The Connors Conundrum (and Facts about Jack)

February 26, 2011

The article in Wednesday’s Boston Globe about Peter Meade leaving his job leading the Sen. Edward M. Kennedy Institute had a detail we did not get to mention in our last post—namely, how Jack Connors, Jr. is raising $125 million to fund the new Kennedy Institute.

That brings us back to the conundrum over powerbroker, Jack Connors, and his ongoing involvement in the Archdiocese of Boston.  At the end of this Opinion piece, you will find an interactive poll for audience participation, so you may want to keep reading, or just jump to the end of the post for the poll.

In the interest of balance, you can see from articles in the Boston Globe and Boston Magazine that Jack Connors does much good around Boston.  But those civic good works are different from the nature of his involvement in the Archdiocese of Boston and Catholic Church, where different questions need to be asked.

In the context of the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Boston, the more one looks at the actions by Connors, the more one cannot help but ask if he has objectively disqualified himself from serving on a key archdiocesan body like the Finance Council. We ask the question. You will have a chance to weigh-in on the answer in a few moments.

Anyway, according to the Globe article about the Kennedy Institute, Jack has almost hit the $125 million fundraising goal. This is the same Jack Connors who is supposed to have raised $70 million for the Campaign for Catholic Schools “2010 Initiative”—which was supposed to have ended December 31, 2010. Yet here we sit two months later, and the new archdiocesan fundraising group announced under the pretense of enabling more “accountability and transparency” has yet to account for what they raised by their deadline. One can only assume that they missed the goal and are still scrambling to raise the money.

A number of BCI readers have asked how Jack can be raising $70 million for the Catholic schools—a part of the Catholic Church, which we all know opposes abortion–while at the same time he is raising even more money, and apparently more prodigiously, to fund an institute commemorating a man who publicly supported abortion on demand. If we knew how to reach Jack via email, we would invite his reaction, but we just cannot seem to find his email address anywhere.

Beyond this matter of his conflicting fund-raising priorities, an even more important question to ask is the following:

Based on the guidelines for membership on the Archdiocese of Boston Finance Council, has Jack Connors, Jr.–by virtue of his public actions and public advocacy for certain politicians–objectively disqualified himself from membership on the Finance Council?

We are not commenting on Jack as a person or his values.  We are simply sharing objectively verifiable facts and public actions and asking the question.  Below we share the requirements for membership, definitions of key terms, and the “Facts about Jack” that call into question whether he has made himself ineligible for membership.

REQUIREMENTS FOR MEMBERSHIP ON FINANCE COUNCIL

Beyond business/financial expertise, there are two requirements to serve on the Archdiocesan Finance Council we would like to highlight:

  1. The Code of Canon Law (Can. 492 §1.) says that Finance Council members must “outstanding in integrity.”
  2. The Archdiocese of Boston’s Finance Council Charter also says that members should be “Catholics in good standing.”

DEFINITIONS OF KEY TERMS

  1. Integrity: Here is the definition of “integrity” from Dictionary.com: “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”
  2. Catholic in good standing: There is no dictionary definition for “Catholic in good standing,” or even one in the Catechism, so we turned to Google instead and grabbed what several Church leaders have said on the topic:

Archbishop of Milwaukee, Jerome Listeki, speaking about a group that promoted use of contraception and abortion among Catholic youth said the following: using media advertising the group is, says the Archbishop-Designate, “attempting to convey the message that Catholics can disregard Church teaching regarding contraception, abortion and human sexuality in general and remain Catholics in good standing.” However, “Nothing could be further from the truth.'”

Archbishop of St. Louis, Robert Carlson wrote the following in the St. Louis Review:  it is “clear and unambiguous” that Catholics who want to remain in good standing with the Church can’t support abortion….Since the first century, the Church has addressed the moral evil of abortion and the killing of a defenseless baby in the womb…”You cannot be ‘pro-choice’ (pro-abortion) and remain a Catholic in good standing.”

Fr. Roger Landry of Fall River after the funeral of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy wrote in The Anchor about how the bishops’ “educating” policy has not converted any politician or made any politician less pro-abortion: “Jesus spoke of a different way in the Gospel (Mt 18:15-18). It involves not merely general educational statements that we hope offenders will apply to themselves in conscience, but the type of one-on-one instruction traditionally called fraternal correction. If that fails, and fails repeatedly, Jesus enjoined us to regard the offender as someone who no longer belongs to the community, who is no longer a member in good standing.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, in a 2007 interview with the Boston Globe: acknowledging that Catholic voters in Massachusetts generally support Democratic candidates who are in favor of abortion rights, O’Malley said, “I think that, at times, it borders on scandal as far as I’m concerned.”

