The Chancellor Steps Down

January 31, 2012

BCI is pleased to share with you the big news of the day–Chancellor Jim McDonough is stepping down from his position after nearly six years on the job.

Here are excerpts from the statement issued by the archdiocese:

Archdiocese Of Boston Announces James P. Mcdonough To Conclude His Tenure As Chancellor

Cardinal O’Malley names John E. Straub as Interim Chancellor

(Braintree, Mass.) January 31, 2012 - Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley announced today that James P. McDonough will be leaving his post as Chancellor effective March 2nd. Mr. McDonough has served as Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Boston for almost six years.  During that time he has been responsible for reorganizing the financial management of the Archdiocese, including budget and financial reporting as well as the structure and functioning of the organization.

Cardinal O’Malley praised Mr. McDonough for his unwavering dedication and commitment and the superior management skill that allowed the Archdiocese to reestablish a sound financial foundation. “Over the past six years Jim has served the Church with distinction.  He faced our most challenging issues with the willingness to develop solutions that addressed the problems and respected the people we serve.  With the benefit of his leadership, the Archdiocese of Boston is better able to serve our parishes, schools and ministries…”

In addition, Cardinal Seán named John E. Straub, a former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and former Associate Dean at Harvard University as Interim Chancellor.  Currently Mr. Straub serves as Executive Director of Finance and Operations for Central Ministries with the Archdiocese.

 “I am very grateful to the countless individuals who have impacted me so profoundly during my nearly six years as the Chancellor of the Archdiocese,” said Mr. McDonough. “It has been a privilege and I’ve been humbled to work so closely with so many who love the Church including Cardinal Seán, our pastors, and the faithful laity who give so much time and talent to the Archdiocese. Throughout my career I have sought opportunities to participate in significant organizational restructuring and I feel blessed to have been able to offer my experience in service to the Church for which I care so deeply. I’m very confident to be leaving the affairs of the Archdiocese in the capable hands of my colleague John Straub.”

Rev. Monsignor Robert P. Deeley, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese of Boston, said, “Jim has been instrumental in bringing about positive change across the Archdiocese.  His work has led to the transformation of our systems, policies and improved support for our priests and parishes.  We are blessed by the service he has given to the Archdiocese during this important period in our history.  We also look forward to working with John Straub, a dedicated and accomplished member of the Cardinal’s leadership team, whom we are confident will continue the great advancements made under Jim’s leadership.”

Mr. McDonough, the fifth lay Chancellor in the Archdiocese, achieved Cardinal Seán’s goal of a balanced Central Ministries budget and has led an effort to focus on the financial health of the parishes.  During his tenure he has addressed the clergy pension funding and recommended the creation of an independent board to oversee this important priority. He also oversaw the move of the Archdiocese’s central administration from the former Brighton campus to the Pastoral Center in Braintree in 2008.

Mr. Straub was most recently part of the senior management team at Kane is Able, a logistics firm headquartered in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he oversaw the operations of multi-site teams and was integral in the firm’s expansion in six states. He previously worked at The White House under President George W. Bush serving as Director of Administration, Chief Financial Officer, and Acting Chief Information Officer. Straub has held other operational roles at Harvard University and the United States House of Representatives.

Chancellor McDonough is working with Mr. Straub on the transition and has agreed to make himself available as needed over the next few months.

Jim McDonough came into a difficult job at a difficult time, and BCI wishes him well in the future.  The announcement begs a few comments and clarifications.

