St. Francis of Assisi Closing Confusion

November 30, 2011

For those following the saga of the bungled communication around the announced closing of St. Francis of Assisi in Cambridge, the plot thickens.

To be clear, BCI wishes we did not find ourselves having to even write this blog or communicate what is happening to the parishioners. We do not want to be publicly calling out mismanagement and naming names.  But if the archdiocese is unable to handle this effectively, someone ought to step in to fill the void. Because of all of the criticism we took for naming names a few days ago, for today, we will leave the parties responsible for fixing this problem unnamed. Now back to the saga.

Even though it was announced verbally to parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi that their parish would close and their $1.1M “coffers” would go to the welcoming parish, St. Anthony of Padua, and even though it was announced in writing to St. Anthony of Padua that neighboring St. Francis would close (in a notice posted here at this blog), yesterday we learned the story is changing. Various archdiocesan officials said publicly  yesterday that there was some “miscommunication”–that no closing was ordered, and a process will be undertaken to determine the future of the parish, even if the logical (but not inevitable) outcome is that the parish will close.  Hmm.

BCI has written to the archdiocese and asked for public clarification because parishioners are now thoroughly confused. How can the souls of faithful Catholics be led to salvation when their human bodies are confused about where they will be going to daily or weekly Mass to receive the Eucharist in the future?

In the meantime, here is a letter written by the former pastor of St. Francis, Fr. Norbet De Amato, O.F.M, to then-Archbishop O’Malley in 2004 describing why the parish should remain open.  Here is a .pdf but the text is reproduced below:

April 15, 2004
His Excellency
Sean P. O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston, O.F M. Cap,
2121 Commonwealth Avenue
Brighton, MA 02135-3193

Dear Archbishop O’Malley:

In compliance with the wishes of Bishop Richard G. Lennon, I am submitting the following reasons why I believe the parish of St. Francis of Assisi, East Cambridge, should remain open to the community. Supporting documentation regarding the demographics of East Cambridge was previously submitted during our Cluster Meetings. Due to Bishop Lennon’s request to limit the response to two pages, I am omitting the additional documentation but will forward upon request. The following addresses the demographic and growing needs of our community.

The demographics and census information for the City of Cambridge indicate that housing costs have been on the rise. In order to meet the needs of families in the East Cambridge Neighborhood, two projects are underway:

The first project is for affordable housing on the Comer of Second and Cambridge Streets, for 200 units.

The second project of great magnitude is North Point. This will be located at the intersection of First, Cambridge and O’Brien Highway. The project will be home to 5,000 housing and retail shopping units slated for construction when the T Lechmere Station is moved.

Currently, East Cambridge houses three new hotels and additional hotels located within walking distance from our parish. The close proximity andlocation of the Church on a main street allows visitors to attend services on Sunday and Holy Days. Our Chapel is open from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Daily Mass is celebrated at 7:00 a.m. allowing parishioners and workers in the area to start their day with prayer. A 12:10 p.m. Mass is celebrated on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Tuesday Mass is followed by St. Anthony Novena.

Our Parish is geographically located in a business area of the city serving the needs of many working people. The employees of Middlesex County Court Houses visit the Church on a regular basis. In addition to court personnel, staff from businesses and industries in the area uses the Church. The 12:10 P.M. Mass allows parishioners and workers the availability to attend services.

When 9-11 occurred, the Church opened its doors to all workers in the community. As a result of911, AA was no longer allowed to use the
Court House facility to house its groups. St. Francis is now the host site for AA Meetings. In the past, St. Francis housed the Youth Center until its new location was built. In the future, St. Francis will find open its doors to meet the needs of its changing community. Discussion of a child care or recreation center has taken place.

Our current parishioners often depend on the needs of an Italian Speaking Priest. We are blessed with Franciscan Friars enabling us to provide language services. Many of our parishioners are elderly and depend on our services for social stimulation. There is an 8 a.m. Sunday Mass in Italian for our Italian parishioners.

Currently, we host a weekly neighborhood macaroni and meat ball dinner followed by bingo open to the entire neighborhood. There are additional Italian Religious and Social Clubs who return to the Church annually to help celebrate their heritage and tradition.

Fraternally yours,

Fr. Norbet De Amato, O.F.M.
Pastor

BCI understands that the 2004 letter still accurately describes the parish situation today, including the anticipated developments at Northpoint.

As was stated before by BCI, we are not opining on whether the parish should stay open or closed–that decision rests with Cardinal O’Malley–after appropriate consultations and canonical processes are followed.  Just seems to us and a growing number of others that none of the appropriate consultations and canonical processes have been followed, yet the parishioners were told their parish is closing, someone leaked word to a developer the parish was closing, and the developer is sniffing around already trying to evaluate the potential for developing condos at the property.

Who is in charge of this situation? Is anyone else asking what is wrong with this picture?


St. Francis of Assisi Parish Closing: Response from Fr. Carreiro

November 29, 2011

BCI has gotten a fair amount of critical feedback on our last post, Cambridge Church Closing Calamity, where we discussed the news that St. Francis of Assisi in Cambridge will be closing.

Fr. Walter Carreiro, Vicar Forane and pastor of the designated “welcoming” parish, St. Anthony of Padua, sent us an email and posted an almost identical version of the email in comments. He took the time to write and to express concerns with the post by BCI, so we felt it appropriate to share his message in a dedicated blog post.  We will make brief comments following his letter, and we will post additional comments in a separate post. Here is his unedited message:

I would think that a journalist would at least attempt to get both sides of a story prior to publishing something with a potential to misconstrue events and statements.

I have included here the letter I wrote for our parish bulletin at St. Anthony Parish. This letter was written on Sunday, November 20, since it had to be at the publisher by November 21 due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Immediately following is a link to the publishers archive of our bulletin so that you may see it in the published format, including the Portuguese translation.

Greetings,

By now you have all heard the news about Saint Francis of Assisi Parish. It was in 2008 that the provincial of the Franciscans of the Immaculate Conception province wrote a letter to Cardinal Sean stating that when Fr. Norbert DeAmato retired they would no longer to staff the parish. At that time Cardinal Sean wrote a letter to the Vicar General, Bishop Hennessey and me stating that it was his thought that since St. Francis, being an Italian Personal parish and St. Anthony, being a Portuguese Personal parish that it made sense for the two to be merged with the eventual closure of St. Francis. At that time Bishop Hennessey and I met with Fr. Norbert to explain to him that at long as he chose to remain there that there would be no change in the status of St. Francis Parish. Just a few weeks ago Fr. Norbert, with his doctor and the provincial determined that it would be best for his health to step down as pastor. Another Franciscan Friar, Fr. Richard Donovan was assigned to be the temporary administrator. It was clear then that this was just to be temporary.

