Dead Branches

January 29, 2013

A number of readers have pointed out this ChurchMilitant.tv video, as it highlights what is happening in Boston.

Michael Voris says:

“Take a look at the educational establishment .. universities and local religious ed departments. Closely examine the sprawling infrastructures and bureaucracies that
permeate every diocese and archdiocese. Take a good long look at them all .. and then prepare to say goodbye. There is simply no way in 20 years .. most likely less that this sprawling behemoth is still going to be around. It has simply abandoned its mission of saving souls and making saints and as such .. the need for it no longer exists.
Take a look at the Archdiocese of Boston for example.”

BCI agrees that the Boston Archdiocese seems to have all but abandoned the mission of saving souls and making saints. The coronation-style funeral of the late Ted Kennedy was a scandal. Parish-run catechesis is often run by dissidents, and some of the parish leaders who allow such dissident-run catechesis are now delivering catechesis for the archdiocesan-sponsored program. We have a few additional comments.

The new pastoral plan maintains the canonical structure of a “parish,” so Boston will still technically have 290 parishes, but organized into 125 smaller groupings or “collaboratives” with a one pastor for each collaborative of parishes.  Still, it is interesting to consider if there is a point where Boston should no longer be an “ARCHdiocese” and instead should be a “diocese.”

Where are there “dead branches” in Boston that should be pruned?  Here are a few starting points for Cardinal O’Malley:

  • PR firm Rasky Baerlein, whose principals are primarily former staff or fundraisers for Joe Biden and/or contributors to the campaigns of Joe Biden and President Obama
  • Jack Connors, who has raised millions for pro-abortion political candidates who oppose the Catholic Church on fundamental moral principles as well as our religious freedom
  • Fr. Bryan Hehir, who really does not have meaningful job, except managing Terry Donilon and the increasingly ineffective Mass Catholic Conference, but manages to get in the way of the good people who remain

And most of the $150K+ people on this list:

RCAB salaries 2012

More on the excessive six-figure salaries in our next post.


Errata

January 29, 2013

BCI made a mistake in our post last week on the 2012  financial results for the Boston Archdiocese that we need to correct.

We reported that the Catholic Appeal raised $13.6M in the 2012 year, missing their goal ($14M) and raising $100K less than the year before, with a bigger staff than the prior year. Although  the 2012 Annual Report showed a contribution of $13.6M from the Catholic Appeal to the Central Fund income, and it is correct they have a bigger staff then the prior year; we were wrong in saying they missed their fundraising goal of $14M.

The timing of the Catholic Appeal fundraising “year” (March to the following January) is different from the fiscal year (July 1 to June 30), so what is reported in the Annual Report for contribution of the Catholic Appeal to operating income never aligns identically with the fundraising cycle. In addition, numbers from the Catholic Appeal are described in any of a variety of ways:

  • Fundraising pledges: When the archdiocese announces a fundraising goal and then actually releases the result, the fundraising folks count whatever they can and want to in pledges for this year, even if all of the money does not come in right away, and some may not come in at all. For example, there could be a big gift pledged this year while the cash will arrive over subsequent years.  There is provision for bad debt.  So, the accountants adjust reporting on the books to allow for bad debts and the time value of pledges before they come in.  Or the total amount raised by the Catholic Appeal could include pledges made to the Catholic Appeal but designated for use by related entities such as St. Johns Seminary or Catholic TV.

    This brings up a point often made by BCI readers–is the Boston Archdiocese actually giving all Catholic Appeal contributions designated for a related entity (e.g. St. Johns Seminary) to the related entity, or is some being kept by the archdiocese?  The fundraising and accounting folks have assured various donors that they absolutely pass along donations to the designated entity; however, several readers report that in past years they have contacted the seminary to confirm their seminary-designated Catholic Appeal donation got to seminary, and they have been told that never happened. Somehow, an error was mysteriously made and the check was cashed, but the donation was misplaced en route from the RCAB to the Seminary.

  • Budgeted contribution from the Catholic Appeal to Central Operations:  this is the amount in the operating budget plan for the fiscal year that the archdiocese expects the appeal will contribute to operating revenue.  One would think this budget for July 1-June 30 would be published at the beginning of the fiscal year in July, but they usually publish it only in January, mid-way through the year, after BCI nags them publicly for a few months.
  • Actual income from the Catholic Appeal to Central Operations: this is the actual amount of Catholic Appeal-generated funds used for revenue in the fiscal year July 1-June 30 published in the Annual Report

In summary, BCI erred in saying the appeal missed their $14M goal for the most recent cycle–in fact that result has not yet been announced.  As of late June 2012, the archdiocese announced the appeal was “going strong” and “rapidly approaching their fiscal 2012 goal of $14M” so when they announce the results in about a month or so, it’s likely they will announce they met their goal.   BCI apologizes for the error and any confusion caused by the error. We have removed that passage from our last post.