  • The statements about achieving a “balanced budget” neglect to mention the various budgetary manipulations used to claim the budget is balanced.  We disclosed some of this last year in our post, “Balanced Budget?”  This year, once again the budget is “balanced” by such means as drawing down self-insurance funds, failing to repay the $5M debt owed to St. Johns Seminary as of 1/1/2011, and failing to pay what was committed to former employees in the lay pension fund. We will have more on this in our next post.
  • The Chancellor was praised for his work that “has led to the transformation of our systems, policies…”  Does that include the transformation of the pay-scale to load up the Pastoral Center with high-priced lay executives making excessive six-figure salaries?  The number of people making more than $150K has increased by more than 8X since 2006, and the total compensation paid to people making more than $150K has also increased by more than 8X. According to the 2006 Annual Report, before Jim McDonough arrived, there were 2 people in the Chancery paid more than $150K and in aggregate they were paid $393K in salaries.  According to the 2011 Annual Report, 17 people at the Pastoral Center make more than $150K today, and based on information from other sources, in aggregate they are paid about $3.5M a year in salaries.  BCI hopes that 8-fold increase in people paid $150K+ is but one of many transformations from recent years that will be undone.
  • Lastly, since a lot of attention will be going towards Interim Chancellor John Straub, BCI felt it appropriate to fill in two pieces of his background that for some reason did not make it into the published announcement. The statement says Straub previously worked at The White House under President George W. Bush. Perhaps it was just a matter of wanting to pick only a few career highlights, so they did not mention that Straub also worked at The White House under President Bill Clinton.  You can see that in both his LinkedIn profile here, and you can see how it was edited out from his Wikipedia entry, coincidentally, in the exact same timeframe when he was interviewing for his job with the archdiocese in October of 2010.  If you click here or on the image below to zoom, you can see the two entries. 
    Given the prominent presence of people like Democratic fundraiser, Jack Connors, on the Finance Council and Fr. Bryan Hehir as advisor to Cardinal O’Malley, Straub may benefit by also touting his Clinton administration credentials.

    UPDATE: BCI reader “Matthew” has suggested in comments that the above is “chasing down the wrong rabbit hole,” and instead BCI should  focus on the role of John Straub as Acting CIO in the White House when the Valerie Plame CIA identity leak came to light and it was revealed that a number of emails were missing.  Here are two pieces that describe the history and long-standing problems with email archiving in the White House: “Disappearing White House Emails” and “IT politics killed White House Email Project.”  Here is congressional testimony about the matter by Steve McDevitt, who worked as an IT Manager in the White House under Straub, and is now Director of IT for the Boston Archdiocese under Straub.

    BCI does not have reason to criticize Straub today–people who interact with him have positive things to say of him–so we wish him luck in this demanding role of Interim Chancellor.

It is noteworthy that nothing specific was announced about plans for a search to fill the position with a permanent Chancellor, or to break the position apart into separate roles of CFO and Chancellor (which is often filled in other dioceses by a priest or religious familiar with canon law). We will see how that evolves.

In summary, BCI thinks this changing of the guard is a good change and sign of positive things to come. We hope and pray this will pave the way for a few more changes in the not-too-distant future that can help the Boston Archdiocese become  more capable of carrying out the saving mission of Jesus Christ.  What do you think?


Another Boston Catholic Funeral with Non-Catholic Eulogies

January 30, 2012

BCI has received a number of messages from readers calling attention to the funeral plans on Wednesday for former Boston Mayor, Kevin White.

Once again in Boston, it appears that the intended focus of a funeral Mass for a famous politician is going off course. Just to be clear, former Mayor White was, according to media reports, a Mass-going Catholic, and he had no history of public opposition to Catholic Church teachings, so there is no controversy (as existed with the late Ted Kennedy) over whether he should have a Catholic funeral.  over him having a Catholic funeral.

That said, as we all know, the Catholic funeral liturgy is supposed to focus on the saving mercy of God which we pray will bring the soul of the deceased into eternal life. Hopefully that will be the case here, but based on the advance publicity that highlights the famous political figures who will give eulogies, it sounds like the Kevin White funeral will likely have some similarities to the Ted Kennedy funeral, in that there will be a significant focus on commemorating and celebrating the life of the deceased and some risk of politicization.

The funeral Mass is taking place at St. Cecilia Church in the Back Bay. Fr. John Unni will be the lead celebrant of the Mass; the Rev. J. Donald Monan, a former Boston College president, will concelebrate.  According to the articles describing the plans, four (4) eulogies will be delivered–by Boston Mayor Tom Menino; US Representative Barney Frank; Robert Crane, a close friend and former state treasurer; and Mark White, the mayor’s son.