A couple of weeks ago a number of us, including Fr. Primo, the Franciscan Provincial from New York, met in Braintree to determine how we would go forward with St. Francis parish. It was prior to that meeting that I was asked to consider being administrator of the parish to work with the parishioners to bring it to closure. Realizing the difficulty of this transition I accepted this responsibility, naturally with a heavy heart of having to break the news to the parishioners. Cardinal Sean has continued in his belief that it makes sense for St. Anthony to be the welcoming parish for the people of the parish and for those things that are dear to the parishioners, statues, etc. It was because of this that I was at all the Masses this weekend at St. Francis. You can imagine the feelings that were present among the people. They were very kind to me but it’s natural that people would be angry, in tears, wanting to bargain and figure out how the parish could stay open. As you can well imagine it is as if they were being told that a loved one had a terminal illness and that death was inevitable and imminent. As I told them, there is no definite date when the parish will close. I will continue to meet with a group of parishioners there to determine what would be the best way to go forward taking into account any important events yet to occur there and how we will commemorate the move from St. Francis up the street to St. Anthony. I know that I can count on you to be welcoming to our brothers and sisters from there. I know that together we will make this as positive of an experience for them and make room for them here. As well, we will make room for their statues and those things which have made their experience as a parish dear to them. As the Archdiocese moves to a new model of parish configuration this is a good experience for us to challenge ourselves to be ever more open to all who come to St. Anthony to worship and, more importantly, to be a part of our family here.

As our responsibility as priests here expands this has necessitated a change in the schedule of Masses, which is included below. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Peace & Blessings, Fr. Walter

ST. FRANCIS ST. ANTHONY SACRED HEART
DAY TIME TIME TIME
Sabado/SAT. NO MASS 4:00 PM (& 5:30 PM) 5:00 PM
Domingo/SUN. 9:00 & 10:30 (8:00) 9:45 7:30, 9:00
(11:30 AM & 7:00 PM) & 11:00 AM
2a/MON. 7:00 AM (6:30 PM) 9:00 AM
3a/TUES. 12:10 PM (6:30 PM) 6:00 PM
4a/WED. 7:00 AM (6:30 PM) 9:00 AM
5a/THUR. NO MASS (9:00 AM & 6:30 PM) 6:00 PM
ADORATION: 9:30 – 6:00
6a/FRI. 7:00 AM (6:30 PM) 9:00 AM
Masses in parenthesis are celebrated in Portuguese Missas entre parenthesis são celebradas em português.

http://parishbulletin.com/Bulletins/935/935_Anthony_Cam_1127.pdf

There is much more to write and to refute, both in what was related to you, and how you chose to present that information. Let’s not forget that there are two sides to every story and an attempt should be made to not be so one-sided. I was not approached nor was an attempt to communicate with me made in any way.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Walter Carreiro (correct spelling)

We appreciate Fr. Carreiro taking the time to write.  We have time to just say a few things in response in this post for this moment.

He is correct that BCI did not approach him or attempt to communicate with him. Why is that?  Two reasons.  First, as we said in our previous post, we did call St. Francis of Assisi to ask about the rumor of the parish closing on Saturday Nov. 19, and the priest who answered the phone denied the rumored closing and said there would merely be a change in Mass schedule announced. Keep in mind, the closing had already been announced to selected parishioners a few days earlier, and it was announced several hours later to all of the parishioners. (As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”).  Secondly, the lack of response by virtually everyone in the archdiocesan hierarchy to inquiries by BCI over the past year–and to complaints by faithful Catholics–has led us to conclude it is generally not worth the time and trouble to even try reaching out to ask for comments or additional perspectives on a story. Based on Fr. Walter’s thoughtful and insightful response, we regret that we did not reach out to him.

Lastly for now, it also remains unclear to BCI, even from the response by Fr. Walter, what major details of our original post are considered inaccurate and thus would need to be refuted. Fr. Walter is a fine, honest devout priest, who confers the sacraments fluently in Portuguese. The Wednesday evening meeting with selected parishioners was blunt and confrontational as reported. Communications with St. Francis parishioners have not been good–as exemplified by the above letter being published in the St. Anthony parish bulletin, but NOT in the bulletin of  St. Francis, the parish actually being closed!  No written announcement has appeared in the St. Francis bulletin, and many of their elderly parishioners who are homebound rely solely on the bulletin for official parish news. A St. Francis parishioner commented to us via email, “Yikes, should I be learning of the process from him via your blog?? ”  A developer was apparently tipped off before the parishioners were notified. There has been no public decree.

The details that could potentially be refuted from our original post where we have now learned more are the following:
–Fr. Norbert is 89-years-old, not 92 and he apparently is not ill, but was advised by doctors and his provincial to give up the pastor role at the parish for health reasons
–Bishop Hennessey was apparently not notified of the Nov. 16 meeting at the parish
–The reason for St. Anthony being designated the welcoming parish is because Cardinal O’Malley thought it was a good idea
–Communications between the Franciscans and the archdiocese about what would happen to St. Francis after Fr. Norbert retired took place in 2008, (3-4 years ago) and not five years ago, as BCI said. Apparently the communications took place via letter correspondence at the time.

Though we do not believe any of those details are major in nature or would have substantially altered the message of our last post, we apologize for any errors.  More in a next post.


Cambridge Church Closing Calamity

November 26, 2011

Given the fact that the Boston Archdiocese has closed some 60-odd churches in the past seven years, one would think the archdiocese should have the process of closing a church down to a science by now.  Not so with the closing of St. Francis of Assisi in East Cambridge, where objectively one could say the archdiocese has bungled the situation and created yet another self-inflicted mess, with likely violations of Canon Law. This one has just not hit the Boston Globe or Boston Herald yet.

The key points to note are as follows:

1. A shortage of priests to staff the parish and/or demographics of the parish/region might make the closing inevitable.
2. Regardless of whether the church has to close, the manner in which this was handled and communicated to parishioners was so bad that it suggests incompetence, disinterest, or both by at least several members of the archdiocesan hierarchy.
3. The fact that no decree has been publicly issued by the archdiocese and the fact that developers were apparently clued-in to the forthcoming sale of the rectory and/or church before parishioners is suggestive of the same sort of corruption, insider deals, and violations of the Code of Canon Law that BCI has been documenting for more than a year.

Details of all of the above follow.

Background and Demographics

St. Francis of Assisi Parish is about 95 years old. It was a former Baptist Church, which, according to an article about the early history found to the right (click to zoom), was bought by Italian Catholics and converted to a Catholic Church in 1917.  It is an Italian national parish and has been  overseen by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate Conception, OFM, throughout the years. The most recent pastor has been Fr. Norbert DeAmato, O.F.M.

Fr. Norbert is 89-years-old, and recently became ill.  Apparently unbeknown to parishioners at St. Francis, archdiocesan officials met with Fr. Norbert some five years ago and told him they were happy to have him stay as pastor as long as he (and the Franciscans) were willing to let him do so. However, once Fr. Norbert left, there would be no other Franciscan available to cover the parish, and no archdiocesan or any other religious order priest.
There have been four Masses at the church every weekend, even though archdiocesan statistics show a total of 221 people attending the four Masses. There are two other churches within about 1/2-mile away–Sacred Heart and St. Anthony of Padua (Portuguese).
Notification about Parish Closing

BCI was told the following by a parishioner, attorney Maria Elena Saccoccio, who has given us permission to tell her story with her name. We have edited slightly without changing meaning, just for clarity for those not familiar with the details:

Without any notice, St. Francis of Assisi of East Cambridge summoned select parishioners for a meeting on Wednesday night, November 16.  There were three priests present. Chairing the meeting was Fr. Walter Carreiro of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Cambridge.  Fr. John Tackney of Sacred Heart in Cambridge was also present, as was Fr. Richard Donovan, OFM, who was temporarily placed at St. Francis after our pastor Fr. Norbert suddenly became ill.

