Pension Tension

Tensions are escalating over the employee pension fund, and if you did not notice from the statement by the former Chancellor, David Smith and subsequent response by the archdiocese, there was a bit of a war of words going on yesterday.  As one might expect , the Archdiocese still fails to answer pointed questions and apparently has started their characteristic “smear campaign” in retaliation when someone raises public criticism they do not like.   Here are a few highlights from the fireworks:

Article in today’s Boston Globe:Church is faulted on handling of pensions.”  There are not really any new insights here.

“My concern is that there are 10,000 people out here who have worked their whole lives for the church for submarket wages, and those people are being put at risk,’’ Smith said.

He also said the archdiocese is overstating the value of the lump sum payments.

Smith also said that the archdiocese is taking advantage of the fact that church plans are not held to strict federal standards, which apply to most pension plans and which prohibit pension funds from asking employees to accept a reduced benefit.

Even if the church does not have a legal obligation to follow federal guidelines, he said, it has a moral responsibility to do so.

O’Malley should “simply stand up and publicly say on television that this is the full faith and credit of the diocese and every single person will get every dollar they’re due,’’ Smith said.

Before yesterday’s press conference, Smith met with a group of about 15 current and former employees of the archdiocese whom he provocatively dubbed “Boston Pension Abuse Victims.’’

Most of the employees declined to speak to the press. But one former administrator for the archdiocese who would give only her first name, Karen, said she had worked for the archdiocese for 22 years. Her lump sum payment would amount to about half of her former annual salary, but she is nervous about leaving it on the table.  “They’re making a threat that it may not be there,’’ she said.

In an interview yesterday, the current archdiocesan chancellor, James P. McDonough, said it is “the cardinal’s goal and the pension trustees’ goal to fully fund the pensions, but neither the cardinal nor the trustees can predict what will happen over the next 30 years.’’

Carol Gustavson, director of benefit trusts and plan administrator for the archdiocese, said the plan has been carefully reviewed by lawyers and actuaries to make sure it complies with the law.

Yes, Jim and Carol, it may comply with the law (because the law does not govern church plans), but does what you are doing comply with past promises made by the Archdiocese of Boston to employees and the Catholic faithful?  Is it correct on an ethical and moral basis to have the Catholic Church reneg on a promise made to the Catholic faithful like this?  Why will no one from the archdiocese acknowledge the promise made by Cardinal O’Malley in 2004 to repay $5 million still owed to the pension plan by closed parishes and to be repaid from reconfiguration funds? Why won’t the Chancellor at least add that $5 million to the pool of funds and recalculate all of the lump-sum payouts?  Why is no one explaining why $2.5 million of reconfiguration funds that was promised to first repay pension obligations was instead diverted to Jack Connors’ Trinity Academy project in Brockton?  The next time a reporter talks to Terry, could you ask him that question?  Terry, Jim, and Carol, next time you make a statement, could you comment on that?

Then there is the smear campaign.

Terry Donilon, criticized the former chancellor for there not being balanced budgets during his tenure, with no context for the financial freefall that followed the clergy sexual abuse crisis which Terry, of course, never had to deal with because he was doing PR at Shaws Supermarkets at the time.  Terry’s predecessor, who made somewhere in the range of $50-65K less/year than Terry is paid today, walked into her job thinking she was doing proactive PR for the good works of the archdiocese and Catholic Church in Boston, and instead found the sexual abuse crisis hitting weeks later.

In a WBUR interview, Terry continued the smear campaign.  The WBUR reporter discussed the objective downsides of the offer to retirees (listen at 2:35):

“I’ve talked to tax experts who say this is a problem because it could open the person receiving this lump sum up for a large tax bill, in addition, they’re reducing the amount that they get because they’re taking it earlier in their retirement, and in addition, they’re absorbing the losses for the plan suffered. One tax expert said,  ‘It’s a surprising idea to come from a Church.’ “

The response by Terry Donilon from the archdiocese (listen at 2:48):

“I don’t know what planet David Smith is living on.  What we’re doing is a very responsible transparent, and fair way of trying to protect the beneficiaries. We are living in extreme and extraordinary times.”

The reporter went on to say (3:30) that “Terry, really just attacked David Smith’s track record as chancellor of the archdiocese.”

Nice job, Terry, of upholding the “highest Christian ethical standards and personal integrity.”By the way, if you are being transparent, how’s about explaining what happened to the $5M owed by closed parishes the Cardinal promised would be repaid from reconfiguration funds?

We are waiting now to see what Attorney General Martha Coakley and Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin are going to do.  Do not all hold your breath at once waiting for their response. In the meantime, we think the failure to repay this $5M as promised and the redirection of reconfiguration funds to Brockton’s Trinity Academy constitutes “Abuse of, or Fraud with Benefits”, which would be a violation of the new Code of Conduct Policy.  Anyone who cares about this issue and wants to do something about it immediately can submit an Ethicspoint claim here and see what happens. All the information you need to reference is here.  Former employees, current employees, priests, religious, or any concerned Catholic can file a claim, and is set-up so you can file the claim anonymously.

