Misreporting Moving of Tomb

July 30, 2011

By now, people who read the Boston Globe or The Boston Pilot know that the tomb of the late Cardinal William O’Connell was moved last week.  What most people reading these stories do not know is that there was a key detail published in both stories that was not exactly accurate, fed by a deceptive statement by the archdiocese.  BCI is always amazed at how the archdiocese spins things, and how the mainstream media often fails to fact-check this stuff.

First, an excerpt from the Boston Globe report:

Nearly 70 years after O’Connell’s death, his remains were quietly moved a short distance last week from a crypt beneath a small chapel in Brighton to a courtyard at St. John’s Seminary, ending an unusual court fight over what to do with the bones of one of the most influential Roman Catholic leaders in the city’s history.

The seven-year dispute pitted the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and Boston College against the living relatives of the late cardinal. The church and BC wanted to relocate O’Connell’s remains from land the school bought from the archdiocese in 2004 so that the college could redevelop the property.

But the cardinal’s relatives were determined to defend the wishes of their famous ancestor. O’Connell, they said, had clearly chosen the place of his own tomb, a little building on a hill to remind young seminarians to pray for an old cardinal’s soul.

Now, the cardinal’s remains are even closer to the seminary.

“In accordance with an agreement reached with the late cardinal’s next of kin and in keeping with the wishes expressed in his last will and testament, his remains have been re-interred on the grounds of St John’s Seminary with prayers performed . . . by Bishop Arthur Kennedy, rector of St. John’s Seminary,’’ the archdiocese said in a statement yesterday.

The deception is in the last statement in the passage BCI has marked in bold.  If you have not figured it out yet, read on.

By the way, below is a picture of the chapel and mausoleum that used to be there serving as the burial location for the late Cardinal.  

The structure has now been demolished.

The Boston Pilot reported the following:

BRIGHTON — The remains of the late Cardinal William O’Connell, who was Archbishop of Boston from 1907 to 1944, have been moved from from a vault in a chapel on Boston College grounds in Brighton to a new burial location at St. John’s Seminary also in Brighton.

The reinterment marks the end of a contentious process that started in 2004, when BC purchased from the archdiocese much of the grounds of the former chancery in Brighton including, the chapel that served as burial place for Cardinal O’Connell. The archdiocese used much of the proceeds of the sales to pay for settlements related to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

At the time of the sale in 2004, the archdiocese agreed with BC to relocate the cardinal’s remains to a new location. In the agreement, BC retained $2 million from the sale pending the completion of the removal of the remains from their grounds.

In a statement to The Pilot released July 27, Donilon confirmed the move of the remains and explained that an agreement was reached with the cardinal’s heirs.

“In accordance with an agreement reached with the late Cardinal’s next of kin, and in keeping with the wishes expressed in his last will and testament, his remains have been reinterred on the grounds of St John’s Seminary with prayers offered by Bishop Arthur Kennedy, Rector of St. John’s Seminary.”

Cardinal O’Connell moved the archdiocese’s headquarters from Boston to the Brighton campus. He had repeatedly stated his wishes to be buried on the Brighton site. He was buried in a concrete vault beneath the marble floor at the foot of the altar in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, constructed in 1928.

In 2009, BC won city approval to develop the former archdiocesan chancery grounds where the chapel is located as the school’s Brighton campus.

“Out of respect for the late cardinal, we do not think that it would be appropriate to have a gravesite on a college campus, especially on a site in close proximity to a proposed parking facility,” BC spokesman Jack Dunn told the Pilot in 2009.

Once again, note the passages in bold.  Anyone see the deception yet?

The deception is that the statement from the archdiocese and comment from the BC spokesman pretend that St. John’s Seminary actually has “grounds”  of its own. The reality is that there are no “grounds” of the seminary any more–those grounds were sold off and are all owned by Boston College, not St. John’s Seminary any more.

Last October, we reported in “Seminary Squeezola: BC Brighton Campus Plans”  that  St. Johns Hall is all that remains of the former St. Johns Seminary property for the seminary, and even that building sits on land now owned by Boston College.  The building itself is legally considered a “condominium.”  You can verify that in the St. Johns Seminary 2010 annual report on page 9, where it says: “The Seminary retained an ownership of a condominium in St. John’s Hall.”

Bottom line: there are in reality no more “grounds of St. John’s Seminary.”  BC owns all the land. Thus, the remains of Cardinal O’Connell were moved from the former chapel and mauselium that was on land currently owned by BC, to another plot of land that is also owned by BC, which is very close to St. John’s Seminary. Cardinal O’Connell was re-buried in a gravesite which is today legally Boston College property, not the “grounds of St. John’s Seminary.”

That is the reality, but BCI figures that would not have sounded so good in probate court or in the press statement.  What do you think?

Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Sambi, Dies at 73

July 28, 2011

U.S. apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, has died at the age of 73 after complications from recent lung surgery.  Here are a few excerpts from news articles about his passing:

US Catholics mourn death of Archbishop Sambi:

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2011 / 01:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics across the nation are grieving the loss of Vatican representative to the U.S. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on July 27, at the age of 73.

“He had a ready smile, was approachable, and was good with people from every walk of life,” Monsignor Walter Rossi, head of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington,  D.C. told CNA on July 28.

Dolan: US church had ‘highest respect, deepest affection’ for nuncio

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio to the United States since early 2006, “enjoyed the highest respect and deepest affection” of the U.S. bishops and the nation’s Catholics, said New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Sambi, 73, died July 27 at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore apparently from complications of lung surgery performed approximately three weeks earlier.


May he rest in peace.

Correction to Kickham Kin Commentary

July 27, 2011

Readers, when BCI makes a mistake and we become aware of the mistake, we come out and acknowledge it.  Today we learned we may have made a rather significant mistake in our post from yesterday where we wrote that Christopher Kickham, cousin of the Cardinal’s priest-secretary, Fr. Robert Kickham, got a job in Parish Pastoral Services at the Pastoral Center.

Sources now have corrected BCI telling us that Chris Kickham is actually the brother of Fr. Robert Kickham, not his cousin.  In the interest of full disclosure, we originally heard that Chris Kickham was the brother of Fr. Kickham, then went to double and triple-check the information and were told the new guy in the Pastoral Center had been announced as Fr. Kickham’s cousin. Thus, that is what we wrote. Now we are hearing what we published yesterday is incorrect and Chris and Fr. Kickham are indeed brothers.

We apologize for any confusion or offense that may have occurred as a result of the post.  We also regret that we may have under-represented the degree of perceived cronyism and nepotism associated with this situation.

As Deacon A.J. Constantino said in a recent comment, “When you are a manager, you do not want internal staff to be at the water cooler saying candidate XYZ had the job because of who he/she is.”  BCI agrees.

We have thoroughly documented a number of other instances of cronyism and nepotism in previous posts which serve to undermine transparency and trust in the management and leadership of the archdiocese.  BCI does not know the extent to which internal or external candidates were actively considered and interviewed for this job. But we maintain our opinion that the hiring of the cousin or brother of the Cardinal’s priest-secretary for an open position when their  published work history and experience do not match the published criteria for the position gives the appearance of nepotism and cronyism which in turn undermines trust.

