Boston archdiocese reshuffe, future kerfuffle?

The big news yesterday is that the new Pastoral Plan for Boston, “Disciples in Mission” was approved by Cardinal O’Malley and announced at a press conference.

Here are some of the headline stories:

Pastoral planning to promote the New Evangelization (The Boston Pilot, with text of the press conference remarks by Cardinal O’Malley)

Boston Cardinal approves archdiocese reshuffle (Boston Globe)

Boston Cardinal approves archdiocese reshuffle (WBUR)

Clearly, something has to be done to address the declining number of people attending Mass (down to about 15-17% of Catholics now), declining number of active priests, and the reality that at least 40% of parishes are in the red, and perhaps as much as 50-60% by some internal estimates.  We very much support the objectives of this effort–evangelization and growth–and we commend the archdiocese for the tremendous amount of work put into developing the plan and getting broad input on it.  BCI does not have an alternate proposal to this Pastoral Plan, and this is the plan approved going forward. But that said, BCI thinks there is likely to be a bit of a kerfuffle on the path to the reshuffle.

Here is the gist of the plan, as described in the press release:

The Pastoral Plan groups the [288] parishes of the Archdiocese into approximately 135 collaboratives.  Each parish maintains its own identity in the collaboratives.  Each parish retains its buildings, its canonical rights, its financial assets and obligations. The collaborative will have one Pastor who will work with one Pastoral Team, one Parish Pastoral Council and one Parish Finance Council.  Together they will develop a pastoral plan for their local collaborative, focused on serving the needs of the parishes in their local collaborative and advancing the mission of the New Evangelization.  The formation of the parish collaboratives will be phased in, with appropriate flexibility, over a period of five years.  Pastors, pastoral teams, and councils of each parish collaborative will participate in extensive theological and practical training for the New Evangelization.  The first list of parishes being grouped will be announced in January 2013.  For a full review of the plan and for additional information please visit www.disciplesinmission.com.

Here are a few things to be concerned with in implementation, which we hope and pray the archdiocese will address:

  • Canon Law (Can. 537) says that each parish is to have its own Finance Council.  “in each parish there is to be a finance council which is governed, in addition to universal law, by norms issued by the diocesan bishop and in which the Christian faithful, selected according to these same norms, are to assist the pastor in the administration of the goods of the parish, without prejudice to the prescript of Can. 532 (which says the pastor represents the parish according to the norm of law). Canonically, it is not entirely clear how to pull this off, though we know that Fr. Bob Oliver, the canon lawyer working on this for Bishop-elect Deeley, has been all over it trying to figure out how.
  • Beyond the letter of Canon Law, it is not clear how one Finance Council will make decisions in a fair way across multiple parishes in a collaborative, each of which has its own unique financial condition, some of which might be in the red and some of which might be in the black.
  • Did the “Catholics Come Home” campaign of 2011 help boost Mass attendance? If not, what is to be learned from that effort, so we do better at evangelization in the future?
  • What will be done with all of the empty rectories?
  • Will this effort lead to more parish closings, but just done at a local collaboration level, parish by parish, rather than at a diocesan level? What could be done to avoid that outcome?
  • Fr. Paul Soper was chosen as permanent Director of Pastoral Planning role.  He has a Voice of the Faithful chapter at his parish. Even if he inherited the chapter when he took over as pastor, given their track record of dissent from Church teachings, why has he allowed them to remain?
  • The announcement says, “Pastors, pastoral teams, and councils of each parish collaborative will participate in extensive theological and practical training for the New Evangelization.”  BCI has read their “plan” and found things to like, but also a lot of holes. For example, if the Archdiocese cannot or will not put a stop to heretical lay adult faith formation programs in parishes such as those documented in “Boston Parish Adult Faith Formation – Good and Bad,” (which include speakers like the national co-chair of “Catholics for Obama”, a talk on Buddhism, and reading a sex novel), then why should anyone believe in their new “extensive theological training”?  If the Archdiocese does not realize they should not be allowing people like Obama-supporter, Fr. Kenneth Himes of BC to speak at parishes and should not be promoting his talks, how can the Archdiocese assure Catholics they can get theological training correct?  And years after they said the were going to post and promote a list of approved programs, resources, and opportunities for lay faith formation  in parishes, collaboratives and at the Archdiocesan level, such a web page still cannot be found. If they cannot even  put up a web page, how will they pull off this ambitious effort?
  • Who is going to pay for this plan and its implementation? If it is to be the people in the pews, why should they dig deeper into their pockets in these difficult economic times while the Pastoral Center has done nothing to curb the excessive six-figure salaries paid to lay executives? Two years after the “Compensation Committee” was formed to revisit excessive six-figure salaries, there have been no changes and nothing whatsoever to show for their efforts, except engagement of an expensive consultant and empty words in an annual report .
  • Does the RCAB have the right people on the ship to set direction and drive and execute this effort? Have they gotten the “wrong” people off the ship? If they have not yet gotten the “wrong” people off the ship–despite years of evidence they are the wrong people–how will the RCAB ever attract the best people, especially after the ship has set sail?
  • Does the RCAB even have the right structure in place to pull this off?
  • If the RCAB cannot deal, or refuses to deal with problems like the ongoing presence and influence of Fr. Bryan Hehir, Jack Connors, and Terry Donilon, how will they ever execute a program intended to evangelize fallen-away Catholics with the truths of the Catholic faith?
  • Re-read this blog post, “Pastoral Planning Perspectives” including these objective observations from a reader:

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?

