Around the Archdiocese: Oct 30, 2011

October 30, 2011

So much has been going on lately, BCI has fallen way behind.  We will still put out another post on the “ad limina” visit to Rome November 1-12.  But first, here are a few of the latest goings-on we thought readers would want to know about:

Developing the Development Office
As if the size of the Development office and six-figure salaried staff was not already large enough, there is a new VP of Development who has joined the archdiocese recently.  We mentioned this position was being filled in “Fundraising Fiefdom” back on August 31. Everyone give a warm welcome to Mary Doorley Simboski, who now rounds out the staff of Secretary for Institutional Advancement, Kathleen Driscoll. 

Mary Doorley

Mary comes to the Boston Archdiocese from The National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, whose Board of Directors, coincidentally, includes Fr. Bryan Hehir, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, and Leon Panetta (Trustee Emeritus, and former chief of staff to Bill Clinton). As we suggested in August, with Mary now coming in with 25 years of experience to help with “planning and strategy of the overall fundraising program” and to manage an initial staff of 3-4 people, and with there being another VP of Development, Mary Myers, already in place over the Campaign for Catholic Schools,  it makes one wonder exactly what Kathleen Driscoll is going to do to keep busy and earn her $250K+ salary and benefits. Anyway, welcome, Mary–you now bring the total number of employees who earn $200K+ in salary and benefits up to an even 10, for a total of about $2.7M in compensation and benefits for those 10 employees. Were the salaries of those ten people capped at a maximum of $150K/year, it would save the archdiocese somewhere in the range of about $900K to $1M annually. (But we digress…)

Another Empty Suit at Mass Catholic Conference?
If there was any remaining question as to whether the new executive director of the Mass Catholic Conference, Jim Driscoll, was going to lift a finger to fight the gambling legislation making its way through the statehouse, after Driscoll had spent 19 years as the general counsel for the state lottery, it was answered in the Friday edition of The Pilot.  In the article, Casino bill pushed through legislature, there is not even a comment from the Mass Catholic Conference or Massachusetts bishops.  The only quote is from the Kris Mineau, of the Mass Family Institute.  Driscoll is paid salary and benefits somewhere north of $150K/year and has said barely a word about the gambling issue as we said last month in “Catholic Conference Calm on Casinos.”

Jimmy, do you remember this quote you gave the Associated Press after you were appointed?  When James Driscoll was announced as the new Executive Director of MCC, an AP article in the Boston Herald reported the following:

Massachusetts is a heavily Catholic state whose lawmakers have shown a consistent willingness to defy the church on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Right now, lawmakers are considering bringing legislation that would legalize casinos and slot machines in Massachusetts, a move the church opposes and an issue Driscoll said will likely be big from the start of his new job.  He rejected the notion that the church has a diminished voice among lawmakers…

BCI suggests to the ~$250K+/year Kathleen Driscoll that she tell her husband, Kevin Driscoll, to tell his cousin, Jim Driscoll, that faithful Catholics expect more from our senior lay leaders than what goes on in state government, where you can just collect a paycheck by sitting on the dole for a few decades without actually accomplishing much of anything.  And if you acknowledge an issue is going to be “big” from the start of your job, then you should do something big about it. Instead, your inaction and silence simply serve to reinforce the unfortunate reality that the Catholic Church has a diminished public policy voice and influence on Beacon Hill.

Catholic Cemetery Association
With the boss away for the next week or so at the “ad limina” visit in Rome, BCI suggests that Vicar General Msgr. Deeley poke around a little bit with the goings-on at the Catholic Cemetery Association. Cardinal O’Malley, the Vicar General, and the Chancellor are supposed to be on the Board of Trustees and officers, but BCI hears that neither the Cardinal nor the Vicar General attend meetings. Meanwhile, we hear that Chancellor McDonough is quietly making some changes to the composition of the Board to put some South Shore cronies on it. Also, if anyone can find copies of the minutes of the last few meetings, please send them to the Vicar General and to BCI.

From Cardinal Sean’s Blog
There were several interesting items in the most recent edition of Cardinal Sean’s blog.

St. Johns Seminary
“That evening, I attended an alumni dinner at St. John’s Seminary. Over a 100 priests came; including many priests from neighboring dioceses who had studied at St. John’s.”

It is nice that the Cardinal attended a dinner for alumni of St. John’s Seminary and paid attention to St. John’s Seminary in his blog. While we are on the topic, how is the repayment of the $5M note due to St. Johns Seminary as of January 1, 2011 going?  That was partial payment against the $44.2M owed by the Archdiocese to St. John’s as repayment for the land and buildings sold out from under them in 2007.  BCI hears negotiations are still underway 10 months later for the Archdiocese to give St. John’s a building in Brighton instead of repaying the $5M.  By the way, has anyone yet figured out how the Chancellor plans to repay the $36.4M note due to the seminary in August of 2017 for the balance of what is owed on the sale of their land and property?