March for Life

January 26, 2013

Before we continue reporting on the financial situation for the Boston Archdiocese, we want to briefly commend all those who participated in the March for Life on Friday in Washington, DC. A report in LifeNews says an estimated 400,000-500,000 people attended.

Cardinal O’Malley, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities told a crowd assembled on the National Mall before the march, “Forty years ago, people thought opposition to the pro-life movement would eventually disappear…The march grows stronger every year.” He also read a Twitter message from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, “I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life.”

The prior week, Cardinal O’Malley had called for nine days of prayer and penance to mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade.  BCI thinks that is a good move. But what else is Cardinal O’Malley himself doing?  Here are excerpts from and editorial by Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture that bear some consideration by Cardinal O’Malley:

Bishops must shoulder their responsibility in the pro-life struggle

Cardinal Sean O’Malley is certainly right to call for fasting and prayer this week, as we sadly observe the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The abortion issue—the ongoing slaughter of countless millions of innocent children—is not just another ordinary political question like the “fiscal cliff” debate. This is not merely a political contest but a spiritual battle.

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)

Pro-lifers have been fighting the political battle against abortion for 40 years, and still the bloodshed continues. Perhaps it is time to recognize that the culture of death is one of those evils that “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Yes, certainly we should fast and pray… For that matter, in a struggle of this importance we should use every means at our disposal..All the different forms of pro-life work—the lobbying and educational campaigns, pregnancy-help centers…speeches and demonstrations—have their place…We should all be doing everything in our power, in the natural order as well as the supernatural, to end the abomination of legal abortion on demand.

But there is one powerful tool that has not yet been put to use in the pro-life struggle, and one group of people who have not yet done what they can do for the cause. I refer to the American Catholic bishops, and the use of ecclesiastical discipline.

Forty years after Roe there remain dozens of prominent politicians who identify themselves as Catholics, but actively promote the culture of death. These “pro-choice Catholics” are a source of confusion to the public and scandal to the Church.

The US Catholic bishops have issued many fine statements on the evils of abortion and the dignity of human life. But statements are one thing, actions another; and when one’s actions do not match one’s public pronouncements, those statements lose value. The bishops have warned that Catholic politicians who promote abortion are separating themselves from the communion of the Church. But they have not followed up, as necessary, by taking disciplinary action against those politicians who have not heeded their warning.

If a Catholic in his diocese is promoting abortion, a Catholic bishop has a solemn obligation to take three steps:

First, admonition. The bishop should call the erring politician to a private meeting, rebuke him, and warn him that he is putting his soul in jeopardy.

Second, denunciation. If the politician remains obstinate, the bishop should make his rebuke public, letting the world know that the Church views the politician’s actions as gravely wrong. A specific public statement, naming names, is necessary to address a public scandal…

Third, exclusion from Communion. The Code of Canon Law (#915) instructs clerics to protect the Eucharist from scandal, by refusing to administer the sacrament to those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.” The enforcement of Canon 915 is not optional; it is a moral obligation. Yet the American bishops have chosen to ignore that obligation.

As long as our bishops are not doing all that they can do (and only they can do), the American pro-life movement is not doing its utmost to fight for an end to abortion. Yes, we should fast and pray. Yes, we should engage in practical pro-life activism. But we should also beg our bishops to shoulder their own responsibility in this battle….

Imagine that your doctor tells you that you must lose weight quickly or your life will be in danger. You pray that you will meet your weight-loss goals, and ask your friends to join with you in those prayers. Good. But if you continue routinely to tuck into second helpings of dessert, can you really expect those prayers to be answered?

Cardinal O’Malley, you have the bully-pulpit of being Chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the three years.  What action are YOU personally going to address the scandal of so-called “Catholic” politicians like John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, and others?

About a month ago, when Cardinal O’Malley said we need more true Catholics in politics and the media, we commended him for the words and said he needed to walk the talk.  Still we see and hear just talk, no walk.  We repeat what Fr. Roger Landry said in 2009, describing the controversy over  the funeral for the late Ted Kennedy:

…one of the reasons why Kennedy’s example was so injurious to the Church was because the pastors of the Church, for the most part, made the imprudent call to do little or nothing about it beyond general teaching statements that they hoped offending politicians would apply to themselves. There were no real consequences, and as a result, Senator Kennedy, scores of other Catholic politicians, and millions of American Catholic lay people concluded that the Church’s teachings in defense of human life cannot be that important if those who publicly and repeatedly act in violation of it do so with impunity.

Cardinal O’Malley, please look in the mirror.  YOU are one of the pastors of the Church who, for the most part, did little about Ted Kennedy beyond general teaching statements you hoped people like Kennedy would apply, but which they did not.  There have been no consequences, so the a “Catholic” politicians continued to act repeatedly in violation of Church teachings in defense of human life.   What are YOU personally going to do differently, besides ask Catholics to pray, fast, and do penance?