Perhaps Fr. Unni or those working with the family on the funeral plans have forgotten the revised “Order of Christian Funerals (OCF)” published by the Vatican in 1989. The long-standing prohibition of eulogies at Catholic funerals was again upheld and restated:

“A brief homily based on the readings should always be given at the funeral liturgy, but never any kind of eulogy.” [OCF # 141]

In the revised “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” promulgated by John Paul II in year 2000 (GIRM 2000), this prohibition of eulogies was again restated:

“At the Funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind.”

One might ask oneself, if the Church prohibits eulogies at funerals, how is it that we might have four speakers deliver a series of eulogies?  There is a small loophole in that the Order of Christian Funerals does allow that, “A member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased before the Final Commendation begins.” (OCF # 170). However, if a family member or friend speaks, the ritual intends for this to happen after Communion at the conclusion of the Mass while the priest and ministers are standing at the coffin about to begin the Final Commendation. The words are expected to be very brief, highlighting an aspect of the life of faith of the deceased.

That is not what is in the plans for this funeral Mass.  Instead, a number of politicians who publicly oppose the Catholic Church on moral issues of importance to the church and society will be giving eulogies.

Several readers sent us a link to an article by Fall River priest, Fr. Roger Landry, published in September 2009. shortly after the Ted Kennedy funeral.  Fr. Landry predicted this problem would occur in view of what was permitted at the Kennedy funeral:

The funeral rites of Senator Edward Kennedy generated a lot of controversy…

The overall tone of the funeral liturgy — from the three eulogies, to the prayers of the faithful, to the homily, to the celebrity musicians, to the guest list, and to the nationally-televised gushing color commentaries — seemed to communicate that it was more a public, political apotheosis of Senator Kennedy than a humble, insistent prayer of the Church his mother for the forgiveness of his sins and the repose of his soul. This was probably not helpful to the Senator eschatologically, obviously scandalous to devout pro-lifers spiritually, and likely injurious to the Church both doctrinally and practically.

On the last point, since lex orandi, lex credendi — “the way we pray indicates what we believe” — the overall impression left by the tone of the funeral will likely influence the way Catholics and non-Catholics understand the purpose of the Catholic funeral liturgy for quite some time. It will, moreover, doubtless impact what some Catholics ask for in the funerals of their loved ones; if pastors are unwilling to allow what they observed Senator Kennedy received, there will be wounds to pastors and parishioners both.

This last controversy was totally avoidable; all that was necessary was to adhere to the letter and spirit of the Catholic funeral rite. And the Senator, pro-lifers and the Church as a whole certainly deserved that the Senator’s funeral be an unambiguous and undiluted expression of the Church’s faith.

As evidenced by the publicly announced funeral plans for former Mayor White, the overall impression left by the tone of the Ted Kennedy funeral apparently is very much influencing the way Catholics and non-Catholics understand the Catholic funeral liturgy.  Before history repeats itself once again, BCI suggests that either Vicar General Msgr. Deeley or Director of Worship (and Secretary to Cardinal O’Malley) Fr. Jonathan Gaspar drop a dime to Fr. Unni and let him know that the Catholic funeral rite should be followed on Wednesday.  That means no eulogies, and perhaps one person might be allowed to share a few brief words of remembrance of the former mayor, highlighting some aspect of his Catholic faith. (Hint, that is unlikely to be Rep. Barney Frank).  If you agree, feel free to forward this post to Msgr. Deeley (vicar_general@rcab.org) .

That is what BCI thinks.  What do you think?


Is Boston Archdiocese Moving Money from Clergy Funds?

January 27, 2012

The annual report for the Boston Archdiocese was released yesterday amidst much hoopla over the “balanced budget.”  There is good news in the report, in that parish collections rose by 4.5% and the archdiocese appears to be on stronger financial footing than in recent years.