That said, they need to do something. All Catholics should support the goals of evangelizing the truths of the Catholic faith to a secular society and trying to increase the number of Catholics attending Mass.  This plan looks directionally like the best or only approach left to consider today–short of immediate widespread church closings. But, in the opinion of BCI, the RCAB is so ill-prepared, ill-financed, ill-organized, inappropriately staffed and lacking in strong leadership, that the implementation will probably never realize the vision. If they could only muster the ability to address the issues detailed above, maybe it has a prayer of success.

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39 Responses to Boston archdiocese reshuffe, future kerfuffle?

  1. Lazarus' Table says:

    On the occassion of their ad limina visit, the Holy Father addressed the French Bshops (referring to parish ‘reorganization’):

    “Yet the solution of the pastoral problems that arise in the diocese must not be limited to organizational matters, however important these may be. There is a risk of putting the accent on the quest for efficiency, with a sort of “bureaucracy of pastoral work”, focusing on structures, organization and programmes. These can become “self-referential” for the exclusive use of the members of these structures and will then have little impact on the life of Christians who have drifted away from regular practice.”

    Boston woould do well to heed his wise words.
    His complete address may be found at:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2012/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20120921_ad-limina-france_en.html

  2. I agree with the BCI. This actually is not Catholicism. If you click on my name above and read recent posts on my blog, l have been doing a series called “Archdiocesan Self-Destruction.” As of 11/16/2012, there are 3 parts.

    On Part III at the end I explain that pastors can only operate one parish, and that this plan is a violation of Canon Law as BCI indicates. I also give the mailing addresses to the Holy Father, Cardinal Burke at the Vatican, and the Papal Nuncio the the USA, and make sure that you tell them that this plan is not Catholic. EVERY FAITHFUL, ORTHODOX CATHOLIC SHOULD WRITE A LETTER TO THESE THREE PEOPLE.

    • Half-full not half-empty says:

      Chris Whittle – How can you know minor aspects of canon law and then not be aware that throughout the worldwide church it isn’t applied? Priests in Africa serve 15 parishes and about 100 mission outposts. Priests in the Midwest of the US have many parishes and huge geographies to serve. Priests throughout the world have parishes to serve and other diocesan or seminary jobs too.

      What is your objective in a post like this? As a “faithful Catholic” asking others to get angry because priests will certainly need to work harder now and pick up their crosses of hard work too – do you think that is building up the Church versus self-destructing it? Isn’t of leading people to distrust the Church, perhaps think of inviting someone back to the Church at whatever parish you think is doing the best job here. There are great parishes and there are weak ones. This Saturday, say a rosary, and then look at the half-full glass, would ya?

      • We are not talking about Africa nor the Midwestern USA, but Boston, a metropolitan see. There are enough priests (diocesan and religious) in Boston to have at least one in all 288 parishes. Plus, there are traditionalist priests (like the FSSP or ICRSP) who would die to come here, but the present administration won’t allow them. For a diocese this large, reducing from 357 in 2004 to 288 in 2012 to 135 by 2017 is simply unacceptable.

  3. jbq2 says:

    This is sad. However,Boston and Cardinal Sean are only the “flag station” for future change around the country. Also since the philsophy is same as that of the incumbent president, what kind of deals of have been made on the road to world socialism? Malachi Martin has laid the blueprint in his writings.

  4. LegacyCatholicthrownunderthebus says:

    What a great resource this blog is and thanks CW for aiming me to yours also. Lazarus’ Table, I did recall immediately the Pope’s statement on restructuring that you presented here. How does this archdiocese not heed such a warning?? I don’t get it other than I am still of the position that this is all about closures and sale of property, under the guise of lack of clergy.

  5. Brian Schweiss says:

    With this Pastoral/Parish Plan now being put into place in the Archdiocese of Boston, it would seem to me that (barring unforseen circumstances, of course) Cardinal O’Malley is staying in Boston for awhile, probably until his retirement. I doubt the Vatican would move him to a post over in Rome or somewhere else with this new plan going into operation over the next several years. I watched the press conference online yesterday. I think they have some good ideas, but as BCI says in their post, there are still several major problems in the Boston Archdiocese right now that haven’t even been addressed. I’m praying for all of you out there from Illinois. :) God Bless! :)

  6. Half-full not half-empty says:

    To BCI,

    Any comprehensive plan will have details to fairly criticize or that need to be worked out and improved over time. You offer some good objective criticisms regarding whether the archdiocese (based on its recent history) has the right team to implement this now and whether it has the best approach for evangelization.

    My question for you is this – at the level of the plan’s goals and high-level approach, do you criticize those? The plan’s objectives are to focus on evangelization and growth, not close and sell churches, to focus on evangelization and growth, and to do this in a way that efficiently and equitably shares personnel resources with all the people across the archdiocese.