(Next time we will be back to the topic of Boston Archdiocese finances)


Boston Archdiocese Reports Deficit, $137M Debt

January 23, 2013

With almost no fanfare, the Boston Archdiocese released the 2012 Annual Report on Friday. This stands in contrast to last year, when the archdiocese released the 2011 results saying they had a “balanced budget,” when that really was not true.  Central Operations for the archdiocese ran at a loss of about $6.8M, and the archdiocese also faces their own “fiscal cliff” of sorts as they have $137M of debt and no obvious way of paying it right now.

For all who care about the future of the Boston Archdiocese and her ability to carry out the saving mission of Jesus Christ for generations to come, there is reason for serious concern.

The report, available here, presents a lot of data, and it is easy to be overwhelmed with the data and miss the meaning of the data, as the Boston Globe did in their article on Friday. Once you look at the big picture, the message should raise alarm bells at 66 Brooks Drive and at the Vatican that we can no longer have “business as usual.”  A few finance experts looked over the report and helped shed insight for us into the data. Here are just some of the key things you should know:

  • Despite a “balanced budget” announced for the 2011 fiscal year, the recently released financial statements show (page 24, and page 73–Column 2) that the Central Operations of the archdiocese had an operating loss of $6.8 million in 2012 and $6.3M in 2011 (page 24). BCI pointed out the deception last year, and at least this year, they did not say they had a balanced budget–they just said they had a goal of having one.
  • They also reveal that Parish Reconfiguration funds have been tapped out.  $12.3M dollars over the past 5-6 years went for “Distributions to agencies and departments that provided program assistance and support to parishes.” Since almost all Pastoral Center departments support parishes, this really means: “Pastoral Center departments who are normally funded by the Central Fund were subsidized by $12.3M from a source no longer available.
  • About $11.1 million from Reconfiguration Funds was used to cover expenses from maintaining the properties of closed churches over the past 6+ years.
  • During the past six years, insurance reserves that were $15M in 2006 have been depleted to zero or near zero (see this 2010 BCI blog post and p. 16 of the 2012 Annual Report)
  • “A number” of the 78 parishes that were in Phases I and II of the Improved Financial Relationship Model program as of June 30, 2012 saw improved operating performance when compared to fiscal 2011. We are not told exactly what number “a number” means.  If it were more than half, the archdiocese would probably tell us. That suggests the majority saw worse results.
  • The archdiocese has “major liabilities” of $93.9 million for unfunded clergy pension and post retirement obligations and $43.5 million in debt owed to St. John’s Seminary. As of now, we are not told how they intend to fund these.  Nothing is said about the roughly $50M or so that is owed to employees and former employees when they changed the lay pension plan and cut pensions back in 2011.
  • Virtually nothing has been done to address the problem of excessive six-figure salaries. The long-awaited report by the Compensation Committee found that of 16 lay executives paid $150K+, 6 are way over-paid–making above the 75th percentile for that they found were comparable roles, 6 are somewhat overpaid–making between the 50th and the 75th
    percentiles for comparable roles, and 5 have positions somehow “unique to our Archdiocese and are paid comparably to peers in the Archdiocese with similar levels of responsibility.”  That last part in quotes sounds like those 5 people are overpaid in a manner comparable to how their peers are overpaid.  In other words, just about everyone is overpaid. The only cost-saving action being taken is to not give a cost of living increase to the 6 who are way over-paid.

The messages from Cardinal O’Malley and Chancellor Straub in the annual report really give no sense for the dire reality facing us, and there is much more detail in each of the above that we will begin to cover in our future posts.

With the Archdiocese containing to hemorrhage operationally and covering the losses by depleting other funds, it is time to ask several questions:
  1. What funds are going to get tapped or looted in the coming years to pay the bills?
  2. How will the Clergy Funds debt and St. Johns Seminary debts of nearly $140M be paid? (And will the $50M+ in unpaid lay pension obligations currently not on the balance sheet ever be dealt with?)
  3. Is the new Pastoral Plan, “Disciples in Mission” expected to somehow miraculously solve all of the financial problems and concerns above during the next 5 years? What else will the leadership and management team of the Boston Archdiocese really do differently in running Central Operations?

There is a tremendous amount of good and potential in the Boston Archdiocese–great priests, hard-working pastoral staffs in parishes (and some still in the  Pastoral Center) who care about advancing the saving mission of Jesus Christ and the mission of the Catholic Church, a new commitment to evangelization and faith formation, and more.  But, the issues above are gravely serious ones, and it feels like, except for “Disciples in Mission,” it is still largely “business as usual” inside the operations and management at 66 Brooks Drive.

Halfway through their terms in office, Massachusetts Gov. Patrick and President Obama have had major changes in their executive leadership teams.  Here we sit half-way through Cardinal Sean’s term in office as Archbishop of Boston. At least as one step towards change, is it not time for him to try something different–like for starters, lowering lay executive salaries and/or moving out most, if not all of the expensive lay execs who arrived between 2004-2006, and bringing in some less expensive talent committed to the saving ministry of Jesus Christ and not just a big paycheck? Get rid of Rasky Baerlein and his $180K+ PR guy and bring in a PR team committed to the saving mission of Jesus Christ? Move along a certain senior aide with responsibility over pro-life activities who would rather camp out in his warm office at Harvard than brave the cold and attend the March for Life?

