More Diocesan Deception

March 19, 2011

For those who saw the official response yesterday by the official spokesman of the Boston Archdiocese, Terry Donilon, about the diocese now taking Holy Trinity off the real estate market, there is one image that comes to mind. The image is the cartoon character, Pinocchio, found to the right.

Coincidentally, a visit to Wikipedia reveals this explanation of the word “Pinocchio“: “Pinocchio is often a term used to describe an individual who is prone to telling lies, fabricating stories and exaggerating or creating tall tales for various reasons.”

As we know, former parishioners at Holy Trinity Church in the South End asked the Vatican on Monday to stop any sale of the building, after it was listed for sale  at $2.3 million on Sothebys, a residential real estate site. They argued that the archdiocese had not completed the relegation to profane use process to convert it to secular use, which is required before sale to a secular buyer.

According to an Associated Press news story, here is Terry’s explanation after the archdiocese pulled the listing:

Yesterday, spokesman Terry Donilon said the listing was meant to gauge the market or attract a buyer from a Catholic organization. He said the archdiocese never intended to prematurely sell the property to a secular buyer.

To paraphrase another commenter yesterday, they must be spiking the incense at the Bethany Chapel in the Pastoral Center with something these days, because that explanation just defies believability.  Our only question is whether Terry and the archdiocese truly believe it, or to what extent they are willfully and intentionally engaging in a Pinocchio-like behavior so as to deceive the Catholic faithful. Assuming it is the latter, then a strong case must be made that the Cardinal has to fire multiple people–and soon.

The last BCI and Catholic faithful heard a month ago, the Archdiocese had a process for soliciting input from Catholic faithful before selling properties. That was not followed here.

Terry obviously knew about the process when the archdiocese was quoted on Tuesday saying the following: “A spokesman said the archdiocese knows it can’t sell the property until that process is completed.”  Then how do you go and sign an agreement with Sothebys to sell a property when they know the process has not been completed?

If you want to gauge the market for a property, you get a professional appraisal, and you can solicit proposals via an open request for proposal (RFP) process that does not immediately bind you to sell the building, but simply solicits proposals.

If you want to find a Catholic buyer, what in the world makes Terry Donilon, as spokesperson for Cardinal O’Malley, think anyone would believe that you would list the property for sale with Sothebys, a residential real estate broker, who has no reach whatsoever with a Catholic audience?  Where is the listing in a Catholic newspaper, like, say our own Pilot, “America’s oldest Catholic newspaper”?  Did anyone place listings to find a Catholic buyer in Our Sunday Visitor or the National Catholic Register, or other publications that reach Catholic audiences like Commonweal, America and the National Catholic Reporter.

And what ever happened to the “process” announced in 2007 after the St. Mary Star of the Sea fiasco?:

Before selling properties closed in reconfiguration, the archdiocese announced a process that would be followed when marketing those properties. Offers would be solicited over a 90-day period and evaluated based on many factors including financial terms, contingencies, proposed property use and social considerations connected with the offers. The archdiocese also said that it sought to maximize the financial consideration consistent with the needs of the communities served.

Lastly, lest new readers think the controversy over Holy Trinity is just a matter of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s in the canonical process to sell the building, you should know that long-standing questions remain over the original decision to close Holy Trinity back in 2004.   A 2005 archdiocesan audit found that the former administrator of Holy Trinity had illicitly transferred $176,000 in Holy Trinity parish funds to St. James the Greater, the other parish he was administering at the same time as Holy Trinity. Those this is water that has long-since flowed over the dam, persistent questions have remained for years that the decision to shutter HT rather than St. James was based on flawed information about the financial health of HT vs St. James.

anyway, this whole thing smells of corruption and deception at high levels in the archdiocese.  As a reminder from what we reported last July in “Cronyism”, the head of real estate for RCAB, Deb Dillon, worked for Jim McDonough at the Abington Bank. A commenter yesterday asked:

Do you really think Deb Dillon listed a $2.3M property with Sotheby’s in bad faith?  “Just kiddin’ guys!”  Do you really think Sotheby’s is in the habit of signing contracts and spending money on marketing for Deb Dillon because she’s a nice person?  Or is it because they sell real estate for a living?

Do you really think Deb Dillon thought this up on her own?  That Jim McDonough broke with the prior RCAB stated practice of listing all churches for sale in the Pilot and on the RCAB website, as a coincidence? And that Trinity slipped off the radar when the great survey went out on the re-use of closed church properties?