    Are you generally in favor of that or would you prefer an alternate approach – to close a lot of parishes now and assume that the trajectory the Church is going to be one of continual diminishment?

    If you favor the general approach, encourage your readers to get their parishes to nominate themselves for the first phase of the collaboratives and help shape the way that it will be implemented so that it is successful.

    Most of the litany of problems you mention with the archdiocese (salaries, some cabinet officials) will have little to do with the success or failure of the plan. Individual Catholics will drive any success or failure. We are the ones that have to reach out and invite people back to a parish that helps us grow spiritually (even if it isn’t the parish closest to us). I suggest you direct your energies to that. If faithful Catholics don’t get behind the plan, who will? Do you really want the Jack Connors of the world to be the only ones championing some effort like this? Where would that lead us?

    The victory on question 2 showed the power of thousands of Catholics mobilizing behind an effort. Imagine if we all got behind this planning/new evangelization effort with the same energy and then worked to make sure the implementation actually works to attract people back to the Church.

    Many of the criticisms you list above (e.g. will parishes have their own finance council, etc.) I ask why do you really care so much about those things to sour your readers on the many good things in this plan. Finance Councils are “advisory” to the pastor not “boards”. Why do you (and we) really care about details like that? Parishes will all be represented on the collaborative finance council if you read the plan. Many of the other criticisms, with due respect, are more toward the minutia end of the plan versus the bigger themes.

    Instead of reading this plan and its details as an affirmation of the pleas from faithful Catholics to train parish staff better in the faith, in the new evangelization and to remove bad pastors (that invite heretical speakers to present to the parishioners), you have taken a very negative read. Cardinal O’Malley has put Bishop Kennedy, not someone like Father Hehir, in charge of the formational program for the pastors and pastoral collaborative staff. Think about that….

    • Half-full, not half-empty,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments, especially your words about our objective criticisms based on past experience. Allow us to respond as best as possible.

      BCI is very strongly in favor of this plan’s objectives — growth and evangelization. Perhaps we should have stated that more clearly, and we will adjust the post to do so. Maybe our blog post let the minutia sound more important than the higher-level issues, which we do believe are important ones. We believe the alternative of another round of widespread closings would be far worse. In all of our posts about the pastoral planning effort, we have stayed relatively neutral in communicating the news, so people could form their own impressions, and we have pointed out that the alternative of widespread closings is worse. We have also tried to commend the archdiocese for the work invested in creating the plan and the gathering of input.

      We agree with you at a grass-roots level, individual Catholics will drive any success or failure, and we are the ones that have to reach out and invite people back to a strong parish where people will grow closer to God and the Church. We also agree that faithful Catholics will need to get behind the plan in order for it to work. We were very pleased about the win and outpouring of effort that defeated Question 2, though it is not clear to us how much of that came from the parish-level in the end vs the big media campaign. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you no doubt know that BCI would not support the “Jack Connors” of the world involved in an effort like this. We have tried to get him removed from the Finance Council, to no avail.

      That said, faithful Catholics are looking for strong pastoral leadership by the ordinary in an effort like this, marked by actions, not just words. That has been missing in recent years. Also, Mark 4:4-6 tells us how seed scattered not on fertile ground, but on the path or on rocky places was eaten-up by birds or grew but was burned and dried-up because the soil was not deep. And Luke 6:48 tells us to dig deep in laying the foundation of the house so when a storm comes, it will not be shaken because the house has been well built. To BCI, it feels like key pieces of the foundation are still missing, and we are now embarking on building the structure of the house without a solid foundation. That is why you see us viewing the cup the way we are.

      Here is but one example of one part of the weak foundation, we cited in September in this post:

      http://bostoncatholicinsider.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/pastoral-planning-perspectives/

      Lay Faith Formation. 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 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.
      c. This webpage should be operative by the spring 2011.

      Sounded like a great idea! Can anyone point to BCI to the location of 2a? What happened with this effort? BCI would have been pleased to help promote this, but cannot find it and have seen no promotion from the archdiocese at all.

      In fall of 2010, the Boston Archdiocese, with active involvement by Cardinal O’Malley, had no problem making it a focus to develop a policy that said parish schools must admit children of gay and lesbian parents, and in January 2011, publicly announced this policy, deceptively repurposing the words of the Holy Father out of context, and propagated the policy out to parishes and parish schools. Yet, seven years after Fr. Bryan Hehir honored the pro-abortion Mayor Tom Menino at a Catholic Charities fund-raiser and Cardinal O’Malley said we should have a policy on speakers at Catholics events, there is still no policy, and it lso appears there is no policy still that says adult faith formation programs must be authentically Catholic and adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church, as set forth by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. This appears to be a diocesan double-standard. And the webpage that was to be operative by spring 2011, well advertised and brought regularly to the attention of the laity, religious and clergy promoting lay faith formation programs and guidelines is nowhere to be found 30 months after the report was issued. Which of the two was the higher priority for Cardinal O’Malley and the archdiocese between 2010-2011–the Catholic schools admission policy for children of gay/lesbian parents, or lay faith formation? The record here on execution is not so good. Maybe it is/was a resource issue and Catholics Come Home became a higher priority for that secretariat, but then again, you put resources toward what you feel is most important.