Meanwhile, the seminary is so full, there are no more rooms for seminarians, so if the place keeps growing as it has been, some seminarians will have to live in another building in Brighton away from St. Johns Hall.  As BCI reported in “Seminary Squeezola” last year, to help solve the residential space problem, the seminary had at one time tried negotiating with BC to purchase back about 62 rooms over the refrectory (dining hall).  These were leased to Boston College in an arrangement which was a 99-year lease for $1–effectively a sale for legal purposes. Unfortunately, BC has been renovating that space and what were dorm rooms at one time are apparently no longer dorm rooms.

St. James Society Cushing Awards
“That evening I went to another event related to the missions: the St. James Society’s Cushing Award Banquet held at BC High….There were three honorees: Bill Burke of St. Sebastian’s School, Sister Janet Eisner of Emmanuel College, and Father John Unni of St. Cecilia Parish.”

BCI thinks the missionary work done by the St. James Society is fine, but BCI feels their award honorees this year are decidedly a mixed bag. For example, according to his parish bulletin, Fr. John Unni,  was recognized for his long–standing relationship with the people of Haiti. Given the fiasco and public scandal he brought on his parish and the archdiocese this past summer, it seems to BCI a bit counterintuitive to give an award to someone for their relationship with Haiti while their work back home brings scandal and embarrassment to the archdiocese. And there really is no excuse or explanation for how both Cardinal Sean  and Bishop Robert Hennessey (who we hear has been aspiring for some time to get his own diocese) stood by and allowed the scandal and ensuing public relations disaster to occur. A number of BCI readers said they contacted Bishop Hennessey and got either no response or a response of indifference.

Lastly, with no public word from the Cardinal about the “state of the diocese” prior to his “ad limina” visit, BCI assumes that we will have to write that up.  Stay tuned for that next time.


Boston Archdiocese Budgetary Hocus Pocus

October 27, 2011

We will return to discussion of the upcoming “ad limina” visit next time.  But since money is always a big topic for the folks at 66 Brooks, BCI felt it might be helpful for them if we gave some advice and guidance in how to be more “transparent” and “accountable,” as the archdiocese says they want to be.

Every year, the Chancellor publishes a proposed operating budget for the fiscal year.  And every year, as the Office of the Chancellor adds more staff (such as his $200+K/year fully-loaded Exec. Director of Finance and Operations), naturally, the depth of what is released publicly in the operating budget grows thinner and thinner, and the budgetary magic tricks become tougher and tougher to figure out.

Here are the budgets  for 2010 (a 34 page document), 2011 (a 4 page document), and 2012 (a one-page document).  If you look carefully at the 2010 and 2011 budgets below, you will notice a few of the tricks and illusions.

Child Advocacy and Victim Assistance which was $2.975 million in 2010, and $2.5 million in 2011, has completely disappeared as a line item expense in 2012.  Poof!  Gone!  Dropped from $2.5M a year to $0/year–like magic!  Have Barbara Thorp and her team of social workers all been let go?  Is the archdiocese no longer paying for counseling and therapy?  No–they are still there in the same offices doing the same work.  Their costs have just been magically moved off the Central Ministries budget to someplace else. Perhaps the Chancellor will say it was just an “in” and matching “out” from insurance, so there is no need to show it this year, even though there was a need to show it in past years. Or, maybe the expense is simply hidden underneath a silk handkerchief or behind the black curtain.  While we wait to hear from the Chancellor and his six-figure salaried aides where the $2.5M is hidden,  BCI will drop illusionists David Copperfield and Chris Angel a line to see if they can help us find the missing expense.

Decreased Allocation for Faith Formation and Evangelization: This dropped from $5.5M in 2011 to $4.1M in 2012.  Some of that was due to special one-time funding for the “Catholics Come Home” program in 2011.  But there is still a dramatic cut in this area after allowing for Catholics Come Home.  And remember too, this is the year that Pope Benedict XXI has declared a “Year of Faith“–”a moment of grace and commitment to a more complete conversion to God, to strengthen our faith in Him and proclaim Him with joy to the people of our time.” It is a time for a “new impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead men out of the desert in which they often find themselves, to the place of life, of friendship with Christ.”  BCI is curious as to how the Cardinal will explain in the upcoming “ad limina” visit to Rome how the Boston Archdiocese is giving” new impetus” to faith formation and evangelization when the budget in this area was cut by nearly 30% year over year.

Increased Funding for Administrative Services: At a time when everyone is tightening their belts trying to do more with less, administrative services costs have grown from $9.5M in 2011 to $9.95M in 2012–just $50K shy of $10 million.  If the central ministry expenses are indeed to be believed at a total of $27.8M, that means the central bureaucracy at 66 Brooks is consuming 36% of the total budget for administrative expenses, with not even one line-item level of detail provided to Catholic faithful to justify these costs.  (Those of you still giving to the Catholic Appeal, take note).