Lastly, as reported in the media, the Daughters of St Paul and the Archdiocese sit with a mediator today to see if the issues that motivated their lawsuit against the archdiocese can be resolved.   Comedian and talk show host, Conan O’Brien mentioned the lawsuit by the Daughters in one of his monologues last week.  Here is a link to the video. (fast forward to 4:00 for the 20-second part about the Daughters).

Even if what they are doing is technically “legal,” does anyone believe it is correct ethically and morally for the Catholic archdiocese to summarily abandon their promises made to long-time dedicated Catholic employees and publicly position it as though they are somehow doing the right thing?

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16 Responses to Pension Tension

  1. doubting pastor says:

    As Carol Gust-of-hot-air states: The Archdiocese may be in compliance with the law. But is that the heights to which we wish to hold ourselves? Abortion is the law of the land in the US. Should we be happy jut complying with that law?

  2. FR B says:

    CAROL G IS A PRACTICING CATHOLIC??
    OH YEAH, I REMEMBER, SHE BLESSED HERSELF AT A RECENT MEETING.

  3. enoughisenough says:

    Where do I go to get my faith back?

    • FR B says:

      A THOUGHT:
      Apologist, Francis Schaeffer wrote in a letter:
      ‘You must not lose confidence in God because you lost confidence in your
      pastor. If our confidence in God had to depend upon our confidence in any
      human person, we would be on shifting sand.’

      • enoughisenough says:

        But when the messenger discredits the message and is publicly unfaithful being a witness to teh Good News…they become an obstacle to faith. To say one no longer trusts the Roman Catholic Church is not to say one doesn’t believe in God. It just means you have no expectation of this crown leading you to Him.

  4. Boston Chahley says:

    I love your quick link to submit an Ethicspoint claim above. I will definitely do that, and will refence your info line following. Thanks so much for making this easy for us!
    (SEE ABOVE LINES: “Anyone who cares about this issue and wants to do something about it immediately can submit an Ethicspoint claim here and see what happens. All the information you need to reference is here.”)

  5. Terry has drank too much O’Malley Kool Aid. Smith was not very well liked and employees were happy when he left until “shorty” arrived on the scene. As time passed people realized that Smith was not that bad.

    It was Smith that was responsible for transparency, it was Smith that was responsible for arranging the deal that ultimately bailed out RCAB and prevented bankruptcy, and it was Smith who tried to maintain a decent pension plan.

    McDonough has been poison to the organization. Budget problems magnified, no raises, fat salaries for the chosen incompetent few, longer work hours, no holy-days, no free coffee, gutted pension benefits. He was NOT responsible for transparency – he came pretty much after it was implemented.

    BTW, the first time a move to Braintree was mentioned was under Smith’s watch.

    DONILON, WAKE UP!

    • Former Employee says:

      Sounds like you were there the same time I was….I never had any dealings directly with David Smith. Sure he was stiff and I knew of one guy in Finance that referred to him as “God’s other Son”, maybe he should have smiled more.

      Heck, Castaldi couldn’t handle the heat.

      He has nothing to gain by fighting on behalf of the former employees and a whole smear campaign to undergo for doing what’s right, kudos to him.

      Only one thing he may or may not have been complicit in every bothered me about him.

      Terry Donilon I’ve met, reminds me of Tip O’Neil with a red nose and an ill fitting suit.

      I look at this site for entertainment value, nothing will ever change at the Diocesan level, I would just advise any Catholics still working there to get the hell out before the place destroys their faith.

  6. Excuse the typos, I just get so aggravated with Donilon’s drivel. Where is Donna Morrissey when she’s needed?

  7. John Smith says:

    Terry is still drinking the Kool-Aid at 66 Brooks Drive, Hell I will too for his $160,000.00 a year and we wondor why the Pension fund is in trouble.

  8. John Smith says:

    David Smith had a rough exterior, however he is much better then what we have now. (Little Hitler) David is only trying to help us low paid employees.

  9. [...] We know everyone is waiting for the latest in the employee pension saga–both the issues raised by former Chancellor David Smith on behalf of former employees, [...]

  10. Anonymous says:

    Terry will need his big salary to pay for his nose job. He has been lying so much that his Pinocchio nose needs surgery

  11. Ron says:

    After my conversion I was hired by a small Catholic organization. I did so with a belief that the work I would be doing was important, and in some small way, I would be doing god’s work. With that as a basis, I accepted the position offered even though the salary offered was at a drastic reduction of my potential earnings. I also felt the pension presented was better than the 410k I left behind. At a recent meeting with other confused catholic workers, I discovered my future would be far different from what I believed that Easter morning I was received into this faith. That day I heard that I would, after 20 years of working for the faith and a only a short 4 years before I would retire, I would become one of the poor. Does this mean, then, that I will inherit the earth?

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