      If the new Director of Pastoral Planning keeps VOTF in his parish, what should we take from him about his model for an authentically Catholic parish that evangelizes the truths of the Catholic faith?

      In the opinion of BCI, before launching this initiative, it would have been better to lay the right foundation (right people, strong leadership, organization, formation, funding), and from there, craft the plan for the voyage. Now we are already setting sail, and all of that is not in place.

      This AP article published at Boston.com reinforces our concerns:

      http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/11/15/boston-cardinal-approves-archdiocese-reshuffle/ySgAuC8wYEjH1f5dvZPCIO/story.html

      Who is quoted outside of the archdiocese? Thomas Groome from BC talking about married clergy, and a Voice of the Faithful person who says she is ready to do her part in evangelization. Was there not even one faithful lay Catholic supportive of the plan Terry Donilon could have offered for the reporter to talk to? Faithful lay Catholics supportive of the goals and direction of the plan and authentic evangelization would simply not be in the rolodex of Mr. Donilon, or if Terry tapped them and asked for a favor, they would probably say “no.”

      We would certainly choose Bishop Kennedy over Fr. Bryan Hehir for anything, especially faith formation! But, Fr. Bryan Hehir meddled in the parish reconfiguration and closing decisions of 2004 and remains an influential and trusted advisor to Cardinal O’Malley for virtually everything. Terry Donilon is still in charge of PR/communications, and Jack Connors is still in a strong role of influence behind the scenes on the Finance Council and with Catholic schools. As long as they are still in place with free access to the Cardinal, BCI has little doubt that they will influence this initiative. And as long as the Cardinal continues his heavy travels outside of the diocese (and blogging about them) instead of teaching, leading and governing–and floating above all of our problems with detachment–we see challenges ahead.

      Objectively, the path to successful implementation of this ambitious plan is not going to be easy. BCI wants the goals of growth and evangelization to be achieved. We will be glad to promote the effort and encourage faithful Catholics to get on-board once we see strong leadership and the gaps in the foundation filled, or more details on the plan for filling the gaps. But with the detached leadership and gaps remaining in the foundation, we are remaining cautious for now.

      Thank you again for your thoughtful comments. We welcome your further response.

  7. Time for a Change says:

    kerfuffle? Canon law on parish finance councils???? BCI, you have missed the boat.

    THE KING HAS NO CLOTHES!!

    Half of our parishes in the red, $100 million dollar pension shortfalls, parish buildings losing the fight against gravity and a five-year plan to let parishes work/fail as bigger units, and BCI is into kerfuffles and concerns over a relatively new provision of canon law that was implemented to try to stop parishes from boldly going forward and spending what they don’t have and can’t raise.

    Whatever you think of Bernard Cardinal Law, he fell on his sword for the good of the Archdiocese when it became clear that he could not provide the leadership that was so desperately needed. We went from a man that had some problems to a guy who nobody knows and fewer respect. We swept out the old leadership team and brought in a high-priced Harvard crowd. Ten years later, we have a five-year plan to not make any real changes.

    One of the good things about the Catholic Church is that the Holy Father sits above the law and can grant whatever indults are required to better the Church. He can also appoint and remove management.

    In my opinion, Boston does not need to have some of its talented clergy looking for ways to implement a useless plan that is not allowable under current Church Law. Boston needs the Vatican to appoint a special master to review the pending disaster and implement structural changes in parish and or diocesan structure to mitigate the damage caused by the Harvard crowd They had better act quickly while the Catholic Church in Boston is still standing.

    Our Cardinal needs to find the courage to follow his predecessor and tell the Holy Father he is in over his head. He shouldn’t wait for a petition drive to have him removed.

    • Time for a Change,
      Sorry you feel BCI missed the boat. All readers do not always agree with us. Maybe by going into a bulleted list with a number of details, we gave the inaccurate impression we had missed the forest through the trees. We did not.

      The canonical concerns and uncertainty if there can be one Finance Council are covered in the plan. They say:
      “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:

      c. Each parish in a collaborative has its own budget, indicating how the needs of the parish and the mission of the New Evangelization will be met. The budget will also provide for the parish’s fair share of the expenses for the pastoral team and any shared programs, buildings, facilities, equipment, etc. In each collaborative pastoral plan, the pastor and finance council indicate how these costs are apportioned fairly and equitably.

      The canon lawyer working the canonical side of this for the archdiocese is very sharp and whatever the outcome, it will be in compliance with the Code of Canon Law.

      We covered declining Mass attendance and # of clergy, cost, people, RCAB organizational structure, canonical concerns, and problems with formation as the basis for evangelization, but probably could have also explicitly covered the leadership issues with Cardinal O’Malley in our post, instead of in comments.See our response to “half-full, not half-empty”.

      Our assumption is that we have this plan along with the current cardinal archbishop for the next 7 years, until he turns 75-years-old. In view of that, though BCI will continue to agitate for change, pragmatically, we feel we also need to do the best we can to impact the hand of cards we are being dealt.