FACTS ABOUT JACK

Now, here are some objective facts which are not in dispute. In other words, regardless of ideology, we believe that no one can disagree with these pieces of information:

  1. Jack was chair of the “sham search” to select a new Secretary of Development for the Archdiocese of Boston–announced to every Catholic in the archdiocese with great fanfare in June of 2010–while Jack, Chancellor Jim McDonough and others closely involved knew knew before the committee was formed that Kathleen Driscoll was slotted for the job.  There was never the intention to conduct an open search. Committee members were told they were selecting a new person, but the committee never met to interview candidates, no ads were ever placed in philanthropic journals to try and find the best candidate, and the committee was told in October of 2010 that their services were no longer needed since Kathleen had been chosen independent of them. BCI detailed the situation in multiple posts, including “Diocesan Deception and Coverup?” and “Diocesan Deception and Coverup: The Archdiocesan Response.” We repeatedly asked the archdiocese to respond to the issue of the sham search and they never did. [Issue: Integrity]
  2. Jack is Chairman of Partners Healthcare, whose Brigham and Women’s Hospital profits from performing 4,300 abortions every year (3,600 first-trimester and 570 second-trimester).  The only data we can readily find on number of abortions per state  annually (which is likely incomplete), suggests Brigham and Women’s handles about 18% of the 24,128 abortions performed annually in Massachusetts. [Issue: Catholic in good standing]
  3. Jack was the Co-Chair of the 2004 Democratic National Convention that nominated Sen. John Kerry for president. Sen. Kerry is pro-abortion in his voting record. [Issue: Catholic in good standing]
  4. Jack publicly endorsed Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate. Martha Coakely is pro-abortion in her political record. In a January 2010 radio interview, when asked about conscience rights and religious freedom for Catholic healthcare workers who believe what the Pope teaches, Coakley responded, “You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.” [Issue: Catholic in good standing]

THE CONNORS CONUNDRUM

So now we return to the Connors Conundrum.

To be a member of the Finance Council, someone must be “outstanding in integrity” and a “Catholic in good standing.”  We make no judgment calls on Jack Connors’ character, motivations, political views or the state of his heart and soul.  We simply look at the factual information–words and actions that can be objectively observed, and pose a question.

Based on the guidelines for membership on the Archdiocese of Boston Finance Council, has Jack Connors, Jr.–by virtue of his public actions and advocacy for certain politicians–objectively disqualified himself from membership on the Finance Council?

Since the archdiocese is doing a survey to get input on the “relegation to profane status” of closed church buildings, we thought it would be timely for us to do a survey on the Jack Connors Conundrum.  Here is the one question:

We will keep the poll open through the weekend until Monday, so let other friends and family members know.  Only one vote per person.

What do you think?  Please keep any comments to just the topic of this post and free from personal attacks.


Changing of the Guard

February 23, 2011

The story in the Boston Globe on Tuesday about how the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute is losing its leader, Peter Meade, brought to mind a number of questions.  The most important of them concerns leadership transitions here in the Boston archdiocese.

First, and foremost, what IS happening with the status of Chancellor Jim McDonough? He is just a few months away from the expiration of his 5-year term.  Morale on his team is low and turnover has been high. When the previous chancellor, David Smith was going to retire effective July 2006, the archdiocese announced his retirement January 10, 2006, six months in advance (“Chancellor David Smith to retire“).  A search committee had been formed in December 2005–seven months before he was going to leave.  It took about five months for the search committee to select Jim McDonough, who was announced as the new chancellor on June 5, 2006. (“New chancellor appointed.”).  With the current chancellor’s 5-year term up in June, if they are going to search for a new chancellor, that search needs to be underway already.  What exactly are they waiting for?

We brought up the issue of the Chancellor search more than a month ago, in our January 18 post, “New Vicar General? New Chancellor?” In that post, we said the following about the search process, which still holds true today:

Can Boston construct a truly competent search committee for any key job, free of blatant conflicts of interest? Sufficient concerns about the current Chancellor lead us to offer guidance towards what we believe should be an open, independent search for a successor to him. Assuming such a search is undertaken, who should lead it?  Is there anyone within the Archdiocese who can articulate what the Chancellor’s job really is, and also guide the search?  Are the halls, offices, and cubicles of 66 Brooks Drive devoid of good minds with clear thought and a moral compass?  Who might have a reputation for independence and integrity?  Who has not been called-out for deception, excessive compensation, or conflicts of interest on this blog?  BCI challenges Cardinal O’Malley to think of just one person who is wise and above reproach.  We invite the Cardinal to think of one person who could direct a conversation and search process to yield a truly independent chancellor–one who seeks only the long-term best interest of the Catholic Church in Boston–and no other individual or institution.  Who can help put Boston on the straight and narrow path canonically, ethically and legally, and keep us there?