Kickham Cousin Collects Chancery Paycheck

July 26, 2011

Our discussion today is a mix of a little bit cronyism, a little bit nepotism, and a little bit just plain looks bad.

Before we get into the main topic, BCI knows that they call 66 Brooks Drive the “Pastoral Center,” not the “Chancery,” but since people have observed to us that 66 Brooks is often not “pastoral” and its location is not exactly central–and we all know it is run by the current “Chancellor”–BCI decided to call it the “Chancery” for the subject line of our post today.

Most people are aware that Fr. Robert Kickham is one of two priest-secretaries to Cardinal O’Malley, and he plays an important behind-the-scenes role as gatekeeper to the Cardinal. That means he controls a) Information that either makes it to the Cardinal for his review and action or does not make it to the Cardinal, and b) Access to the Cardinal, meaning some people can get time with him and some people cannot get time with him.

Fr. Kickham has a very tough job. Many people respect Fr. Kickham, or at least they say they liked him in years past–before 2004 when the members of the current regime began their takeover of the archdiocese.  As the key gatekeeper, Fr. Kickham is somewhat like a “chief of staff” to the Cardinal. From the vantage-point of BCI and many others inside and outside of 66 Brooks Drive, it has appeared in recent years that Fr. Kickham has tended to grant people like Chancellor Jim McDonough, Fr. Bryan Hehir, Jack Connors, Terry Donilon and others relatively free and ready access to the Cardinal, thus enabling them to wield considerable influence and power, while at the same time it has been difficult for others, including many priests, to get any time with the Cardinal.

Anyway, suffice to say that with all BCI has written about cronyism and nepotism over the past year, and with all of controversy over sham searches, one would think that the archdiocese would finally come around and find a way of letting people who are qualified for open jobs actually apply for them and get the jobs, and avoiding any appearance that friends and family always have the inside track for open positions.  Not necessarily, it seems.

Not long ago, an opening came up for a Parish Services Consultant in Jim McDonough’s organization, reporting into Denise McKinnon-Biernat.  (BCI previously wrote why there was an opening, but that is not germane to this story so we removed that sentence).  Here is the job description posted online for the job:

Parish Service Consultant – Parish Financial Services

The Parish Service Consultant is a multifunctional specialist role that Parish Financial Services Parish Financial Consultantreports directly to the Director of Parish Financial Services and serves as a liaison between the Archdiocese, its Parishes, the Regional Vicars and Bishops. The Parish Service Consultant provides financial analysis communication, support and implementation of Archdiocesan policies to assist parishes. Specific responsibilities include analysis, training and support to parishes in the areas of financial management, planning, budget review, real estate, insurance, facilities, computer and personnel management. Responsibilities also include consultation among Parish Services, Regional Services and other related Archdiocesan departments and agencies, as necessary. The successful candidate will have a Bachelor Degree in Accounting, Finance, or Business Administration and minimum 7 years demonstrated work experience in accounting, finance and/or management; familiarity with real estate and/or risk management issues is a plus.

A lot of people out there looking for jobs have accounting or business degrees and work experience in accounting.  A lot of people have been laid off or pushed into early retirement from the archdiocese. A lot of parish employees are well-quallified for this job. So, of all the people they could have hired for the job, by coincidence, the person hired was Christoper Kickham, cousin of Fr. Robert Kickham.

Christopher has a profile on Linkedin: one of these social media networking sites.  Here is a summary of his background profile:

“Coordinated retail and institutional trading in 5000 foreign publicly traded equities in 42 countries and 18 currencies. Managed numerous client to dealer relationships, achieving superior pricing and liquidity, for one billion equity shares annually. Developed new relationships between US dealers and Fidelity Capital Markets, generating revenues in excess of six figures.”

According to Linkedin, he has been an equity trader since 1992 and has an economics degree from U Mass Amherst (not accounting, finance, or business administration as specified in the job description). BCI understands the work as an equity trader is the same sort of job that his cousin, Fr. Kickham, worked at prior to becoming a priest.

How buying and selling stocks and flagging trades for nearly 20 years prepares someone for helping parishes with their accounting using Quickbooks is not immediately apparent to BCI, but we must be missing something.

The hiring of Chris Kickham is not a secret–it was announced at a Pastoral Center staff meeting. BCI does not know how many people applied for the job through the front door and were rejected.  The position is not of the level that would call for a “nationwide search,” and there was not a “search committee” for this job like there was for the Secretary of Institutional Advancement job, slotted for Jack Connors’ crony, Kathleen Driscoll, even before the search committee convened.

The advertised job assists Denise McKinnon-Biernat on many levels. The people who have held the role have been well-liked by pastors because of their competency and customer service mindset.  BCI hopes the same holds for Mr. Kickham.

Perhaps few people applied for the job and Mr. Kickham submitted a resume and cover letter to HR through the front door and was the leading candidate of many choices. But, that seems like an unlikely scenario given the number of people with strong backgrounds who keep telling BCI they have applied for jobs and never even get an interview.

Regardless of Mr. Kickham’s competency for the job and service mindset, since the background and experience listed on his public resume do not match the job description, the hiring of Fr. Kickham’s cousin gives the appearance of cronyism or nepotism. It could also give rise to the perception that maybe Fr. Kickham asked Chancellor Jim Mcdonough to help take care of his cousin, which presented an opportunity for Chancellor McDonough to return some of the many favors Fr. Kickham has done for the Chancellor. After all, does anyone believe it is a total coincidence that the daughter of Chancellor McDonough just happened to land a job as an assistant media planner at Jack Connor’s former advertising firm, Hill Holiday, without Daddy asking Jack for help?

BCI wonders why the archdiocese keeps doing this. As we reported a year ago in Cronyism IV, Nepotism I, in spring of 2007, the Chancellor propagated a no nepotism hiring policy–albeit which applied to spouses, children and siblings–but even that policy somehow exempted the Chancellor and his family, since not long after it was issued, the archdiocese hired his daughter as a new college graduate, and subsequently his son for a summer job.

The hiring of children or other family members like this ends up advancing the perception of a culture of cronyism in Braintree where one hand washes the other. BCI is of the opinion that it would benefit the archdiocese to address this situation. Yet another item for the new Vicar General to put on his list?  What do you think?

On the appointment of Archbishop Chaput to Philadelphia

July 23, 2011

Yesterday, June 22, Cardinal O’Malley issued a statement commending Archbishop Charles Chaput on his appointment to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. BCI also commends Archbishop Chaput and is excited to see him moving up in the proverbial “episcopal foodchain,” as it were.

Here is Cardinal O’Malley’s statement, and below you will find a few other select quotes passed on to BCI from readers from other sources:

From Cardinal Sean O’Malley:

The news of the appointment of Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., as Archbishop of Philadelphia is a source of tremendous hope and joy for me, and I wish to assure him of my prayers and the prayers of the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Boston. Archbishop Chaput and I were classmates together in the seminary. We Capuchins are very proud of the outstanding ministry of this great friar.