It was announced unceremoniously that St. Francis would be closed.  Father Walter chaired the meeting.  We were consistently stifled in any comments that challenged in any way the decision on closure or the lack of prior notice. One parishioner was actually accused of being racist when she made a facial expression not compatible with what Father Walter expected.  Her displeasure had nothing to do with racism.  The church we are to be merged with has just about all Masses in Portuguese and we are not Portuguese.  One parishioner asked about the closure date, and each priest denied any knowledge whatsoever.  When pressed further as to whether or not we would be open in 2013, Father Carriero stated “no.”  Pressed further by the same parishioner that they somehow did have a closure date, the priests remained silent.

Another parishioner addressed the changing demographics of the area…When an elderly parishioner returned to the topic of closure date, I made an off the cuff remark that it would close once a developer made an offer to the Archdiocese.  To say that Father Carriero bellowed at me would be an understatement.  He was a bully and questioned my right to even comment, stating “How dare you say that–you do not have any personal knowledge;” and on and on and on.  I maintained my position and was supported by another parishioner as well.   I reiterated my position matching the tenor of Father Carreiro’s voice and stated “In my opinion, the church will be sold when a developer approaches the archdiocese to buy it.”  Fr. Carreiro pressed further for the basis of my opinion and I stated “Do you really think the archdiocese is just going to keep this property in perpetuity?”  Further, I explained that the basis of my opinion is that I am a lawyer and I read, plain and simple.

Another parishioner was chastised when he suggested that at City Hall Council meetings people get to speak for 2-3 minutes and we should do so here, given the gravity of the news.  Father Richard said this is not City Hall and no one gets to speak. He was supported by Father Carreiro.  It was too late for anything to be done.  The Franciscans did not have the bodies to send to oversee the parish and the Archdiocese made the decision.  It was a fait accompli.

The coffers (and they are substantial since they contain the proceeds of the parochial school from years ago) would be transferred to the St. Anthony of Padua (Portuguese) Church.  Note, we are much closer to Sacred Heart, only three blocks away, and most of our parishioners will clearly go there since everything is in English and they have already extended themselves countless times for the convenience of our parish.

This meeting was botched.  I was receptive at first and realize that St. Anthony’s is a poor parish and could use the money. Fathers Carreiro and Richard Donovan were bullies.  Fr. Donovan took up precious time complaining to us at the Wednesday night meeting that he had to change 16 light bulbs and we just did not realize how time consuming these things are.  Father Tackney was subdued and quiet throughout the meeting.  His parish (Sacred Heart) will inherit the work but not the wealth.

What a travesty and what a good way to lose Roman Catholics.  I was “coming home” to what?

No direct explanation was ever given to the parishioners for why the parish would be closing.

BCI did some of our own digging. When we called the parish a week ago today and asked the priest who answered the phone about rumors the church was closing, after a pause, we were told by him, “No, but the Mass schedule is changing,” and the changes would be announced by Fr. Walter (of St. Anthony of Padua) during last weekend’s Masses.   Hours later, Fr. Walter did announce the church would be closing within a year, and he also announced a consolidated Mass schedule for the three parishes–St. Francis of Assisi, Sacred Heart, and St. Anthony.

Mismanagement by the Archdiocese

The mismanagement of this situation is almost beyond words. We are so perturbed we can only write about this by posing questions:

  • Why was the meeting not scheduled such that regional Bishop Hennessey could be present for the meeting and announcement to the parish?  Based on his record this year, BCI is going to start referring to him as the “invisible auxiliary.”
  • Why was the cabinet official responsible for pastoral planning, Fr. David Couturier OFM Cap, not present for the meetings?
  • Why was Fr. Walter Carreiro–a fine, honest devout priest, who confers the sacraments fluently in Portuguese, but who is known for being brutally blunt–allowed to chair the meeting instead of just being asked to sit quietly and listen?
  • Why was the pastorally skilled Fr. Jack Tackney–who has welcomed multiple closed parishes over the past decade or so and who has hosted St. Francis’ religious ed program activities in the past –not chosen to chair the meeting?
  • Why has no canonical decree to suppress or merge St. Francis been publicly issued?
  • What exactly will become of the $1.1. million in cash assets of St. Francis (from the prior sale of the school building and parish savings)? And what will become of the cash generated from the sale of the St. Francis properties?  Will the assets go to the designated “welcoming” parish, St. Anthony (Portuguese) where many St. Francis parishioners do not plan to attend, while Sacred Heart, which actually does the work of welcoming the St. Francis parishioners gets nothing?  Why is that the pastorally correct move? Or will the archdiocese try to grab some of the cash as well?
  • Why was at least one developer already asking about plans to sell the rectory at St. Francis BEFORE parishioners were notified the parish was closing?  Was it Chancellor Jim McDonough or someone from his office who leaked this information and tipped the developer?
  • Will Vicar General Msgr. Deeley order the new excessively-paid $160K/year Director of IT, Stephen McDevitt, to cease efforts requested by Chancellor McDonough to determine who is behind BCI and instead begin an email investigation within the archdiocese to determine who leaked information about the planned closing of St. Francis to a developer before parishioners were informed and before any canonical decrees were issued?

How should this have happened?  It seems to BCI that Fr. David Couturier, both by his cabinet position and him being a Franciscan, should have joined with Bishop Hennessey, Fr. Carreiro, Fr. Jack Tackney, and Fr. Donovan to sit with the St Francis parish council and finance council (if indeed those bodies exist and actually meet) and explain the situation–namely, that the Franciscans need to pull back and the sacramental activity in that part of Cambridge is already spread over a number of parishes.  (None of which, incidentally, has any parking). They should have spoken for two minutes each, and then listened.

It seems reasonable that after that, they should have scheduled another meeting for all parishioners with Fr. Tackney and Fr. Carreiro.  (Fr. Donovan is leaving December 1).  The priests should have agreed in advance that Fr. Jack Tackney would decide how the meeting would run, and that he would be the voice of the presbyterate, except to answer questions about why the Franciscans are leaving.  The wizards at the Pastoral Center should have sent a clear proposal to the second meeting, through a letter from Cardinal O’Malley or Bishop Hennessey, outlining how the assets and liabilities would be treated, and to ask where the people saw themselves going.  They should have asked for comments.  This is free advice from outside the Pastoral Center on what SHOULD have done.

Instead, the Boston Archdiocese has taken an important pastoral opportunity to minister effectively to faithful Catholics and bungled it.   Along the way, the evidence that a developer was aware this property was becoming available also points to a likely violation of Canon Law.

Where to From Here 

BCI is not in a position to determine if the parish is sustainable for the long-term, pastorally and practically. (Projections of Catholics coming along with condos have not necessarily come to pass elsewhere).  But, it does not take a Ph.D. in Pastoral Psychology or a MacArthur Award to realize that the onus fell squarely on Bishop Hennessey and Fr. Couturier to meet with the people, along with the pastors of adjacent churches.  Whether or not the parish can or should remain open is a decision for Cardinal O’Malley, after reviewing all of the relevant information and having heard all parties. UPDATE: Bishop Hennessey was attending the USCCB fall meeting out-of-state on Nov. 16, but for him and the cabinet head in charge of pastoral planning to not be available for a meeting announcing the closing of the parish was a bad move both procedurally and pastorally.  They failed at what should have been an uncomplicated, clear execution of their ministries and ministerial duties. And whomever leaked word to a developer that the St Francis rectory or church were going to up for sale should start preparing either their letter of resignation or a really good explanation of why they think that leak was not a violation of Canon Law.

