maybe it is a written excerpt from the Cardinal’s homiletic preaching on the Sunday Mass readings.  He used to do this, but it seems to have been absent for at least the last 6 months. When there is occasionally a homily, it is via video, not text, so many people skip it. Better to write out the key points so people can read them and/or share them, even if a video accompanies it.
  4. Cover how the Cardinal is (hopefully) meeting with pastors of the 40% of parishes in the red to brainstorm, apply the best minds and resources from the Pastoral Center, cut archdiocesan fees, share best practices from other parishes, and figure out how to help as many as possible become financially solvent ASAP.
  5. Cover how the Cardinal is (hopefully) diving into the issue of the six-figure salaries of his top 10-15 lieutenants, and directing his team and the Finance Council to cut $1 million in unnecessary expense from those salaries, so those funds can be freed for ministries and advancing the main mission of the Church in Boston. Share the committed timeframe for implementing those cuts.

Seems to us, coincidentally, that the visibility of Cardinal Sean’s teaching, sanctifying and governing was much greater in his first few years in Boston–before his getting elevated to Cardinal, before his blog, and before the arrival of Jim McDonough, Jack Connors and some of the other senior leaders at 66 Brooks Drive we have been writing about on the blog. We just share that as an interesting coincidence.

We have more than 5 additional topics to suggest tomorrow and are still narrowing down the list, but if you would like to submit your suggestions, feel free to do so via comments.

Please, no personal attacks in the comments (and no comments about whether the Cardinal should or should not have presided over the Kennedy funeral). This post is about what people want to see and/or not see covered on the Cardinal’s blog.


Welcoming More Expensive People to the Pastoral Center

December 17, 2010

In case you thought the folks at the Pastoral Center were working hard to save money and use your donations most cost-effectively, you may want to think again.

Below is an email sent by Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson to everyone working for the archdiocese letting them know about six people from the Campaign for Catholic Schools now coming to the 4th floor (high-rent district) of the Pastoral Center.  A hearty welcome to you!!  They are joining the fund-raising operation, now headed by a former Hill Holliday employee of Jack Connors, Kathleen Driscoll, after a “sham search” that, in reality, had identified her as the choice before it was even announced.

Looking at the email, we see a Vice President, Associate Vice President, and Director.  Sounds like titles from either a bank or an ad agency. At least a few of them no doubt add to the six-figure salary count in Braintree, pushing it close to 30 people making more than $100K/year. So now, we have nearly 30 people earning a combined amount north of $4M–more than 1/4 of the Annual Appeal goal. Naturally, there is someone who used to work for Jack Connor’s firm, Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Inc.  And to round things out, we have a couple people from Hingham, the same town where new development chief, Kathleen Driscoll hails from.

Anyone else wondering how much these people cost?  Has Chancellor McDonough forgotten about the big layoff of 20 low to mid-level people back in June to supposedly save money and balance the budget? Have the folks at 66 Brooks Drive forgotten that about 40% of parishes are in the red, while pastors are still working hard to raise money for the Annual Appeal?  What does this do to morale at the Pastoral Center for mid to lower-level employees to see these people with big titles and big salaries suddenly arriving to the 4th floor after the “sham search” that hired their boss for a $250K-$300K/year job?

What are the individual fund-raising goals for each entity–Catholic Appeal, Catholic Schools Foundation, Campaign for Catholic Schools–that this new combined fund-raising powerhouse is supposed to hit?  How are they each doing against each individual goal?

Anyway, here is a slightly edited version of the email from Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson.  He now seems to be 100% co-opted as the spokesman for the McDonough/Connors/Hehir regime:

On Friday (17 December) we will be welcoming the following six associates from the Campaign for Catholic Schools to the Pastoral Center.  They will be located on the 4th floor north.

Mary Flynn Myers, Vice President of Development
Mary has been the Vice President of Development for the Campaign for Catholic Schools since  December 2007.  Prior to joining the CCS she was a Senior Director for Biomedical Research Development at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, raising leadership gifts in support of basic and clinical research.  She has over 25 years experience in development.  A native of Arlington, MA, Mary is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross.  She resides in Boston and volunteers with the Children’s Liturgy of the Word at the Paulist Center.

Patricia Kelleher Bartram, Associate Vice President of Development
Pat joined the Campaign for Catholic Schools in December 2007 from the UMass Memorial Foundation, where she worked for nine years as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Development.  During that time, she staffed the Foundation’s Board of Directors and led them through a major reorganization.  She also directed two successful major capital campaigns.  She has over 25 years experience in development. Pat is a product of Catholic schools, having attended St. Mary’s Elementary School in Shrewsbury, MA, followed by Notre Dame Academy, Worcester, MA.