Our Holy Father is wise in choosing Archbishop Chaput to become the ninth Archbishop of Philadelphia. He brings with him many skills and talents that will be put to good use in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The people and the clergy of Philadelphia have suffered greatly throughout these past few difficult months. Their new Archbishop is a patient man who will work very hard to bring healing and strength to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. On behalf of the clergy and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Boston, I pledge our prayerful support for Archbishop Chaput and for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as they welcome their new shepherd.”

From Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia:

He is brash, outspoken and fearless — energetic, colorful, cultured…
indeed, even hard-core….he stands set to bring the most revolutionary change American Catholicism’s most traditional major outpost has known in at least a century, to begin its rebuilding from the ashes of the darkest hour in its long, storied history…

Given Chaput’s reputation as a tough, clear, no-nonsense overseer with a knack for shaking things up, that phrasing is no accident. At the same time, though, it is worth noting that for the first time since Edmond Francis Prendergast –the “Big Man” and native son who governed the Philly church from 1911-18 — a Philadelphia archbishop will have served as pastor of a parish.

A member of the Potawatomi Prairie Band tribe, the archbishop’s Native American name is Pietasen (“rustling wind”) — a moniker that led his late mother to call him “Windy.” Accordingly, for an ecclesial model that’s stood as the nation’s oldest, most enduring clone of institution-centric, clericalist Catholicism in the spirit of its roots in 18th-century Ireland, the reported move would represent nothing short of a hurricane.

The son of a small-town funeral director, the high-octane choice — a veteran of leading two intense Apostolic Visitations — would ostensibly come armed with a mandate to significantly revamp a two-century-old ecclesial culture that’s been engulfed by the damning
conclusions of the civil inquest and, just as much, by the eruptive aftermath it’s birthed on fronts ranging from the courts, budgets and pews to the all-important presbyterate, whose traditional penchant for docility, widely-known across the Catholic world, has recently undergone a serious shift…..

From writer George Wiegel, distinguished senior fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, in National Review Online:

 John Paul II, in his apostolic letter published at the end of the Great Jubilee of 2000, challenged the entire Church to leave the stagnant shallows of institutional maintenance and put out into the deep waters of post-modernity, preaching Jesus Christ as the answer to the question that is every human life. In his 1991 encyclical Redemptoris Missio [The Mission of the Redeemer], John Paul insisted that the Church doesn’t have a mission, as if “mission” were one among a dozen things the Catholic Church does. No, John Paul taught, the Church isa mission, such that everything and everyone in the Church ought to be measured by what the management types would call mission-effectiveness.

The old warhorses of the post–Vatican II debates, on either end of the Catholic spectrum, don’t get this; they’re still mud-wrestling within the old paradigm. But Archbishop Charles Chaput gets it, big time. That, and the effective work of his predecessor, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, is what has made the archdiocese of Denver what is arguably the model Evangelical Catholic diocese in the country: a Church brimming with excitement over the adventure of the Gospel, a Church attracting some of the sharpest young Catholics in America to its services, a Church fully engaged in public life while making genuinely public arguments about the first principles of democracy.

This is the vision that Archbishop Chaput is bringing to Philadelphia, and it has virtually nothing to do with “agendas” as the usual suspects understand agendas. Of course that vision includes addressing serious problems of sexual abuse. The old clericalism that protected perpetrators in various dioceses created serious legal problems for the institutional Church; but it was also, and even more importantly from an evangelical point of view, a terrible impediment to preaching the Gospel and attracting people to friendship with Jesus Christ. It’s his palpable commitment to the latter — to the project of unapologetic evangelism — that will give Archbishop Chaput credibility in cleaning up what needs cleaning up and in healing what can be healed in Philadelphia.

And this is something else the usual suspects miss. The usual suspects’ answer to clerical sexual abuse has been, is, and seems likely to remain the transformation of Catholicism into Catholic Lite. But in situation after situation — Phoenix and Denver being two prime examples — it’s been the Gospel without compromise, joyfully lived, that has turned abuse disaster areas into vibrant Catholic centers where public confidence in the Church’s credibility has been restored. Where Catholic Lite has been adopted as the solution to the problems Catholic Lite helped cause — as in Boston — the meltdown that began in 2002 continues.

With the appointment of Charles J. Chaput as archbishop of Philadelphia, the deep reform of the Catholic Church in the United States — the reform that is giving birth to Evangelical Catholicism even as it leaves the old post–Vatican II arguments fading into the rear-view mirror — has been accelerated.

Similar enthusiasm as described above existed when then-Archbishop Sean O’Malley arrived in Boston in 2003.  That is long-since gone.  If Boston suffers from “Catholic Lite,” then piled on top of that needs to be added ethical and moral corruption in the administration of the archdiocese, excessive six-figure salaries, deception, mismanagement, cronyism, a culture of retaliation, and a range of other problems.

BCI wishes Archbishop Chaput much success and invites all BCI readers to pray for his success in his new role.  Hopefully, Boston can learn a few things from him.

Enough is Enough: Part 2

July 21, 2011

There was yet another article in the Boston Globe Tuesday sympathetic to the vigilers occupying churches in the Boston archdiocese–this one, about St. Therese in Everett. As we learned last week, the church building will stay open as an oratory of nearby St. Anthony in Everett.  BCI just does not entirely get what the protesters are still after, and must be missing something here.

Entitled, “Vigilers resist church’s conversion plan,” here are some excerpts from the Globe article:

EVERETT – Catholics who have occupied St. Therese Church for seven years vowed last night to continue their vigil, despite a plan by the Archdiocese of Boston to convert it to a chapel for use by the Brazilian Catholic community.

“We are still in vigil and will maintain our vigil,’’ said Joan Shepard, a vigil leader, standing behind an altar. “We feel this decision is a mistake… .. It’s very disrespectful.’’

“Aren’t we all children of God?’’ asked Gloria Young, one of a dozen parishioners seated in pews. “We’ve been sitting here for seven years, and for what? So that someone else can use it?’’…

A dozen supporters of the vigil met last night in the hot, stuffy church to plot their resistance to the archdiocese’s new use for St. Therese.

The church on Broadway is slated to become St. Therese Oratory, part of St. Anthony Parish of Everett. Masses will be offered in Portuguese, to accommodate a growing number of Brazilian immigrants in this city north of Boston seeking to worship in their own language.

“The Brazilian population is a very significant part of the growth of the Catholic Church,’’ said Terrence C. Donilon, the archdiocesan spokesman. “This is going to address their needs long term.’’…

Parishioners at St. Therese said they would not leave the church. Some have spent dozens of nights in the church, even after the archdiocese shut off heat and water after a boiler broke in 2009.

“This just doesn’t seem right,’’ said Carol Tumasz, 53, who moved into the church for a period. “What about the rest of the people?’’

Shepard said she received a phone call from the archdiocese last Thursday, but she is angry they did not receive a letter from O’Malley.

“I have received no official word from the cardinal’s office,’’ she said. “Our families built this church, and we saved it from destruction. It’s unthinkable that we will not be able to worship here.’’