What to do now?  Vicar General Msgr. Deeley should probably call a little meeting on Monday to ask a) why Bishop Hennessey and Fr. Couturier abdicated their responsibilities and b) how exactly a developer came to learn of the property potentially being up for sale.  Bishop Hennessey and Fr. Couturier need to visit the parish and beg the forgiveness of the parishioners for their sins of omission, and start over again.  And this time, they need to LISTEN, in person, and heed the wisdom of those whom they serve.  Oh yeah, and whatever happens in a next meeting, let Fr. Jack Tackney do the presiding, thinking and the talking!


Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations: 1789 – 1815

November 24, 2011

Amidst the turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, family gatherings and football games today, it occurs to BCI that some people may forget the origins of Thanksgiving Day.  So, BCI thought we would give you a second post today with a refresher on the origins of Thanksgiving Day, including a few presidential Thanksgiving Day proclamations by the early U.S. presidents we came across.  Note the references to God, which are nowhere to be found in the presidential Thanksgiving Day proclamation of 2011.   This post is rather long.  You may just want to skim, read a few sections, or grab a hot beverage to enjoy while reading.  The information was too rich with meaning for BCI to edit.  Enjoy!

Origin of Thanksgiving Day

The Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, on September 6, 1620. Their destination? The New World. Although filled with uncertainty and peril, it offered both civil and religious liberty.

For over two months, the 102 passengers braved the harsh elements of a vast storm-tossed sea. Finally, with firm purpose and a reliance on Divine Providence, the cry of “Land!” was heard.

Arriving in Massachusetts in late November, the Pilgrims sought a suitable landing place. On December 11, just before disembarking at Plymouth Rock, they signed the “Mayflower Compact”—America’s first document of civil government and the first to introduce self-government.

Pumpkins. Photo copyrighted. After a prayer service, the Pilgrims began building hasty shelters. However, unprepared for the starvation and sickness of a harsh New England winter, nearly half died before spring. Yet, persevering in prayer, and assisted by helpful Indians, they reaped a bountiful harvest the following summer.

The grateful Pilgrims then declared a three-day feast, starting on December 13, 1621, to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends. While this was not the first Thanksgiving in America (thanksgiving services were held in Virginia as early as 1607), it was America’s first Thanksgiving Festival.

Artist's depiction of the first Thanksgiving. Courtesy of Films for Christ. Pilgrim Edward Winslow described the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving in these words:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling [bird hunting] so that we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as… served the company almost a week… Many of the Indians [came] amongst us and… their greatest King, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought… And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet BY THE GOODNESS OF GOD WE ARE… FAR FROM WANT.”

George Washington, first President of the United States. Photo courtesy of Films for Christ.

In 1789, following a proclamation issued by President George Washington, America celebrated its first Day of Thanksgiving to God under its new constitution.

George Washington, John Adams, James Madison

 

THANKSGIVING DAY 1789
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – A PROCLAMATION

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be – That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks – for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation – for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war –for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed – for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions – to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually – to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed – to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord – To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us – and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
GEORGE WASHINGTON.

THANKSGIVING DAY 1795
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES – A PROCLAMATION
When we review the calamities which afflict so many other nations, the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction. Our exemption hitherto from foreign war, an increasing prospect of the continuance of that exception, the great degree of internal tranquillity we have enjoyed, the recent confirmation of that tranquillity by the suppression of an insurrection which so wantonly threatened it, the happy course of our public affairs in general, the unexampled prosperity of all classes of our citizens, are circumstances which peculiarly mark our situation with indications of the Divine beneficence toward us. In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience.
Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States to set apart and observe Thursday, the 19th day of February next as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the Great Ruler of Nations for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation, particularly for the possession of constitutions of government which united and by their union establish liberty with order; for the preservation of our peace, foreign and domestic; for the seasonable control which has been given to a spirit of disorder in the suppression of the late insurrection, and generally for the prosperous course of our affairs, public and private; and at the same time humbly and fervently to beseech the kind Author of these blessings graciously to prolong them to us; to imprint on our hearts a deep and solemn sense of our obligations to Him for them; to teach us rightly to estimate their immense value; to preserve us from the arrogance of prosperity, and from hazarding the advantages we enjoy by delusive pursuits; to dispose us to merit the continuance of His favors by not abusing them; by our gratitude for them, and by a correspondent conduct as citizens and men; to render this country more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other countries; to extend among us true and useful knowledge; to diffuse and establish habits of sobriety, order, morality, and piety, and finally, to impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.
In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand.
Done at the city of Philadelphia, the 1st day of January, 1795, and of the Independence of the United States of America the nineteenth.
By the President : GEORGE WASHINGTON.

A DAY OF FASTING & HUMILIATION (NOT THANKSGIVING!) 1798
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES – A PROCLAMATION
As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed; and as this duty, at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty or of danger, when existing or threatening calamities, the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity, are a loud call to repentance and reformation; and as the United States of America are at present placed in a hazardous and afflictive situation by the unfriendly disposition, conduct, and demands of a foreign power, evinced by repeated refusals to receive our messengers of reconciliation and peace, by depredations on our commerce, and the infliction of injuries on very many of our fellow-citizens while engaged in their lawful business on the seas – under these considerations it has appeared to me that the duty of imploring the mercy and benediction of Heaven on our country demands at this time a special attention from its inhabitants.
I have therefore thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next, be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens of these States, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming; that all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching Him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction; that it be made the subject of particular and earnest supplication that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it; that our civil and religious privileges may be preserved inviolate and perpetuated to the latest generations; that our public councils and magistrates may be especially enlightened and directed at this critical period; that the American people may be united in those bonds of amity and mutual confidence and inspired with that vigor and fortitude by which they have in times past been so highly distinguished and by which they have obtained such invaluable advantages; that the health of the inhabitants of our land may be preserved, and their agriculture, commerce, fisheries, arts, and manufactures be blessed and prospered; that the principles of genuine piety and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every description of our citizens and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion may be speedily extended to all the nations of the earth.
And finally, I recommend that on the said day the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift, not only for His having hitherto protected and preserved the people of these United States in the independent enjoyment of their religious and civil freedom, but also for having prospered them in a wonderful progress of population, and for conferring on them many and great favors conducive to the happiness and prosperity of a nation.
Given under my hand the seal of the United States of America, at Philadelphia, this 23d day of March, A.D. 1798, and of the Independence of the said States the twenty-second.
By the President : JOHN ADAMS.