We outlined our suggestion for how to conduct the search, and by means of contrast, let us look back five years ago to April 2006 at the last time they filled this position and see what Cardinal O’Malley told the Boston Globe he was looking for in a chancellor at that time:

Ann Carter, who’s here, is on the search committee for chancellor. I told them my preference for chancellor would be a religious woman. I don’t know whether they’ve been able to come up with someone. When I was a bishop before I had a religious woman as a chancellor. It was a wonderful fit, it was a way of holding up this vocation in the church, which, unfortunately is being greatly diminished. But we are a church of great diversity and we’d like to see that…

Well the first question I ask is, “Do you smoke?” (Laughter). It’s a whole range of things, certainly. Certainly their experience, their ability to work with people, their outlook, their energy, their capacity to work, their capacity to work with people, their love for the church. I don’t want people who see this simply as a job. I’m looking for people who have a sense of mission, that they really want to do this because they love the church and they want to further Christ’s mission.

Notwithstanding the inherent conflict of interest of having Ann Carter, CEO of the PR vendor paid by the archdiocese on the search committee, and  notwithstanding the fact that Ms. Carter was a Board member at Abington Bank when Jim McDonough was CEO of the bank and Ms. Carter made more than $400K in profit from her Abington Bank stock, and notwithstanding the “coincidence” that McDonough just so happened to have been chosen from among all other candidates, it is not clear to BCI and a lot of other people whether the current Chancellor even fits the bill of doing this job for the reason given by the Cardinal in the last sentence above.  Beyond the deception, corruption, ethical breaches, propagation of excessive six-figure salaries, sham searches, brain-drain, and conflicts of interest we have documented (which, coincidentally, have occurred over much of the past 5 years), objectively, McDonough is also a multi-millionaire who “didn’t need the job” or money, working for a church in desperate financial condition where every dollar matters.  So, if he really wanted to further Christ’s mission, why has he insisted on collecting $1.25M in salary over the past 5 years that could have better been used to advance the mission of the Church?

With even more long-time Pastoral Center staff dusting off their resumes and seeking jobs outside of the archdiocese because of the current regime , why are they waiting so long to let people know the status of the Chancellor?  Are they waiting for the 2010 annual report to be released some time in the next few weeks (Terry and Ann, how is the press release coming along?), and then, with a supposedly balanced budget they will share if he is staying or going?  Has the Presbyteral Council been consulted about whether his term should be renewed? Is the Cardinal first waiting to figure out who the new Vicar General will be? Or, are they hoping John Straub, the new Executive Director of Finance–who, coincidentally, came into his six-figure-salaried job without an open search–will take over?

We were in a similar place in 2006, when Cardinal O’Malley replaced a big chunk of his leadership team, bringing in a new Vicar General (replacing Bishop Lennon with Fr. Erikson), Chancellor (replacing David Smith with Jim McDonough), Secretary for Institutional Advancement (replacing Kenneth Hokenson with Scot Landry, and subsequently with Kathleen Driscoll),  and Secretary of Education (replacing Sr. Clare Bertero with Mary Grassa O’Neill). Readers of this blog know that the current occupants of these 4 roles have all been the subject of criticism by BCI.

We are already off to a controversial start with a “sham search” bringing in Ms. Driscoll as the new secretary for institutional advancement last November.  Mr. Straub did not arrive via an open search led by someone with a reputation for independence and integrity, who is wise and above reproach.  Will the Cardinal do a better job bringing in a new Vicar General and Chancellor this time around?  For once, can we get someone in the Chancellor role–or separated Chancellor and CFO roles–who came via a truly open, independent search and who seeks only the long-term best interest of the Catholic Church in Boston–and no other individual or institution?  Or are we going to hop out of the frying pan and into the fire–or worse yet, stay in the current frying pan?


Archdiocese Seeks Public Comment On Future of Closed Churches

February 20, 2011

Many readers who have read about the new initiative seeking public comment on the future use of seven closed parishes have asked what BCI thinks.  Today we are pleased to share some of our take on what is happening.  To cut to the chase, we have mixed thoughts.

