Archdiocesan Calendar

September 29, 2012

BCI was just looking at the print edition of The Pilot as well as the online version of the Archdiocesan calendar.  We noticed a few very interesting things we thought we would share in the hopes that it will help improve archdiocesan communications.

In the online version of the calendar for September (or click on picture below to expand), there are what look like a lot of excellent programs, such as First Friday Extraordinary form Mass and Young Adult social on Sept. 8, Candlelight Rosary in Hanover on Sept. 13, an Election Lecture with Brian Burch of CatholicVote on Sept 18,  an evening in honor of St. Padre Pio on Sept 25, plus many more.

But go a bit deeper and a few things strike BCI as, well, rather questionable.

For example, “Voter Lecture” at Immaculate Conception in Newburyport had as the featured speaker, Fr. Kenneth Himes, of Boston College, who, naturally, appears in his official photo in a sportcoat instead of clerics, and who criticized Catholics who opposed Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Obama back in 2009.  This Wall Street Journal column reports on how Himes said in 2009:

“There are some well-meaning people who think Notre Dame has given away its Catholic identity, because they have been caught up in the gamesmanship of American higher education, bringing in a star commencement speaker even if that means sacrificing their values, and that accounts for some of this,” said the Rev. Kenneth Himes, chairman of theology department at Boston College. “But one also has to say that there is a political game going on here, and part of that is that you demonize the people who disagree with you, you question their integrity, you challenge their character, and you brand these people as moral poison. Some people have…simply launched a crusade to bar anything from Catholic institutions that smacks of any sort of open conversation.”

Now read this 2006 Associated Press dispatch:

Nearly 100 faculty members at Boston College have signed a letter objecting to the college’s decision to award Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice an honorary degree.

The letter entitled “Condoleezza Rice Does Not Deserve a Boston College Honorary Degree,” was written by the Rev. Kenneth Himes. . . .

“On the levels of both moral principle and practical moral judgment, Secretary Rice’s approach to international affairs is in fundamental conflict with Boston College’s commitment to the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions and is inconsistent with the humanistic values that inspire the university’s work,” the letter said.

The Journal says, “Himes, it seems, is an expert on demonization.”

One might ask, why is the Archdiocese helping promote a talk by Fr. Himes on voting?  Is he the best person available to address questions such as, “Is it possible to vote for a candidate and still have moral reservations about some of the candidate’s views?”

Elsewhere in the calendar we see a “Safe Driving Course” in Cambridge, and “Embracing Our Journey- Your Self is a Wellspring of Hope” at the Espousal Center. Neither strikes BCI as particular Catholic in focus. There are other listings that seem similarly secular.

Meanwhile, with all of the focus now on education about why Catholics should oppose Physician Assisted Suicide, there are no calendar listings for the talks given this past week on Tuesday Sept 25 in Quincy or Thursday Sept 27 in Waltham.  A look at The Pilot Calendar for the week ahead does not say anything about the workshops coming up on Tuesday, October 2 at St. John the Evangelist, N. Chelmsford, 7-9pm, or on Wednesday, October 3 at St. Raphael, Medford, 7-9pm.  Nor does The Pilot remind us about the Town Hall meeting Cardinal O’Malley is hosting on the topic this Thursday, Oct. 3, at 8pm.  BCI wonders where the crack PR team of Terry Donilon and Rasky Baerlein are when you need them to get the word out.    The Pilot has 20,000-plus readers a week–would you not want them to all to be reminded about these events? Is it just BCI, or does anyone else see calendar listings as basic blocking and tackling?

Anyway, our closing thought here is that BCI thinks the Boston Archdiocese might want to have someone take a little closer look at the listings they allow in the calendar on the archdiocesan website and also look at how well they are getting the word out on the matters related to the November election, including the ballot questions.

We have been asked by a number of readers to report on what is happening with opposition to physician assisted suicide and are hearing from readers they are confused about the various efforts underway. We will get to that soon. In the meantime, there is an excellent column by Cardinal O’Malley in this week’s edition of The Pilot, entitled “Suicide is Always a Tragedy.”


Rectory Reuse

September 26, 2012

With all the talk about the new Pastoral Plan, which will have one pastor for several parishes and thus result in fewer rectories open and occupied by priests, at some point people have to start thinking about what might happen with a vacant rectory.

Towards that end, BCI happened to be checking out a few parish websites recently and came across an innovative use of an empty rectory at St. Francis of Assisi in Cambridge.  Readers may recall that the last time we discussed St. Francis of Assisi was November of 2011, in St. Francis of Assisi Closing Confusion, when the parishioners were told the pastor from the Franciscans was retiring and the parish would be closing, but then the archdiocese would not confirm anything about the closing.

Here is the notice in the most recent issue of the St. Francis of Assisi parish bulletin about who is now occupying the vacant rectory:

There seems to be some confusion about what is happening at the parish and, in particular, the rectory. Last week there was a message about three young women who would be residing in the rectory. As stated they are members of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, an organization founded in Spain and invited initially to the Archdiocese by Cardinal Bernard Law. The welcome continues to be extended by Cardinal Sean to continue their work of evangelization here. It was at Cardinal Sean’s request that I opened the rectory for them to live. I think it a blessing to have a physical presence on the property. The young women are Alicia from the Dominican Republic, Linda from Portugal and Clara from Spain. They all speak English fluently. For the present they are residing on the 1st floor of the rectory.