A DAY OF FASTING & HUMILIATION (NOT THANKSGIVING!) 1799
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – A PROCLAMATION
As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and a due acknowledgment of the governing providence of a Supreme Being and of the accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of hearts and righteous distributer of rewards and punishments are conducive equally to the happiness and rectitude of individuals and to the well-being of communities; as it is also most reasonable in itself that men who are made capable of social acts and relations, who owe their improvements to the social state, and who derive their enjoyments from it, should, as a society, make their acknowledgments of dependence and obligation to Him who hath endowed them with these capacities and elevated them in the scale of existence by these distinctions; as it is likewise a plain dictate of duty and a strong sentiment of nature that in circumstances of great urgency and seasons of imminent danger earnest and particular supplications should be made to Him who is able to defend or to destroy; as, moreover, the most precious interests of the people of the United States are still held in jeopardy by the hostile designs and insidious acts of a foreign nation, as well as by the dissemination among them of those principles, subversive of the foundations of all religious, moral, and social obligations, that have produced incalculable mischief and misery in other countries; and as, in fine, the observance of special seasons for public religious solemnities is happily calculated to aver the evils which we ought to deprecate and to excite to the performance of the duties which we ought to discharge by calling and fixing the attention of the people at large to the momentous truths already recited, by affording opportunity to teach and inculcate them by animating devotion and giving to it the character of a national act :
For these reasons I have thought proper to recommend, and I do hereby recommend accordingly, that Thursday, the 25th day of April next, be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain as far as may be from their secular occupations, devote the time to the sacred duties of religion in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the Most High God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions in time to come; that He would interpose to arrest the progress of that impiety and licentiousness in principle and practice so offensive to Himself and so ruinous to mankind; that He would make us deeply sensible that “righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people”; that He would turn us from our transgressions and turn His displeasure from us; that He would withhold us from unreasonable discontent, from disunion, faction, sedition, and insurrection; that He would preserve our country from the desolating sword; that He would save our cities and towns from a repetition of those awful pestilential visitations under which they have lately suffered so severely, and that the health of our inhabitants generally may be precious in His sight; that He would favor us with fruitful seasons and so bless the labors of the husbandman as that there may be food in abundance for man and beast; that He would prosper our commerce, manufactures, and fisheries, and give success to the people in all their lawful industry and enterprise; that He would smile on our colleges, academies, schools, and seminaries of learning, and make them nurseries of sound science, morals, and religion; that He would bless all magistrates, from the highest to the lowest, give them the true spirit of their station, make them a terror to evil doers and a praise to them that do well; that He would preside over the councils of the nation at this critical period, enlighten them to a just discernment of the public interest, and save them from mistake, division, and discord; that He would make succeed our preparations for defense and bless our armaments by land and by sea; that He would put an end to the effusion of human blood and the accumulation of human misery among the contending nations of the earth by disposing them to justice, to equity, to benevolence, and to peace; and that he would extend the blessings of knowledge, of true liberty, and of pure and undefiled religion throughout the world.
And I do also recommend that with these acts of humiliation, penitence, and prayer, fervent thanksgiving to the Author of All Good be united for the countless favors which He is still continuing to the people of the United States, and which render their condition as a nation eminently happy when compared with the lot of others.
Given, etc.
JOHN ADAMS

THANKSGIVING DAY 1814
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – A PROCLAMATION
The two Houses of the National Legislature having by a joint resolution expressed their desire that in the present time of public calamity and war a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States as a day of public humiliation and fasting and of prayer to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessing on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace, I have deemed it proper by this proclamation to recommend that Thursday, the 12th of January next, be set apart as a day on which all may have an opportunity of voluntarily offering at the same time in their respective religious assemblies their humble adoration to the Great Sovereign of the Universe, of confessing their sins and transgressions, and of strengthening their vows of repentance and amendment. They will be invited by the same solemn occasion to call to mind the distinguished favors conferred on the American people in the general health which has been enjoyed, in the abundant fruits of the season, in the progress of the arts instrumental to their comfort, their prosperity, and their security, and in the victories which have so powerfully contributed to the defense and protection of our country, a devout thankfulness for all which ought to be mingled with their supplications to the Beneficent Parent of the Human Race that He would be graciously pleased to pardon all their offenses against Him; to support and animate them in the discharge of their respective duties; to continue to them the precious advantages flowing from political institutions so auspicious to their safety against dangers from abroad, to their tranquillity at home, and to their liberties, civil and religious; and that He would in a special manner preside over the nation in its public councils and constituted authorities, giving wisdom to its measures and success to its arms in maintaining its rights and in overcoming all hostile designs and attempts against it; and, finally, that by inspiring the enemy with dispositions favorable to a just and reasonable peace its blessings may be speedily and happily restores.
Given at the city of Washington, the 16th day of November, 1814, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty-eighth.
JAMES MADISON

THANKSGIVING DAY 1815
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – A PROCLAMATION

The senate and House of Representatives of the United States have by a joint resolution signified their desire that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace.
No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under His fostering care their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government. In the arduous struggle by which it was attained they were distinguished by multiplied tokens of His benign interposition. During the interval which succeeded He reared them into the strength and endowed them with the resources which have enabled them to assert their national rights, and to enhance their national character in another arduous conflict, which is now so happily terminated by a peace and reconciliation with those who have been our enemies. And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.
It is for blessings such as these, and more especially for the restoration of the blessing of peace, that I now recommend that the second Thursday in April next be set apart as a day on which the people of every religious denomination may in their solemn assembles unite their hearts and their voices in a freewill offering to their Heavenly Benefactor of their homage of thanksgiving and of their songs of praise.
Given at the city of Washington on the 4th day of March, A.D. 1815, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty-ninth.
JAMES MADISON


Happy Thanksgiving

November 24, 2011

BCI wishes all a very Happy Thanksgiving!  We offer you two prayers of thanksgiving for today. The first is attributed to St. John Chrysostom.  The second did not have attribution.

 

St. John Chrysostom Prayer Of Thanksgiving

What praise, of what hymn, or what thanksgiving, or what recompense shall we offer unto Thee, the Only God, Who lovest mankind?

For when we were condemned to destruction and immersed in our sins, Thou didst bestow freedom upon us, and hast given us the immortal and heavenly nourishment of the Body and Blood of Thy Christ.

Therefore we pray Thee: Deliver us from judgment, together with Thy servants who minister unto Thee.

Keep us and them in honor and holy living; and those who pray with us, and who have been partakers of Thy Mystical Table, preserve free of condemnation unto their last breath.

May it be unto them a sanctification of soul and body, unto the keeping of Thy Commandments; and thus may we be granted tp attain Thy Heavenly Kingdom, together with all who have been well-pleasing unto Thee from all ages:

Through the prayers and intercessions of our holy, all-pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Birth giver of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, of Saint N. whose memory we keep, and of all Thy Saints, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Amen.

attributed to ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

*   *   *   *

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Thank you God for all the wonderful blessings,
For our daily meals, for clean drinking water,
For sunlight and for the cool breeze.
I’m thankful for my family, my spouse, my friends, and my health.
I’m thankful for my friends, to love and be loved and for freedom.
I’m thankful to be alive and praise you for all these wonders.
I’m thankful that you have been so gracious
To give your only Son to us
Who gave his life and bore the Unbearable
For us sinners.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I take the Opportunity to give thanks for countless other
things you provide us with on a daily basis.
Amen.