Beyond the above, there is the $500K increased expense for fund-raising in order to raise the exact same amount as last year, and more.  BCI will stop for now.

If anyone reading BCI is versed in magic or finance and can explain the secrets behind some of these budgetary tricks, please drop us a line. Meanwhile, we hope and pray that the Chancellor and his staff and the fundraising folks can find a way to reduce their costs so evangelization, campus ministry, prison ministry, youth and young adult ministry, adult faith formation (something better than “Why Catholic?”) and strengthening of faith in this “Year of Faith” can get some more support and funding.


Ad Limina Ad Lib

October 23, 2011

As most BCI readers are no doubt aware, about every five years, the ordinary of a diocese needs to report to the Holy Father an account of the state of his diocese in what is called an “ad limina” visit.  That is taking place in early November for the Boston Archdiocese. This is one in what will be a series of posts offering ideas on what we hope will be discussed about Boston.

The “ad limina” practice started in 1911 during the pontificate of Pope Pius X.  These meetings take place in Rome with a variety of Vatican officials, and used to include one-on-one time with the Holy Father.  But maintaining the pace of these visits every 5 years slowed down considerably in recent years due to the declining health of the late Pope John Paul II, and the format has changed due to the increased number of bishops who would have to meet with the Holy Father. The new format is described in this Catholic News Service article:

In place of one-on-one meetings, the pope now usually holds more freewheeling sessions with groups of 7-10 bishops at a time, lasting about an hour. That is expected to be the format for U.S. bishops when they begin their “ad limina” visits in early November.

The ad limina visit for Cardinal Sean O’Malley and other Boston officials to review the state of the Boston Archdiocese is taking place in the timeframe of November 1-12.  In an ideal world, the Boston Archdiocese would be functioning so well that people (or blogs like BCI) would not feel a need to offer input and ideas at all.  But as we all know, this is not an ideal world in Boston.

It occurs to BCI that readers frustrated with the lack of responsiveness of the Boston Archdiocese to issues of importance to Catholic faithful  might wish to have some way of sending input to Cardinal O’Malley and various Vatican offices asking those officials to bring certain topics up with the Cardinal that are being neglected.  Those offices and officials include:

  • Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet
  • Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Archbishop Mauro Piacenza
  • Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada
  • Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Raymond Burke

There are ways to send a free fax overseas that we are investigating.  In the meantime, BCI thought we would start a running list of topics that we wish the Cardinal and Vicar General would address (for the benefit of the future of the Boston Archdiocese) and that the Vatican would address with the Cardinal, because frankly, we do not see much progress happening in these areas. Here are our first 3 topics:

  1. Teaching: The key responsibilities of the bishop are to teach, sanctify, and govern.  However he wishes to do it, the Archbishop of Boston should use the pulpit, The Pilot, Catholic TV, his blog, pastoral letters to the faithful and/or other mediums to teach on a regular basis.  This is not happening today.Maybe it is a written excerpt from the Cardinal’s homiletic preaching on the Sunday Mass readings, a message about the new liturgical texts, or clear statements about Catholic teachings and the intersection with the public square on faith and morals. It just should happen regularly and in an unambiguous, visible way.  

    As one reader said several months ago, “Give priority to teaching the fullness of the Catholic faith, even on the tough issues. I was so saddened to see you at Ted Kennedy’s funeral standing on the sidelines and not giving any witness at all to the Church’s teaching on life. Kennedy was an ardent supporter of abortion legislation throughout his Senate career. To me it was a terrible scandal that the impression was given that a politician can work with all his might to promote the “culture of death,” as Pope John Paul termed it, and then receive accolades as if he was some kind of saint.”   Those who complained about what happened were criticized by the Cardinal.

    The bungled PR and handling by the archdiocese of the recent situation at St. Cecilia in Boston is another example of confusing and muddled teaching from the office of the ordinary.Yet another example is the continued engagement in Church governance of Finance Council member, Jack Connors, who chairs the Partners hospital network (one of the leading abortion providers in Massachusetts) and who publicly fund-raises for pro-abortion political candidates.  As we all know, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, in a 2007 interview with the Boston Globe, acknowledged that Catholic voters in Massachusetts generally support Democratic candidates who are in favor of abortion rights, and said, “I think that, at times, it borders on scandal as far as I’m concerned.”  How is it that what bordered on scandal in 2007 is somehow not scandal in 2011?