That is what BCI thinks. What do you think?


George Weigel on Evangelical Catholicism in Boston

January 19, 2013

Catholic author and Pope John Paul II biographer, George Weigel, spoke at St. Columbkille in Brighton on the topic of “evangelical Catholicism” this past Monday in Boston.  About 250-300 people were in attendance and the event was also livecast over the Internet. This talk was part of the Year of Faith “Catholic Essentials” year-long course for adults being run by the Boston Archdiocese, orchestrated by Bishop Arthur Kennedy, who is responsible for evangelization, with help from the Catholic Media Group.  BCI is a fan of George Weigel and thought the event was excellent. We found a number of things noteworthy about the program we will share.

Excerpts from his talk, as reported in The Pilot:

In his talk, he said evangelical Catholicism displays 10 characteristics that provide a profile of the Catholic Church of the future and suggest standards for continued and deep reform of the Church. [BCI will share the first five]

“First, evangelical Catholicism is radically Christo-centric, or in the phrase of Benedict XVI, evangelical Catholicism is friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The Catholicism of the counter-reformation asks the people of the Church to know who Jesus Christ is, and through that knowledge about him to meet him. Evangelical Catholicism begins with meeting and knowing Christ Himself, the primordial sacrament of the human encounter with God,” Weigel said.

He also said evangelical Catholicism affirms divine revelation and embraces its authority as continued through the teaching authority of the Church as Catholics “embrace the authority that Jesus represents and incarnates, the authority of the living God who reveals himself in deed and word to the people of Israel, and who finally and definitively reveals himself in his son.”

“That divine authority is what gives both Scripture and the Church their unique authority,” he said.

He then presented the importance of Church teaching on the sacraments, particularly baptism and the Eucharist, in evangelical Catholicism.

“Third, evangelical Catholicism is a radically sacramental Church. The twin poles of its sacramental life are baptism and the Eucharist,” Weigel said.

In his next point he addressed conversion to Christ as something that remains constant and develops throughout life.

“Fourth, evangelical Catholicism is a call to constant conversion of life, which involves both the rejection of evil and active participation in the works of service and charity,” he said.

He said in his next point that evangelical Catholicism draws from tradition both ancient and authentic, as the Church provides teaching not easily stereotyped as traditionalist or progressive. He said the evangelical Catholic Church recognizes the value of extraordinary form Masses as a means to “accelerate a reform of the reform” of the liturgy, but called liturgical conflicts between traditionalists and progressives “deeply tiresome liturgy wars.”

BCI found the Q&A to be especially interesting, starting with the first question:

Q. “How do we clergy and laity evangelize dissenting Catholics who claim to be authentically Catholic?”

A. (Weigel) “Vigorously!  We have 40 years of trouble to work on here. The notion that there is such a thing as private judgment in Catholicism is now rife throughout the church. One resource we have to deal with this is the Catechism. This was one of the fruits of the Synod of Bishops called to mark the 20th anniversary of Vatican 2. The Catechism lays out, in many respects in a quite beautiful way, what we might call the symphony of Catholic truth. I think it’s important to invite those who are only hearing the flutes or  the clarinets to hear the whole symphony. They might find it a more attractive aesthetic experience and indeed a religious experience.

The parallel problem as we all experience, and perhaps you experience more than others here  Massachusetts, is a tendency to create a barrier between ones Catholic life and ones public life. This is a serious problem.  Voting is an act of public judgement.  It should be shaped by both mind and heart. In a moment in our history when both the right to life and religious freedom—absolute fundamentals of democratic society– are in jeopardy, I think each one of us has a responsibility to speak frankly with family,  friends, neighbors, fellow alumni of institutions (that will go nameless) and say it’s the bottom of the 9th inning on some of these things. and we need to get serious.

Throughout the fall, I must have spoken to several dozen Catholic audiences. Every time someone would complain that this bishop hasn’t done this and this hasn’t done that. I would ask that person how many of the people you come into contact with daily, have you convinced of our point of view?  Look in the mirror and see the agent of the new evangelization! (applause)

In responses to other questions, Weigel talked about the need to protect the unborn as well as help women with crisis pregnancies, he talked about evangelization with the younger generation (via progams like Focus, Eucharistic adoration and being in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord, praying for specific intercessions, having a beautiful aesthetic experience with fine music and liturgy), and reading about the lives of the saints. (BCI differs with Weigel on one point he made regarding recently canonized saints, but we will leave that aside for now).