Boston Globe: alleged accusers left off list

November 20, 2011

The “Catholic Church Attack Engine” at the Boston Globe appears to have filled up with gasoline this past week.  On Friday they published a rather biased “Editor steers church paper into controversy”  piece going after The Boston Pilot–quoting, of course, the standard-bearer dissenting Catholics the Globe apparently has on “speed-dial” who are invariably quoted saying something critical about the Catholic Church. Today, we have a journalistic rehashing of the complaints from August that the Archdiocese of Boston excluded in its public list of priests accused of sexual abuse, those priests who came from religious orders or other dioceses.

BCI has said this before and will say it again, if the Boston Globe is really concerned about the sexual abuse of children and about victims having the courage to come forward with claims of past abuse, why has there been no investigation whatsoever of the matter of sexual abuse of children in public schools, where the problem is reportedly far more extensive, or a call for public disclosure of the names of public school teachers accused of sexual abuse of children?  Why is that?

Front Page Hypocricy

This is to Michael Rezendes, reporter of the piece today in the Globe, “Many alleged abusers left off church list.”  Your carefully-worded Wikipedia entry–written by username “Script8″ who, coincidentally, has only contributed on Wikipedia to your profile and nothing else–says the following:

For nearly a decade Rezendes was also a member of the Globe’s Spotlight Team, where he shared a Pulitzer Prize for investigating the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. For his reporting and writing on the Church, he also shared the George Polk Award for National Reporting, the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, and numerous other honors.

Rezendes was the lead writer and reporter on the opening story of the Globe’s series on the Church…In addition, Rezendes broke the stories about similar cover-ups by Church officials in New York City and Tucson, Arizona…Rezendes and the Spotlight Team were also Pulitzer Prize finalists for a series of stories that uncovered abuses in the debt collection industry.

As a Spotlight Team member, Rezendes played a key role in many of the Globe’s most significant investigations, including those probing the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, financial corruption in the nation’s charitable foundations, and the plight of mentally ill state prisoners.

This background suggests reporting skills which are not at all in evidence in your article today or your coverage of the problem of child sexual abuse in society.

Catholics acknowledge the pain that hundreds of victims of sexual abuse by clergy in Boston have experienced. And the Globe report begrudingly acknowledges that the extent of disclosure by the Boston Archdiocese “compares favorably with the vast majority of the nation’s 195 dioceses, which have released no official lists at all.”  Michael, arguably the Catholic Church is now the safest institution in the world for children. You know that.  After nearly 10 years of disclosures of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, surely you are aware that your own work has made it easier for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy to come forward and not fear they are alone. 

So, if you and the Globe really give a rat’s @#$ about victims of sexual  abuse, why have you not tackled the much greater problem of sexual abuse in public schools and other public institutions?

BCI is going to restate and add to what we said in this post back in August.

Why is there no effort by the Boston Globe and Attorney General Martha Coakley to have public disclosure of the names of public school teachers who have abused children?   This article on LifeSiteNews says that according to Charol Shakeshaft, researcher of a little-remembered 2004 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, “the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.” According to the 2004 study “the most accurate data available at this time” indicates that “nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.”

George Weigel, writing in First Things in 2010 said:

The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000.  According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).

Remember that number–six credible cases of sexual abuse by priests were reported in 2009 out of 65 million Catholics.  In New York City, Archbishop Dolan shared word on his blog that the “rate of sexual abuse among public school teachers is 10 times higher than that of priests.” The statistics were from a NYS Special Commissioner of Investigation report that substantiated 78 abuse cases by teachers in 2009, and 73 such cases in 2010.  There were 78 cases in just NY City Public Schools in 2009, but 6 across the entire Catholic Church nationally.  Where is the problem, really?  Why does the Boston Globe not insist that similar work be done in Boston Public Schools or across the state, and that a list of accused teachers be published?

On March 12, 2011, the NY Times published a report about widespread abuse problems in more than 2,000 New York state-run homes for the developmentally disabled. Despite a state law requiring that incidents in which a crime may have been committed be reported to law enforcement, state records show that of some 13,000 allegations of abuse in 2009 within state-operated and licensed homes, fewer than 5 percent were referred to law enforcement.

One might argue that is New York, not Massachusetts. Here in Massachusetts, in 2007 then-U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan reported on his study of 11 years of records at the Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission. Sullivan found “very concerning neglect and abuse trends”, especially sexual abuse, in state-supported vendor-operated group homes for the disabled. In the report, he said:

“Unfortunately, after reviewing data from the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, our office did note some very concerning neglect and abuse trends in Contract Vendor operated community residences, as compared to the ICF/MRs and State operated community residences. These neglect and abuse trends, particularly sexual abuse, were of great concern to our office and shows that residents in our community homes are at a greater risk of being abused and/or neglected.”

What are Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Michael Rezendes and the crack Spotlight Team doing about the “very concerning neglect and abuse” of the disabled in state-supported homes?  What is Attorney General Martha Coakley doing?  Nothing that we can find reported publicly.

This 2001 report from the Guttmacher Institute says, “Almost one-third of females and nearly one in 10 male high school students in Massachusetts say they have experienced sexual abuse.  Where is the outrage?  What is the Boston Globe doing about this?  What is Martha Coakely doing?  Nothing that we can find reported publicly.

Martha Coakley is quoted as saying, “By failing to name the visiting priests and those from religious orders they’re sending a mixed message to the public…’’  Martha, how do you justify the mixed message YOU are sending to the public by your complete and utter failure to investigate and publicly disclose names of those guilty of sexual abuse of children in public schools or of adults in state-run facilities?

Yet the drumbeat goes on and the criticism continues, asking for the release of yet more names by the Catholic Church.  How the Globe and Attorney General justify their front-page hypocricy to themselves personally and to the public is a mystery.

Shoddy Journalism

Is this paragraph by Rezendes an example of unbiased news reporting?

To many committed Catholics, his brown robe and sandals – the attire of a Capuchin friar – symbolized a refreshingly humble alternative to his predecessor, the imperious Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who resigned as archbishop and decamped for Rome after 58 of his priests signed a letter urging him to quit because of his handling of the burgeoning abuse crisis…

It is not even factually accurate.  “Decamp” means “to depart suddenly.”  Cardinal Law resigned in December of 2002 and he did not “decamp” to Rome after 58 priests signed a letter urging him to quit.  As reported in February of 2003 by the Associated Press, Law, in fact, went to Maryland a few months after leaving Boston and was chaplain to the Sisters of Mercy of Alma. Perhaps Mr. Rezendes should reread the Globe archives to see the Globe’s own story from November 2003 that acknowledged Law was living in a convent in Maryland. It was not until May of 2004 that Law was named to his post as archpriest at Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.  And where exactly does the reporter get his facts to justify the opinion of “many committed Catholics” that Cardinal Bernard Law was “imperious”?  Would those “many committed Catholics” be the people he interviewed for this story?

Why Boston Archdiocese is Not Releasing Names of Religious Order Priests and Those from Other Dioceses

This is the explanation given by Cardinal O’Malley and the Boston Archdiocese in August 2011:

“Another issue to which I have given substantial consideration has to do with listing names of accused priests who are not priests of the Boston Archdiocese, but are religious order priests or priests from other dioceses.  After careful consideration, I have decided to limit the names that are being published on our website to clergy of the Boston Archdiocese.  I have decided not to include names of religious order priests or priests from other dioceses on our list because the Boston Archdiocese does not determine the outcome in such cases; that is the responsibility of the priest’s order or diocese.  I recognize that, over the years, many religious order priests and priests of other dioceses have served within the territory of the Boston Archdiocese, including in assignments at our parishes.