We wrote about the NeoCats just a few months ago in May, in Neocatechumenate Questions.  With this arrangement and perhaps other similar ones to come, some of the previous questions are worth revisiting, plus we add a few new ones:

  • Who pays for the expenses of the Neocatechumenal Way missionaries here in Boston, such as their vehicles, gas, maintenance and insurance, and their food, utilities, and building expenses at this rectory?
  • Who pays for their medical and dental insurance?
  • Who paid for their airfares to get to Boston?
  • What exactly are they doing?  Are they going around from house to house, in a manner similar to Jehovah’s Witnesses, helping people learn about the Bible and the Kingdom of God, or instead, inviting fallen away Catholics to come back to Mass?  If so, which Mass–the regular Sunday Catholic Mass with the parish, a Neo-Cat community Saturday evening Mass  apart from the parish community where they are supposed to be tightly integrated, or a Neo-Cat non-liturgical celebration?
  • How exactly will success of their mission be determined? Three, six, or twelve months into their mission, how will it be determined if they were successful and if whatever financial investment was made yielded acceptable results so it should continue?

BCI does not know specifics about what is going on with the Neo-Cats at St. Francis of Assisi, and this is not a criticism of them. We just believe these are legitimate questions that should be asked and answered.

That same parish bulletin notice from the parish administrator happened to also mention another effort at evangelization. Read on:

We also welcome another religious community from Brazil. It was this group that I visited on my recent visit to that country. They are Comunidade Shalom, which was founded 30 years ago, this year. They are also involved in evangelization. You will see them using the chapel on Wednesday or (Thursday) evenings for a prayer meeting. In addition they will be opening the chapel for Eucharistic Adoration on Tuesday mornings for anyone who would like to come in to pray. The chapel will be open on Tuesdays for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament from 9:00am until 12:00 noon, ending prior to the 12:10pm Mass. Please join them. The people who will be there are a missionary family from Fortaleza, Brasil. Luiz and Liliana are the parents, with them from Brasil are 4 of their 6 children: Lucas– 22, Maria Clara– 15, Leticia– 12 and Luis Fernando– 2.5., and a Nanny, Mazei. The older two children are their married daughters who remained behind. They and the young women have been present at weekday Masses and also at the Macaroni lunch on Tuesdays. Please pray that the Lord will guide other missionaries to our country and archdiocese.

(Note: this family is not living in the rectory). Here is the Google-translated version of the Portuguese website for Comunidade Shalom. Without knowing more, at arms-length, BCI would generally view an effort rooted in Eucharistic Adoration as positive, but we know nothing more than this. Still, the same questions might be asked about this evangelization effort–who pays for the living expenses of these missionaries here in Boston, including round-trip airfares to Boston; what exactly are they doing; who assesses their level of formation for the mission; who from the Boston Archdiocese responsible for faith formation and evangelization knows what they are saying and communicating about the Catholic faith if their prayer meetings or evangelization efforts are in Portuguese; and how will success be determined?

Using vacant rectories to advance the cause of evangelization sounds, on the surface, like a good idea. BCI just wonders who is paying for it, exactly what the evangelists are leading the fallen-away to, and how success is measured.  In addition, if people are going to be formally engaged and officially designated in a role for the task of evangelization–whether they be native English-speaking Catholics born and raised in the U.S. or missionaries from a foreign country–and their expenses paid at least in part by the parish or Boston Archdiocese, a bit more is expected of them than of the average Catholic in the pews.  The concept of archdiocesan guidelines for the formation of the laity, proposed in this 2010 report,  seems like an excellent one.  We can’t find those guidelines anywhere. And there needs to be some checks and balances to ensure the people are properly formed, theologically well-catechized, and saying and doing the right things.  BCI does not know how that all happens.  Is anyone on the Pastoral Planning team thinking about all this, or is it just us?


Pastoral Planning Perspectives

September 23, 2012

Our last post, where we gave a high-level summary of the new Disciples in Mission” Pastoral Plan, generated a fair amount of feedback.  Today, we will highlight some of that feedback, and some of our own as well.

As stated in the Pastoral Plan, its purpose is “to revitalize the Church in Boston by positioning our parishes more solidly for the task of evangelization, the work of reaching out to our brothers and sisters and drawing them more fully to Christ Jesus.”

We could certainly use a revitalization of Catholicism and the Catholic Church in Boston.  BCI agrees that something different needs to be done. About 270,000 Catholics go to Mass every Sunday, down from a high of 2 million just several decades ago.  This plan seeks a different approach to the problem of declining numbers of Mass-going Catholics and active clergy than has been taken in the past.  Many people think it will lead to more church closings, while the Boston Archdiocese specifically intends for it to eliminate the need for widespread church closings again. Time will tell if this proposal is the right approach. Today we discuss some key concerns with the proposal.

BCI has long been concerned about the financial condition of the Boston Archdiocese, and with more than 50-60% of parishes now in the red, who will pay for this plan? Mostly lay Catholics, since it is their donations who support their parish and the Archdiocese. It would be nice if the Archdiocese was seen as a good steward of donor contributions, yet nearly 2 years after the Archdiocesan Finance Council created a Compensation Committee to review the millions of dollars in excessive six-figure salaries paid to lay Pastoral Center executives and recommend a better way to handle compensation, there is still no evidence of meaningful action taken to reduce them. All we know is that the committee has met and is still meeting, they hired a consultant to study the matter and issue a report, but the report has not been made public. There is some talk about adjusting salaries during the annual reviews, and/or asking certain high-paid executives to accept a lower salary commensurate with Catholic Church standards when their contracts are up for renewal. At the point when Catholics are asked to dig deeper into their pockets to help fund this plan, why should they do so when the Pastoral Center has not tightened their own belts?