The Boston Globe entitled their article, “A step toward selling churches.”  Though the Globe of course tells you only a piece of the story, they did get it right that this is a next step in the process of selling the churches.  They are correct that the effort to “relegate to profane use,’’ is  the canon law phrase for converting property from sacred to secular use.  When a Church is “relegated to profane use, ” it would follow a determination by the ordinary that this property is no longer essential to the mission of the Church. “Profane use” is articulated by the canons, including that it either be torn down, or not allocated to “sordid use” (eg. abortion clinic, research facility for embryonic stem cell research, pornography shop).  Here is the archdiocesan Policy on the Sale Church Buildings.

Having an open consultation process on the “relegation to profane use” stage of the church closing and property sale certainly makes for good PR, so Terry Donilon is feeling good about this.  And for a diocese that goes to great lengths to avoid risk, embarrassment, and bad press, it is understandable why they have gone this route.   The Pilot reported:

Earlier this year, in the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy upheld appeals from parishioners of seven closed parishes challenging the diocese’s right to relegate the churches to profane use while agreeing with the diocese’s decision merge the parishes into a new parish.

The decision regarding the parishes in Springfield was that the Diocese of Springfield followed proper procedures in suppressing three parishes, but did not sufficiently justify closing the three church buildings.

No doubt, these decisions made a few people at 66 Brooks Drive skittish. We are told the survey is the result of some consultation and collaboration between the canon law people in the archdiocese, a regional bishop, and the Catholic Media group.  Anyone familiar with the Boston Catholic Mens and Womens conferences will immediately recognize the Zoomerang survey approach used.

If this is ultimately a matter of just “dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s” on selling the buildings, then it will probably be OK. The parish closings and suppressions have already been upheld, so this is only limited to the matter of the sale of the buildings and relegation to profane use.  The good news is that if a broad cross-section of people respond, it will take the conversation out of the hands of Peter Borre and his “Council of Parishes.”   If many people do complete the survey, the restrictions could serve to make it a valid instrument: respondents have to identify themselves by name, address, and their amount of time worshiping in the closed parish, and it is open for a limited period of time.

But we are not quite so ready give it two thumbs up.  Here is why:

  1. This is not an archdiocese prone to good decision-making.  Every consultative process and committee we have seen in recent years ends up with mixed results, and this could result in avoidance of making more tough decisions.  One might reasonably ask why this was not undertaken six years ago, when the parishes were closed.  Or, why was the consultation not initiated last July, after the Apostolic Signatura rejected the final appeals?
  2. Peter Borre and his Council of Parishes crew will no doubt try to stuff the ballot box with input. It is positive that local parishes are publicizing this in their bulletins and all respondents have to identify themselves. This should prevent most fraud. Still, the small minority of people vocally opposed to selling the building are already being actively encouraged to respond, while the silent majority who have happily moved on to other parishes do not have a similar motivation to give input.  So the opinions of the small minority could prevail in the final tally over the silent majority.
  3. The questions neglect to mention some important points.  Nothing is mentioned about the cost of maintaining the buildings.  Why not include questions like:
  • “Maintaining these closed parishes is costing the Boston Archdiocese  between $500K-850K/year.  Should this parish be sold to pay its overdue bills?”
  • “If the parish should not be sold, who should pay these bills?”  How would you feel about people in neighboring parishes paying the bills?”

By the way, could someone fix the pulldown with the listings of what parish you currently belong to?  The alphabetical order in the pulldown has 3 different sets of alphabetical listings, so if you, hypothetically speaking, live in a town like Wellesley and want to choose which parish you worship at, you will find that St. Paul in Wellesley is in an entirely different part of the pulldown vs St. John the Evangelist in Wellesley Hills.

In the end, canon law says that relegation to profane use is done by the bishop after hearing the Presbyteral Council, but he can choose to ask others.  This opens the door to people thinking the survey input may be interpreted as a binding vote and not a consultation. The flipside of that argument is that if a legitimate consultation beyond the Presbyteral Council is undertaken, then the vigil protesters lose any remaining loopholes to try and exploit.

Lastly, we were mildly amused by the comments by the Vicar General in The Pilot:

He added that the consultation process illustrates Cardinal O’Malley’s commitment to transparency. “To rebuild the Church we need to rebuild trust and engage the faithful at all levels to be active parts of the Catholic community,” Father Erikson said.

If they want to rebuild trust and engage the faithful, how about practicing the “commitment to transparency” by releasing the fundraising results from the Campaign for Catohlic Schools’ “2010 Initiative” and the 2010 Catholic Appeal?