“This starts to smell worse than Saturday’s trash after Friday’s fish dinner.”

Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson said when the “great survey” went out

“To those skeptical” that their input will be considered, Erikson said, “I ask them to put their confidence in this process, which may be unprecedented, which is designed to be thorough, thoughtful and efficient, and which was developed with sincere intent.”

Objectively, the words of this archdiocese do not match actions and it is getting worse, not better.

  • Multiple promises on the process for selling church properties have been broken. It is difficult to not conclude that the archdiocese, through Terry Donilon, just lied to the Catholic faithful about what has been happening with the sale of Holy Trinity.
  • The canonical responsibility that the archdiocese be a good steward of assets and donor funds  has been not been upheld by the ongoing practice of paying excessive 6-figure salaries.
  • The entire archdiocese was deceived by Jack Connors and Jim McDonough regarding the process for finding a new head of development.
  • A promise by the Cardinal to fund employee pension obligations from closed parishes was broken.

The list goes on and on.  Why does our Cardinal Archbishop go along with this deception and violations of trust?  How much lower must the donations to the Catholic Appeal drop before he gets the message that a dramatic change is required?

A wholesale changing of the guard in the area of financial and administrative leadership is needed sooner rather than later.

What do you think?


Finance Council Top Ethical Concerns: #3: Conflicts of Interest

November 24, 2010

Yesterday we started what looks like it will be a series on our Top 10 conflicts, contradictions, and possible corruption around the Archdiocese Finance Council.  We only got to #1 and 2yesterday, and today we continue with #3: Conflicts of Interest.

3) Conflicts of Interest

If you are new to the blog, you might want to check out these posts in our “Conflicts of Interest” category to get up-to-speed on the extent of this problem across the Boston Archdiocese.  Regular readers may have already guessed that the Finance Council is not exempt from this problem.

  • Charter says:
  • Article III, Responsibilities, Section L.  “To receive periodic reports on the status of issues arising from the Conflict of Interest Policy”

    Article Xl. Conflict of Interest Policy. “The Finance Council shall adopt and keep in force at all times a Conflict of Interest Policy. Members of the Finance Council will annually complete a disclosure of conflicts of interest and submit it to the Archbishop.”

  • BCI Concerns:
  • 1) Where is the Conflict of Policy published?

    2) What teeth does it have?  Who enforces it?  What if the people who are “keeping it in force” themselves have conflicts of interest?

    3) What if people complete a disclosure of conflicts of interest and submit it to the Archbishop, and it sits and goes nowhere like nearly all of the letters and other paperwork that goes to his office these days?  Does the Archbishop read and sign these conflict of interest disclosures with a notary witnessing that he personally signed the statements?  Do the conflicts get discussed publicly?  Are people with conflicts banned from being admitted to the Council?  Are they asked to leave or not attend meetings and/or are they barred from discussing particular topics in committee, outside of meetings, or on the main Council?

    4) How do people who have prior relationships with the Chancellor reconcile those with assessing his performance?  Yesterday we talked about how a newcomer to the Finance Council member, Laura Sen, was formerly on the Board of the Abington Savings Bank when Chancellor Jim McDonough was CEO of the bank.  She was rewarded for her service there by realizing somewhere between $340,000 and $360,000 in stock value. What good is a paper the Conflict of Interest policy is written upon if it lets her on the Finance Council given that conflict of interest?  Whether she sold that stock and pocketed the gain at the time or or not, is everyone OK with the obvious conflict of interest that she profited from prior service with the Chancellor, and one of her core responsibilities now is assessing whether the Chancellor should stay in the job or be replaced?

    5) How do the conflicts in decision-making with St. Johns Seminary get reconciled?  In our series, “Seminary Squeezola” we talked about how Chancellor Jim McDonough, who is on the Finance Council, is also on the Board of St. Johns Seminary.  The main interest of the Chancellor—finding money anyplace he can to keep Corporation Sole afloat—is not necessarily aligned with the main interest of the seminary—whose mission is to educate and form future priests.  We know that Cardinal O’Malley, Chancellor McDonough and Vicar General Fr. Erikson have all voted according to documents online, in direct conflict with the best interest of the seminary in order to benefit Corp Sole. Given that the Archdiocese owes  $4.8 million to the seminary in January and another $36 million in 2017, how in the world can the chief finance officer of the archdiocese, McDonough–the borrower–sit on both the archdiocesan Finance Council and on the Seminary Board?  In case it is not clear, we have the person whose employer owes an entity $41 million sitting on the board of the entity to whom his employer is indebted.  Who made that decision and feels there is no conflict today?  What if McDonough representing the archdiocese, feels he needs to sell the rest of the seminary space in order to pay off the debts that he, representing the archdiocese, owes the  seminary?  How does that get reconciled?