How will lay formation be handled? Who exactly will handle it?  Why is the plan coming before the formation, rather than formation coming first and laying the foundation, which then would then lead to better informed plans?  Interestingly, the position description for the Director of the Office of Pastoral Planning still does not require that the person in the role even be Catholic or believe Catholic Church teachings according to the Magisterium of the Church.  To be a judge on the Tribunal in Boston, thankfully, applicants should be a Catholic in good standing with “adherence and understanding of the Magisterial teachings of the Church.”  But, to run Pastoral Planning, those attributes are somehow not necessary.

Some readers may not be aware that an extensive Lay Faith Formation study was done, with a report issued in 2010.  The report is worth a read, as there are some good ideas.   One of them is the following:

2. The Secretariat for Faith Formation and Evangelization should establish and maintain a page on its website (at BostonCatholic.org) that tht lists approved programs, resources and opportunities that exist in parishes, collaboratives, and at the Archdiocesan level for the faith formation of the laity.
a. This webpage should identify and describe the lay faith formation programs and activities of the Archdiocese and make available the archdiocesan guidelines for the formation of the laity. It should clearly indicate any fees for these programs and the level of competency necessary to enroll.
b. The existence of this webpage should itself be well advertised and brought regularly to the attention of the laity, religious and clergy of the Archdiocese.

Can anyone point to BCI to the location of 2a?  Is that this page which lists all offices associated with Faith Formation and Evangelization?

Given the poor state of catechesis over the past 40 years for most Catholics, exactly what will be taught to Pastoral Center and parish staff (and by whom) to help them develop a stronger prayer and faith life and prepare them for evangelization?

Beyond those concerns, do we even have the right people and organizational structure in place in the Boston Archdiocese today to embark on this ambitious plan?  As objectively observed by “Objective Observer“:

The plan assumes competent people in leadership for evangelization, and a sound financial footing for RCAB to pull it off. I am not convinced that RCAB can assure us of either at the moment.

Many dioceses have implemented this kind of plan, but they have done so only by beginning with extensive lay formation. To make the plans, announce them and implement them, and then announce a plan for formation assumes that the people, having learned of the plans, will be eager to support them by giving time and energy (not to mention money) to these formation efforts.

Has RCAB put the cart before the horse? Given the five-year plan, wouldn’t there have been time to provide the formation program to parish planning and finance council members, then let them help recommend the collaborative options?

When RCAB says it is paying for something, it means WE are paying for it. There isn’t some magical pot of money from which RCAB draws — it’s our donations that fund all the salaries and expenses of the central administration.

Is it time for one other adjustment to take place as part of this collaboration? Is it time for the civil body of Corporation Sole and its finance committee to be dissolved, and for a new civil structure to replace it? We wish for religious freedom from our government, and yet we do not expect fiscal accountability of the civil structure of the archdiocese. Corp Sole is one man, one vote. Period. And that man, for good or ill, is accountable for every act to which he affixes his signature.

Is it time the structure reflected a civil leadership body of bishops, priests and lay faithful who are personally liable and accountable for the civil undertakings of the Archdiocese? Has the 19th century fiction of Corporation Sole run its course? Archbishop Williams asked for the Corp Sole form from the legislature. He exhibited remarkable wisdom in his selection of those who advised him, and in the execution of diocesan fiscal affairs. HIs successor, Cardinal O’Connell’s, fiscal abuses are well documented. Every ordinary since has either overbuilt, overspent or at least been manipulated by those who sought personal gain from dealings with RCAB. Could it be time for the fiscal and civil reins to be held in more than one hand? And could it be that changing the way parishes are run is the ideal time to recommend a change in how the fiscal and civil structure of the diocese is run?

How many more base salaries over $160,000.00 (with benefits and employment tax contributions that’s actually right at $200,000.00) can WE afford to pay? And how many more conflicts of interest can the Archdiocese of Boston afford to pursue?

BCI believes comments like these and others on our last post should become a topic of discussion for Cardinal Sean and the Pastoral Planning Commission as soon as possible. During the next 3-4 months when the Cardinal reviews the plan, these are points that merit serious consideration.

Reader, Stephen, opined to another reader, in part:

Your comments represent the unauthorized use of common sense. This display of intellect has disqualified you from any decision making positions within the RCAB.

Please go back and review the 5-year plan to institute the new vision. Please pay close attention to the PPTT as well as the CLI and TINE. Note also well the EVNE and the PPO.

Much work must be done in Boston to either pave the way for some version of this plan or to modify it into another form so that the sacraments can be preserved for this generation and future generations.  Every person in the Boston Archdiocese will be affected by this plan, so keep the plan and those responsible for decision-making in your daily prayers.


Pastoral Planning Commission Proposal

September 14, 2012

Today, the Boston Pilot published a summary of the proposal by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission, entitled, “Disciples in Mission.” This is the plan for a new parish staffing and pastoral leadership model in the Boston Archdiocese. The summary was released with a note stating, “each of the proposal’s recommendations involves detailed sub-recommendations that aren’t included below, so we encourage everyone to read the full proposal document.”

The full report is available online at http://www.Planning2012.com/APPCproposal. BCI has read the full report and has plenty of comments to make, but we will hold back for this moment to just share the summary.