The event was very good. The only criticism BCI has originates from a reader who notified us of what they felt was a disturbing removal of their comment from the live chat by the Catholic Media folks monitoring the chat. Near the end of the program, an announcement was made by Catholic Media Secretary Scot Landry about the next session, featuring Fr. John Sassani on “How did Jesus pray?”  The reader tells BCI they posted a comment questioning why Fr. Sassani would be leading a faith formation session sanctioned by the archdiocese when he has permitted a Yoga Prayer program at his parish, despite warnings from the Vatican about the spiritual dangers of yoga and when he has a book club at his parish reading  a book by noted dissident nun, Sr. Joan Chittister, “In Search of Belief.”  The reader tells BCI they were on the online chat after the event while people were posting comments about the program when they posted their comment, and then it was removed, while other comments about the program added subsequently were allowed.  The reader pointed BCI to Our Ladys’ bulletin and a comment by a reader, “Newton church-hopper” on our last post:

Our Ladys Book Club was reading “sister” Joan Chittister’s “In Search of Belief” last fall.
http://www.ourladys.com/3communications/12_OLbulletin1117.pdf
Chittister is a dissident nun, 60′s leftist and new-ager, supports women’s ordination, speaks at Call to Action conferences.

http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=160011

What an insult to the Blessed Virgin Mary for Fr. Sassani to have “Our Ladys Book Club” reading a book by a dissident nun who disobeyed the Vatican’s request she not speak at a women’s ordination conference!!!!:
http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=4090&CFID=32341358&CFTOKEN=68695370

While the archdiocese does have the right to moderate their chat, if that occurred, BCI shares the reader concern about the archdiocese sponsoring the propagation of perspectives when the presenter has some record of encouraging parishioners to do things or read content contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. If, as Weigel said, “evangelical Catholicism embraces its authority as continued through the teaching authority of the Church,”  then why do we have people teaching about the Catholic faith who promote programs in their parish bulletin that have content which is actually contrary to the teaching authority of the Church?  BCI will send a message to those responsible for this program and see if we get any response.

Next time, we will cover an analysis of the recently announced 2012 Annual Report and many concerns faithful Catholics should have. We are sifting through the reports now.


Boston Archdiocese Unveils First Wave of Massive Parish Reorganization. Watch Out!

January 11, 2013

The first wave of a massive change to the organization of parishes in the Boston Archdiocese was unveiled on Thursday. BCI is getting concerned that a well-intentioned and much-needed plan has the potential to turn into a train-wreck based on some early indicators. Read on.

Here is a link to the announcement by the archdiocese, including the list from the Archdiocese of the 28 parishes that will be grouped into 12 clusters (or “collaboratives”) in the first phase of the reorganization plan:

1. Saint Luke and Saint Joseph, Belmont
2. Saint Mary, Saint Margaret, Saint John, Beverly
3. Saint Mary, Saint Theresa, Saint Andrew, Billerica
4. Saint Mary, Brookline (a one-parish collaborative)
5. Saint Mary of the Angels, Roxbury and Saint Thomas and Our Lady of Lourdes, Jamaica Plain
6. Saint Mary and Sacred Heart, Lynn
7. Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Maria Goretti, Lynnfield
8. Saint Lucy and Saint Monica, Methuen
9. Sacred Heart, Middleboro and Saints Martha and Mary, Lakeville
10. Sacred Heart and Our Lady Help of Christians, Newton
11. Saint James, Saint John, Immaculate Conception, and Saint Anne, Salem
12. Saint Jerome and Immaculate Conception, Weymouth

Here is a summary from the Boston Globe:

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston on Thursday announced the names of more than two dozen parishes participating in the first phase of a major reorganization that will eventually group the archdiocese’s 288 parishes into about 135 clusters, each led by a team of clergy and lay leaders.

The reorganization, to be phased in over five years, is designed to help parishes cope with diminished Mass attendance, a shortage of priests, and anemic fund-raising. Church officials hope the plan will eventually strengthen parishes and help reverse those trends.

The 28 parishes participating in the pilot phase — diverse in size, wealth, ethnicity, and geography — will be grouped into 12 clusters, or “collaboratives.” The collaboratives will gradually take shape over the next two years, as clergy and lay leaders are assigned and trained, and teams from each one create a long-term plan.

The parishes will remain open, but church officials said they hope will learn to work together to share resources.

This topic merits much more attention than time and space permit BCI to give to it today. We will share a few initial observations.

First, a new pastoral plan is a necessity given the changing dynamics above–but, for the record, it should be noted that the biggest problems are failed leadership at the highest levels of the archdiocese and diminished Mass attendance, which then translates to lower contributions. When BCI looks at the numbers, though we have fewer priests, the ratio of priests to active Mass-going Catholics is actually proportionate today to what the ratio was decades ago when we had more priests and more Mass-going Catholics.  It is unclear why the media does not realize that and the archdiocese does not publicly say that. We will get you data in the near future.

Second, it seems to BCI that the archdiocese is putting the cart before the horse. Just as we were thinking this yesterday, one long-time reader observed to BCI via email:

“RCAB has done nothing to build trust in its Catholics.  It has done nothing to foster the proper formation for staff and laity to handle how these changes happen — they have definitely put the cart before the horse. So with no trust, and the average parish council member not knowing the canonical difference between “church” and “parish,” there is likely to be a lot more heat generated than light.”