But what is not so clear from the reports is the extent to which costs may have been shifted around and money has been moved or redirected from other entities in order to achieve the “balanced budget.”  One example: the Clergy Funds, which provides health, welfare, and retirement benefits for 683 Boston priests–285 senior  priests and 438 active priests.

A look at the 2011 annual report for the Clergy Funds shows they paid $13.5M in benefits and spent $2.3M in administrative expenses to do so.  For every $1 in benefits paid, they spend 17 cents to administer the benefits, or about $3,357 in administrative costs for each priest receiving some benefits.

Included in those $2.3M of administrative fees is $427, 642 of “Service fees” to the Boston Archdiocese for “administrative, technology, and clerical services charged to the Clergy Funds by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston.”  That $427K is on top of nearly $500K in salaries and benefits, $331K for contract services, and $230K for the plan administrator. A reasonable person might question if appropriate value is derived for all of those four areas, but BCI will give credit for the plan stabilizing in recent years, and the latter 3 areas are not the focus of this post.

That said, is the Boston Archdiocese really spending $427K in administrative costs to help service the Clergy Funds?  Good question. The answer is not really.  Sources tell BCI that is the result of an overhead rate applied to the Clergy Funds.  Some of that is OK–IT help-desk support, building/facility costs, use of the photocopier, etc.  But for that $427K to have been a real number, it would mean that beyond the full-time staff and contract services on the Clergy Funds’ books, there would be the equivalent of another 5-6 full-time administrative assistants  (~$50K each) plus a full-time IT guy ($100K), along with their associated benefits. One might reasonably ask if that reflects reality.

Incidentally, the amount charged back by the archdiocese for overhead rose 20% from 2010 to 2011 (from $355K to $427K), while the benefits paid actually dropped by 10% (from $15.1M to 13.5M).  (Presumably, the increased overhead was associated with higher salaries and more people working on the plan to administer the lower amount of benefits.  Makes sense?!)

Sources tell BCI that what really happens is the Chancellor applies somewhat inflated overhead rates to the entities that have the most money (i.e. Risk Management, Clergy Funds, Self Insurance, etc.) As stated a moment ago, some of that $427K charged back to the RCAB goes to pay actual administrative costs of supporting the Clergy Funds (IT support, building/facility, etc.) while some instead goes to pay for other things. Those other things could include the excessive six-figure salaries in the Office of the Chancellor and/or elsewhere in the ranks of the Pastoral Center/central ministries executive staff.

So when people donate to the Clergy Funds (Easter and Christmas Collection, annual fundraiser dinner), most of their donations go to the funds that directly benefit priests, which is how it should be.  But about 17% of what they donate is consumed by administrative fees. And some portion of that 17% is apparently redirected to balancing the Central Ministries budget.  If so, then some people might consider that a purpose other than that intended by the donor.

Is money being charged against one area to pay for a different one?  Only a detailed accounting of the actual costs would confirm this.

This is not the only area of concern in the Annual Report.  Once again, self-insurance funds were used to help balance the budget. Many $150K+ salaries were not disclosed. The $5M debt owed to St. Johns Seminary as of 1/1/2011 has still not been repaid.

More another time.


Pssst!

January 26, 2012

By now, most regular readers must know about the new staffing and pastoral leadership model proposed for the Boston Archdiocese.  News of the proposed pastoral collaboratives, as part of the Pastoral Service Team (PST) initiative, is spreading like wildfire, now that the proposed parish groupings have been published.

All of the information is posted at this website: www.planning2012.com/2012-consultation

Here are links to the proposed parish groupings by region: South, North, Central, West, Merrimack Region

Local newspapers and media outlets are picking up the local angles.  For example:

The Sentinel and Enterprise reported the following in “Archdiocese unveils plan for sharing of parish resources“:

In a proposal by the Archdiocese of Boston, 25 parishes in Greater Lowell, including those in Townsend and Shirley, will become 10 pastoral collaboratives that could eventually share resources, including pastors, priests, staff and ministries.

According to the archdiocese, a greater coordination of trained personnel and the consolidation of similar works and ministries in parishes within a pastoral collaborative will ease the burden currently experienced by pastors and staff.