Part One: Recommendations for strengthening parishes for the work of the New Evangelization

1. That the 288 parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston be organized into approximately 135 Parish Collaboratives, these collaboratives consisting usually of two or three parishes, but sometimes only one, and, in rare occasion’s four parishes.

2. That the formation of the parish collaboratives be phased in, with appropriate flexibility, over a period of five years.

3. That the parishes of each collaborative be assigned one single Pastor.

4. That the pastor form the staff members serving the parishes of the collaborative into a Pastoral Team.

5. That the multiple Parish Pastoral Councils of the parishes in a collaborative become one parish council to assist the one pastor in fostering pastoral activity and in guiding the mission of the Church in each parish and in the parish collaborative.

6. That, if possible in accord with the norms of Canon Law, the benefits and advantages of collaboration be extended to Parish Finance Councils, such that one finance council serves the one pastor to assist him in the financial administration of the parishes and the parish collaborative.

7. That the pastor, pastoral team, and councils of each parish collaborative participate in extensive theological and practical training for the New Evangelization.

8. That, given this major reorientation of the mission of the Archdiocese towards the New Evangelization, the staff at the Pastoral Center and other Central Ministry staff will also benefit from the training necessary to help them understand what the New Evangelization is, what their role is for the New Evangelization, and the ways in which the offices of the Pastoral Center should effectively assist the pastoral teams in strengthening the work of evangelization in their collaboratives.

9. That the parish collaboratives receive the support they need to become successful collaboratives.

10. That each collaborative be required to develop a pastoral plan for the collaborative within eight to twelve months of the inauguration of the collaborative.

11. That the Archbishop utilize multiple means of communication to introduce Disciples in Mission to the people and parishes of the Archdiocese as an important foundation for the mission of evangelization and to place this part of the plan in the context of the life and work of the Church in Boston.

12. That further work, coordinated by the Pastoral Planning Office (PPO), be completed on several particularly important issues that have been foremost in the Commission’s deliberations, including parish collaboratives; Catholic schools; staff transitions; religious institutes, religious priests, and other non-incardinated priests; non-parochial pastoral services; parochial vicars; and strengthening the roles of regional vicar and vicar forane.

Part Two: Recommendations for strengthening the work of the New Evangelization in parishes

A. Recommendations for Re-energizing Pastoral Leadership for the Task of Evangelization

1. That the Office of the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization (EVNE), the Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) and the Pastoral Planning Office of the Archdiocese of Boston (PPO) come together in a partnership to provide the training required for the full implementation of Disciples in Mission.

2. That at the conclusion of Phase One of the implementation, the Archdiocese hire four staff members, the Pastoral Planning Training Team (PPTT). The PPTT will follow CLI through their processes, learn from them their methods and resources, and assume responsibility for the CLI portion of the training at the end of two years. In this way, CLI will “train the trainers” for Phases Three and Four and for ongoing training and support.

3. That EVNE, with the assistance of PPO, conduct an extensive consultation of the people of the Archdiocese of Boston, focusing on best practices for evangelization. This consultation will begin with a survey of the pastors and then have two additional rounds in the regions of the Archdiocese, making extensive use of technology to involve as many people as possible. The Catholic Media Group will provide technology support for this effort.

4. That the training itself have six stages in the first phase of implementation. Stage One will be for the Staff of the Pastoral Center and other Central Ministries Personnel. Stage Two will be for the Pastors leading the collaboratives. Stage Three will be for Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Finance Council membership. Stage Four will be for Pastoral Team members. Stage Five will be for each Pastoral Team. Stage Six will be for the Pastoral Team and several council members of each collaborative.

5. That at the completion of their training, each participant receive a certificate from the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization (TINE). Throughout the process, TINE will also provide team and council members with information about opportunities for ongoing formation and education.

6. That concurrent with the training program in the recommendations above, EVNE provide extensive programming for all of the parishes and people of the Archdiocese of Boston that does not fall within the structure of the training program, with a particular emphasis during the first year on events associated with the Year of Faith.

B. Recommendations for Strengthening Youth and Adult Faith Formation for the Task of Evangelization

1. The commission recommends the implementation of the recommendations contained in the reports of the Religious Education Task Force, which addressed the religious education of our youth in parishes and in schools, and the Committee to Study Lay Formation Programs, which addressed adult faith formation in the Archdiocese. (The reports of these two groups are attached as appendices to this pastoral plan).

2. That the archdiocesan offices responsible for implementing the recommendations from these 2 groups, provide an immediate report to Cardinal Seán that: identifies the recommendations that have been successfully implemented; and indicates the plans, timelines and needed funding to secure the implementation of the remaining recommendations.

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The plan clearly reflects feedback from the consultation process. It has gotten stronger in the area of evangelization. At least there is no longer the “circular firing squad” concept where pastors are all automatically removed from their current roles. In the humble opinion of BCI, some aspects of the plan seem to have merit and some aspects do not feel totally baked. We will elaborate more separately, but for now we put this out and invite your thoughts.


Priests, accusers press for resolution on sexual abuse cases

September 9, 2012

The Boston Globe today published two articles about the matter of unresolved cases of clergy sexual abuse.  The articles were troubling for a number of reasons.