Donilon defended O’Malley and said all Catholics will be welcome at St. Therese Oratory. “I understand the people are sad, but the cardinal has been very patient… . We think this is a good new use for St. Therese.’’

A church building that, as of about a year ago, was doomed to closure and sale was saved. Yet the dozen vigilers are going to continue occupying the space because they are not completely getting their way, and a different Catholic community will use the building who didn’t occupy it for seven years?  Does anyone else besides BCI see some of the quotes in the Globe as just a bit whiney?

Sadly, the Globe reporting still fails to ask some key questions of the people occupying the building and their motives. Beyond that, the history once again validates the diocesan mismanagement we mentioned in our last post.

For example, who exactly are the people occupying the building?  A commenter on this discussion about the closing from 2008 identified as “55 years in Everett” said:

“The people holding the vigil are only a handful and the dollar a week they put in the box won’t pay the bills, that’s for sure. I know people that go down there everyday and sit for two hours at a time and they are not even Catholic! They never went to the church until the vigil started, it’s just a little social gathering for them, and this I know for fact.”

Above and beyond this question, why is the fact that there are 5 other Catholic parishes within a mile and a half away never mentioned?  If you look at the map below, Immaculate Conception in Everett is less than 3/4 of a mile away, just down Broadway, from St. Therese in Everett.  St. Anthony in Everett is 1.1 miles away, and our Lady of Grace in Chelsea is 1.2 miles away.

Two churches in nearby Malden, Sacred Heart (A, in the picture below), and St. Joseph (C in the picture), are also within 1.5 miles away from St. Therese (B).

BCI is curious as to why these 12 people occupying the church would find it so difficult to drive, take public transportation, or get a ride from a neighbor or friend to one of these 5 churches?  Are they even attending Mass on Sundays in an open parish today, or have they been neglecting their Sunday obligation these past 7 years?

Then we have the question of the mismanagement.  As has been said before, for years the archdiocese has really made no effort whatsoever to end the occupancies.  In most parishes, that could have at least saved money on the added costs of maintaining the buildings to residential standards while the parish closings were under appeal.  This March 2009 article confirms the failure of the archdiocese to even try to reclaim the buildings from the protesters:

Similar vigils have taken place elsewhere in the U.S. — including New York City, Kansas and Ohio — but not every diocese has tolerated the dissent. In New Orleans in January, church leaders called in police after two months, and they broke down a door and arrested two protesters as they cleared out two churches.

Sister Marian Batho, an archdiocesan liaison to the Boston area’s occupied churches, said O’Malley wouldn’t consider that approach: “Cardinal Sean is a man of peace.”

O’Malley wants to wait until all the appeals are played out, possibly this spring, and only then approach those refusing to leave, [Sr. Marian] Batho said. “We would hope we could resolve this in a respectful way,” she said.

The vigils are billed as 24 hour-a-day affairs, but some parishioners acknowledge there have been short gaps when no one was occupying a building. The archdiocese does not have the buildings under surveillance, and had no one there to reclaim the churches.

Not even trying to (peacefully) reclaim the churches over the past 7 years when the opportunity has been readily available just seems like mismanagement to BCI. Let the appeals keep running, but to allow people to take up residence in the churches for 7 years does not make sense and suggests weak leadership from on top.

BCI agrees with commenter “Serviam” that Catholic churches are sacred worship spaces that are not just a simple commodity to be bought and sold at will.  It is the place Catholics traditionally expect encountered our Eucharistic Lord both within and outside the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They were often built and supported with the labor and financial contributions of immigrants. Catholic churches carry important memories of baptisms, first Communions, confirmation, weddings, funerals. The decision to close a church should never be taken lightly and there must be grave reasons to close a church.

But what should happen when most–if not all of the people–who carry these memories and attachments to a particular church have accepted the decision the church had to close for grave reasons and have moved on to another Catholic parish, and what remain are protesters who never had much of an affiliation with the church? Or, in the case of St. Therese, the building was spared, but the protesters are still upset because they cannot have it entirely their way.

Is there something about this that the Globe and archdiocese get, but which BCI is missing?

Enough is Enough

July 18, 2011

Yes, BCI did see the headline and article in the Boston Globe today, “Unwilling to give up their vigil: Parishioners of 6 churches told to close will begin appeals today.”  BCI is as frustrated with this whole ordeal as our readers are, but BCI feels triply frustrated–with the media, for sloppy reporting, with the protesters, for not accepting what has been a foregone conclusion for some time, and with the archdiocese for the mismanagement of the so-called “vigils.”

1. First, the media.  The Globe reports, “Today, all six churches plan to send letters to O’Malley, kicking off an appeals process expected to last two to three years.” BCI is curious as to where in the world that time range comes from? Who exactly “expects” the appeals process to last that long?  Is it Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes?  The Council of Parishes is apparently so incredibly active as an organization that they simply have not even had a minute to update their website in six years, since May of 2005.  They list sixteen parishes as “members,” but ones like Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton and St. Anselm in Sudbury came off the closure list years ago while others have long since closed.  Does Borre’s “Council of Parishes” actually have bylaws, elect officers, meet as a council, take minutes, make collective decisions, etc., or is now really just a virtual organization that gives Borre a platform of credibility from which to speak and be quoted? (Seems to BCI that we may have more people actively involved with this blog than Borre has with his Council of Parishes, so we should create a “Council of BCI” for added credibility, but we digress…)

And never once has a reporter asked the people who are protesting the parish closures exactly what their involvement was with the former parish before it was suppressed.  BCI hears from former parishioners all the time who have moved on to the welcoming parish that those protesting were virtually unknown in the previous parish community before they took up their protest.  Why doesn’t someone from the media ask them what they did before in the parish–were they CCD instructors, Eucharistic ministers, lectors, choir members, members of the Knights of Columbus or Rosary Society or Ladies Sodality, involved in pro-life ministry or the St. Vincent De Paul society?  Why doesn’t the archdiocese ask them, so they know whether the people they are negotiating with even have the standing to have a say in the matter?

2. The protesters.  People commenting on BCI have said it well.  In our post six months ago, “Free Snow Removal and Invisible Vigils”, a reader, “Priest Just Wondering” said:

I’m “JUST WONDERING” what are these groups waiting for? They made request after request to Rome and Rome has spoken…..N O! What part of N or O don’t they understand?

Reader, Carolyn, said just today:

“This morning’s news brings the stunning revelation that the people who have been periodically occupying a handful of closed churches (and based on the one near me, it is anything but 24/7) intend to stay and seek yet another appeal which they believe will take 2-3 years. These are people who in most cases didn’t darken the door of their parish church every Sunday but seem to live nearby enough to worry about the property value.”

If these people really want to participate in the full life of the Catholic Church–meaning receiving the sacraments, worshiping at a Catholic Mass (not a prayer service), and involvement in other ministries with a spiritual community, why would they not just drive a few minutes down the road to the welcoming parish and join that community instead of camping out in a closed church building for 6-7 years?