Unlike the reconfiguration process that began in 2004 and closed or merged dozens of parishes, including six in Lowell, the new proposal does not mandate the closing of any parishes — just the sharing of resources.

Each parish will retain its individual identities and assets.

“No parishes are supposed to be closed. The archdiocese is just trying to ensure that all parishes will have the services they need to continue to grow in new and vibrant ways,” said the Rev. Brian Mahoney, pastor of St. Francis in Dracut.

The largest proposed collaborative is composed of four parishes: St. Mary in Ayer, St. Anthony in Shirley, St. John the Evangelist in Townsend, and Our Lady of Grace in Groton-Pepperell.

St. William in Tewksbury, which ranks among the largest parishes in the archdiocese and is the only Catholic church in Tewksbury, is the only Greater Lowell parish to stand alone.

The Swampscott Patch reported:

The plan calls for multiple churches, in some cases, to be served by a single pastor who leads a pastoral team, says Archdiocese Spokesman Terry Donilon.

One such group would form among St. Thomas Aquinas in Nahant, St. Johns in Swampscott and Our Lady Star of the Sea in Marblehead. There would be 27 collaboratives among parishes in the North Region of the Boston Archdiocese.

Just to recap, the idea is to create a structure called a Pastoral Service Team (PST) to provide pastoral services to multiple parishes.  The archdiocese describes the model as follows:

“The Pastoral Service Team would be comprised of a group of priests, deacons, pastoral associates and lay ecclesial ministers, who provide pastoral services to multiple parishes.  Because of shared ministerial leadership and shared finance & pastoral councils, the parishes would collaborate with each other on some ministries such as evangelization, faith formation and outreach.  This proposed new structure does not call for the closing of any parishes.  Rather, it focuses on the means by which pastoral services are provided in and to our parishes, and through collaborating on ministries, allows the Catholic community within an area of the Archdiocese to benefit from a broader set of local Catholic ministries.  Each pastoral collaborative, served by a PST, would be charged with the development of a local pastoral plan to best serve the Catholics in that particular area of the Archdiocese.

Initially there appeared to be a fairly warm reception by many priests to the proposal, as evidenced by the voting at the December convocation in Randolph, where 2/3 of priests said the direction in which the proposed PST model would take the archdiocese was either the “right direction” or “close to right.”

That was then and this is now. Things have turned substantially chillier in recent weeks as pastors, parish councils and parish staffs start to more fully grasp the implications.  Pastors will be asked to resign their positions, and new pastors will be appointed who have no loyalty to their new parish and no knowledge of the parish history or people for whom that parish is their long-term spiritual home.  One person commented privately to BCI that the current direction of the initiative seems to be creating 100+ “circular firing squads.”  Some degree of power and control will be given up by individual parishes as they are asked to collaborate and share resources.  Some parish employees will no doubt lose their jobs, and may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.  BCI is hearing of emergency parish council meetings and letters being written to Cardinal O’Malley.

As parishes all wrestle with the implications of the proposed plan, at the same time it is clear that the current model of parish staffing is not sustainable. We know that priests are stretched to thin, the number of Catholics attending Mass continues to decline and 40% of parishes are unable to pay their bills.

BCI is going to remain neutral on the plan and not voice an opinion for now, except to say the following.  Clearly, something must change in the current model of parish staffing.  It seems to BCI that either we close a hundred-some parishes or we adopt a different model of staffing and keep existing parishes open. Either option has its challenges. The manner in which whatever new plan is chosen and implemented is key to success.

Right now, we are hearing a lot of consternation. Pastors, priests, parish councils, parish employees and parishioners should all voice their input and feedback to the archdiocesan leadership on the proposed plans through the established channels in order to ensure your input is heard. BCI still has good reason to believe that the Cardinal and those in charge of pastoral planning will listen to every piece of input they get on this important issue.

As always, you can feel free to share and vent on BCI (but please do not use BCI as an alternative to sharing your input directly with the archdiocese on this particular issue).