    The failure of anyone from archdiocesan leadership to teach about the public sin by the “vigil” protesters in failing to fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation should be equally troubling. Has anyone heard the Archbishop of Boston or his spokesman, Terry Donilon, mention this concern and the state of mortal sin incurred by those who do not attend Sunday Mass?   A Catholic who (a) is able to attend Sunday Mass (i.e., who is not impeded by illness, lack of transportation, etc.), (b) knows the seriousness of this requirement, and (c) nonetheless freely chooses to miss Mass, thereby commits a mortal sin (cf. Catechism, no. 2181).  There is no indication that those attending “Communion services” in the closed parishes are also attending Mass elsewhere on Sundays.  Leaders of these protest vigils have urged other to do they same, which also creates the scandal of leading others to commit mortal sin. They have broken communion with their bishop and with the Vatican. Beyond the millions of dollars the protest vigils have cost Catholics across the archdiocese, after seven years, one would think that someone from the archdiocese would make a point of reminding all Catholics and teaching vigil leaders privately and publicly that they are harming their own souls and those of others by not attending Sunday Mass.  Nope.

  2. Excesive Six-Figure Salaries for Lay Executives: If we have said it once, we have said it a hundred times. It is costing the Catholic faithful in Boston nearly $1M in salary and benefits alone for 3 employees–all millionaires and late-career executives retired from their previous 25+ year careers. Mary Grassa O’Neill, superintendent of schools is paid a salary of $325K/year,  Jim McDonough, Chancellor, is paid $250K/year, and Beirne Lovely, general counsel is paid $300K/year.Add to this their benefits and the $180K-$280K+ paid in salaries and benefits to just 7 other lay executives–the Associate Superintendent of Schools, Communications Secretary, Secretary for Catholic Media, Secretary for Institutional Advancement, 2 VPs of Development, Executive Director of Finance and Administration–and you get about $2.7M or more in compensation and benefits for 10 employees. No other archdioceses pay at these levels, and their salaries cannot be justified under the premise of attracting the “best and brighest” because in many cases, independent searches free from conflicts of interest were never conducted, as previously documented at BCI.This blog has outlined many times how the archdiocese can cut $500K-$1 million or more in unnecessary expense from those salaries by capping lay compensation at $150K/year, so those funds can be freed for ministries and advancing the main mission of the Church in Boston.
    The only action taken to date to address these concerns has been formation of a Finance Council “Compensation Committee,” comprised mostly of wealthy multi-millionaire business executives. The committee is supposedly spending precious donor funds to do a study whose results will be released in 2012.

    Action this year should be a high priority for the Archbishop of Boston and the Vicar General, instead of what appears to be a back-burner effort by outside consultants and wealthy Finance Council members.

  3. Pastoral Leadership and Support for Priests: The Cardinal’s blog continues to chronicle an extensive amount of travel outside of Boston. If the Archbishop of Boston cuts his travel schedule outside of Boston and focuses instead on governance in Boston, some of that time savings could instead be put towards meeting one-on-one with 4 priests a week for 30 minutes each to listen to and respond to their needs and concerns. This is not the same as the group meetings we hear about with seminarians and recently-ordained priests, or group outings with senior priests at Regina Cleri to the circus or Fenway Park, but would apply to ALL priests. Via these one-on-one meetings, in a years’ time, he will have met with 200 priests and in two years, it will be 400 priests interacting with their bishop as pastor and shepherd of priests, not just a ceremonial figure traveling around the world participating in photo opps.
    Abiding by established diocesan guidelines for how pastors are appointed would also be an excellent idea to improve presbyteral morale, instead of allowing situations such as the recent circumventing of the normal process and direct appointment by the Cardinal of the pastor to St. Catherine’s in Norwood without the normal pastoral consultation. (By the way, the Vicar General should make his way down to Norwood some time to chat with the Parish Council members about all of the changes being made unilaterally by the new pastor without any consultation to the Parish Council, but that is a topic for another time. We digress…).

This is just one in our series to get started.  Yes, we know we need to also highlight issues such as:

  • Funding for the clergy retirement fund
  • Funding for lay employee pensions
  • The need for ongoing investment in evangelization and a higher priority placed on this area, including adult faith formation (not just RENEW), campus ministry, and other areas.
  • The mixing and mingling of funds from different archdiocesan entities to balance the budget
  • Parish pastoral planning
  • Catholic schools identity and mission
  • Selection of the right advisors and Cabinet leadership team, and need to move out other advisors
  • Fundraising, including the increasingly top-heavy and expensive fund-raising organization

Our intent with this is to help Cardinal O’Malley and Vicar General Msgr. Deeley better understand the seriousness of the concerns by Catholic faithful about the future of the Boston Archdiocese. Many people have raised these concerns privately for some time, and since there was no response, BCI has been raising them publicly for sixteen months. Still, there has been little reaction by the archdiocese except for criticism of this blog and attempts to determine who is writing, contributing to, or commenting on the blog, so the blog can be pressured to cease and desist.