The right sequence would be to get the right people with strong leadership qualities and proud adherence to true Catholic Church teachings on-board  first to help lead and guide the path ahead–and also get the wrong people out of any leadership roles.  Then, you form and educate people with real authentic catechesis, not just “the new evangelization training.” And after that, then you roll out the changes.  The archdiocese has the order all wrong.

Third, the lack of financial transparency by the Boston Archdiocese is going to continue to hurt, rather than help build trust and enable success. Just one  example is described in this post, New Boston Chancellor Needs to Work on Transparency.  More than halfway into the fiscal year, there is still no published operational budget, as was published in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  Several readers report they wrote to Chancellor John Straub, some multiple times, and got no response. Any of the following could be the reason: a) He is not sufficiently capable or competent that he has produced a budget more than halfway into the fiscal year and is still working on it, b)  He is unconcerned about delivering what faithful Catholics are looking for in order to trust the archdiocese, c) He has a budget, but will not share it because there is something the archdiocese is hiding, such as mingling funds from separate entities, or borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, d) he flat out lied or deceived everyone when, upon his promotion to Chancellor, he said publicly, one of his goals would be to “continue to maintain that stability and transparency and enhance it where we can.”  Given this budget was published for the past 3 years, we have clearly gone backwards from the past. He has also failed to respond to inquiries about how the bills for 40-50% of parishes in the red are being paid. The next step for some readers is to take the matter to the Papal Nuncio and the Vatican  Congregation for Bishops. If the report does not appear soon, BCI may start a campaign calling for a new Chancellor to be named, since John Straub is already missing the mark.

Fourth, the arrangement of collaboratives, and nature of clergy personnel decisions could be wrought with controversy.  How will a doctrinally orthodox parish mesh with one that is doctrinally less orthodox?  For example, in Newton, the example cited with parishioner comments in the Globe article, a number of readers have written to share concerns because Sacred Heart has been led by a former seminary instructor and doctrinally orthodox pastor, Fr. John Connolly, who is in his 80s and near retirement, while Our Lady Help of Christians was led by the not-doctrinally-orthodox Fr. Walter Cuenin and is currently led by Fr. John Sassani, whose orthodoxy is exemplified by his recently permitting a Yoga Prayer program at the parish, despite clear admonitions from the Vatican’s Congregation of the Faith about the spiritual dangers of yoga. Sacred Heart has had pro-life Masses on a monthly basis, while in contrast, the Social Justice group at Our Ladys used to march in the annual Boston Gay Pride parade. Sacred Heart and nearby St. Bernards both have weekly Eucharistic Adoration on Saturday mornings; Our Ladys has no regular time for Eucharistic Adoration. When Our Ladys was renovated in the late 1990s, they installed a Protestant-style in-ground baptismal pool in the floor near the altar–and not long after the church reopened, BCI is told a lay Eucharistic minister fell into the baptismal pool during Communion, dropping a glass chalice on the marble floor, which shattered and spilled the precious blood of Christ on the floor. Now they have rubber mats and cordons to prevent that problem, but other liturgical concerns remain. The differences in the leadership, culture, liturgies and orthodoxy of the parishes could not be greater. Who will ultimately be the pastor of the collaborative? Will he be orthodox or not? How will the two diametrically different parishes blend together and make decisions? Beyond this collaborative, how will all clergy personnel decisions be made?  Will decisions be influenced by back-room dealings outside of standard pastoral appointment processes, as happened with the naming of Msgr. Paul Garrity to St. Catherine’s in Norwood in 2011 after Garrity had announced his retirement from the priesthood?  What will an orthodox parish do if and when their new pastor for the collaborative is not decidely not orthodox?

Lastly, the failed leadership at the top in the Boston Archdiocese will continue to undermine the chances for success of this broad, very important initiative. Bishop Deeley’s comments about why this effort will succeed are reflective of the problem. In the archdiocesan press release, he said, “We have confidence that Disciples in Mission will be successful because it is the fruit of a collaborative effort with clearly defined goals and objectives.”  Where to start on this one?

What are the measurable objectives?  How many Catholics is each collaborative expected to bring back to the Church by what date?  How much is weekly Mass attendance across the archdiocese expected to increase by, in what timeframe?

Worse still is the misguided notion that the initiative will succeed because it comes from a “collaborative effort with clear goals.” The Big Dig came from a collaborative effort with clear goals.  Obamacare came from a collaborate effort with clear goals. So did the 9/11 terrorist acts. So did the Nazi Holocaust. Are collaboration and having goals really the essential factors to have a model for “success”? Does the Vicar General really believe that collaboration with clear goals makes an initiative succeed?