In its 2004 report, the Archdiocese published information with respect to the number of religious order priests and priests from other dioceses who had been accused of abusing minors while serving within the Archdiocese.  Archdiocesan policy is that, as soon as an accusation of misconduct is received against a religious order priest or a priest from a different diocese, we immediately notify law enforcement, as well as the superior of that order or the bishop of that diocese, and revoke the accused priest’s faculties to minister within our Archdiocese.  Under canon law, it falls to the superior or to the bishop to investigate and evaluate the accusation, taking appropriate canonical action. I urge the religious orders and other dioceses to consider their own policies with regard to publishing the names of accused clergy.  I hope that other dioceses and religious orders will review our new policy and consider making similar information available to the public to the extent they have not already done so.”

Bishop Accountability and SNAP

Terrence McKiernan, founder of BishopAccountability.org, is featured prominently in the Globe article. Yet oddly, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who wrote the Globe story tells us virtually nothing about McKiernan, or about his organization.  Who is McKiernan?  It is virtually impossible to find much about his background anywhere. This piece from the SNAP 2009 Conference brochure describes him as follows:

Terence McKiernan founded BishopAccountability.org in 2003 and is the organization’s president. Terry holds master’s degrees in Classics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of Bristol in England. Before his involvement in the church crisis, he was an academic editor and a consulting firm manager.

What led to his “involvement in the church crisis”?  Various web searches turn up Terence McKiernan, 57, of Natick, and Terence McKiernan-White, a former copy editor for the Cornell University Press.  But why does the Globe not share whatever other credentials and background that give him credibility and standing to be quoted in matters of Church governance, besides McKiernan’s self-appointment as the “president” of BishopAccountability.org?  And who exactly are the main sources of funding for BishopAccountability.org?  What is their budget?  How is McKiernan compensated?

Then there is the matter of the agendas of McKiernan and his SNAP colleagues.  BCI and others have said it appears they will never be satisfied.

This September article from Our Sunday Visitor,”Report Questions Motives of Clerical Sex Abuse Victim’s Groups” bears reading. Here are a few excerpts:

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and their allies have “decided to wage war on the Catholic Church,” says a report released last month by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Catholic League President William A. Donohue said he sent two trusted friends in July to observe SNAP’s national conference in Washington D.C. What they reported back, said Donohue, was an event marred by open hostility toward the Catholic Church.

“For three days, people were talking about an evil institution,” he told Our Sunday Visitor…

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney who has represented abuse victims, also reportedly said, “This immoral entity, the Catholic Church, should be defeated. We must stand up and defeat this evil.” Garabedian did not return a message from OSV seeking comment.

The Catholic League report says McKiernan “went on a rant” against Archbishop Dolan, accusing him of refusing to release a list of 55 “predator priests” and saying he hoped to “find ways of sticking it to [Dolan].”

McKiernan — who told OSV he is an orthodox Catholic who attends Mass, prays the Rosary and goes to confession — said he may have been “too opinionated” in his Dolan comments, but stood by his statement that the archbishop is not releasing names of accused priests.

McKiernan is a regular speaker at SNAP Conferences.  SNAP, of course, has their own problems, like issuing a press statement Aug 10, 2011 to attack a falsely accused priest after he has been legally exonerated and the alleged victim found to have fabricated claims. (“The defense [for Rev. Borowec] produced evidence at trial that demonstrated the complaining witness fabricated the charges and was seeking attention with intent to obtain money from the church. Prior to trial, the prosecutor suppressed evidence regarding the complaining witness’s mental health history and prior false allegations she made against another priest”).

Here are a few pieces from TheMediaReport.com on BishopAccountability.org and SNAP:

Glaring Hypocrisy From SNAP in Penn State Abuse Story
“Do As I Say, Not …”
November 2011 -

Bravo! Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas Slams SNAP
“My take is that they have a hatred toward the Church. Their mission is no longer to assist victims, but is to strike at the Church and wound the Church.”
-October 2011-

SNAP Misleads Public On False Accusations – Again
More frustrating dishonesty from SNAP.
-October 2011-

No Fairness For Innocent Priests at BishopAccountability.org
Tarnished. (w/UPDATE: Anti-Church site admits “error”!)
-September 2011-

Have Michael Rezendes or the Globe reported any of this information?   No.

Has the Boston Globe ever reported anything about those priests falsely accused of abuse–and the devastation to their lives and health that come from false accusations aired publicly?  No.

BCI will close by re-running this excerpt from the piece by George Weigel (“Scoundrel Times)” in First Things:

Yet in a pattern exemplifying the dog’s behavior in Proverbs 26:11, the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young, with hints of an ecclesiastical criminal conspiracy involving sexual predators whose predations continue today. That the vast majority of the abuse cases in the United States took place decades ago is of no consequence to this story line. For the narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down—and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy. For if the Church is a global criminal conspiracy of sexual abusers and their protectors, then the Catholic Church has no claim to a place at the table of public moral argument.

BCI is sending this blog post to Mr. Rezendes at the Boston Globe. His email is rezendes@globe.com. At the end of this post, where it says, “Share this,” do us a favor today. Click on the graphic that says, “email” and send a copy of this post to Mr. Rezendes.  Or, better still, copy and paste the post into a new email, and ask Michael one question: When are you going to run a spotlight series about sexual abuse of children in Massachusetts public schools and call for the public release of names of public school teachers with credible claims of sexual abuse against them?  While you are at it, also send a copy to Martha Coakley <ago@state.ma.us>  and ask her the same question.

Let us know if you get a response.


Ad Limina Limited Edition

November 19, 2011

The pace of decay and turmoil in the Boston Archdiocese is such that BCI is still struggling to keep up.  Today alone we have the hit job in the Boston Globe  over The Boston Pilot being too “conservative,” while spokesman Terry Donilon remained conspicuously silent. (Has anyone else noticed the pattern of how Terry consistently fails to publicly defend people who support the teachings of the Catholic Church, but when someone opposed to the teachings of the church has a gripe, Terry usually rushes to support them publicly?)   Then there is also word from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Cambridge about a contentious meeting that took place this past week, where the likely closing of the church was announced. Parishioners will be hearing about a change in Mass schedule this weekend, but there is more coming. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, BCI wanted to share with you a post from Cardinal O’Malley’s blog, where he reported on the recent “ad limina” visit to Rome.  This was one of the more substantial blog posts by the Cardinal and below are excerpts from his blog.  Readers will note in his post that in some situations, he shared the general topic of was discussed with the dicastery visited, and in other cases, (such as the Congregation for Bishops and Apostolic Signatura) he only mentioned that the visit occurred.  That is of course because the discussions were private, and in some cases pertinent to governance (or lack thereof) of the Boston Archdiocese.