How about releasing the names of the people on the Finance Council Compensation Committee, and a timeframe for when they will reduce salaries of excessively paid lay cabinet officials?  How about a survey to ask if they should save $1M in unnecessary cost by cutting the excessive six-figure salaries of Mary Grassa O’Neill, Beirne Lovely, and a few others?

How about a survey to ask if the term of the Chancellor should be renewed or if they should initiate an open search for a new Chancellor?

How about a survey to ask if Jack Connors and the Chancellor’s masterminding, running and promoting the “sham search” for the new secretary for institutional advancement, is cause for them to be removed from the Finance Council?

How about a survey to ask if Cardinal O’Malley should slash his outside-the-diocese travel and spend more of the next few months and next year governing in Boston?

How about a survey to ask about the confidence level people have in the management/administration and funding of the Clergy Retirement Fund and Lay Employee Pension Fund?

We understand that the intention is good behind this latest consultative effort, and maybe this will work out fine.  We hope and pray it does, and encourage parishioners of the closed parishes to respond to the survey.  But we still remain skeptical until we see how it evolves.


Braintree Brain Drain

February 16, 2011

We have told you a lot already about all of the new people with no prior Catholic Church experience hired at excessive six-figure salaries in recent years. At the same time, people who loyally served the archdiocese for a number of years making less than these newcomers continue to head out the door, and the past few weeks are no exception, with key departures in finance, IT, and elsewhere.

Chancellor Jim McDonough already has as part of his legacy, the dubious distinction of driving out experienced employee benefits people with early retirement packages, leaving us with a current team of newcomers who are sufficiently unable to answer basic pension plan benefit questions that employees and retirees come to BCI to ask us if we know the answer to their question.   He also drove out experienced facilities and property management people, replacing them with a person who was a former loan officer at his Abington Bank and who, objectively, knows nothing about property or facilities management. This means projects like the $20 million debacle at St. Cecilia in Boston happen with no qualified archdiocesan oversight, because there simply is no one qualified left on the staff.

It gets worse though. Take a look at the current Pastoral Center job openings, and you will see the evidence of the departures. 

Recently, the highly respected Director of Finance resigned to pursue an opportunity at a private-sector company.  He was well-liked and respected inside the Pastoral Center, was considered bright and capable, had a solid understanding of archdiocesan finance/accounting/reporting, and a decent amount of institutional knowledge that now walks out the door.  He was also an independent thinker (a good thing) and not one of “Jim’s loyalists,” vs, say, Carol Gustavson, who is so loyal to Jim that it does not matter if she neglects serving employees or builds distrust by doing things like monitoring their emails.  (We digress). 

Anyway, back on topic–the departure of the Director of Finance will be a tremendous loss.  You can find the job listing for his position, posted Feb. 14, here.

Then there was the recent resignation of the guy in IT who supervised the data center.  His position is also posted here.  The resignation of this IT manager follows the resignation last summer of the previous Director of IT, whose open position is also posted here.

Why all the departures?  Could it have something to do with the overall management and leadership problems, ethical issues, deception, sham searches, six-figure salaries, and breaches of fiduciary responsibility BCI has been chronicling?  Or are there other factors contributing to the low morale at 66 Brooks Drive lately?  The arrival in January of the new Executive Director of Finance, John Straub, an outsider and Jim McDonough’s apparent #2 in command, apparently did not help morale in that department.  We do know that  the very courteous Mr. Straub is attending lots of meetings these days that Jim McDonough used to attend but is no longer attending.  Is Jim spreading his wings and taking on new things, or is he preparing for a graceful exit soon?

Looks like the administrative assistant in the Vicar General’s office has also left her position, since that job is posted here too.  She was a sharp, responsive person from when she was working with the Catholic Appeal/Catholic Foundation, then transferred to the office of the Vicar General, and has now taken a different position at the Pastoral Center.  (The expression “out of the frying pan and into the fire” comes immediately to mind).  Seems to be yet another sign that the current Vicar General is on his way out the door soon.

These open job listings do not count people like priests who serve as aides to the Cardinal and Vicar General who we hear, coincidentally, have also expressed interest in getting out of the Pastoral Center and back to parishes.

Of course, the 15-person team over at Boston Catholic Development Services–you know, the ones who have not yet announced how they did on the Catholic Schools Campaign that ended in 2010 or how they did with the Catholic Appeal–is hiring.  Yes folks, the department that offers good jobs at good wages is looking for an events manager (a responsibility that used to be handled by the smaller team that the Chancellor pushed out) and a temporary gift processor to help process all the donations they are unable to yet announce to the rest of us.