Could someone from the archdiocese acknowledge the above concerns and let us know what you are doing about them? Or are the folks at 66 Brooks still in a sufficient state of denial that we should we ask Catholic faithful to start a letter-writing campaign to Rome?

What do you think?


401K Folktales

October 19, 2011

A lot of folks are confused about the folktales being told about the new 401K plan for lay archdiocesan employees. Hopefully, this post will help the benefits folks at 66 Brooks do a little better job of explaining things than they have done up to now, for the benefit of the folks who will rely on these benefits in the future.

One source of angst and confusion has concerned the listing of funds in the August mailing to archdiocesan employees. The letter sent to folks  gave a list of funds that included a number that were load funds. Because there was nothing in the letter to employees and supporting materials that suggested otherwise, folks naturally assumed that they were getting stuck with front-end fees, which go to the brokers that sell the fund shares and thus reduce the amount of your investment.  Here is a list of the funds at catholicbenefits.org, which is a slightly updated version of what was sent to folks in the mail in August:

It did not take much for folks to start looking up the investment options and find that funds like AIIEX, LSMAX, PEEAX, ACLAX and others charge front-end loads of up to 5.75%.  Who wants sales commissions taken right off the top that reduce the amount of your retirement investment?

Many load funds waive their loads for purchases of fund shares through 401K retirement plans, but since there was no mention in the communication from the archdiocese that the loads were being waived with this plan, folks understandably started to get a bit stirred up.

Now, in the most recent edition of The Pilot, Carol Gustavson, director of benefits trust and plan administrator, says there will be no front-loaded fees or sales charges on mutual funds offered in the package.  If indeed that applies to all of the funds, that is a good thing.  But, assuming that is the case, why was this not communicated up-front in the original mailing two months ago? Must folks subscribe to the The Pilot or attend a meeting in order to learn critical details like this? If it is true that the published load fees are being waived, why is this important information still nowhere to be found on the Benefits Trust website?

Last BCI heard, the person managing this important program is paid  about $150K/year and her multi-millionaire boss who has executive-level oversight for this area is paid $250K/year. These excessive salaries relative to other dioceses take a few hundred $K annually away from ministry programs.  Is it too much to hope and expect that for these excessive salaries, the so-called  “best and brightest” could put together a complete set of materials about the program and utilize the cost of printing and mailing effectively to communicate the critical details of the 401K program?

If the folks at 66 Brooks who are telling 401K folktales would like to email us when they have officially posted and communicated the provisions regarding the waiver of load fees, BCI will be glad to notify our readers.


Turning off the heat

October 16, 2011

The Boston Archdiocese is finally getting slightly gutsier in their efforts to shut down the so-called “vigils” in churchs that have been closed for years. But it remains a mystery why they will not just shut-down the vigils and tell the occupants they must leave the buildings.

The Boston Globe reported the following on Saturday, October 15 in “Archdiocese shuts off utilities in Wellesley parish“:

Escalating its standoff with parishioners at a closed church building in Wellesley, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has shut off heat and water at St. James the Great, angering church members who have occupied the church since it was closed in 2004.

The archdiocese, which has taken steps to sell several closed churches including St. James, shut off the boiler because it was deemed unsafe by the church’s insurance company, according to a statement released by the archdiocese yesterday. Officials decided not to repair the heating system and shut it down to prevent damage to the property, a spokesman said…

The archdiocese has continued to maintain the church buildings since the closures; in Wellesley alone, the maintenance costs have totaled $370,000, including repairs and winter snow plowing, during the seven-year period, according to the statement released yesterday.

BCI thinks “turning up the heat” on the protesters by turning off the heat is a step in the right direction, but is still baffled why the archdiocese continues to delay just changing the locks on the doors and telling the people that no one may enter the building. BCI has repeatedly reminded the archdiocese of a prior decision by Cardinal Sean as well as advice given to them previously by their own experts–most recently in January in our post, Free Snow Removal and Invisible Vigils.

As of late 2008, the archdiocese said they had spent $2.2 million on utilities, insurance, and other costs at the five so-called “vigil” churches for the prior four years, or an average of more than $500K/year, and it has obviously gone up since then. Even the archdiocesan spokesman said in that December 2008 article, “”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.”  That was three years ago now.

So, why is it that the archdiocese does not just change the locks and padlock the doors of these facilities to end the vigils and stop spending quite so much money on maintenance that could be used elsewhere?

As we have said before, in the beginning, Cardinal Sean’s own instructions to the property management company were that if a building was found unoccupied it should be locked, and the locksmith called to change the locks.  Then Fr. Bryan Hehir and 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 about seven years.