      • Time for a change says:

        Unless BCI knows where they have hidden away tens of millions of dollars, neither the Archdiocese or the bleeding parishes have seven years of business as usual left. When this Cardinal came the Archdiocese was looking at financial bankruptcy. The leadership and moral Bankruptcy that is present today goes beyound the bottom line. Immediate adult supervision is required.

  8. David S. says:

    It was my understanding that the initial plan was to bring in a new priest to oversee the new collaboratives, rather than assign one of the current priests to lead the collaborative. In other words, form the collaboratives and then re-shuffle the priests.

    Is this plan still on the table or have they dropped the idea?

    • Anni says:

      David

      In his “chat” on boston.com yesterday the Cardinal clearly stated that some priests would remain in their existing assignments. I am concerned that will set up potential favoritism. What happens to the people who are from the other churches in a cluster? Their new pastor will know people from one of the parishes and the others will have to “fit in”. When I attended one of the sessions back in March, Father Evans CLEARLY said that pastors would not stay in their existing assignments to avoid that very problem. I think that many of the priests on the “A List” complained about being “shuffled” and they were heard.

    • Anni says:

      I should add that I would be delighted if my pastor were to shuffle off to another parish. He is a part-time, absentee, do-nothing pastor who spends more time at his vacation home on the Cape than he does in the parish. He has not permitted a parish council election in seven years. He eliminated the spiritual development committee and the evangelization committee. We have not had an Advent or Lenten special service in three years. We have no adult education or outreach. He downloads his two-minute long, pithy homilies! (I have proof because I google them.) If anyone wants him, they can have him!

      Any new pastor we get will be a multiple order of magnitude improvement…

      I am, however, concerned about a situation in a nearby parish. Their pastor is clearly “A list” and very liberal. He sponsors VOTF in his parish and had Groome and Cuenin and their ilk as speakers. This parish will link in a cluster with a much more traditional parish. If “Father A list” stays as pastor what happens to the people from the more conservative and much smaller pastor. Do they have to “fit in or leave”? It makes much more sense to shuffle the pastors now because parishioners may be shuffling themselves to other clusters in many cases.

      • Chris says:

        Hi Anni, If that nearby parish is Concord, there’s more. The pastor is tearing up the downstairs chapel to put in a coffee bar/”gathering space.” It’ll cost a half-million… This, despite a large meeting hall right across the street, and another parish office complex/meeting space in West Concord. Why would the archdiocese approve this plan in a time of consolidation? $500,000 in a bad economy for a cup of coffee after Mass…

    • David S.,
      The initial plan was as you described, and the final plan no longer requires that a new pastor be brought in from outside the collaborative. Here is the exact verbiage from the plan:

      “It may be that the best priest for the position will be one of the current pastors, or it may be best that a new pastor would come in from outside of the collaborative. We recommend that, while being very respectful of the particular needs of the priests of the Archdiocese, the Archbishop of Boston give preference to the goal of evangelization in every assignment of a pastor to a collaborative, so that the assignment of the most suitable pastor is the single most important factor in ensuring the success of the collaborative and its evangelization efforts.

      The Commission recommends that religious and laity, as well as clergy, be formally involved in the assignment process of pastors. It further recommends the return to the consultation process that was used in parishes in anticipation of the assignment of a new pastor.”

  9. Lazarus' Table says:

    Anni, most Catholics, I think, can’t relate to your observation of “A-list” priests; they still think all priests are treated justly and faily by a just and fair archdiocese. Wrong. Some priests can bungle miserably and be rewarded with plum parishes. Holy priests can be left hung out to dry. The value placed on a priest depends on: How much can they contribute to the institution? How good are they at bringing in the $$? Will they go along to get along? Remember, the focus now is on institutional survival. Maybe in another generation or two the archdiocese will actually focus on evangelization. Maybe before that they will return to the Gospel. Until then, it’s not feeding the sheep that will matter but keeping the wool manufacturing plants operating.

    • Anni says:

      One of the holiest priests I know is in your “hung out to dry” category. He has not had a permanent assignment since last January. He has been shunted from parish to parish to “help out”. He loves to say Mass and meet one-on-one to counsel people. He has been known to spend hours in the confessional. He is not afraid to call evil by its true name. He has been lied to and lied about by a former pastor, the vicar, and the Braintree crowd. He is treated like an old coat by the RCAB. Maybe he will find his true calling in one of the new collaboratives where he can be a priest and not have to deal with the politics at Brooks Drive. I pray that this is the case. All we can do is pray.

      • Lazarus' Table says:

        Anni, if possible befriend this priest you write of. Encourage your friends to befriend, support and encourage the priests who truly feed them spiritually. We are reaching the point where we all want to cry out, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!” Until we do, we’ll just be passive little sheep at the mercy of ruthless bureaucrats. Lay people have to ‘take charge’ and assume responsibility for the life of the church in this archdiocese. If anything good is to happen it has to come from the action of the laity. We need to jump, shout and scream our concerns, look for and nourish faithful, dedicated priests. As a last resort, home churches rather than parishes will need to become the places of worship, fellowship, grace and service if the collaborative clusters suffocate rather than enliven our spiritual lives. We ourselves need to create the communities that will nourish, challenge and transmit our faith. We need to be responsive to our own needs rather than have prefabricated solutions imposed upon us. Don’t look to Braintree for help, support, encouragement. Look within. Support, protect and befriend your good priests who need someone on their side. To the institution, these priests are only functionaries to be “used” at will. You make them truly your pastors, your shepherds.