3. The archdiocese. We have described the problem of archdiocesan mismanagement of the protesting churches multiple times, including in “Vigil Vigilance”,Free Snow Removal and Invisible Vigils” and other posts.  Lest this be in any way unclear to readers, let us repeat the word: at the root of the problem is mismanagement.

In 2008, Terry Donilon was quoted in the Boston Globe saying: “These vigils have to end at some point. It’s an issue of fairness to the parishes that are open and struggling to serve people.”

Coincidentally, in 2011, two and a half years later, Terry Donilon was quoted in the Boston Globe today saying: “We’re not looking for a confrontation, but at some point, the vigils are going to have to end.”

Does anyone else notice the uncanny similarity between what Terry Donilon said today and what he said in 2008? As of that time, the archdiocese said they had spent $2.2 million on utilities, insurance, and other building costs at all churches that had been in vigil over the previous four years. Two and a half years have passed. Who knows what that cost is today. When is the archdiocese going to put their money where their mouths are and do something?  Nobody knows. Even the biggest brains at 66 Brooks do not know either.

As BCI asked previously, why is it that the archdiocese does not just change the locks and padlock the doors of these facilities when they are empty to end the vigils and stop spending all this money on maintenance that could be used elsewhere? In the beginning, as we have said before, Cardinal Sean’s own instructions to the property management company were that if a building was found unoccupied it should have been locked, and the locksmith called to change the locks.  Then Fr. Bryan Hehir, Ann Carter, the PR wizards at Rasky Baerlein said no, that would be a breach of trust, so even those found empty were left alone. That has gone on for seven years. In situations where a church is occupied, people could be permitted to leave, but no one would be allowed to enter. It is very simple.

But alas, nobody has the backbone at 66 Brooks Drive to do what should have been done 6-7 years ago.  So, kids “raid the fridge” and sleep-over at the church building “in bedrooms that were once the vestry and the church’s confessional.”  Elsewhere, BCI has heard about sleepovers with pizza set out on the altar like a buffet and quilting classes in the sanctuary. BCI is not sure if Peter Borre is still doing his drive-by deliveries of ciboria containing the Blessed Sacrament consecrated by a sympathetic priest or if Eucharist abuses are still tolerated today as they were in the past, when the Blessed Sacrament was sometimes present in the sanctuary during social gatherings.

When exactly will the archdiocese conclude that enough is enough with these vigils?  Will they delay for several months longer and make this yet another item for the new Vicar General to take up in the fall?

What do you think?

Cardinal Makes Decisions on Future of Eight Closed Churches

July 15, 2011

Big news yesterday on several fronts.  Besides the appointment of a new Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. the archdiocese announced that Cardinal O’Malley has made decisions on 8 closed churches.  Here is the memo distributed Thursday.  It would do an injustice to the information provided for BCI to edit it, so we publish the memo in its entirety.  Further below, we also comment on the Boston Globe’s article on the same topic.


Braintree, MA (July 14, 2011) – After several weeks of consultation, reflection and prayer, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley has made several decisions regarding eight Church buildings in the Archdiocese of Boston.  Six Churches have been relegated to profane use and two Churches have been designated or transferred by the Archdiocese for other future ecclesial uses.

In February 2011, Cardinal Seán initiated a broad consultation of the Catholic faithful about the future use of several Church buildings and their related properties.  Specifically, the Cardinal asked for comments on a possible “relegation to profane use” of the Church building.  The term “relegation” is used in Church law for the conversion of a Church building from sacred uses. Once a Church is relegated to profane use, it will no longer be used for Catholic liturgical worship, any remaining sacred items are removed, and the building can be sold for use in an appropriate and dignified manner. The funds derived from a sale of these Churches will be used for direct support of parishes of the Archdiocese.

The consultation process, begun only after Cardinal O’Malley allowed every means of civil and canonical appeal regarding closed parishes to be pursued over the past six years, involved the Catholic faithful who were former parishioners at the parishes to which these Churches were connected prior to their closure in 2004-2005.  The consultation process also involved priests, religious and other lay members in the wider community of the Archdiocese, including the parish pastoral and finance councils of neighboring parishes. The Archbishop then consulted the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council prior to making his decision, as is required by Church law.

Cardinal Seán said, “The consultation process was very important and of great assistance to me in making decisions on each of these properties.  I am particularly grateful to those who participated in the online surveys and in the parish consultations, to the pastors and Catholic faithful of the welcoming parishes, and to the Presbyteral Council for providing great perspective on each Church property.  I know how difficult the parish closings were, especially for those parishioners directly impacted.  I want you to know I have heard you.  I appreciate your strong commitment to your parish.  What I have heard from these consultations is that we have reached a point as a community of believers where we must relegate these Church buildings as part of the continuing healing and rebuilding of the Archdiocese. I continue to put my trust and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ to help us come together as one Catholic family, inspired by the Holy Spirit and guided in our principles and commitment to do God’s work.”

Churches relegated to profane use:

Cardinal O’Malley issued canonical decrees today relegating each of the following Church buildings to “profane but not sordid use” (can. 1222 §2):

1.      St. James the Great, Wellesley

2.      St. Jeanne D’Arc, Lowell

3.      Star of the Sea, Quincy

4.      Our Lady of Lourdes, Revere

5.      St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Scituate

6.      Our Lady of Mount Carmel, East Boston

Very Reverend Richard M. Erikson, Vicar General & Moderator of the Curia said, “The Cardinal has shown strong pastoral leadership in providing for the consultation process.  Throughout this process the Cardinal has taken seriously the input of the faithful and made his decision based on what is best for the entire Archdiocese and the local Catholic community which is so important in the life of the Church.”

These decrees are being notified to the faithful today and they become effective on Monday, July 18, 2011. The future disposition of the Churches and related properties is still under consideration.  For each Church, a specific means will be chosen for preserving their memory and the important place they have had in the lives, hearts and minds of our Catholic faithful.  Whether through the relocating of stained glass windows, or religious statues or other sacred objects, the legacy of the closed Church will live on in other parishes of the Archdiocese.

The final formal steps regarding these Churches will be decided over the coming weeks by the Cardinal.  Prior to a possible sale and depending on the value of the property, the Archdiocesan Finance Council would also be consulted.

Churches designated for other uses

The Archdiocese is also announcing today Cardinal O’Malley’s decision to designate or transfer the following Churches for other future ecclesial uses:

1.      St. Therese, Everett

The Cardinal has designated St. Therese in Everett as an Oratory of St. Anthony Parish in Everett.  An “Oratory” is a sacred place that the bishop has designated for use by a particular group of the faithful for divine worship. Whereas in canon law a “Church” is open to all members of the faithful, an Oratory is used by the members of the group for which it is established.  An ethnically diverse parish, St. Anthony Parish includes English, Italian, Spanish and Brazilian communities.  The intention is that St. Therese Oratory will be used for worship by the Brazilian Catholic community.