It remains unclear to us if Mr. Straub is the heir-apparent to the Chancellor, and BCI feels it would be yet another terrible mistake to not undertake a full open search for a new Chancellor. Here is how reader “Clem” recently described to us a view of Chancellor McDonough’s legacy:

“Chancellor McDonough’s legacy will be one of  lame-brained and unnecessary housecleaning of experienced staff,  ill-conceived construction cost controls, and a “hack-a-rama”  nest of under-qualified and overpaid cronies….

“Insanity” means doing the same thing over and over again, somehow expecting a different result.  How much longer must the Braintree “brain drain” continue before someone wakes up and realizes they need to do things differently–and takes decisive action to turn the ship?


Fungible Fundraising

February 14, 2011

Last November, when Kathleen Driscoll was announced as the new Secretary for Institutional Advancement and the new Boston Catholic Development Services was formed to centralize fundraising, we were all told this new effort would “ensure donors of independence and accountability.”

If the archdiocesan fundraising efforts are characterized by “accountability,” then why is it that no one is accounting for what they have raised for two major initiatives in a timely manner after the fundraising terms have finished?

As we mentioned in early January in our post “Jack Connors’ Catholic Schools 2010 Initiative: The Verdict is…”, the 2010 Initiative of the Campaign for Catholic Schools was supposed to raise $70 million and finish December 31, 2010.  Here we sit well past that deadline, and has anyone seen or hear a word about how Jack Connors, Kathleen Driscoll, and their “dream team” of fundraisers did against their goal by December 31?   We heard they got a big donation of about $5 million late in the year, which would have put them somewhere in the range of about $63 million.  How can there be accountability, when there is no announcement of the financial result?

Then there is the silence about the result of the 2010 annual Catholic Appeal.  The 2010 Catholic Appeal goal was never announced last year, but sources indicate the target was kept flat from the prior year at around $15.1 million. The appeal closed January 31.  What was actually raised against the goal?  Last year, they announced on February 8 they had surpassed their $15 million goal, raising $15.1 million. It is now February 14, and no announcement yet.  How much you want to bet that they did not match hit $15 million, and are down from previous years?  Sources indicate that they missed the goal they needed to raise this past year by at least $700K, which means even if they get out the gate with a really strong start to next years’ appeal ASAP, there could be more layoffs and budget cuts this spring.  What are the consequences for the Archdiocese, assuming the Catholic Appeal goal was not achieved? What are the consequences for Kathleen Driscoll and the BCDS staff if the goal was not achieved?  How much is the current fund-raising staff of 15 people for BCDS costing that was not on the payroll last year? Will any of them be laid off should cuts be necessary? Are any of those salaried expenses covered by donors (as was supposedly the case with the CCS), or are those now borne by the Archdiocese and BCDS, and thus by parishes and individual donors who give to the Catholic Appeal?

Three months after the announcement that followed the infamous “sham search” to fill the position, why is there no disclosure of the names of the people on the “newly established Board of Trustees” who “will provide oversight”? 

Why exactly is there so much secrecy around fund-raising for the Catholic Appeal and for the goals of BCDS, especially in view of the announcement that said there would be greater accountability? 

Beyond the Catholic Appeal, BCDS also has responsibility for raising money for the Clergy Retirement fund.  In addition to raising $1M/year at an annual dinner, what exactly are the plans to fully fund the hundreds of millions of dollars now needed to assure the future retirement security of hundreds of priests?

What are the plans to fund the lay pension fund? 

And is it true that the archdiocese is still carrying some liabilities for the Caritas Christi pension plan, even after the healthcare system was sold off to Cerberus?

Boston Catholic Insider is really glad that the archdiocese is making “accountability” an important part of this new fundraising effort, because if this is what donors get with “accountability,” imagine what they would get if the archdiocese set out to keep everything confidential.


“King of the Cannibals” at Caritas?

February 10, 2011

Today is the last of our comments for now about Caritas Christi, but there was so much in the news about them in recent days we felt we should just highlight a few things for you.

You already know about the boring, ineffective, and very expensive Super Bowl commercials and how no one at Steward Health Care is apparently stewarding the Stewardship Agreement to maintain the Catholic identity of Caritas publicly–and in fact they are in the process of actively removing Christ from Caritas Christi’s website. In case you missed reading the two pieces in the Boston Globe in recent days,  selected details are offered today.