  10. YOUGOTTABEKIDDING says:

    BCI correctly points out that this Pastoral Plan, as presented, runs afoul of Canon Law in that there is a shared Finance Council for each Collaborative. No one defines that further. While some here categorize that violation as minutiae, it is not. No provision of Canon Law is. You don’t get to pick and choose which provisions of Canon Law are sacrosanct and categorize the remaining as surplasage based on convenience.

    The planned merger of parishes into Collaboratives is de facto suppression of parishes, cleverly aimed at the avoidance of appeals, but stay tuned on that issue.

    Another crucial point is that the real decision making as to closure is relegated to the Collaborative Finance/Parish Council. Bishop-Elect Deeley readily admits this. His direct quote:
    “Such a decision, which would come from the collaborative, would then be weighed within the consultation process that we would have in the archdiocese to make sure the needs of the people are taken care of if in fact it is necessary to close a church,” Deeley said. Note, on other occasions the archdiocese has determined the “needs” of the people based on the opportunity to receive the sacraments in a geograpshic location. To be sure, that will mean anything the archdiocese says it means.

    Some may not be used to the experience of a shared pastor. Where ever the pastor resides will be THE parish. The other parishes in the Collaborative will be essentially closed, save for the Mass hours. There will only be one heart beat to each Collaborative and if you have no priest in residence it will not be you. You cannot build a parish or even maintain a parish if it is locked up, save for the Mass. Literally, the shared priest keys himself into the church, with hosts in hand (clearly visble in baggies), toting vestments, says Mass, and quickly locks everything up. While this may not appear to be a violation of Canon Law, what is this???? Is this what Catholicism has come down to – a priest with keys in hand and hosts in baggies??

  11. Brian Schweiss says:

    I have a question for BCI and anyone else who might have knowledge of this. Certainly the Vatican must be aware of the Pastoral Plan in Boston, and is at least monitoring the situation? Some of the people who have posted on this have brought up some very valid concerns about suppressing Parishes, Canon Law, etc. I know that the Vatican has been involved in making decisions about church/parish closings in Massachusetts and many other states especially lately. Is it possible that they could step in and change some or perhaps all of this Pastoral Plan? Again, I’m praying daily for all of you from here in Illinois. God Bless! :)

    • Brian,
      Thank you for the daily prayers–we need them. The canon lawyers here are in touch with the Vatican on this plan. In the Boston Archdiocese, none of the past parish closings or relegation to profane use decrees have been overruled by the Vatican, because they have carefully followed canonical procedures. The only hiccup initially, back in 2005, was the manner in which assets of some closed parishes were claimed by the Archdiocese. This article describes the “raising of eyebrows” in the Vatican at the time, but you will note it was not about the closings themselves–just the means of reassigning the assets from closed parishes:
      http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2005/08/11/vatican_stops_diocese_in_taking_parish_assets/
      http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2005_07_12/2005_08_11_Paulson_VaticanStops.htm

      So, if canonically there cannot be one combined Finance Council, the Boston Archdiocese will simply work around that part of the plan. The rest is expected to proceed as outlined.

    • YOUGOTTABEKIDDING says:

      Brian,

      See, a good description about the ongoing process of appeals of some of the closed parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston. That story still has no ending:
      http://tinyurl.com/ce4sdz4http://tinyurl.com/ce4sdz4http://tinyurl.com/ce4sdz4http://tinyurl.com/ce4sdz4

      While there are violations of Canon Law evident in the pastoral plan, in the end a violation (or not) will be whatever the Vatican decides. The Archdiocese has carefully crafted this plan to evade review. Since the plan is still in its nascent stage, I doubt any issue is even ripe for an appeal. Not sure that the Vatican issues advisory opinions (though from what BCI just posted, seems that was already done for the Archdiocese.).

      I agree with BCI that parishioners in the Archdiocese of Boston have not been successful in reversing closures. The relegation to profane use of the parish property is a very live issue however.

      It is a pitiful plan. Most parishioners don’t have the means, time, or stamina to fight something like this. Note, ironically, the Archdiocese has infinite resources to do just that BECAUSE the parishioners have funded them, and this is their JOB.

      In the end, if implemented, it will not be Catholicism in which we have been raised. No reason to even stay. Many Protestant churches would more reflect what I would find comfortable.