In November of 2004, Cardinal O’Malley said the following in a letter to the archdiocese:

Many parishes are unable to pay their bills. The pension plans for laity and clergy are in danger..I am appealing to all Catholics to be Catholics first. I know that we all have a great love for our parish and parish church, but our first love must be for Christ and the Body of Christ which is the Church…If difficult decisions are not made now, the mission of the Church will be seriously compromised in the future.

Your Eminence, it is now seven years later.  Many parishes are still unable to pay their bills, the pension plan for lay employees has been cut, and the retirement fund for clergy remains in state of danger. The mission of the Church has already been compromised. You and your leadership team have allowed this to drag on for seven years. Even while protesters make a last-ditch effort to appeal the recent relegation to profane use decrees, it makes no sense for them to still occupy the church buildings and cost the archdiocese precious funds for building maintenance and upkeep that could be used for ministry.  How much longer are you waiting in order to make this difficult decision?

Meanwhile, as someone commented in an earlier post, tens of thousands of people from closed parishes have moved on to their new parish homes.” They have stepped up to assist at liturgies, organize parish events and work with religious education programs. My parish immediately elected a new parish council comprised of mezza-mezza, the welcomers and the welcomed, and things have only gotten better from there. It would be nice if just once, the vast majority who are working with the program, rolling up their sleeves and cautiously opening their wallets would get the attention that the bellicose and ‘activist’ crowd does.”

BCI would suggest that the Cardinal and Vicar General revisit the words of the Cardinal from seven years ago and decide what is best for the future of the archdiocese–while specifically excluding the PR folks and Fr. Hehir from the decision-making discussions this time around. Let the PR folks know after the tough decisions have been made, and they will figure out a way to spin it.


Inside the Collapse

October 14, 2011

Before we get to today’s guest post from a reader, allow us to just send a quick confidential message to Chancellor, Jim McDonough and benefits administraor, Carol Gustavson, with a cc: to Vicar General Msgr. Robert Deeley.

Dear Jim and Carol:  The more people get to know about the new employee retirement plan from TIAA-CREF, they more they are troubled by seeing the high front-end fees and sub-par performance.  Could someone provide an explanation of the alternatives considered, and why exactly you decided to not offer employees a less costly, more flexible plan?  Seems to BCI that the plan is almost dead on arrival and you should retool before too much more time passes, but maybe we are missing something here. 

Also, with respect to the clergy plan, has a decision been made that you will not ever fund the couple hundred million dollar deficit in the fund assets needed to pay future retirees?  Everyone knows how you are getting the annual operating budget to break-even. But how will the shortage in the clergy fund assets for the future be addressed?  Seems to some people you have concluded the only ways to keep it solvent are to reduce benefits or convert the clergy retirement plan into a 401K-style plan.  What exactly is the plan for the plan?

Best regards,
BCI

Now, a guest column from a reader.  Tuesday’s Boston Globe carried an in-depth piece by Bob Hohler entitled, “Inside the collapse,” about the 2011 collapse of the Red Sox.  The Sox and RCAB share some issues. Here is an excerpt from the Globe piece:

The story of Boston’s lost September unfolds in part as an indictment of the three prized starters. But the epic flop of 2011 had many faces: a lame-duck manager, coping with personal issues, whose team partly tuned him out; stars who failed to lead; players who turned lackluster and self-interested; a general manager responsible for fruitless roster decisions; owners who approved unrewarding free agent spending and missed some warning signs that their $161 million club was deteriorating.

Anything sound familiar?  Lame-duck manager, stars fail to lead,  self-interested players, fruitless roster decisions, unrewarding spending, missing warning signs the team was deteriorating.

In the spirit of the Globe column, what follows is a completely fictionalized account offered by “A.S. Adams” of a hypothetical Catholic diocese describing hypothetical players as a baseball team taking taxis.

15 Cabs
 
If not 23 cabs for 23 players, then at least 15…
 
Please note, all Rcabs are equipped with mandatory Pilot Printing accounts.
 
1. SPO has his own cab, but each man who drives it for him (and at last count we’re up to five) prefers his own cab when on his own time.

2. Bryan H. has his own cab, which is furnished on the inside like a limo and only travels to the most exclusive locations, but on the outside has missing paint and the fenders wired on for effect.  It’s driven by a college kid from OccupyBoston, and frequents the DNC in DC, Harvard Yard and a couple of houses in Chestnut Hill.  The back seat is furnished with three chess boards so that he can keep track of his three chess games.  He is heard to say, “I’m right with you on that…” and “That’s a very complex, multi-dimensional issue.”

3. Jim M. has a cab with “Connors Cab” written on the side and darkly tinted windows. It’s furnished with every luxury, and provides the rider with lots of buttons to push.  Jim just gets in and goes where the driver tells him he’s going… which is in circles, but don’t tell Jim that.
 