BCI would like to see the Cardinal give to Catholics some sort of “state of the diocese” report as he sees it, similar to what other bishops have done for their dioceses. We have been waiting for one for a while, and if none is issued soon, BCI will post our own version.No

Now without further ado, below is our “limited edition” excerpted from the post from Cardinal Sean’s blog:

As I mentioned in my last post, last Thursday the bishops of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Region 1, which is made up of the six New England states, began our ad limina visit to the Holy See. Throughout the coming months, bishops from the other 14 U.S. regions will also make their ad limina visits.

It’s the practice in the Church that every five years each diocesan bishop, together with his auxiliaries, goes to visit the Holy Father, to make a report of the diocese and to pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. It is also a time when the bishops visit the various dicasteries, that is the departments, which make up the Roman Curia.

It’s always a very beautiful occasion, an opportunity for the bishops to reflect on our ministry, to pray together, to be with the Holy Father and to reconnect with the catholicity of the Church and our history, which is the history of the Apostles, the history of the Roman martyrs.

It’s also a wonderful opportunity of fraternity with all the bishops of the region. It provides us with time to pray and talk about the Church in our dioceses of New England. It also is an opportunity for us to visit our priests that are in Rome and the seminarians who are at the North American College.

Because most the events of the ad limina are private meetings or liturgies, I understand there was very little detail of the visit even in the Catholic press, let alone the secular media. So, in this post I’ll do my best to recount our activities for you. As you will see, it was a very full week.

- – -

As I told you last week, our ad limina visit began last Thursday with some preliminary meetings and Masses at St. Peter’s Basilica for deceased bishops and cardinals and at the North American College.

The highlight of the Ad Limina visit is, of course, the meeting with the Holy Father, and the Masses that we celebrate at the tomb of St. Peter, the tomb of St. Paul and the other basilicas. I always find it to be a very moving experience.

This year the Ad Limina visit started very quickly because almost immediately after arriving, on Friday, we had the Mass at the tomb of St. Peter, at which I was the principal celebrant and homilist, as well as the visit with the Holy Father.

In addition to the auxiliary bishops, I was very happy to be able to bring several of our Boston priests and seminarians who were in Rome to meet the Holy Father. With us were Msgr. Connie McRae, who now works in Rome; Father Richard Erikson, who is on sabbatical; my priest secretary Father Jonathan Gaspar; the rector of the cathedral, Father Kevin O’Leary; and two of our seminarians from the North American College, Deacon Eric Bennett and Tom MacDonald.

Those who have met him know the Holy Father is an extremely gracious and warm man. He could not have been more kind or more welcoming to the bishops, the priests and the seminarians who were with us. He greeted them and gave each one a rosary. Then, I and my auxiliaries went in for our meeting with the Pope Benedict.

We had a very good conversation with the Holy Father, in which updated him on the status of the archdiocese. The Holy Father was particularly interested in the programs of evangelization and outreach as well as the situation of the seminary and the Catholic universities within the archdiocese.

Later that day we met with officials from the Pontifical Council for the Laity, where Cardinal Stanislaus Rylko spoke to us about the World Youth Days and the ecclesial communities. We had a very good discussion about the various lay movements as well as campus ministry.

Afterwards, we went to the Pontifical Council for the Family, of which I am a member. There, we had an opportunity to talk about the Church’s ministry to married couples, preparation for marriage and all of the life issues that are a part of the competence of the Council.

Finally, we met with the Congregation of Bishops, which is headed by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, formerly of Quebec.

- – -

On Saturday afternoon we had Mass at the Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

On Sunday morning I celebrated the Mass at Casa Santa Maria, the residence for American priests studying in Rome. Msgr. Francis Kelley is the rector; and Msgr. McCrae, who was with us for the meeting with the Holy Father, is the spiritual director.

That afternoon I was pleased to be able to meet the new Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. I did not know him before, and it was a chance for us to talk about the Church in the United States and his new mission here.

We look forward to Archbishop Viganò’s arrival in Washington. He will be present with us for our bishops’ meeting next week in Baltimore, and we pray that the Lord will bless his mission as Nuncio to the United States.

- – -

Monday morning through midday was occupied with meetings with the Congregation for Clergy, the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Assistance to Healthcare Workers.

In the afternoon we had Mass at another of the Papal Basilicas of Rome, St. Mary Major.

- – -

Again on Tuesday we met with several dicasteries for much of the day. This time with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

In the late afternoon, we had Mass at the last of the four Papal Basilicas, St. John Lateran.

That evening, the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, and his wife, Marian, hosted a reception in honor of our visit.

The bishops of Region 1 and some of our guests were with us. I knew Miguel from my time in Palm Beach. He and his wife are both theologians; and he was teaching in the seminary and his wife was involved in evangelization programs for the Diocese of Palm Beach. During his remarks, he said that I had been the boss of both of them!

He also said how important the diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See are. It is an opportunity to foster better communication between the Holy See and our government. In my remarks I added that that his “former boss” is very proud of the fact that two of his recent predecessors as Ambassadors to the Holy See have been Bostonians – Ambassador Raymond Flynn and Ambassador MaryAnn Glendon.

- – -

On Wednesday, the last day of our visit, we began the day with an early morning Mass at the Altar of the Tomb of Blessed John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica. Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence was the principal celebrant and homilist.

In his homily, Bishop Tobin spoke about his personal encounters with Pope John Paul and the significance they had for him.

After the Mass, which was about 9 a.m., we met with the Apostolic Signatura, which is the high court of the Vatican, something akin to our Supreme Court.

From there, we went to our last meeting of the ad limina visit, which was with a brand new dicastery, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The Holy Father established it about a year ago and we are told that Father Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion and Liberation, was one of those who had suggested that such a dicastery be founded.

It was very interesting to learn more about this new dicastery, headed by Archbishop Rino Fisichella. They hope to organize city-wide missions in many of the large metropolitan areas of Europe as a preparation for the Synod on the New Evangelization to be held next year. However, they are waiting for the Synod itself to take place and for the post-synodal document to really set the course for that new dicastery.

It was a very hopeful encounter and we could see that there was a great deal of energy there. All the bishops were very pleased to see the progress in the establishment of this new dicastery and I am very hopeful that it will be able to help people to understand, and to become involved in, the new evangelization.

Finally, on Wednesday evening, we were invited to a parting reception at Villa Stritch, the residence for American priests working in the Roman Curia. It was a very nice evening.

- – -

On Thursday, a week from when we arrived, we departed again for home.

In all, it was an inspiring week. The liturgies were very beautiful and we were grateful to have had several of our priests who were in Rome join us for some of the Masses. In addition to those already mentioned, they included Fathers Jim O’Driscoll, Steve Madden, Jim Flavin, John Kiley and Doc Conway. Some were on sabbatical or retreat; others were in Rome as part of other travels.

We are also grateful that the seminarians and the young priests who are studying at the North American College and the Casa Santa Maria were a part of those Masses, including our own deacon, Deacon Eric Bennett and a deacon from Providence, Deacon Ryan Connors. The seminarians served at the Masses and assisted with the music and the readings.

It was uplifting to be able to hear our other bishops preach. Bishop Lori, Bishop Tobin, Archbishop Mansell and Bishop Malone all gave very inspiring reflections for us. It was a beautiful and intense moment of prayer. Throughout the visit, all of us were praying especially for our priests, religious, deacons and people back home. We see our visit to the Holy See as representing our people in this moment of prayer and reflection at the heart of the Church in Rome.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán


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