2.      St. Jeremiah Framingham

The Archdiocese has been engaged in extensive discussions to transfer St. Jeremiah’s to the Syro-Malabar eparchy.  Terms are still being discussed.  The Syro-Malabar Church is East Syrian Rite in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.  The Syro-Malabars have allowed the use of the Church by the former parishioners of St. Jeremiah Parish.  The local Syro-Malabar priests will be responsible for making any further accommodations for a Latin Rite Mass.  To learn more about the Syro-Malabar Church please visit their website at http://www.smcim.org.

“The consultation process has been extensive,” said Very Reverend Arthur M. Coyle, V.E., Regional Episcopal Vicar for the Merrimack Region.  “Cardinal Seán instituted it because he has been committed to insuring that fair and just decisions would be reached regarding the future of sacred buildings. The process was an expression of his efforts to rebuild our Archdiocese, fostering a culture of trust, collaboration and cooperation.”

About the Archdiocese of Boston: The Diocese of Boston was founded on April 8, 1808 and was elevated to Archdiocese in 1875. Currently serving the needs of nearly 2 million Catholics, the Archdiocese of Boston is an ethnically diverse and spiritually enriching faith community consisting of 291 parishes, across 144 communities, educating approximately 42,000 students in its Catholic schools and 156,000 in religious education classes each year, ministering to the needs of 200,000 individuals through its pastoral and social service outreach.   Mass is celebrated in nearly twenty different languages each week. For more information, please visit  www.BostonCatholic.org .



1.      What does relegation to profane use mean?

This term is used in Church law for when a Church building will no longer be used for Catholic liturgical worship.  Once a property has been relegated, any remaining sacred items are removed and the building can be sold for use in an appropriate and dignified manner.

2.      Before he can consider selling a church, does not the Cardinal have to relegate it to profane use?

If a church building is to be sold to a group that will not use it for sacred worship, yes, the Cardinal follows the canons on “relegation of the Church to profane but not sordid use” (canon 1222 §2). This means a secular use, but one that is not unbecoming, immoral, or offensive to Catholics.  If it is sold to a group that will use it for sacred worship, no, the Cardinal does not need to relegate it to profane use.  The process used for considering the possible sale of a church follows both Church law and civil law, taking into account that the church must be relegated to profane use prior to a sale for purposes other than sacred worship.

3.      What happens to these Church buildings once they have been relegated?

The buildings will be appraised and likely marketed for sale.  Prospective buyers will be invited to contact the Archdiocese.  For each building there will be a specific way in which their memory and the important place they have in the lives, hearts and minds of our Catholic faithful will be memorialized and preserved for future generations.  Whether through the relocating of stained glass windows, or religious statues or other sacred objects, the legacy of closed Church will live on in other parishes of the Archdiocese.

4.      Where does the money go from any sales of the closed Church properties?

The funds derived from a sale of these Churches will be used for direct support of parishes of the Archdiocese. The Cardinal is in the process of establishing a dedicated fund for this specific use.

5.      What happens to the sacred objects that remain?

All sacred objects are catalogued and they will be made available first to welcoming parishes and then other Catholic Churches and Church buildings which make such requests

6.      Why did the Cardinal choose a consultation process prior to making his decisions?

This extensive process is a substantial commitment of time and effort on the part of the Archdiocese. The Cardinal instituted it because he is firmly committed to insuring that fair and just decisions would be reached regarding the future of sacred buildings. The process was an expression of his efforts to rebuild our Archdiocese, fostering a culture of trust, collaboration and cooperation.

7.      How does the Cardinal’s decision relate to the previous appeals of parishes which were closed?

During the six or seven years since the closing of the parishes to which these Churches were connected, the Cardinal has kept his word that he would wait for the resolution of the appeals that were filed with the Holy See, and his personal representatives were in dialogue with the faithful who had appealed.  When the appeals were concluded last year, the Cardinal consulted broadly and extensively with the faithful regarding the possible relegation of the Church buildings. He now asks the faithful to accept his decision and he has again reached out in dialogue to those who earlier opposed the closing of the parishes.

8.      When did the Archdiocese begin the process of planning the consultation?

The Archdiocese began this planning for the consultation as soon as the appeals process was concluded in the Fall of 2010. The gathering of information for the consultation phase began long before February 18th.  This is not an entirely new consultative process. Some aspects of the current process are new, such as the use of Internet technology for collecting data (i.e. surveys). But the process itself is very much in continuity with past practices and in conformity with the law of the Church. As in the past, for example, this process included pastors consulting with their parishes and the Presbyteral Council hearing the results of these consultations through presentations by pastors and regional bishops/vicar. In every case of relegation of a Church, the Archbishop has heard the Presbyteral Council before making a decision.

9.      Will there be a consultation process for more churches soon? Why were some other churches not included in the first round of consultation?

The reason the Archdiocese considered so many Churches for sale at the present time is primarily due to the fact that a number of appeals on the parishes were returned at the same time last Fall.  At the present time, Cardinal Seán has received several other requests from pastors to consider the sale of other Church buildings. Prior to making his decision about further relegations, the Cardinal will ask that information be gathered on each Church building, followed by a consultation process that includes pastors, the faithful, and the relevant parish and archdiocesan councils. It is important that each process be thorough and deliberate in the gathering of information and consultation.

10.  How does the process for the sale of a Church conclude?

The final formal steps in the sale of a Church building depend on local circumstances. The building is listed for sale and negotiations are undertaken with potential buyers. Prior to a sale, and depending on the value of the property, the Archdiocesan Finance Council would also be involved. As stated above, no church which is relegated for profane use will be sold for any purpose which is unbecoming, immoral or offensive to Catholics.

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

The Boston Globe had an article about the closings (both Thursday and today) which had two statements that BCI wishes to comment on.  First was a comment about appeals:

The protesters, who had anticipated the move by the cardinal, promised today to continue their fight .“Each of the six parish groups is ready to take this issue all the way to the Vatican’s highest court,” said Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes, a lay Catholic group that has contested church closings in the archdiocese.

Funny Peter Borre would say that, because last BCI heard, the people protesting the church closings had already been to the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, and been turned down. Peter Borre knows their appeals to the Vatican’s highest court were turned down, because, coincidentally, he acknowledged as much in May of 2010 in this article:

The Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura has denied the appeals of 10 Boston parishes…The Apostolic Signatura, comprised of cardinals and archbishops, is the final  canon court of appeal. The decision leaves parishioners with no other recourse within the church to  fight to keep open the churches, Peter Borre leader of the Council of Parishes, told the Associated Press today, adding he did not expect the parishioners to back down now. Borre said the group  is considering filing a federal lawsuit.

So, if he knew being turned down by the Vatican’s highest court in May of 2010 left no further recourse within the church, what exactly makes him believe he can go back to that same court and get a positive response this time?  The Apostolic Signatura upheld the closing decisions, so Borre and friends are not appealing those. This time, Borre and friends are apparently going to try appealing the relegation to profane use decrees.  But since the archdiocese has carefully followed the Vatican’s guidelines for relegating to profane use (see Vatican Warned Boston Archbishop: No Sale Without Due Process), it is rather unclear what gives Peter and the protesting parishes any sense that they will now succeed in appealing the relegation to profane use decrees to the same Apostolic Signatura. BCI thinks it is time to let this go and move on.