Sandra A. Dowd, Director of Operations
Sandy joined the Campaign for Catholic Schools in January 2008 from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where she worked for 18 years.  For the past eight years she was Department Administrator of the Office of the Chancellor, and during the previous ten years she served as the Director of Alumni Relations and Special Projects.  A native of Michigan, Sandy earned a Bachelor degree from Michigan Technological University.  She holds a Masters in Public Affairs from the John W. McCormack Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Arthur Boyle, Development Officer
Artie was appointed Development Officer in February 2010.  For the past 25 years he had been in sales management, director-level and ownership positions with various companies and industries.  Most recently he was a senior loan officer with Heritage Mortgage Company. He attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is very active in church and local school activities, leading numerous prayer groups in Hingham and the surrounding area. He and his wife Judy live in Hingham.

Kate Doyle, Special Projects Manager
Kate Doyle joined the Campaign for Catholic Schools in early 2009 after 12 years at Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Inc., where she worked as an Executive Assistant.  Prior to Hill, Holliday, she worked for Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in Boston. Kate graduated from Pennsylvania State University and lives in Hingham, with her husband and son.

Andrea Polonetsky, Director of Marketing and Communications
Andrea joined the Campaign for Catholic Schools in early 2008 with a marketing background.  She worked at Citizens Bank in Sponsorships and Brand Promotions, and as an Account Executive at Maine’s highest-rated news station, WCSH6.  She also worked on the planning of fundraising events for Life is Good, Inc. and the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston.

Please join me in welcoming our colleagues in offering your support for their efforts as, together, we carry on the mission entrusted to us by Christ and His Church.

Blessings,

Fr Rich

#  #  #   #

Incidentally, in case people think the idea for this combined fund-raising entity and move to Braintree just came about recently, you can also think again about that one.  We have it on good word that the Chancellor was in on discussions about merging at least the separate fund-raising entitites–Jack Connors’ Campaign for Catholic Schools and the Catholic Schools Foundation–and locating them in Braintree starting back in the summer of 2009.

Have a good weekend!


Lay Pension Plan: Part 2

December 16, 2010

Today we continue our two-part series, “Lay Pension Plan: Can You Trust the Anonymous Trustees?with part 2.

As we mentioned yesterday, for months people have been asking questions about the cuts in the Lay Pension Plan.  Mostly what they get in response to the questions seems to be secrecy, not the sort of transparency desired.  All of the questions in our posts of yesterday and today came from people who follow the blog.

Yesterday we covered the first 5 of 10 categories of questions the archdiocese should be answering.

1. Fund Trustees
2. Qualifications for the Plan Administrator(s)
3. Compensation for the Plan Administrator(s)
4. Vendors
5. Conflicts of Interest

Today we cover the final 5 concerns:

6. Costs

What was the total cost of benefits management in 2005 before Jim McDonough, Carol Gustavson, and others took over?  What are the total costs today?  As we all know, whatever losses seen are not just based on the stock market and claims filed by an increasing number of retirees, but they are also based on all these administrative and management costs as well.

7. Goals and Performance

What goals are the vendors of the trust given?  Who sets those goals?

How is the RCAB Benefits Trust investing the money?  Who invests it?  Is the track record worse than the Dow Jones Industrial average or other stock market indices? 

Update: a good answer exists for these questions, but the archdicoese is just poor at communicating it.  The Collective Investment Partnership spells it all out here.  But who knew? Why is this not a part of the roadshow presentation that Carol Gustavson is giving across the archdiocese to employees?

8. Transparency

Is there any impediment to making public all agreements entered into by the Trust or on behalf of the Trust?  Is there any reason to not make the periodic earnings reports submitted to the Trust public? (By the way, the same should be done for the Clergy Retirement Fund).  If there is an impediment, what is it?  If there is not, why not publish them?  Where is the transparency?

9. RCAB Give and Take

How much has RCAB had to plow into the Lay Pension plan? Is the cause for the subsidy mainly due to a bad economic environment or has the investment philosophy changed? Or is it both with some other mitigating factors thrown in?

How many millions of dollars does the RCAB retain from the investment returns for some other purpose or Corporation Sole expense?  How much could premiums be reduced if the RCAB did not retain those $X million?  Would $1 million be enough of a cushion?

10. Finance Council Investment Advisory Committee

With proven members of the investment community on the Investment Advisory Committee of the Archdiocesan Finance Council, why has it taken so long for a rebound of RCAB investments? Some of the members of the Investment Advisory Committee have been around for a  long time (eg. Peter Lynch, Thomas O’Neill, Deacon Charlie Clough). Have the investment managers been changed? If so, what are their pedigrees?

Update: we believe some answers to the questions in #10 are here in the overview of the Collective Investment Partnership.

Aside from these ten areas of questions and concerns posted yesterday and today, everyone out there who has paid into the Lay Pension Plan and must rely on the plan in the future is feeling really good about the management of the fund.