  12. philoutsider says:

    I haven’t studied the Boston plan, but it has a hallmark of the ideology of the national “pastoral planning” bureaucrats’ network. It’s overcomplicated.
    The planners believe that they have a technique for remaking the Catholic Church into something else entirely. First, end priest leadership in the Church. Their ideal parish organization of the future involves a “pastoral minister,” who is not ordained, supervising “liturgical ministers,” “music ministers,” DREs, healthcare ministers, parish nurses and social workers. The Mass and sacraments are to be handled by “sacramental ministers.” A “sacramental minister” is a priest who comes and goes at the direction of the “pastoral minister,” providing sacraments to the people who want them, but in charge of nothing, just doing what he’s told to do.
    There are two ways to get to the planners’ goal. One is priestless parishes. The other is to organize parishes into groups with a priest pastor in charge of the group, but pastoral ministers in charge of the parishes. This seems to be the Boston plan.
    Here’s what they want to do with the parishes. Working class people seem to have no interest in coming to committee meetings and talking about themselves. From the planners’ point of view, then, they are unfit for religion. The planners think that the parishes in working class neighborhoods shouldn’t have schools, for example, and shouldn’t really be involved in religion at all. The planners think that those parishes should just be centers for the delivery of social services. They’ll have social workers and nurses and “pastoral ministers” “nourishing” the people who not only didn’t go to Duke or Tufts, they didn’t even go to Holy Cross or Fairfield.
    The planners think religion is OK for people with money. Working people are to be denied the Catholic faith, and it is to be replaced with the professional services of social workers.
    But the religion that people who have money are fit for is the “Gather Faithfully Together” religion. Lots of “gathering.” Lots of talk, especially about ourselves. It is the vague, talky, huggy religion that people on Church payrolls seem to love so much.
    So the danger of this reorganization plan is that it institutionalizes the religious beliefs of the pastoral planners. It will be very difficult for your next archbishop to undo this mess. The diocesan organization that works for the Catholic faith, as the centuries attest, is a bishop leading pastors who are in charge of parishes. This is a simple understandable organization that is, by the way, enshrined in canon law. Their organization is designed for their new religion.
    Like I say, I have not studied the Boston plan, but I have read a lot of the planners’ stuff and have written about how it applies in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
    As you say, something has to be done. The right answer is probably to have fewer parishes, even if some of those parishes have two or three churches.
    Keeping too many parishes open, too many parishes for priests to lead, lets lay bureaucrats control them. This may explain the bureaucrats’ support for the “occupiers” of the parishes already closed.

    • YOUGOTTABEKIDDING says:

      Phil,

      Very interesting, indeed. If I were not living here in this diocese, I might be swayed. However, I think that $$$$$$ is driving this plan, plain and simple, and a strident reluctance to engage priests from other countries and Orders who are ready, willing and able to serve.

      I don’t think the Archdiocese is looking to have “me” take over a church and be a de facto pastor. Nor do I think the Archdiocese has been especially considerate of the vigil folks. No one wants to see them taken out in hand cuffs. That would be a PR nightmare and the Archdiocese knows that.

      Time will tell however since the plan does talk about all this training for the laity. Hmmmmm. I don’t want to be clergy. I want to be a parishioner. I want a shepherd, not my next door neighbor, who attended a crash course in Catholicism.

      • philoutsider says:

        Yes, I may be wrong, but we’ll see, You have more facts about what’s going on there than I do. BCI’s view on the occupiers is different. Again, I’m down here in Philadelphia, but didn’t they “occupy” the churches without actually being there? Weren’t they evicted from some just by the archdiocese changing the locks?

        Things might be different in Boston because of the astronomical salaries at the top of the pyramid, but in general the bureaucrats are less interested in money than they say. For example, the biggest source of Catholics is Catholic schools. Any business would be careful with its greatest source of customers. The bureaucrats have no interest in any Catholic school that doesn’t have rich kids in it. The have no interest in the Church’s long term financial health.

        It will be interesting to see if once they have their “pastoral ministers” installed they’ll then recruit Third World priests as “sacramental ministers.”

        You don’t want to be clergy, so that means they have no interest in having you as a “pastoral minister.” Worse, you’re critical of their crash courses in Catholicism. If we had a planner here he’d go off about your disrespect for “adult faith formation” for quite a while. Besides you probably agree with the Pope on way too many issues for them.

        The national organization for pastoral planning bureaucrats is called “Council for Pastoral Planning and Council Development.” They have a lot of stuff on the web. It’s silly mush, but they take it very seriously. It reminds me of the kind of stuff Dilbert’s bosses always have him doing. Except Dilbert is one step ahead of the bishops. Dilbert knows that his goals are difference from his bosses’ goals. I hope the bishops figure this out.

      • Phil, interesting name for your blog! :-)

      • Allow BCI to just comment on the vigil folks. The consistent opinion of BCI regarding people occupying churches in “vigils” is that the Boston archdiocese was and has been too accommodating of them. Most vigils were allowed to continue for seven years. True, it would have been a PR nightmare to drag people out in handcuffs, but had the locks merely been changed when the churches were unoccupied, there would have been no PR nightmare for all but one church. BCI recommended to keep the buildings and properties until all appeals were exhausted, just without the occupancies.

        In retrospect, one might reasonably ask what percentage of the vigilers were active parishioners of the parish they occupied before their vigil began, what exactly did the vigils accomplish as results in the end, and were whatever results worth it in view of the potential damage to the vigilers’ immortal souls for those who committed the sin of failing to fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation?

  13. YOUGOTTABEKIDDING says:

    BCI, why does everyone (and why do you) assume that the vigilers do not attend Mass somewhere?? I don’t know that and don’t see how you do. Have they admitted this, individually??