4.  Kathleen D. also rides in a Connors Cab.  She actually has work to do, but is hampered by half the people she visits holding their noses when they see the cab she rode up in.  That cab is seen more and more places these days as the monopoly on funding for Catholic entities that draws an ever tighter noose around non-Corp Sole corporations.
 
5.  John S. rides in an unmarked cab with lots of cupholders for his coffee.  That cab stops a lot at ATMs, because with a salary like his you can pay cash for everything.  It’s also wired for every kind of electronic device, some he doesn’t even know about.
 
6.  Sr. Janet E. rides in a cab with an antiques laden 18th century English interior and small leather cases that hold spare silk scarves.  The cab is driven by a succession of English and Sociology majors from a college in the Fens, and goes from meeting to meeting, and on to lunch or dinner, in Boston.
 
7.  Msgr. Dennis S. rides in a lot of cabs, and seems to always say the right thing.  Then he gets in his own cab where he can redact minutes, appoint committees for rubber stamping and check the chess board he’s on to make sure he still has the role of bishop.
 
8.  We won’t talk about the ones who ride around in Tommy M’s cab… but they know who they are.
 
9.  The Finance Department rides around in a cab that says, “Lawson” on the side.  This cab makes everyone wait 15 or 20 minutes before it goes anywhere, with the meter running all the while.  It costs a few million dollars per year but doesn’t provide anything more than what much cheaper, better built cabs can provide.  Jim M. doesn’t actually understand this cab and can’t operate it, but insists it’s the one cab for everyone.
 
10.  Carol G. rides around in a cab that is powered by companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange like TIAA-CREF, Morgan Stanley and other high load, high fee, low yield groups.  Her cab is furnished with a sound-proof interior, which comes in handy when all those Catholic school teachers, custodians and administrators complain about the teeny percentage of full funding they can expect for their pensions.  Same will be true when they realize that their employer contribution to the 401(k) is far less than the fees they will pay to TIAA-CREF and the funds they are forced into.

11.  The affiliated entities (cemeteries, seminaries, independent Catholic schools, et.al.) ride around in cabs that drain their reserves, appoint their boards and dictate their benefits and insurance coverage, even though legally they are obligated to function as independent entities.  Try explaining that to their donors and customers.

12.  The leadership gift folks use their cab to ride around in the evening to cocktail parties, always going to the same addresses expecting the people they visit to always send them away with an ever larger check.  Much smoke is seen blowing in the direction of the donors from these cabs.

13.  Catholic Media rides around in a cab with the radio blaring, blinking signs on top, television streaming on a dashboard-mounted laptop, a facebook page, a blog, a wikipedia entry and a Twitter account.  This helps you not notice their website which is of no use to actual users.  The photos are terrific, but can you find me a confession time in two clicks?  Can I use my iphone to get past that crazy whirling homepage?  They also have an ad book that sometimes features a pullout section of news about the Archdiocese of Boston.  It’s called The Pilot.
 
14.  Retirees and terminated employees ride around in a fleet of rusty, unheated school buses, stopping daily for Mass and the Rosary.  They can’t afford to take cabs.
 
15.  Jim M, John S., Terry D, Kathleen D, Scot L, Mary G.O.N., Beirne L, (and his brace of inhouse and outhouse helper lawyers), and all the other folks who make more than $150K, ride in a cab that plays a laugh track all the way to the bank.


What’s up with BCI?

October 7, 2011

Someone just sent us an email saying, “Glad to see this blog has died an unhappy death.”  Sorry to disappoint whomever sent the message, but reports of our death are greatly exaggerated. 

We have been busy with other pressing responsibilities that required attention, and still do require attention.  We have also been reflecting about where BCI goes in the future to be of best service to the Catholic Church in Boston.  During the past month when we have been otherwise occupied and blogging very little, here are a few highlights of what we have missed and wanted to write more about:

Merger of Mt. St. Joseph Academy and Trinity Catholic High School into a new preparatory high school 
Here is the Boston Globe report on it.  The two schools were both facing enrollment and financial challenges. It comes across sounding like a merger of two independent schools in the news article and press release.  What is unreported, of course, are issues such as how the teenage girls at the all-girls Mt. St. Joseph Academy feel about the change to co-ed, the uncertainty about jobs for teachers, and the minor matter of the role of who issued the press release.  The press release says,  “It will form relationships with a range of community organizations, including neighboring Boston College and its Lynch School of Education, and with Regis College of Weston,” and the Globe says “the new school, sponsored by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston, will partner with Boston College and Regis College to increase the variety and rigor of available courses.”   Hmm.  If you look at the press release, note who the press contacts are: John Dunn and Ed Hayward at Boston College.  Seems to BCI that this is not a situation where the schools will partner in the future. Why would BC be the one issuing the press release and fielding press inquiries if they did not already play a heavy hand in this today?

Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner
1,100 turned out to honor and support Boston priests at an event that is raising money for a very worthy cause.  The event was run by the archdiocese’s Boston Catholic Development Services (BCDS), which is in the final stages of striking a deal with Catholic Charities of Boston to run their fundraising after about a year of negotiation.  More on that another time.  Joe D’Arrigo, exec director of the clergy funds said they now have a break-even operating budget–which means expenses are equal to income. But, nothing in the article talks about how they will fund the several hundred million dollar shortfall between assets and expected retirement costs for aging clergy.  It seems that a 401K-style plan is in the works.

New Employee Pension Plan
We could spend weeks on this alone.  Many people are asking how and why TIAA-CREF was chosen, and financial experts tell BCI that the choices offered to employees of mostly front-end load funds are not the best approach to take. It means the fund managers make all kinds of commissions up-front, at the expense of retirees. We need a whole series on this, and have not had the time to get that to you.  People should be immediately be asking about the past performance of the funds offered relative to the market and why load funds are the main choices.

Chancellor-Ordered Investigation of BCI
Apparently, because the staff in finance and IT at the archdiocese have extra time to spare, BCI understands they have once again been directed by Chancellor James McDonough to investigate BCI and try to determine who is behind the blog. As it works it way down the pecking order, the request from the Chancellor goes to John Straub, executive director of finance and operations, and then to the IT guy, Steven McDevitt, he brought in that he knew from when he worked in the federal government. Steve most recently worked for FEMA, as we posted here.  Rumor has it that they have reached out for help and advice to people they know in the U.S. government with expertise in computer forensics. We are not making this up.  If someone bumps into the new Vicar General, perhaps they might mention to him that time by the archdiocese finance and IT team–whose salaries are paid by donor contributions–is being expended investigating BCI, when perhaps those resources might be better utilized serving pastoral ministries and parishes.

Caritas Christi in the News
Multiple posts are needed here as well.  Caritas CEO, Ralph de la Torre earned $2.2 million in 2009–that is, before the hospital chain was spun off to Steward Health Care.  Meanwhile, the nurses union says that Steward backed out of the pension plan agreed to when the hospital ownership changed in 2010. 

According to nurses and union officials, Steward went back on the terms of a pension plan negotiated with the nurses of Caritas Christi hospital, which was purchased by Steward last year. Although both sides reached an agreement in October 2010 after the Caritas deal was complete, union officials felt the plan offered to them in the last few weeks did not reflect the initial settlement. According to David Schildmeier, director of public communications for the MNA, the new plan redefined the five-year agreement for a multiemployer defined-benefit plan, changing the initial contribution and also altered the pension’s ability to grow.  “They have reneged on their deal,” Schildmeier said.  As a result of the dispute, both sides will move to arbitration in September.

About a month ago, BCI spoke to one of the nurses involved in the negotiation and got a number of additional details.  Sure does appear that Steward backed out of the original deal.

Changes at St. Catherine Church in Norwood
A change in the mission statement in the parish bulletin by the new pastor as well as changes in the wording of some liturgical prayers (changing the word “He” or “Him” that refers to God, to the gender-neutral “God”)  have sparked some considerable consternation at St. Catherine in Norwood.  The former mission statement read:

Our Mission
Saint Catherine of Siena Parish is a Roman Catholic community established in Norwood, MA in 1890. Re- sponding to our baptismal call to holiness, we seek to live the teachings of Christ in the Roman Catholic tradition through worship, education, service and evangelization.

The new pastor, Msgr. Paul Garrity, created a new mission without input from the parish council, found here. It reads:

Our Mission

St. Catherine of Siena Parish is a Roman Catholic community established in Norwood, MA in 1890. Responding to our baptismal call to holiness, we seek to live the teachings of Christ in the Roman Catholic tradition through worship, education, service and evangelization. 

ALL PEOPLE ARE WELCOME

AT ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA PARISH, Regardless of your status in the Church, regardless of your marital state, regardless of your prior religious experience, regardless of your personal history, background, or sexual orientation, please know that you are invited, accepted and respected at St. Catherine of Siena Parish.

Anyone can read their most recent bulletin  here to see the explanation provided by the pastor a month after the change.

St. Jeremiah Church in Framingham sold
St. Jeremiah, one the closed parishes where people held a long-running protest vigil, has been sold for $2 million to the Syro-Malabar eparchy, an Eastern-Rite Catholic community that has already been using it for the past few years.  Even though they have long-since exhausted canonical appeals, the vigil folks of St. Jeremiah say they will try to block the sale by requesting an “emergency restraining order” from the Congregation for the Clergy in the Vatican. Good luck with that.

We could go on and on with much more–these are just a few highlights.  Blogging will remain a bit light but we will attempt to get you caught up on more going-on again soon.


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