First off, an initiative like this will succeed, if and only if, it has strong leadership starting at the top, and the initiative is rooted from top to bottom in the authentic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.  Strong leadership at the top means the archbishop is passionately committed to his episcopal responsibilities to teach, sanctify and govern. How is that going lately?  We have documented failures there since 2010. Furthermore, “leadership” as defined by an expert in the field, means attributes like integrity (alignment of words and actions with inner values, walking the talk, sticking to strong values, and building an entire organization with powerful and effective cultural values), dedication (spending whatever time and energy on a task is required to get the job done, giving your whole self to the task, dedicating yourself to success and to leading others with you), magnanimity (giving credit where it is due and accepting personal responsibility for failures), humility (recognizing that you are not inherently superior to others and thus they are not inferior to you), openness (being able to listen to ideas that are outside one’s current mental models),  and creativity (thinking differently, being able to get outside the box and take a new and different viewpoint on things).  On just the first three attributes–integrity, dedication, and magnanimity, the report card for our episcopal leadership is not very good. As for how well-rooted the archdiocese is in the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church, just look at their PR firm (filled with former Biden staff and Biden/Obama fundraisers), proudly ex-Catholic HR executive director, Secretary for Social Services and Healthcare (who speaks on panels with anti-Catholics like Barney Frank and thinks Catholic identity means supporting the controversial Catholic Campaign for Human Development), Campaign for Catholic Schools chair who raises millions of dollars for pro-abortion political figures, and certain parish adult faith formation programs.

BCI has been hoping and praying that the archdiocese can pull off this new pastoral plan successfully. But, the challenges and shortcomings above cause BCI to believe the archdiocese still does not get it. We wish we did not feel compelled to say this, but we simply do not think the Boston Archdiocese has what it takes right now to make this ambitious undertaking successful.  Longtime readers can attest that we have been right with our assessments a whole lot more since 2010 than we have been wrong. That is what BCI thinks.  What do you think?


2012 Boston Archdiocese Year in Review

January 5, 2013

Before we get too far into 2013, BCI thought we would offer a quick review of some of the highlights and lowlights of the past year in the Boston Archdiocese.

In our opinion, the most significant milestones were the departure of the previous Chancellor, the approval of the new pastoral plan that will shape parish life for many years ahead, the Question 2/Physician Assisted Suicide campaign, the continued inaction on excessive six-figure salaries even in the face of the new Motu Proprio, and the unwillingness or inability of Cardinal O’Malley to get rid of people like Jack Connors whose personal actions work against the Catholic Church.

2012 started with a bang in January with Fr. Bryan Hehir appearing on a panel “Truth, Lies, and Politics.” that featured anti-Catholic U.S. Rep. Barney Frank. A number of people complained to the office of Vicar General Msgr. Deeley. Fr. Hehir commented on the panel that “telling the moral truth about how we make decisions is important for people whose faces we will never see, but who are touched by American power.”  We are still unclear on how Fr. Hehir would expect political figures such as Barney Frank to possibly tell the “moral truth” about their decisions that are fundamentally immoral, such as supporting abortion.  The appearance with Barney Frank is not surprising, given the other venues Fr. Hehir has spoken at during his time as a priest.

Late January brought the Obama administration’s “unconscionable” birth control mandate upon Catholic institutions, which violates our religious freedom. This was a part of Obamacare, whose passage was supported by the Catholic Health Association. Naturally, Fr. Hehir had publicly praised the CHA in 2010 for their “intelligent and courageous leadership” in pushing for passage of Obamacare.

Late January also brought the first pass at the framework for the new pastoral plan, with the foundation being the new concept of Pastoral Service Teams to serve multiple parishes in a collaborative.

The really big news of January was that former Chancellor Jim McDonough resigned.  BCI had been pushing for his removal for some time, and we were pleased to see that happen. John Straub was named Interim Chancellor.

2011-2012 fiscal year results were announced just before the resignation of Jim McDonough. The archdiocese claimed a balanced budget, but the Chancellor prior to Jim McDonough did an analysis that found the budget was not actually balanced, and our analysis of the numbers found the same concerns.  A comparison between 2006 and 2011 found that Management and Overhead expenses were up $8 million or 71% and Pastoral Programs were down $6.1 million or 27%. BCI found that administrative expenses have grown from 26% of the expenses to 36% of expenses over the past 6 years.

The 2011-2012 annual report also showed that 17 people earn compensation of $150K+ a year. That sums more than $3.5M--and represents an increase of 600% in six years in the cost of compensation for people making $150K/year or more. The Compensation Committee that was supposed to deal with this problem wrote a short statement saying they had hired an outside consultant and were hoping to do something in June, when annual reviews would be done. No meaningful action has been taken as best as we can determine.

In March, the Catholic Appeal was launched and the previous year results were announced–another miss for the new fundraising “dream team.” The 2011 Catholic Appeal raised $13.7M, against their goal announced in April 2011 of $14M.  No explanation was provided for the team that is supposed to be “transparent and accountable.” Years after the Campaign for Catholic Schools 2010 initiative ended, we still heard nothing about how they did towards their original goal of raising $70M by the end of 2010.