    I assume that leaving the vigilers in the church saves the Archdiocese from paying the market rate for property tax. If there is still something going on with a religious purpose then it is exempt. Sooo, I assumed that aside from the PR catastrophe vigliers in cuffs would cause, it had to do with $$$$.

    Bottom line, I have no idea if the viglers do or do not attend Mass etc somewhere.

    • YOUGOTTABEKIDDING,
      Like you, BCI does not know with certainty whether all of the vigilers attended both their own lay-led services at the closed churches as well as Mass elsewhere every week. Articles like this one talk about the “Sunday lay-led service with the Communion host consecrated by a sympathetic priest.”
      http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/10/20/frances-cabrini-scituate-vigil-hits-years/jIiphSUozqS6pRL7ZVNiFN/story.html

      It seems unlikely to BCI that 880 people at Easter went to both the lay-led service and Mass celebrated by a Catholic priest. Would you not agree? That is why we raise this as a concern.

      Furthermore, we have heard repeatedly from people close to individual vigil situations that many of the vigilers were not active parishioners at the parish before it closed, and some never attended Mass there before.

      As for $$$$, we have previously cited the millions of dollars in cost to the archdiocese for heat, utilities, snow removal and building/property maintenance to keep the occupied buildings up to residential standards during the vigils. We have never heard an argument advanced that leaving vigilers in the church saved the Archdiocese money vs paying property taxes. Except in Scituate, the archdiocese was not paying property taxes. The archdiocese has always wanted to get the vigilers to vacate the properties.

      • YOUGOTTABEKIDDING says:

        BI, I get the point but I really have a hard time criticizing the vigilers. My heart goes out to them and I commend their spirit and stamina. I think if the Archdiocese wanted them out, they would be out.

        The Scituate property tax case was bad precedent for the Archdiocese. If any town or city wants the going property tax rate and the church is no longer used for religious purposes, then they will have to pay market rate. If the vigilers are present, there is still religious activites going on. Just an idea but could be a good reason for not interferring until one really wants to offload the property. I have no inside info on it, but could be a good explanation for the Archdiocese’s inaction.

  14. YOUGOTTABEKIDDING says:

    Philoutsider,

    You have an intriguing perspective and perhaps you are right on all fours. I will keep your position in mind. However, I do think it is about money here. And, this Archdiocese is BADLY in the red. They admit to 40% of the parishes not able to meet their bills. That is bleeding for sure.

    I have not really followed the issue of parochial schools up here but soooooo many have closed up over the years. I do think we have “inner city” schools though and I doubt they are attended by the wealthy. In fact, I think it is the opposite with many getting tuition waivers etc. This is not a criticism, just an observation.

    Gee, speaking of disrespect, I did not think of my comments as disrespectful at all. I just have a different opinion and never took the vow of obedience. LOL I don’t have to agree with everything the Archdiocese promotes. And, that is a good thing. What I find disrespectful is a priest carrying hosts in a baggy through the neighborhood streets. That trivializes the very heart of Catholicism, n’est ce pas??

    You are absolutely correct in that I have no desire at all to be a pastoral minister and wisely I would not be chosen as such. It is not my calling at all. I am a questioner and there is an important role for people like me to play and pastoral ministry is not it.

    • philoutsider says:

      Didn’t mean to imply that you were actually disrespectful, just that you didn’t display the excessive reverence for “adult faith formation” that the bureaucrats insist on. They’re a very, very serious bunch. They don’t like people who joke about crash courses in Catholicism or liturgical dancing or mission statements, or any important stuff like that.

      • YOUGOTTABEKIDDING says:

        Oh, I was not joking about “crash courses in Catholicism.” Perhaps my language is less deferential than some would like but it is what it is. I know that you were not implying that I was actually disrespectful. I think that some in the clergy view actual questioning as disrespectful. It is not. Rather, impetus for the questioning and the content may be based on the most profound respect for the church and the process.

  15. philoutsider says:

    BCI, I’m glad that I’m not looking at a intellectual property lawsuit over the name of my blog. I think I’ll put up a post over ther explaining why it has that name, and addressing some of the larger problems facing the Church in the United States. I think one big problem we have is that the goals of the people on the payroll are different from the goals Catholics should have.

  16. YOUGOTTABEKIDDING says:

    Found it!! Good blog, philoutsider, and intriguing re: Catholic school issue. Insightful analysis on Class 1 and Class 2. Gives me a different perspective here also. I will be looking with a differnt eye now.

    • philoutsider says:

      Thanks very much. I just put up a post where I briefly address my debt to BCI and how what I’m doing there is related to this blog. I’m still relieved that I’m not facing a trademark lawsuit as a result of my blatant stealing.

      You’re very right about our right to ask questions. Lay people aren’t supposed to be in charge of the Church, but we do have the right to ask questions. The fact that they don’t have answers to our questions tells us that something is very wrong.

      If somebody asked St. Charles Borromeo or St. John Vianney or Padre Pio why they were doing something, they would have gotten an honest answer. Maybe that answer would have been more blunt and direct than the questioner wanted, but it would have been an answer. The fact that none of our questions get answers that make any sense at all tells us something very important about the bureaucrats and their goals.

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