Pastoral Planning Perspectives

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.

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12 Responses to Pastoral Planning Perspectives

  1. Marie says:

    BCI says: 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.”

    No company, corportation, entity can survive inept leadership. My mind, however, does not allow me to grasp how such inelligent, well educated people (inside the organization) can stand by and watch RCAB drain itself into obliteration. They cannot all be opportunists.

    I have never watched a group do so much planning and replanning and so little implementing. Each plan is a test until what event takes place? What is the goal?

    It appears, that the goal always is another plan. Ten years(more) have been wasted. How much house cleaning could have been done and how many fewer churches closed and how many fewer parishioners left waiting for the other shoe to drop?

    You would think that some of travelling-with-the-worldly-wise would have rubbed off. All around them are successful people including those who hold the $160,000.+ jobs. What is the internal malfunction?

    Who or what has the strangle hold on common sense?

    • Stephen says:

      Its the new vision silly.
      In full swing, in all its glory.

      Consider:
      In its precise sense, evangelization is the -missio ad gentes- directed to those who do not know Christ. In a wider sense, it is used to describe ordinary pastoral work, while the phrase “new evangelization” designates pastoral outreach to those who no longer practice the Christian faith.
      —CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Doctrinal Note on some aspects of Evangelization, 12, 2007

      The Modernist have and are continuing to accomplish their murky destructive mission.

      Could somebody claim that a $335,000 salary is appropriate compensation for ‘ordinary pastoral work’? Yes, they have, they will and they are correct in the modernist dominated church. The true faithful are befuddled and angered because they are caught between paradigms. The Church established by Christ for all time and a de facto church occupied by heretics. Their campaign is keen and techniques, the most sophisticated known.

      Remember when The Church was the vehicle for Eternal Salvation?

      • Michael says:

        Hey you might want to reconsider complaining about specific salaries over at the Archdiocese. I just learned that at least one of the recipients (of outrageous pay for pastoral work) characterizes your legitimate complaint as bullying.

    • Marie says:

      Bullying?

      See what happens when you don’t live in the real world.

      Stephen, explain to the complainer what bullying is! (I don’t think this is off topic…?) Explain what living high is. Explain what a faithful steward is.

      • Stephen says:

        Bullying traditionally meant the verbal or physical abuse of a weaker member of the social group. It is has been observed in every culture throughout history. Bullying can be a right of passage into adulthood and taken to an extreme it can have life long negative effect on the both those bullied and those who bully. Catholics likely have always considered bullying in all its manifestations as mean-spirited having no place in a true Christian culture. Adults generally enforced this Christian social construct. Now – In come the modernists.

        Bullying has become a label implying; damage causing violence, great injustice, intimidation of the oppressed. The focus rather than on social dynamics has become power. The implication is that the powerful bully and the weak are bullied. It also is used as a catch-all disparaging phrase to label those with whom you disagree, and to claim the victim position in order to secure the status quo. It appears to be used in this way by some in the RCAB to suggest that those critical of ridiculously high salaries are bullies.

        For clarification those collecting these high salaries are essentially sophisticated thieves stealing from the church. I suspect most are just tools of the modernists who have been extorted into allegiance. They are the gate-keepers for the new vision and the heretics who push it.

        Living high? If Gasoline goes to $10/ gallon you don’t notice.
        Faithful steward? It starts with rejection of contraception.

  2. Michael says:

    Fear … fear of loss of reputation, fear of loss of career opportunities, fear of rocking the boat … but not fear of God. Too whom much is given much is expected.

    • Marie says:

      Michael, I “borrowed” this: So let’s ask the Lord to give us His wisdom and Spirit so that we can be faithful stewards over what He has entrusted to us.

      Faithful stewards over what He has entrusted to us………..

      Fear.

  3. BH says:

    BCI,
    I know this is off-topic. Will you be covering the Question 2 ballot question about physician-assisted suicide any time soon? If not, could you?

  4. We ask readers to stick to the topic at hand of the post. That said, yes, we do plan to cover the ballot question soon.

  5. [...] all the talk about the new Pastoral Plan, which will have one pastor for several parishes and thus result in fewer rectories open and [...]

  6. whattheheckisthis?? says:

    Out of curiosity I attended a Neo-Cat “service.”

    I am absolutely in the dark on these groups.
    Are these services actually approved by the Catholic Church????

    I attended a “service” in a local church. Note further, it was never in the church bulletin and still is not.

    The service I attended was conducted by SHALOM.
    I also think that 5 of the 7 people present were one family.

    MY DESCRIPTION OF THE “SERVICE”:

    I stayed 1.5 hours. Let me describe it:

    It was guitar, singing, and some praying to Holy
    Ghost, with the laying on of the hands and rocking. There were only 7
    people. Church door was unlocked. I mention that because the prior week the door was locked. Overwhelmingly
    this appeared to be more a meeting than a service. We sat in a circle with
    folding chairs, though there were the traditional church pews. We sat right
    up against the altar. The tabernacle is there exposed and within feet of this meeting. I really do not understand Portuguese but some words are unmistakable: SHALOM WAS
    UTTERED QUITE A FEW TIMES AND NOT IN THE WAY ONE WOULD WISH ANOTHER PEACE.
    The Seminary was mentioned; a timeline of 6 months and California and Florida were mentioned as well. Of course, people were friendly.

    Note, two other people came in unconnected
    to this group. They were American, I am sure. Each stayed very
    briefly noticing that there was a “service” or meeting going on,
    and exited quickly.

    The meeting/service is odd. There was a kind of monologue by the group
    leader. It went on for about an hour. No one interrupted him or commented
    so that monologue is absolutely an accurate description. He wore an oddly
    shaped oversized cross around his neck. At one point he got down on his
    knees and they all surrounded him and touched him while chanting something.
    Each chanted something entirely different but all simultaneously so that the sound was chaotic.
    This was a little creepy for me.

    After the service was over the English speaking woman asked if I understood
    anything. I replied I did not. She explained that the man was not a
    priest. He was a Brazilian who gave up his life in Brazil to come here to
    evangelize. He relocated with his whole family JUST TO START THIS PRAYER
    GROUP. I thought how very odd since there are only a handful of them. It
    was his son who was playing the guitar for the service. The woman
    explained that the man was talking about the trials and tribulations of
    leaving everything behind in Brazil to come and do this.

    Bottom line: no one was excluded but by the same token there would be no
    reason for any English speaking person to remain either.

    It was more a meeting than a service, save for the singing and prayer in a
    circle.

    There was lots of laying on of hands and rocking and closing of eyes and at
    one point the woman who spoke English looked like she was going to pass out.
    Throughout the service most people looked like they were in a trance with
    eyes closed. The woman who spoke some English made the sign of the cross on
    my forehead and kept her hand on my head and asked me to receive the holy
    spirit. (Note, the last person to have done that was a Bishop so this really was creepy to me.).

  7. Stephen says:

    The Church of Rome has been critical of the Neo Cats.
    Their approach to the Eucharist and ‘made up’ services
    are clearly heretical – if one still believes in heresy.
    Apparently in Boston we give this
    fringe ‘spirit’ group free housing in rectories.

    Trust your discernment – creepy is as creepy does.

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