We have written to Carol Gustavson to ask for answers to yesterday’s questions and have not yet heard back.  The Benefits Trust website lists these two emails if you want more information: cgustavson@rcab.org, benefits@rcab.org.  If the answers to the questions on the blog matter to you, feel free to copy the blog post into an email and drop it to Carol and the benefits email address and see if you can get a response.  You might also want to copy Jack McCarthy, the Vice Chair of the Finance Council (jack.mccarthy(at) neu.edu). Let us know what you hear back


Lay Pension Plan: Can You Trust the Anonymous Trustees?

December 15, 2010

We are not yet done with the topic of compensation and Finance Council-related corruption, but based on popular demand, will take a break today and tomorrow to discuss the Lay Pension Fund and some secrecy issues surrounding it.  And yes, we will also get to the new Vice Presidents and other six-figure-salaried staff from the Campaign for Catholic Schools now moving over to the supposedly cash-poor Pastoral Center in a separate post.  The pace of ill-conceived moves by the folks at 66 Brooks Drive is making it tough for us to keep up.

For months now people have been asking us to report on the cuts in the Lay Pension Plan, and in view of the Boston Globe article on Sunday and substantial number of questions we are getting, we will take a stab at it today.

Problem is that the archdiocese has been so non-transparent about this, we really have more questions than answers to offer you.

Today we are not going to try and sort out the various options for current employees or former employees who are not yet retired and collecting benefits.  For those not yet retired, we know that the Archdiocese is not going to fully fund the existing plan and instead will be reducing promised retirement benefits to fund the plan.  The plan is currently underfunded by about 21% (see chart at right), so all payouts are reduced by that amount and also discounted to the present value of future payments based on the age of the person.

For example, if someone was to collect $500/month for life ($6,000/year) from age 65 and they take a lump-sum payment at age 55, they get a one-time lump-sum payment of only $25,296. (See here for the explanation or click on image to right).   Yes, that is a lot less benefit than you would have received over, say, 20 years of retirement.

Given the magnitude and impact of the changes on 10,000-odd participants, you would think that the archdiocese would be very transparent about what is going on and who is managing all this.  Nope.

We hope this post is seen in the spirit of helping the archdiocese become more transparent and trustworthy, so they can better help employees and retirees who are dependent on these pension funds .

Here are the first 5 of 10 categories of questions the archdiocese should be answering:

1) Fund Trustees

Who are the fund trustees?  A “trustee” is an individual or organization that holds or manages and invests assets for the benefit of another. How can anyone trust the trustees to be upholding their fiduciary responsibility if we do not know who they are? This presentation says the trustees are Cardinal O’Malley, the Vicar General, the Chancellor, and “Priests and lay individuals with pension/finance expertise.”  (click on image to right). Who are these individuals?  Why the secrecy?  Why does the archdiocese refuse to identify them, despite many requests over a period of many months?

2) Qualifications for the Plan Administrator(s)

What qualifies Carol Gustavson, Exec. Dir of HR, to be running the separate company, the Benefits Trust?  She is trained as an attorney and did labor relations for a newspaper before working for the Archdiocese. From where did the proudly ex-Catholic Gustavson gain the benefits expertise for this job in the Catholic Church?

3) Compensation for the Plan Administrator(s)

Is the compensation for Carol Gustavson of $150K/year appropriate for this role in a Catholic archdiocese?  Are we paying some premium salary for a non-practicing attorney that would otherwise not be necessary for a benefits specialist?  We asked another large archdiocese about this and were told that Carol’s comp was much higher than they pay their HR director.

How is Carol discharging her fiduciary duty exclusively for the good of the beneficiaries of the trust?

Who else’s salary besides Ms. Gustavson’s is paid in whole or in part?  Is she and/or are others paid by both the trust and RCAB?

4) Vendors

Who are the vendors of the trust (investment and program managers)?  How are they compensated?

When do they meet with the trust leadership?  How are they chosen?

Why are their plans underway to aggregate the 403B pension plan under one vendor?  [Note: A 403(b) is a tax deferred retirement plan available to employees of certain non-profit organizations or educational institutions as determined by section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions and investment earnings in a 403(b) grow tax deferred until withdrawal (assumed to be retirement), at which time they are taxed as ordinary income].  What is or was the objective criteria used for selection? If a vendor has been selected, which one?  Who else was evaluated?  Why that vendor?  How does aggregating under one vendor serve the needs of the beneficiaries?

5) Conflicts of Interest

Is a written agreement in-place that forbids Carol Gustavson from receiving any benefit from the vendor(s) employed for the trust?  Is she legally foresworn from later being employed by any one of them or a related entity?

We will get to issues 6-10 (Costs, Goals, Transparency, RCAB Give & Take, and Investment Advisory Committee) tomorrow.


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