New Boston Chancellor Needs to Work on “Transparency”

As we get to the end of the year, BCI is catching up on some news from the fall we never got to cover. Today, we give an update regarding the “financial transparency” or lack thereof of the Boston Archdiocese under newly appointed Chancellor/Chief Financial Officer, John Straub.

Straub was serving as interim chancellor after previous Chancellor Jim McDonough left, and Straub was officially given the job in early October. When he was interviewed by the Boston Globe, Straub said:

“the Archdiocese had come a long way both with financial stability and financial transparency” and one of his goals would be to “continue to maintain that stability and transparency and enhance it where we can.”

Straub said that when Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley took the helm of the archdiocese in 2003 the church was financially “hemorrhaging.” Now, he said, “I would suggest we’ve reached a very stable point.”

“Maintaining that stability is a challenge for any organization,” he said, but he also noted that “the goal is never just to be stable, the goal is to be thriving.”

The words are great! But where is the action behind the words? We have three points today.

  1. If Mr. Straub wants to continue to maintain the financial transparency that was in place prior to his arrival, we suggest that he should post the 2012-2013 Central Ministries operating budget on the archdiocesan website, as has been done in years past but has not been done this year.  This lets faithful Catholics know exactly how and where their donations are being spent.  It is now already half-way through the fiscal year and surely it is about time that they post this important document.  Here is the 2011 Central Ministries Operating Budget and here is the 2012 Operating Budget.  Where is the 2013 operating budget?  We do not know.  If a few people reading this post would take a moment to write to Mr. Straub to ask for the 2012-13 budget, the personal outreach will no doubt make an impact. His email is: John_Straub(at)rcab.org,
  2. How can the Boston Archdiocese have “reached a very stable point” financially when 40-50% of parishes are in the red and can’t pay all of their bills?  How are those bills being paid today ?  Are parish deposits in Revolving Loan funds being used?  Are they raiding BCTV, or pension or health funds?  How long can whatever means of subsidizing parishes expenses from central funds keep up?   Is the Boston Archdiocese nearing our own “fiscal cliff” of sorts?
  3. Where is the transparency around the effort to reduce $3.5 million in excessive six-figure salaries for the 17 lay executives earning more than $150K/year?  The Finance Council formed a Compensation Committee in November 2010 to work on this.  Here we sit more than two years later, and except for commissioning an expensive consultant report which has still not been published publicly, nothing appears to have happened.  Mr. Straub, are you trying to reduce excessive costs and drive the Boston Archdiocese to be a good steward of donor funds, or is it just business as usual?

BCI hopes this little prod will help the new CFO/Chancellor uphold the commitment he made when he was appointed to this position that he would continue to maintain stability and transparency and enhance it where he can.

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8 Responses to New Boston Chancellor Needs to Work on “Transparency”

  1. Arthur Baselice says:

    Transparency by the rcc is just an illusion,
    nothing more !

  2. Transparency is needed everywhere so people will know where their money is being used. Noting the 7ML the Bishop’s appeal went to abortion facilities and contraception. Our parish got the message and donations are way down.
    Priests have a vocation of religion. Let them stay there and let others take care of the money.
    Transparency is also needed at the top. The vatican was reported to have 110,000 non relligious entities and are now going to be taxed for those, rightfully so. While many schools and parishes are being shut down due to financial problems -charitable money is going to buy non religious investments!!!??? Let us demand to know where every dime goes and demand to keep our money at “home” and keep our parishes and schools open!!!!GIVE TO HOME PROJECTS TO KNOW WHERE YOUR MONEY IS GOING!
    PLEASE GOD HELP US!

    PLEASE GOD HELP US!!!!

    • MK says:

      Are you actually saying that the Archdiocese spent $7 million dollars of the Cardinal’s Annual Appeal on abortion facilities and contraception? If so, could you please expand on where you got this information, what abortion facilities were funded, who was given contraceptives, etc.

    • Phyllis,
      Your comment as worded merits clarification and factual correction, lest readers assume, incorrectly, that the situation you refer to is in the Boston Archdiocese or is even related to any diocesan Bishop’s Appeal. BCI believes from what you wrote that you are referring to the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) having given $7.3M in funding to ACORN over 10 years. That is a bad situation, but it is very different than a local Bishop’s appeal funding abortion facilities and contraception.

      For the benefit of all readers, this was a comment from Phyllis back in March of this year, on our post, “Catholic Appeal Accountability”:

      http://bostoncatholicinsider.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/catholic-appeal-accountability/#comment-6352

      Phyllis Poole says:
      March 9, 2012 at 8:56 am

      I am not in your diocese or area. One reason for the drop in contributions could be explained because of the Bishop’s appeal money going to ACORN for $7ML in the 30 yrs it has existed. Other money going to HHD for distribution in the hands of abortionists, pornographers, prostitutes!!!
      In our diocese the Bishops Appeal has been woefully short this year and am proud of our parish, that we hardly came to their expectations at all. It will not be retreived to normal either. My money will be given directly to my parish for the needy of our parish and the utility bills.

      If what you are referring to is the CCHD funding for ACORN, it would be helpful for you to specifically identify the problem as being the $7M in donations by USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development to ACORN in recent years. Given ongoing concerns today about what programs the CCHD is funding, BCI believes that bishops should not push their diocesan parishioners to support the CCHD via second collections. Still, the CCHD is very different from the local diocesan Bishop’s appeal, and you would be well-served to view them as different in words and actions.

      To your point from your earlier post, given excessive spending by some dioceses, including Boston, withholding funds from the diocesan appeal and instead funding your parish directly by paying utility or operational bills is an excellent idea and we strongly encourage that.

  3. Carolyn says:

    In 2012, my parish raised a large (for us) amount of money through an organized activity to send as a donation to St. John’s Seminary. Then we read recently on BCI that the seminary “gave” $1million to the archdiocese to help pay for the Question 2 ballot question ads. We had asked the pastor that our donation to the seminary be restricted to a particular scholarship, or to funding technology improvements. He felt that a restriction would tie the rector’s hands, and that the rector should spend the money where he needed it most.

    One reason parishioners were so willing to dig deep to give the money to the seminary is that we had read in the Pilot that the seminary was full of men studying for the priesthood, and two members of our parish have taken classes in the MAM program. For us, this meant sending money somewhere that would do a great amount of good. We also liked the idea because we wouldn’t be helping to fund what we believe to be excessive expenditures by the archdiocese, as they are completely separate entities. (A parishioner who is a lawyer looked this up — the seminary is NOT part of Corporation Sole and never has been.)

    Wrong on both counts. If we could do it over, we would raise the money for the seminary but restrict the use very narrowly. We cannot trust the new chancellor or the cardinal. I only hope we can trust the rector if we decide to give to the seminary in the future.

    The seminary depends on donor dollars, and donors depend on their dollars being used for the seminary’s mission. Why can the cardinal or the chancellor pretend the seminary is a checkbook for the archdiocese? Is it because they are on the board of the seminary and can vote themselves a “transfer?” Isn’t that, for want of a better term, shady?

    Is the archdiocese nearing bankruptcy? Is that why it takes money from the seminary, even though it should not? Or does the archdiocese not know that it must spend only what it takes in, and that the seminary’s money cannot be used for the Archdiocese?

    • Carolyn says:

      P.S. Not everyone on the South Shore is wealthy — we made the donation without lessening what we gave to our parish offertory. For some of us, it was a pinch. Now it’s followed by a kick in the head…

  4. Jack O'Malley says:

    Just a quick Happy New Year to BCI and thanks for all you do to bring the archdiocese back to the Faith. All the best for 2013 and keep up the good work.

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