Sexual abuse of children by clergy, in and of itself, is very troubling. It simply should not happen–period. When credible accusations of abuse have come forward and have been verified, priests should be removed from ministry. It seems to BCI that if a priest sexually abuses a child and there is no question as to the veracity of the claim, regardless of the civil or criminal penalties, the priest should also be laicizied.  Sexual abuse cases have cost the Catholic Church in the U.s. $3 billion, according to The Economist.  Imagine those funds put to use on evangelization, programs to support great priests, saving and maintaining beautiful church buildings destined for the wrecking ball, adult catechesis and faith formation, vocations, seminaries, and building the kingdom of God instead!

But the articles in the Globe were troubling for more reasons beyond even these. It seems to BCI that the cost, time delays, and process for resolving sexual abuse claims are all problematic.

Cost: $22.5 million on salaries and benefits

In Priests, accusers press for resolution, the following was reported:

The Archdiocese of Boston has spent more than $22.5 million since 2000 on salaries and health benefits for clergy awaiting a resolution of their sexual abuse cases from the church’s internal legal system.

The majority of cases, which can determine whether a priest is restored to ministry or cast out for good, have been concluded. But some have sat unresolved for more than a decade. And the cost of supporting accused clergy continues to mount.

The archdiocese attributes the delays in part to the inherently slow penal process in the church’s justice system, known as canon law, and the deluge of cases after the church’s sexual abuse coverup was exposed.

But the long waits have delayed a resolution for both priests and victims, prolonging the crisis.

Fifteen Boston priests who were removed from ministry in 2004 or earlier still await the conclusion of their canonical cases, in the meantime earning as much as $40,000 a year, plus health benefits. One — the Rev. Paul F. Manning, who turns 72 this year — has not worked in the ministry since 1996.

In each of those cases, an archdiocesan investigator has made an initial finding that at least one abuse allegation against the priest appears credible, and the priest has been suspended from public ministry pending the outcome of his canonical proceeding.

BCI understands the provisions of Canon Law that require for the bishop to provide for all priests in the clerical state. We wholeheartedly support the need for the Boston Archdiocese to take better care of priests in good standing while they are in active ministry, when medically ill and when retired. Without a doubt, if a priest is wrongly accused, by all means they should have their living expenses paid by the diocese while they go through appeals and try to get their name and reputation cleared.  But BCI does not understand why this has proven so costly.  15 priests @ say $60K/year for salary and benefits = $900K/year, for 13 years = $11.7 million.  That is a very large number, but still only about half of the $22.5M figure cited in the Globe. How many other priests are waiting for cases to be resolved, to account for the other $11M?

Canon lawyer Msgr. Jason Gray describes the provisions of the Code of Canon Law  regarding sustenance compensation for priests as follows:

Canon 384 obligates the diocesan bishop to see to the provision of sustenance and social assistance for his priests.  A priest is entitled to receive sustentatio because he is a cleric by ordination.  His diocesan bishop is obligated to see that sustentatio is provided because the priest is incardinated in his diocese.  Thus, ordination and incardination form the basis for a priest’s right to sustentatio.  Although canon 384 only mentions priests, a diocesan bishop should be concerned for his deacons as well.

Sustentatio is the support that is necessary to provide for the basic needs of a cleric, and is owed to a cleric who would otherwise be destitute.  Social assistance is part of sustentatio and provides for a cleric’s needs in sickness, incapacity, old age, and retirement.  Social assistance includes the duty to provide health insurance and social security.  Sustentatio is a basic right of the cleric and cannot be withheld even in the case of a penalty.

A diocesan bishop is obligated to see to the provision of sustentatio, but he is not always obligated to provide this support directly.  When a cleric is in need, the diocesan bishop can aid the cleric in a variety of ways.  He can help the cleric enroll in a government program such as Social Security or Medicare.

Time Delays

The Globe article reports how a man who first formally accused the Rev. James J. Foley Jr. of molesting him in 1999 had to wait 12 years–until 2011–to testify in a tribunal. This article on the same situation describes how the complianant was notified in 2008 by the Boston archdiocese that a canonical trial would be held. “We waited and waited for the call to come and have that trial,” said the complainant’s mother. “It went on and on, and nothing happened.” It was not until June 2011 when the complainant and his family were called to testify to the archdiocese.   The Globe reports:

Nicholas P. Cafardi, a prominent canon lawyer and professor at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, said that trials conducted by the Catholic Church should not take more than three or four years.

“There is no reason for a canonical process, even with appeals, to take from 2004 to 2012,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Boston archdiocesan officials acknowledge the delays are excessive.

“We get it,” said Monsignor Robert P. Deeley, vicar general of the archdiocese, who is also a distinguished canon lawyer.

BCI does not understand why the Boston Archdiocese cannot make a greater effort to expedite investigation and resolution of these cases in Boston. Why not lower the salaries of the ten highest paid lay employees by $100K each or more–to a generous amount of $150K/year, save $1 million a year (which they should be doing anyway), use the $1M to hire ten more canon lawyers in Boston and/or in the Vatican to work through the backlog for a year, and get these done–for the benefit of everyone involved?

Problematic Process

This article, Twice implicated, priest fights for a decision, highlights the state of limbo for twice-accused priest, Fr. James J. Foley, who is currently a lawyer in private practice, while also collecting a $40K/year salary plus benefits from the RCAB.  BCI feels for the priest if he is innocent of the charges, but we fail to understand two things.

First. regardless of his guilt or innocence, if the priest is able to sustain himself financially as a lawyer in private practice while his case is pending, is the bishop still obliged to provide sustenance benefits?