Second, the problem of what to do about the “vigil” protesters who still are occupying some of the churches during various times. The Globe said:

The vigil protesters could remain a tricky problem for church officials, who for years have steered away from confrontation and appear eager to avoid the unseemly sight of Catholic faithful being hauled out of church buildings or arrested en masse for trespassing.

“We’re going to continue to communicate with them,’’ said Donilon. He said that the archdiocese is not looking to force people from the buildings, and that “it will be some time’’ before the churches are sold. “But this is not going to go on forever.’’

It sounds like the big brains at 66 Brooks Drive in Braintree are still listening to Fr. Bryan Hehir and PR maven, Ann Carter, on this one, even though they were long ago proven wrong.  As we wrote in October of 2010 in our post, Vigil Vigilance, the solution is straightforward:

One simple recommendation for the vigils is already in the grasp of the archdiocese.  In case Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson, Cardinal O’Malley, and others responsible for ending the vigils have now been deluded by Fr. Hehir into thinking that this is still a time for putative dialogue, let this blog be on the record as saying we think that is the wrong approach.  It is time to simply say that no one may come into the building.  Anyone inside is free to stay, but no one and nothing may enter the building now.  That is how the archdiocese prevented all the attempted vigils after St. Jeremiah in Framingham started in 2005, and it is a civilized, non-confrontational, responsible way to deal with them.

Can someone at 66 Brooks explain why the process followed for years to prevent attempted vigils is now so difficult to stomach?

The vigils have been tolerated. The lawsuits and appeals have been exhausted. The dialogues and consultations have taken place. The active parishioners from these closed parishes have moved on years ago to worship in other welcoming parishes, and those who keep protesting are largely people who were never particularly active in the previous parish.

BCI does not often agree with the archdiocese, but this is one set of decisions where we do agree it is time to move on. As of Monday when the decrees go into effect, locks should be changed on the buildings (assuming the archdiocese still has the keys). Someone at 66 Brooks should declare that no one will be permitted to enter these churches, and the policy needs to be enforced until the occupied churches are unoccupied.

Apostolic Visitation of Diocese of Cleveland

July 13, 2011

BCI was tied-up most of the day today and we are just getting to blog on this news now.

Bishop Richard Lennon, of the Diocese of Cleveland, and former Vicar General and Apostolic Administrator in Boston, has requested an apostolic visitation of his diocese. In his letter announcing this, he said: “This visit will be an opportunity to gather extensive information on all aspects of the activities of the Diocese and will allow for an objective assessment of my leadership.”

Below is the text of his letter, and further below, you will find Rocco Palmo’s coverage of this on Whispers in the Loggia.

Bishop Lennon Requests Diocesan Visit

CLEVELAND – July 11, 2011 – Acting on the request of Most Rev. Richard G. Lennon, The Holy See has asked Most Rev. John M. Smith, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Trenton (N.J.), to visit the Diocese of Cleveland.

Bishop Lennon said, “While I am confident that I am faithfully handling the responsibilities entrusted to me, I personally made this request earlier this year because a number of persons have written to Rome expressing their concerns about my leadership of the Diocese. This visit will be an opportunity to gather extensive information on all aspects of the activities of the Diocese and will allow for an objective assessment of my leadership. I ask for prayers that this process will support the vibrancy and vitality of our Diocese going forward.”

Bishop Smith will be in Cleveland this week. Following the conclusion of his visit, Bishop Smith will submit a report to The Holy See; no timetable has been announced.
# #

From Whispers in the Loggia: Cleveland Rocked; Vatican Probes Bishop, Church Closings

Two years after Bishop Richard Lennon‘s move to close 50 parishes plunged the diocese of Cleveland into a ferocious cycle of reaction from the pews — which, among other things, saw one of the communities move to form a renegade “independent” parish with its former pastor late last year — the head of the 750,000-member Ohio church announced this morning that the Holy See had launched an investigation into “all aspects” of diocesan activities, the bishop citing discontent expressed to the Vatican over “my leadership of the diocese” as the reason behind it.

Saying that the Visitation was taking place at his own request, Lennon revealed that Rome had appointed the recently-retired Bishop John “Mort” Smith of Trenton to conduct the probe and report his conclusions.

Already on the ground, the Jersey prelate will spend this week in Cleveland gathering information. The chancery said no timetable was known for the process.

A canon lawyer by training who spent significant stints of his priesthood both as a pastor and top administrator in his native Newark, Smith became a particularly well-loved figure among his people and priests in Trenton, even while overseeing his own difficult rounds of parish planning efforts over 13 years at the helm of the 850,000-member “great diocese,” home to the nation’s second-largest group of permanent deacons and, invariably over recent years, a notably high number of priestly ordinands for a mid-sized fold.

Pummeled by the stark realities of drastic location and population shifts, significantly lower rates of Mass attendance and sacramental practice, and sizable net losses of priests, practically every local church in the Northeast and Midwest has been forced to grapple with the triple-shot of decline that’s combined to, at best, render the Rust Belt’s century-old parish configurations ill-suited to the church’s present circumstances there.

In the cycle’s two-decade span — which has seen the Last Mass mark the end of nearly 2,000 parishes nationwide — dioceses have tackled the new dynamic with diverse approaches that, while all geared toward the same end of thinning burdensome numbers of largely-empty churches, have met with wildly varied reactions depending on the scope and time-frame of the planning effort, the levels of consultation employed in it and, above all, the degree to which diocesan leaders have been able to heal reeling parishioners, who are inevitably made to live with a change often as difficult as it’s needed, one that invariably stokes anger, hurt, shaken faith, and worse.

As vicar-general of his native Boston, Lennon oversaw 2005’s tumultuous closing of 67 parishes there, which came only three years after American Catholicism’s onetime-flagship was rocked by the revelations of sex-abuse and cover-up that sparked the national crisis. The swath of moves did cut fairly, however; among the closings the then-auxiliary recommended was that of his own boyhood church.

Traumatic as the scandals’ emergence was, losing the churches made for “the sting people feel,” as one Boston pastor pressed into consolidating parishes reflected, adding that it took his merged entity five years to definitively move forward from the scars of reconfiguration.

In a related development, the Boston chancery recently announced plans for a second wave of mergers which, according to some early estimates, could see the archdiocese’s current parish-count of 300 cut in half over the next several years. [BCI note: this is not exactly correct--the existing "parishes" would be grouped together with shared pastoral services teams, but they would canonically remain as parishes]. On the broader scene, while the toll of the closings has already been beyond significant, an equal or possibly greater sweep is likely still to come over the next decade, as the last large classes of priests (the group mostly ordained in the years immediately following the Council) reach retirement age — a demographic tidal wave that will wipe out a full half, or even a majority, of many of today’s active presbyterates in an astonishingly short space of time.

The Vatican’s move for an inquest of the Cleveland situation is but the latest evidence of a shift of sentiment on the part of the Roman Curia when it comes to mass consolidations of American parishes. While bishops have long been given a relatively free hand to act in the best interests of their dioceses as a whole — provided, that is, the procedures used faithfully follow the provisions of canon law — the Holy See has overturned several closings in Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts through the first six months of 2011 after parishioners appealed to the Congregation for the Clergy, a filing known in ecclesial terms as administrative recourse.