Obama’s “unconscionable” birth control mandate on Catholic hospitals and colleges

January 25, 2012

Amidst the good news about the large number of young people from Boston who went to the March for Life, the bad news is the Obama administration announced last Friday that faith-based entities like Catholic hospitals and Catholic universities will have to provide employees with free birth control as part of their insurance packages. The mandate will also force such groups to pay for sterilizations and FDA-approved abortifacient drugs such as Ella under the umbrella of “contraception.”

BCI is posting on this topic with a message to Boston Catholics and Cardinal O’Malley because his words in reacting to such news were disappointing, and we hope for the sake of the unborn and the archdiocese that he will adopt a different approach in the future.  Our Cardinal walks in the annual March for Life, but outside of that, he does not always walk the talk.  Keep reading.

USCCB President, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York, called the Obama administration rule “literally unconscionable.”  It is exactly that.

Here is a short video statement by Cardinal-designate Dolan. He sharply dolancriticized the decision by the Obama administration in which it “ordered almost every employer and insurer in the country to provide sterilization and contraceptives, including some abortion-inducing drugs, in their health plans.”

 “Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights,” Cardinal-designate Dolan said.

As LifeSiteNews reported, the mandate is being implemented as part of the new health care legislation that was passed in March 2010 despite vigorous opposition from U.S. Catholic bishops, who called it dangerously open to being used as a means of spreading abortion.

Here is an excerpt from the National Catholic Register, “HHS Secretary Sebelius: Church Groups Must Provide Contraception.”

WASHINGTON — Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed today that church-affiliated hospitals, agencies and universities will be required to provide contraception and sterilization in the health insurance they provide employees.

However, nonprofit religious institutions will receive an additional year to accommodate this controversial regulation covered under the new health bill, with an extended deadline of August 2013.

In a blow to the U.S. bishops and Catholic institutions that had lobbied for a broader exemption for church-affiliated organizations,  the HHS secretary released a statement Jan. 20 approving the final rule for mandated preventive services for women. Houses of worship are exempted from the rule.

“I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services,” Sebelius said. “The administration remains fully committed to its partnerships with faith-based organizations, which promote healthy communities and serve the common good. And this final rule will have no impact on the protections that existing conscience laws and regulations give to health-care providers.”

The secretary’s judgment was broadly contested by a range of Catholic leaders and religious-freedom advocates.

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a statement.

The cardinal-designate continued, “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.”

The suggestion by Sebelius that this move respects religious freedom is nothing less than fallacy. And Sebelius considers herself “Catholic.”

This Catholic college said they would shut down before submitting to the abortifacient mandate.  Read this article, “Sebelius in trouble with Catholic Church” for more about how Kathleen Sebelius has already been admonished against receiving Communion by two archbishops.

This piece in First Things give yet more color to the issue:

“…the Obama-Sebelius HHS rule forces countless Americans to purchase health insurance that violates their religious beliefs.  And it forces religious organizations that seek to do good in the world–universities and schools, hospitals and clinics, adoption and social-service agencies, soup kitchens and clothing banks–to violate the consciences of their religious communities if they want to continue to do all these good things.  Cover abortifacients and sterilizations in your employee health plan, the little Christian school down the road from you will be told.  The choices will be a) violate your conscience, b) drop your health coverage and propel your employees into the government-run “exchanges” awaiting them with all the tender mercy of federal bureaucrats, or c) close up shop.  Some choices.”

BCI agrees with Archbishop Dolan this move is unconscionable. Frankly, it is outrageous. It is oddly coincidental how the announcement was timed two days before the 39th anniversary of Roe v Wade and three days before the March for Life.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley posted on his blog about the move. In a post entitled, “Literally unconscionable,” he said “we are distressed” to learn about the requirement by the Obama administation,  and “I join Cardinal–elect Dolan in expressing deep disappointment at this unprecedented infringement on religious liberty in our country.”  Later in the post, he urged readers to contact elected officials and urge them to protect our right to religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Some may accuse BCI of parsing words, but words can be powerful.  It is the observation of BCI and others that the Cardinal O’Malley has a pattern of expressing mere “disappointment” with those who advocate for abortion or infringe on the rights of Catholics to practice our faith (instead of “outrage”), but his language has been much more strident to pro-life Catholics when he is crossed by them standing up for Catholics beliefs and principles.  For example:

  • In writing about his presiding over the Ted Kennedy funeral on his blog in 2009, Cardinal O’Malley said of Kennedy, there is a “tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn.  To me and many Catholics it was a great disappointment…”  In the words of the Cardinal, it was a “lost opportunity” and “great disappointment” that Kennedy actively supported the killing of more than 50M unborn babies in the womb, but in the same blog post, Cardinal O’Malley used harsh language to criticize pro-lifers who complained about the funeral, saying, “At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another.  These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church.”
  • Cardinal O’Malley allowed a 2010 Boston Social Justice Conference to feature a BC priest, Fr. Thomas Massaro SJ, who signed a public letter supporting Kathleen Sebelius for HHS Secretary. According to published minutes of an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council meeting, the Cardinal dismissed complaints by council members about this matter, saying  he “takes Fr. Massaro’s work in the context of the priest’s life of service to the Church.” Now that same HHS Secretary, Sebelius, is forcing an unprecedented infringement on our religious liberty.
  • Cardinal O’Malley still retains Jack Connors as Boston Archdiocese Finance Council member, fund-raiser and adviser while Connors raises  millions of dollars for the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history and while Connors works against the Catholic Church by chairing Partners Healthcare, one of the largest abortion providers in the commonwealth. Yet Cardinal O’Malley fails to try and rally Connors to support abortion alternatives in Boston, or to insist that his advocacy for those who support abortion is incompatible with him serving in a senior advisory and fund-raising role.
  • Back in 2009 when pro-life Catholics complained that the proposed Caritas Christi arrangement with the Commonwealth Care program would result in referrals to abortion providers, the Cardinal reacted on his blog by criticizing pro-life Catholics for “doing a great disservice to the Catholic Church.”

In view of this latest news, Cardinal O’Malley will have his work cut out for him as the chair-elect of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities. This LifesiteNews article published shortly after he was elected to the role sums it up nicely:

“In recent years Cardinal O’Malley has had an at-times strained relationship with the United States’ pro-life movement. While known for his doctrinal orthodoxy on life and family issues, he has also been criticized by pro-life and pro-family leaders for certain prudential decisions.”

Cardinal O’Malley will need to take strong, decisive action to oppose the latest move by the Obama administration.  He spoke to President Obama at the Ted Kennedy funeral about ObamaCare, which now, forces Catholic institutions to violate their moral principles on contraception. What will be next?

Beyond the symbolic gesture of leading the pilgrimage of young people down to Washington for the March for Life and beyond the blog post, what else will the chair-elect of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities due to rally Boston Catholics to address this new unconscionable policy by the Obama administration, the ongoing evil of abortion and the damage abortion does to women, and the continued unconscionable retaining of a Finance Council member/fund-raiser who supports politicians and institutions that work against the Catholic Church?


March for Life

January 21, 2012

The Boston Herald and Boston Pilot are reporting how nearly 500 youth and young adults from the Archdiocese of Boston will join Cardinal Seán O’Malley for the annual March for Life this year in Washington, D.C.

According to the Pilot:

Ten buses will leave the Pastoral Center to transport the young people to the pro-life pilgrimage on Jan. 22. Participating youth and young adults will experience daily Mass, daily rosary and chaplet of Divine Mercy. During the trip there will also be an opportunity to visit the National Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Holocaust Museum, the Lincoln Memorial, the War Memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.

“We are overjoyed this year at the tremendous response, and as a result of that the tremendous advocacy amongst our parishes and schools to bring young people,” said Father Matt Williams, director of the Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults.

“The leaders, and the pastors, and the campus ministers have done a phenomenal job in advocating for this march, and helping young people come to be involved in issues like this,” he added

…the annual March for Life draws over 400,000 people, mostly youth and young adults.