Secondly, an aspect of the settlement process documented in this article has bothered BCI for a considerable amount of time–namely, the practice of the Boston Archdiocese settling cases without allowing the priest to even dispute the charges. The article says:

testimony in Foley’s canonical trial began only last year. Shortly thereafter, another former parishioner told the archdiocese that he, too, had been abused by Foley, from the time he was a 12- or 13-year-old altar boy until just after he graduated from Harvard.

The archdiocese paid that man a settlement and reported the allegations to Suffolk County prosecutors and the attorney general’s office. Foley continues to practice law and get his church paycheck.

The archdiocese would not comment on Foley, citing an active law enforcement investigation. It remains unclear because of the time elapsed since the alleged abuse whether he could be charged even if investigators found evidence.

Foley, reached at his law office in Lowell, referred calls to his attorney, Joseph S. Provanzano of Peabody, who in two brief phone interviews said his client was unaware of the second complaint and called the very idea of a law enforcement investigation “absurd.” He ridiculed the notion that the sexual abuse of a minor could extend into a victim’s early 20s, or that it could have taken someone so highly educated so long to report abuse.

Last summer, the man decided to call Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who has represented hundreds of abuse victims, and initiated a complaint about Foley with the archdiocese. He received a settlement with little resistance last May.

Admittedly, if you read this complaint letter from the first victim about abuse he alleges occurred in 1983 or 1984, and then this article that describes the stories of both the first and second victims, the testimonies are persuasive.  In some situations, it may be easier and more cost effective to settle a simple case rather than go to court. Still, BCI does not understand why the Boston Archdiocese settled the second case, and has settled many others, without informing the priest and giving him a chance to defend himself and refute the accusation. Is the archdiocese so convinced that every priest is guilty as accused that they do not even give them a chance to prove themselves innocent?  Something is wrong here–it seems like it does an injustice to the priest accused, and it further sends a message that the archdiocese is ready to roll over and just settle with every person who comes forward with a complaint and a lawyer.  Again, BCI is not saying if the claims are valid or not–we are just saying the approach does not appear to provide due process for either the accused priest or the accuser.

This is what BCI thinks.  What do you think?


Correcting the Record: Economist Article Errs on Boston Archdiocese

September 6, 2012

On August 18, The Economist published an article entitled, “The Catholic Church in America: Earthly concerns” which somewhat accurately portrays the financial state of many dioceses in the U.S. but which also made some inaccurate statements or implications about Boston.  A number of readers have asked us to comment on this, and today we take a few moments to belatedly do so.

This excerpt gives the gist of the article:

The sexual-abuse scandals of the past 20 years have brought shame to the church around the world. In America they have also brought financial strains…The church’s finances look poorly co-ordinated considering (or perhaps because of) their complexity. The management of money is often sloppy. And some parts of the church have indulged in ungainly financial contortions in some cases—it is alleged—both to divert funds away from uses intended by donors and to frustrate creditors with legitimate claims, including its own nuns and priests. The dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy may not be typical of the church as a whole. But given the overall lack of openness there is no way of knowing to what extent they are outliers. Thousands of claims for damages following sexual-abuse cases, which typically cost the church over $1m per victim, according to lawyers involved, have led to a liquidity crisis.

That much is accurate.  But later, the article said the following:

Some dioceses have, in effect, raided priests’ pension funds to cover settlements and other losses. The church regularly collects money in the name of priests’ retirement. But in the dioceses that have gone bust lawyers and judges confirm that those funds are commingled with other investments, which makes them easily diverted to other uses. Under Cardinal Bernard Law, the archdiocese of Boston contributed nothing to its clergy retirement fund between 1986 and 2002, despite receiving an estimated $70m-90m in Easter and Christmas offerings that many parishioners believed would benefit retired priests.

Church officials denied the money it had collected was improperly diverted. By 2008 the unfunded liability had reached $114m. Joseph D’Arrigo, a benefits specialist, was brought in to turn things round. In 2010 the retirement fund was turned into an independent trust to ensure it could not be used for other purposes—a first for an American diocese, reckons Mr D’Arrigo.

The combining of two totally different issues into one in the first paragraph above creates a rather egregious misrepresentation and error. This was propagated in a number of other reports such as this one, “Report: Archdiocese of Boston Misused Donations.”   The reality is that the issue of the financial state of the Boston Clergy Funds is a totally different one from how sexual abuse settlements were financed.

Funding of sexual abuse settlements and victim therapy in Boston is a matter of the public record. Funds came from real estate property sales, including the sale of the Brighton archdiocesan property and St. Johns Seminary property to Boston College; insurance coverage; donations to fund therapy; and money reserved from the insurance fund of the Archdiocese. More specifically, money for the abuse settlements was first borrowed from the Knights of Columbus, with Saint John’s Seminary as collateral, and later the K of C loan was repaid from the sale of St. John’s seminary + diocesan property, with the cash balance set aside for future claims.  (BCI has already reported our criticism of the diocese taking away the seminary’s property and failing to repay the debt, but that is a different topic). The key point here is that the implication in The Economist article that the Clergy Funds were raided to fund sexual abuse settlements does not have any basis in fact BCI can find.  BCI usually finds we disagree with diocesan spokesman, Terry Donilon, but on this one occasion, we agree with the main concept of his response to The Economist article, where Donilon said, “There was no money used from the parish closings for sex abuse settlements which is what that article was implying which was completely erroneous.”  (Well, actually, the article implied that money from the Clergy Funds was used to fund settlements, but at least conceptually, Terry was correct).