In March, we also saw the Pastoral Center officially offer a yoga class to employees, even though the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had stated concerns that Eastern practices such as yoga, Zen, and transcendental meditation posed a danger, in that they could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that edged out “the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit.  It was offered by the private yoga instructor of the HR Exec. Director, a proud ex-Catholic, and this fell under the auspices of Interim Chancellor Straub, who did nothing to stop the class. Complaints to the Vicar General resulted in him acknowledging the spiritual dangers of yoga, but defending the class as just “stretching exercise.”  If it was just a “stretching exercise,” then why not just offer a stretching class?

In April, the Boston Herald wrote “Up in Alms About Salaries, noting how, since 2006, the archdiocese has cut 50 staff members but payroll costs increased by nearly $1 million. The payroll went from $8.3 million in 2006 to $9.2 million last year despite dramatic job cuts. Spokesman Terrence Donilon, with total compensation and benefits of $193,000, defended the excessive six-figure salaries saying, “These folks are immensely talented people who are helping one of the largest archdioceses in the country repair itself.”  Meanwhile, 40-50% of parishes cannot pay their bills and have to pay the archdiocese 18% of collections to help sustain the bloated bureaurcracy.

In April, the archdiocese also ended the seven-year parish vigil at Our Lady of Mount Carmel by changing the locks on the doors of the church–something BCI had been suggesting for almost two years.

In May, the archdiocese got more active promoting the cause of religious freedom and opposition to the HHS contraception mandate, including promoting the USCCB “Fortnight of Freedom” and a Boston “town hall meeting” with Cardinal O’Malley on June 25.

In June, the archdiocese announced a search for a new Director of Pastoral Planning. Consistent with almost all of their job descriptions and searches for key roles, they do not in any way  explicitly require that the person in the job be a practicing Catholic who believes what the Catholic Church believes.

On June 25, Cardinal O’Malley hosted the town hall meeting on religious freedom. The same day, his chief fundraiser for Catholic Schools and member of the Finance Council, Jack Connors, hosted a $40,000/person fundraiser for the campaign of President Obama. Faithful Catholics asked, “How we can have a member of the Archdiocese of Boston Finance Council responsible for Institutional Advancement who is working against the Catholic Church by publicly fundraising for a politician who wants to violate our religious freedom?  No response.

In July, it was announced that Holy Trinity was in the process of being relegated to profane use. Several months later, the beautiful neo-gothic style church built in 1877 was officially relegated to profane use, the last step before it could be sold, and likely demolished.

In August, the Boston Archdiocese explained how they justify keeping Jack Connors as a Finance Council member despite his support for anti-Catholic pro-abortion politicians and for abortion. As long as the money is green, it does not matter what Connors does in his “private” life, even if those actions publicly harm the Catholic Church.

In September, the final Pastoral Planning proposal was published. It reflects some changes from the original proposal to better address the need for evangelization.

In October, the archdiocesan effort to oppose Question 2, Physician-Assisted Suicide, kicked into higher gear, including a town-hall meeting on the topic. A narrow victory on Question 2 was ultimately achieved.

In November, the Pastoral Plan was approved by Cardinal O’Malley.The organization of parishes into collaboratives with one shared pastor will impact the diocese and how individuals worship for yearrs, if not decades to come.

In December, the Boston Archdiocese found itself in violation of the new Motu Proprio issued by Pope Benedict XVI.  The Motu Proprio says, salaries and operational expenses are to be in “due proportion to analogous expenses of his diocesan Curia.”  That is clearly not the case in Boston.

Last but not least, BCI hit new readership milestones in 2012.  In 2012, BCI was read by 234,000 unique visitors, with 313,000 pageloads.  In sum total since we started BCI, the blog has been read by 536,000 unique visitors with 764,000 pageloads.  With the majority of our visitors coming from Massachusetts, that means most Mass-attending Catholics in the Boston Archdiocese have read BCI at least once if not multiple times. About 1/3 of our visitors are repeat visitors. See below (click on graphic to zoom).

visitor report

When Cardinal O’Malley, Bishop Deeley, John Straub, Terry Donilon and others try to pretend that a blog like BCI does not matter or does not get much readership, they might want to think again.

We thank our readers for your continued readership and support, and hope and pray that BCI can continue to make a difference in bringing the Boston Archdiocese back to a stronger practice of the Catholic faith.


Happy New Year 2013

January 1, 2013

BCI wishes all a very happy and healthy new year.

Once again this year, we thought both the first reading and psalm for today would make for a nice way to kick off 2013. As we celebrate the Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord and the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, the psalm is: “May God bless us in his mercy.” (Psalm 67).

Here is a beautiful 2-minute musical version of the psalm, entitled, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” by British composer, John Rutter.

(In case you cannot play the embedded video, here is a link to it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PO17DIeI7Ec )

Our prayer for you in 2013 is that same hope so beautifully expressed in the song–that the Lord bless and keep you, that His Face shine upon you and be gracious, and give you peace.


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