From the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, we learned the following:

One day several years back, de la Torre’s father, Angel came to Massachusetts for a visit…”I realized over the last couple of years that I never should have worried about you,” Angel told his son. “We could drop you into a tribe of cannibals, and you’d either get eaten within the day or you’d become king of the cannibals.” Given how sparing with praise his loving but exacting dad had always been, that comment, Ralph says, was one of the most meaningful compliments he’d ever received.

As you know, cannibals eat the flesh of other humans.  BCI does not know about how other readers feel on this topic, but if we were dropped into a tribe of cannibals, we would rather escape from the cannibals, muster help from like-minded people opposed to the practice of killing other humans and eating their flesh, and return to capture and imprison the cannibals so they cannot go out and kill other people.

If the president of Caritas sees “king of the cannibals” as a compliment, is anyone else worried about the future of what little remains of Catholic healthcare in Massachusetts?

The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine article also mentions the swank $15,000/head fundraiser that de la Torre hosted at his Newton home for President Obama in the fall, which raised $900,000.  It remains unexplained how a person who “was not politically active until recently” managed to get the President of the United States to come to his house for a fundraiser.  Also unclear to us is how one can support a candidate who is in favor of abortion, while being a self-described “social liberal” leading a hospital system whose core values oppose abortion.  Maybe BCI missed something in the article, so we will re-read it and let you know when we figure out this inherent conflict.

On Tuesday, February 8, the Globe ran another piece, Ralph de la Torre’s biggest challenges are yet to come which gives additional perspective on what lies ahead for de la Torre and the former Caritas Christi.  They largely draw from the Sunday Globe piece, but the key points are noteworthy:

Can de la Torre and the private equity firm Cerberus transform the non-profit hospitals into for-profit money makers without upsetting Massachusetts’ fragile ecosystem of community hospitals?

If de la Torre fails, health care provided at Caritas hospitals and other hospitals around the state could suffer. Worse yet, they could close altogether. If de la Torre can pull it off, however, it could mean better quality health care at a better price for Bay State residents. And if de la Torre succeeds here in Massachusetts, he would also, no doubt, be called on to replicate his success in other states or at the national level.

According to a new profile by Neil Swidey, though, despite his obvious passion for the job, execution may not be de la Torre’s strong point. Swidey relates a story from earlier in de la Torre’s career to make this point. When de la Torre was chief of cardiac surgery at Beth Israel in 2004, he hatched a plan to revolutionize cardiac care at the hospital by creating a centralized CardioVascular Institute (CVI) there. Things started off well, both for the hospital and de la Torre:

de la Torre identified all his opponents and worked methodically to persuade them they would win under his plan. He promised patients improved care, doctors a piece of the enhanced revenues that would spring from reducing system waste, and the hospital a success story to distinguish itself in the hypercompetitive Boston market. The CVI officially opened in 2007, with de la Torre as president and CEO. He continued his work as a surgeon, maintaining the salary of more than $1.3 million that he had earned the previous year.[Dr. Frank Pomposelli, a veteran vascular surgeon at Beth Israel] says de la Torre’s enormous talent, intellect, and drive helped the CVI succeed in many ways, notably in removing waste from hospital operations and in building strong networks of affiliated physicians. De la Torre wined and dined community cardiologists around the region, persuading them to become affiliates and refer patients to Beth Israel for care.

But then reality set in, and de la Torre’s plans for the CVI fell short:

The silos were harder to break down than they thought, especially since “we didn’t pay enough attention to academics and research.” Also the “enhanced revenues” to physicians turned out to be far less than promised, leading to resentment. Pomposelli, who remains the chief of vascular surgery at Beth Israel, stresses that the CVI still exists, but in a much less ambitious form.

Pomposelli, a close friend of de la Torre, added this assessment of his friend: “Ralph’s a builder. He loves the deal, loves creating new things. … I don’t think he loves managing things as much. Running the CVI turned out to be tedious and difficult.”

This matters because there is a real risk of failure for Caritas — which de la Torre, despite his cheerleading for the Cerberus deal, is well aware of. In fact, the person who has best explained the risk is de la Torre himself, when he testified before the Public Health Council as a part the deal’s approval process. “What is the risk?” de la Torre repeated when asked to explain how he plans on turning his non-profit hospitals into money makers:

The risk is that we are wrong. The risk is that the people in Massachusetts fundamentally don’t care about the cost of health care or staying in their communities, and that they really just want to come to Boston. That is the risk. That is what we are gambling isn’t the case.

de la Torre added that, “from the start,” he has “been very clear with Cerberus” about these risks. In selling his vision to the people of Massachusetts, though, de la Torre hasn’t always been as clear. To be sure, de la Torre has shown plenty of political acumen, getting unions, Church officials, community activists, and investors all on the same page. But creating long-lasting success at Caritas will be “tedious and difficult” — something de la Torre didn’t show much patience for at Beth Israel.