Then we get to the matter of the Clergy Funds.  The Clergy Funds are under-funded. That is an objective statement of fact. Our priests have given their lives for God and need to be provided for in their retirement. Most sources assess the amount of underfunding in the range of $100M to $200M.  The archdiocese has “stabilized” the fund so that annual cash out = annual cash in.  They are trying to raise about $20M over the next five years to more effectively stabilize the fund.  But there is no plan publicly articulated to make up for the $100M+ in under-funding.  How we got to this point is a longer post than time permits today.  But, this portrayal by The Economist is also deceptive:

“Under Cardinal Bernard Law, the archdiocese of Boston contributed nothing to its clergy retirement fund between 1986 and 2002, despite receiving an estimated $70m-90m in Easter and Christmas offerings that many parishioners believed would benefit retired priests. Church officials denied the money it had collected was improperly diverted.By 2008 the unfunded liability had reached $114m.”

The question of exactly what happened to the Easter and Christmas offerings between 1986-2002 is about as clearly documented in the public record to BCI as is the location of Amelia Earhart’s airplane.  In 2005, the Towers Perrin report supposedly found that the priests’ pension fund was strained in part because the archdiocese made no contributions to it from 1986 to 2002. We have not seen the report itself, but from everything BCI can determine, the interpretations of this assertion are not as black-and-white as they may appear. The donations were intended for the care and benefit of sick and elderly priests, as positioned during that time period. The point where clarification is needed seems to be–did the money go into the assets of the fund or into paying annual expenses for clergy care? As BCI understands it, the Boston Archdiocese used some substantial amount of the current income to the Clergy Funds during those years to pay current expenses. We are told that this was referred to in some circles as “the battle of the bulge,” because a large number of priests were retired and required substantial amounts of medical care as well as nursing home care. So the idea was to not put the money into the assets of the pension and benefits fund, but rather let that fund continue to grow, and to pay the then-current expenses for medical care of priests out of then-current income. Was that an improper diversion of contributions or misuse of donations? Assuming the funds went to pay current expenses for medically sick or elderly priests, BCI thinks that would have been OK.

In 2009, the Archdiocese released a 52-page report by accounting firm, Alexander, Aronson and Finning that found no evidence of theft or mismanagement in the 37-year history of the funds. The study did raise concerns that accounting controls were not tight enough to prevent theft and said there were not enough records to determine how much money was used before 2000 to support priests accused of abuse. But the accounting firm did say there was no indication that money is missing. The firm also said that the archdiocese retained all the records it was required to retain and that all evidence indicated that money contributed at Christmas and Easter was used to benefit priests as promised.

Now, how did we get to the $114M unfunded pension liability. Here is some of the explanation for what was reported as a $114M unfunded liability:

The archdiocese says the main reasons for the funds’ woes are not only the rising average age of priests and the increased costs of healthcare, but also the fact that the benefits were dramatically expanded in 2001 and that annual fund-raising has remained flat.

The study found that, between 2000 and 2008, the archdiocese spent $15.8 million from clergy benefits funds to support priests accused of sexually abusing minors. It was unable to determine how much was spent for that purpose previously.

The dramatic expansion of benefits under Cardinal Law in 2001 did make an impact in the Clergy Funds shortfall by 2008. The stock market tanked. Maybe a failure to contribute to assets prior to 2002 also contributed to the problem.  BCI believes that despite the spin that the funds are stable today, there is still reason for great concern about the stability of the Clergy Funds and future ability to provide for our clergy. And the Alexander, Aronson and Finning study was a “study,” not an audit. It is well beyond the scope of BCI and this post to analyze this issue more deeply.

Our objective in this post is not to compliment or criticize the Boston Archdiocese for their financial management. (The pathetically slow action on addressing the problem of millions of dollars paid annually in excessive six-figure salaries is the topic for an upcoming post). Rather, our point is that The Economist article conveyed an inaccurate message regarding both the funding for sexual abuse settlements in Boston and the reasons behind the shortfall in the Clergy Funds. In that specific area, BCI believes the record should be set straight and The Economist should issue a correction.


Boston Catholics call on archdiocese to end relationship with Obama-backing multi-millionaire

September 2, 2012

LifeSite News has an excellent piece that adds more color to the issues with Jack Connors we brought up in our last post. As readers recall, BCI posted a response by the Boston Archdiocese to an Ethicspoint complaint about Connors’ fund-raising for President Obama (whose policies violate our religious freedoms and work against the Catholic Church), while Connors also serves on the Finance Council with responsibility for Institutional Advancement and raises money for Catholic schools.

As we know, an anonymous critic recently submitted a complaint to the archdiocese over Connors’ Obama fundraising on the whistleblower site, EthicsPoint, and the archdiocese responded that a Finance Council member’s support for a pro-abortion politician who is actively working to violate our religious freedom was not a problem for them.

“Finance Council members are not obligated to make public the rationale behind their decisions to support various organizations, programs, and persons. That a Finance Council member may offer his/her backing to a politician or political candidate who is in support of pro-choice policies does not define or exhaust a Finance Council member’s position on issues pertaining to respect for life. Instead, it objectively speaks to the Finance Council member’s willingness to engage with and find value and merit in the opinions, ideals, and visions of individuals with a wide variety of moral stances, which at various times are more or less in line with the teachings of the Church. Furthermore, though he/she may provide his/her time and support to certain institutions which allow for individuals to elect to participate in activities that do not respect the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life, no current Finance Council member has publicly advocated abortions as suitable moral options for these individuals. To assume that a Finance Council member is pro-choice and actively in support of abortions because of his/her political affiliations and/or institutional support is an unfair assumption and not one the Archdiocese is willing to use in judging candidates for the Council.