Where applicable, the issue of parish mergers and their optimal scope is expected to figure prominently during the US bishops’ meetings with the Pope and Curia during the bench’s coming ad limina visit to Rome — the USCCB’s first seven-yearly report to Benedict XVI — which begins through November and December with the Northeastern provinces of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Newark.

* * *

Named to Cleveland in the wake of his hometown tempest, repeating the tough task on a proportionally-larger scale proved even more brutal for the 64 year-old bishop — a mathematician and self-trained canonist whose hard-charging, sometimes brusque style lends itself to making tough calls, but at the same time allows Lennon to be effortlessly portrayed as the proverbial “bad cop.” Accordingly, while it was intended as a gesture of solicitude and support, the prelate’s practice of celebrating the final Mass of the shuttering parishes — most of them in the city’s once-bustling ethnic bastions, now largely a shadow of their former selves — has made for some ugly incidents, as one congregation walked out when the bishop began to preach, shouting from the pews elsewhere led to a mid-Mass argument, and Lennon reportedly confided that he had likewise been cursed at and spat upon by irate members of the affected communities.

Given the tensions, the city’s paper of record said that bishop was accompanied to the parish “funerals” by uniformed and plainclothes police.

Though the Clevelander said he requested the visitation on his own, it is exceedingly rare for Rome to make an intervention of this sort into the life of a local church.

Before now, the last time an American see was examined on-site is believed to have taken place in 1983, when concerns over Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen’s handling of several major areas of church life — including liturgy, formation of seminarians, ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics and the tribunal — brought the appointment of then-Archbishop James Hickey of Washington as apostolic visitor. Two years later, the findings resulted in the appointment of then-Fr Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh as auxiliary to Hunthausen while stripping the archbishop of much of his authority as Rome gave Wuerl ultimate jurisdiction over the hot-button areas examined by Hickey and his team.

The tension wrought by the move served to short-circuit the arrangement after little more than a year, and with a coadjutor subsequently named, Hunthausen retired at age 70 in 1991.

Elsewhere, the most recent high-profile visitation of a single diocese was the 2007 calling of an inquest into the Australian diocese of Toowoomba after local parishioners complained to Rome over an enduring illicit use of the Third Rite of Reconciliation — i.e. general absolution without individual confessions — outside of emergency situations, and Bishop William Morris’ note in a 2006 pastoral letter that, in light of the rapidly declining number of priests, “several responses have been discussed,” among which, he said, the church was being urged to consider the ordination of women and married men to the priesthood, as well as accepting the validity of ministers from other Christian communities to perform Catholic rites.

After the Holy See dispatched Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. of Denver to survey the scene firsthand, years of discussions between the Curia and Morris culminated in February when the Pope removed the Queensland prelate from office. In response, the bishop said in a letter to the diocese that, despite Vatican officials calling for his resignation in six separate instances, he refused, as leaving the post voluntarily, he wrote, “would mean that I accept the assessment of myself as breaking communio, which I absolutely refute and reject.”

Interesting, eh?  If complaints to Rome expressing concerns about a bishop’s leadership could result in a review of all aspects of the diocese and allow an objective assessment of the bishop’s leadership, then how do we get Cardinal O’Malley to request one for Boston?

As for the Cleveland situation, BCI does not yet know what to make of this, so for today we are just posting the information.  What do you think?

Cronyism 2011: IT Director

July 11, 2011

It has been some time since BCI reported on the cronyism in the Pastoral Center.  As such, many BCI readers may have incorrectly concluded that the culture of cronyism has ended and it is now easier for “Joe Average” Catholic to apply for a job and get in the door without some prior connection.  That still is not necessarily true. Today we look at the recently hired IT Director.

The position was publicly posted in January of 2011 as you can see from the graphics below and to the right.

What happened with the filling of this role appears to be remarkably similar to the pattern with many other roles we hear about.  Like most positions that are available in the Boston Archdiocese, people can submit resumes to HR, and some small number of people who submit resumes get called by someone in HR for what would be commonly considered a “phone screen.” That all is fine. This phone screen is to determine who might be suitably qualified for an interview with the hiring manager, which in this case was John Straub, who himself started in January as Executive Director of Finance and Operations under Chancellor Jim McDonough.  (By Jim having filled that Executive Director role paying somewhere near $200K/year, BCI is told Jim can now spend less time in mundane meetings and more time golfing. But we digress…)

What we hear happens for many of the candidates who make it through the initial resume screening and get a call from HR is that they will often have a good call with HR, then HR tells them the next step is scheduling a face-to-face interview with the hiring manager. Then their candidacy falls into a black hole and they hear nothing.  Eventually, after contacting HR a few times over a several week period, they finally get someone live who tells them that either the position has now been filled by another candidate, or they do not know what is happening with the search any more.

The short video below depicts the process in more detail, except candidates need not know only Jack–rather, if you know Jim, John, or Fr. Chris Hickey at St. Mary’s in Hanover, you will find it very helpful to get that coveted position over other candidates.

So, for the Director of IT, a position that had been open since summer of 2010, they advertised the position and some local IT professionals applied.  The above process was repeated.

Interestingly, the person Mr. Straub hired for the role, Steven McDevitt, who started in mid-April, comes to the Boston Archdiocese from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington, DC.

One might reasonably ask oneself, “How did Steve, working for the federal government in Washinton, DC happen to find this job?”  By coincidence, Steve worked for Mr. Straub back in 2005-2006, when Mr. Straub was Director of the Office of Administration in the White House. At least that is what we know from this public testimony  he gave to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2008.

BCI is not questioning the competency or capabilities of Mr. McDevitt to hold the job. From his LinkedIn profile, he appears to have the requisite experience. Nor is BCI questioning the value of networking, or the merits of bringing someone into a key role you knew from the past and worked with before. Having talent follow you is a good thing. Maybe Mr. Straub interviewed a number of candidates, local and from outside this area, and Mr. McDevitt was the simply the best.

What BCI is questioning is the process through which such roles get filled. Why do qualified local Catholics find it so difficult to get a face-to-face interview for almost any open position in the Pastoral Center these days?  Are the job listings just a formality and sham to make it look like there is an open search that anyone can apply for, when the hiring manager has already decided who they plan to employ? Why do the hiring managers so often fail to interview qualified local Catholics who apply for open positions AND make it through the first pass screening by HR? Even if the hiring manager knows someone from the past, why would they not want to meet at least a few local candidates who also have a record of service to the Catholic Church and want to work for the Catholic Church, in case the unknown candidate might turn out to be an even better candidate for the job than the person with the “inside track”?

BCI respects that a hiring manager would prefer to hire a known entity than an unknown entity. But, something seems wrong in the hirine processes in general and in need of improvement so that the archdiocese gets the best people for the open jobs, not just those with connections.

Before critics jump all over us, keep reading over the next few days for one or two more examples.



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