Can the man who sees “becoming king of the cannibals” as a compliment pull off the challenge?  And will the self-described “social liberal” also steward the Stewardship agreement that calls for maintaining Catholic identity and Catholic ethical and moral directives all at the same time?

Based on what we have seen so far, we are not very hopeful.


Removing Christ from Caritas Christi

February 8, 2011

In our last post, Steward’s Super Bowl Sunday Spending, we talked about the expensive television ad by Steward Health Care, the new entity formed to oversee the Caritas Christi hospitals–you know, the hospitals that said they were out of money and needed to sell-out to get the infusion of cash by Cerberus in order to stay afloat.  Beyond the connections of powerbroker Jack Connors, Jr and his son John Connors, III to the ad campaign–and beyond the matter that the commercial strikes everyone we have spoken to as bland, unmemorable, confusing, and a waste of some $500K+ that could otherwise have been put toward healthcare–has anyone noticed how Steward has now removed “Jesus Christ” from Caritas Christi?

Last spring, everyone said the goal of the stewardship agreement that set out conditions of the sale was to preserve the Catholic identity of the hospitals forever.

Christopher Murphy, a spokesman for the network, said the stewardship agreement would be designed to permanently maintain the hospital’s Catholic identity….“The main point is that it’s designed to last forever,” he said. “That’s the prevailing hope of everyone involved, that . . . the Catholic tradition of Caritas Christi stays in place forever.”  (Boston Globe, April 28, 2010)

“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.” (Fr. Richard Erikson, Vicar General, The Boston Pilot, May 14, 2010)

“We announced yesterday that an agreement has been reached with Cerberus that ensures the Catholic identity of the Caritas Christi hospitals… this stewardship agreement was a key component for us because it will preserve the Catholic identity of Caritas.” (Cardinal Seans blog, May 7, 2010)

Well, that was then and this is now. With the Super Bowl launch of Steward Health Care, it already appears rather clear that Steward’s stewardship of the “Stewardship Agreement” to maintain the Catholic identity at Caritas is flimsy at best, at least publicly. Just look at how the Steward website says nothing about Catholic hospitals, and especially note how the description of Caritas has changed on the Caritas Christi website in the past week to remove mention of Jesus Christ.

Read on for the before and after.

February 3, 2011. The website at http://www.caritaschristi.org had the Caritas Christi logo, with a subtle image of a cross in the logo.  The “About Us” page referenced the Caritas Christi mission:

Caritas Christi Health Care, rooted in the healing ministry of Jesus, is committed to serving the physical and spiritual needs of our community by delivering the highest quality care with compassion and respect.

(Click on the graphic below to zoom the image of the site as of Feb. 3)

February 8, 2011: On the same page, the former Caritas Christi logo is now gone, replaced by the new Steward logo (no cross).

The description on the “About Us” page just says,

“Steward Health Care System is a community-based accountable care organization and community hospital network. Headquartered in Boston, Steward has more than 13,000 employees serving more than one million patients annually in 85 communities.”

Notice how there is no acknowledgment that it was formerly Caritas Christi.   Where is Jesus Christ?  Gone.

Just for the sake of posterity, let us look at how Caritas Christi presented the hospital network just three years ago, before Fr. Bryan Hehir, Jack Connors, and Ralph de la Torre got involved. To the right is the former logo, with a prominent cross.  Here is a cached version of the Caritas Christi website as of January 2008. They described themselves at the time as follows:

Caritas Christi is a Catholic Health Care System rooted in the history of the Archdiocese of Boston. As a community of health care providers, we affirm Christ’s healing ministry, foster excellence in care, and commit ourselves to those in need in accordance with the principles of the Catholic Church.

That Catholic identity–at least expressed publicly at the time–is almost ancient history.

Now, the former Caritas Christi website is still clearly a work-in-process as they replace the old Caritas Christi identity with the new Steward one, and thankfully, there is a small remnant of that former Caritas mission statement left under “mission and values” for now, but we expect that will be gone shortly–unless this blog post triggers the Catholic identity stewards at Steward Health Care who are responsible for stewardship of the “Stewardship Agreement” to do something about preserving the Catholic identity publicly before the name of Jesus Christ is completely expunged.

If this is what they are doing with the Catholic identity publicly where people can readily see it, is anyone else wondering what is happening behind closed doors?


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