…Cardinal O’Malley trusts that the moral convictions of the Finance Council members are firmly rooted in Catholic social teaching and are designed to uphold the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. The Archdiocese believes that the decisions the Finance Council members make as citizens and as Catholics, although opposed by some, are neither in violation of Catholic teaching nor do they bring about scandal.

In Boston Catholics call on archdiocese to end relationship with Obama-backing multi-millionaire, LifeSite News took this a step further with additional revelations:

Among Connors’ philanthropic projects is the Connors Center for Women’s Health, which The Globe described as his favorite among Connors Family Foundation beneficiaries “closest to the family’s heart”: it was named after Connors’ mother, Mary Horrigan Connors, and is where his eight grandchildren were born.

At the helm of the Connors Center is its co-founder Paula A. Johnson, a former chairman of the board for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, who also served on the board for the Center for Reproductive Rights. When the HHS mandate for free birth control began this month, the Connors Center celebrated the news and Johnson appeared on local media as an expert touting the mandate’s benefits: Johnson herself was a member of the Institutes of Medicine Committee that recommended the contraception mandate to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in 2011.

Among the Connors Centers’ top goals is “training the next generation of leaders in the field of women’s health,” including future abortion providers: its Family Planning Fellowship, led by abortionist and Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) head researcher Alisa Goldberg, partners with PPLM to offer a nationally-recognized two-year program to “improve access to, and the quality of, pregnancy termination services through research and training.” The Center’s only other fellowship, the Global Women’s Health Fellowship, was expected to merge with the Family Planning Fellowship as of 2009.

Jack Connors has not always been a favorite with Boston’s Catholic hierarchy: the two experienced a falling-out involving the 2002 sex abuse scandal. When Cardinal O’Malley sought his help for the schools project three years later, Connors, in the Globe’s words, accepted on condition that he “use his ideas, not the Church’s.” Since then, Connors’ ideas have also surfaced in pastoral decisions: he joined condemnations of a Boston school that removed a third-grade student because his parents were lesbians, something the archdiocese also criticized. “I am disappointed that … this faith that I love seems to find new ways to shoot itself in the foot,” said Connors.

The Archdiocese of Boston declined a request for comment.

Judie Brown of the American Life League said that, whether or not Cardinal O’Malley intended it, keeping up appearances with Connors was a serious scandal for the Catholic faithful.

Brown faulted the archdiocese for overlooking Connors’ connections in favor of his financial prowess. “These things don’t happen in a vacuum. Someone is very aware of his interconectedness with the Culture of Death. There’s no way they could not be,” she said.

“The worst damage always happens to the Church from within.”

Judie Brown is correct.  “Someone” needs to take responsibility for allowing this situation to continue, not just the amorphous “archdiocese.”  The Tenth Crusade has a suggestion and specifically identifies who that someone would be.

Reader, “Angry Parish Council Member” also put it well in a comment on our last post.

The Archdiocese and Cardinal O’Malley are also speaking out of both sides of their mouth. In 2007, Cardinal O’Malley said:

“I think the Democratic Party, which has been in many parts of the country traditionally the party which Catholics have supported, has been extremely insensitive to the church’s position, on the gospel of life in particular, and on other moral issues,” O’Malley said.

Acknowledging that Catholic voters in Massachusetts generally support Democratic candidates who are in favor of abortion rights, O’Malley said, “I think that, at times, it borders on scandal as far as I’m concerned.”

However, when I challenge people about this, they say, ‘Well, bishop, we’re not supporting [abortion rights],’ ” he continued. “I think there’s a need for people to very actively dissociate themselves from those unacceptable positions.”

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/11/15/omalley_draws_line_with_democrats/?page=full

I don’t get it. If Mr. Connors is tied to the Democratic party, which has been extremely insensitive to the Catholic church’s position on the gospel of life, and he’s raising money to support Obama’s reelection, when Obama has been very insensitive to the Catholic church’s position on life, why should Cardinal O’Malley trust Mr. Connor’s moral convictions?

If it “borders on scandal” for Catholics to vote for Democratic candidates who are in favor of abortion rights, how can a Finance Council member raise money for Obama, who favors abortion rights, and not bring about scandal? Is he bringing about something that “borders on scandal” but is not real scandal?

I guess it all depends on what the definition of “is” is.

BCI thinks it is time for Cardinal O’Malley and/or Vicar General Msgr. Deeley to have a private sit-down with Jack Connors. The purpose of this discussion is to thank Jack for his help with fundraising for the Catholic schools, and to educate him about the truths of abortion, the reality of how the Obama HHS mandate violates our religious freedoms and will harm Catholic institutions (including those Connors claims he supports), and the consequences of Connor’s actions on his own mortal soul, on the unborn, on the Catholic Church, and on society for generations to come. If there is no change of heart, conversion or commitment on the part of Jack to disassociate himself from the unacceptable positions his political fundraising and philanthropy are advancing, then BCI believes it is necessary for Cardinal O’Malley to disassociate the Boston Archdiocese from Jack.  If you agree, then hit Share and send a copy of this email to Vicar_General(at)rcab.org.


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