Four years ago, the Office for the New Evangelization began partnering with the archdiocese’s Vocation Office and Pro-Life Office to organize the pro-life pilgrimage.

Of course, if history repeats itself, one person who will not be heading to the March for Life is Fr. Bryan Hehir, Secretary for Social Services and Healthcare, who just so happens to have the Pro-Life Office under his scope of responsibility. Fr. Hehir, as we saw in this post, does not like to talk about the evil of abortion or have Cardinal O’Malley talk about it because it “offends” people and stirs the pot about a problem that “will never be solved in our lifetime.”  So, Fr. Hehir lets Cardinal O’Malley “march” in Washington, DC, but that is about it in terms of public words and action opposing abortion.

For Fr. Hehir, we invite him to take the time saved by not attending the March for Life, and instead sit with his former Catholic Charities buddy, Catholic Schools fundraiser and Finance Council member, Jack Connors (who is also Chairman of Partners Healthcare, one of the largest abortion providers in Massachusetts, and who raised $2M for pro-abortion President Obama last year), to watch this powerful 33-minute video, 180 Movie. We also invite anyone to watch the video and share with people you know who may be supporters of abortion.

The documentary, produced by Christian pastor Ray Comfort, has gone viral to reach 2 million viewers in the four months since its launch in late September 2011.  It shows how asking questions about Nazi, Germany and the Holocaust can spark a powerful change of heart in people’s minds on the issue of abortion.  You can read more about the movie here. Warning, some of the video footage is graphic.

Amidst the good news about nearly 500 young people going to the March for Life, we have the bad news that the Obama administration just announced an unconscionable birth control mandate on Catholic hospitals and colleges.  More on that topic next time.


Input from Our Readers: Pastoral Planning and Dogs in Church

January 18, 2012

BCI has been asked by readers to cover several topics, and we would like to ask readers to share their perspectives on two of them.

1. Pastoral Planning Plan and Process: If you are a priest or parish employee, how do you feel about the proposed plan and process so far?  By means of an example, one reader posted the following comment yesterday:

“I hope BCI will soon get into the recent week of meetings held in Braintree with various groups of parish employees who serve as business managers, principals, religious education directors, pastoral assistants, etc. regarding Pastoral Planning.  They were a nightmare almost as much of a nightmare as the new payroll company that was imposed on all parishes.”

This is a strong statement from one individual, which may or may not necessarily represent the feelings of everyone.  BCI is hearing very mixed feedback.  We are definitely hearing that the level of angst and anxiety out there is increasing. Some pastors are in a “wait and see” mode and are eager to provide input towards the planning process.  Many pastors are justifiably concerned that pastors will have to resign from their roles as part of this plan. Many of those who are currently pastors will not be pastors in the new plan going forward.  What role the pastors will play in the overall decision-making process is unclear, because there has not been any communication to them about what their role will be. Some pastors feel the plan is a bad one.

If you are a parish employee, priest or pastor, you can share your thoughts anonymously either via comments on this post or via the Contact Us form.  (The Contact Us form asks for a name and email address, but you can  write without using your real name or real email address–we still get the message, but just cannot respond). There is reason to believe the Archdiocese does want input to make this process better, so if you feel something is wrong or broken in the process or plan, please also suggest what you think should be done better or differently.

2. Dogs in the Sanctuary 

In follow-up of this USA Today article, “Pooches Take the Pulpit,” we have heard of two parishes in the Boston Archdiocese where the pastors apparently allow the parish dogs in the sanctuary during the offering of Mass or other sacraments–St. Mary in Charlestown and St. Bridget in Maynard.

BCI likes dogs and has no complaint about there being a “parish dog” who lives in the rectory and performs his or her “business” outside of the rectory or on exterior parish grounds. But BCI does not see where it is at all appropriate to have a dog in the sanctuary at any time, let alone during the offering of Mass or sacraments.

If you are familiar with either of these situations or any other in the Boston Archdiocese where a dog (or other parish pet) is routinely allowed in the sanctuary during the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or during other sacraments, please feel free to comment or drop us an email.


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