    6) How do conflicts of interest with Partners Healthcare get reconciled?  The Boston Globe quoted Jack Connors in “The Invisible hand of Jack” as having “no greater passion than Partners HealthCare.”   Finance Council life member, John Kaneb, is also on the Partners board. How did the conflicts of interest of Partners potentially wanting some of the Caritas Christi assets in the future get reconciled with the archdiocesan interests of preserving Catholic healthcare?  Did they recuse themselves from any and all discussions relative to Caritas?  Let us go a step further.  Should, hypothetically speaking, the idea emerge of selling archdiocesan property such as Regina Cleri (the retirement home for priests) to their next-door neighbor, Partners/Mass General Hospital, will Connors and Kaneb be recused from all formal and informal discussions?   Is the weight of their presence and the ongoing relationship with them going to influence council members?  The Globe acknowledges, “Who is going to say no when Jack comes calling?”  Who would represent the needs of the present and retired clergy?

    7. How did the conflict of interest of the Archdiocese lending $20 million to Jack Connors’ Catholic Schools Campaign get reconciled, while the archdiocese was also deciding to not fund employee and retiree pension plans, including to current and former Catholic school employees?  Who floated the idea in the first place?  Was Jack asked to not be present for any and all discussions?  Did he vote?

     

Does it occur to anyone else but these bloggers that whatever Conflict of Interest policy is in place and whatever means through which it is executed is somewhere between just a little bit flawed and so ineffective as to be meaningless?

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has their Conflict of Interest policy publicly posted.  Among their standards, it is prohibited for responsible individuals to…

Use their position to secure personal gain or other benefits derived from such relationship.

Invest or hold a financial interest, directly or indirectly, in any business entity, transaction or business endeavor that would create a conflict between the Archdiocesan/Affiliate employee’s duty to the Archdiocese/Affiliate and the individual’s private interest.

The Archdiocese of Boston has a Code of Ministerial behavior that says, “Even the appearance of a conflict of interest can call integrity and professional conduct into question.” That is all we could find, and that does not relate to the Finance Council.

Do we have people on the Finance Council whose actions give the appearance of a conflict of interest?  Do we have people whose actions or affiliations clearly represent a conflict of interest?  Do we have individuals who use their position to secure personal gain or gain for other organizations they have some interest in?  Are there conflicts you know about that we have missed? Who is watching and reconciling these conflicts?  Is the fox guarding the chicken coop? Do these conflicts of interest serve the greater good of the Archdiocese of Boston, the clergy, pastors, parishes, donors, and advancing the saving ministry of Jesus Christ? Do they serve God or Mammon?

Best wishes to all for a very Happy Thanksgiving holiday, and safe travels if you are heading out of town.


Finance Council: Conflicted, Contradictory, or Corrupt?

November 23, 2010

A few days ago we talked about how the archdiocese took a step forward by finally publishing the names of members of the Archdiocesan Finance Council.  But unfortunately, the more and more we look at the charter for the council and the membership, the more questions come up about potential conflicts, contradictions, and corruption.

The purpose of the Finance Council is defined in Canon Law as follows:

“In addition to the functions entrusted to it in Book V, The Temporal Goods of the Church [which talks about acquiring, retaining, administering, and alienating temporal goods independently from civil power],  the Finance council prepares each year, according to the directions of the diocesan bishop, a budget of the income and expenditures which are foreseen for the entire governance of the diocese in the coming year and at the end of the year examines an account of the revenues and expenses.”

Here in Boston, the Finance Council charter outlines a number of  specific responsibilities and aspects of how the council operates.  The manner in which that all gets executed in Boston is wrought with problems.  In fact, this blog post could have been called “10 Ways the Finance Council is Conflicted, Self-Contradicted, or Perhaps even Corrupted.”

Here is a high-level summary of the concerns.  We are listing them today and starting with descriptions of two, but will fill in more over the next several days posts.

1.  Consultation on Performance or Removal of the Chancellor

  • Charter Says:
  • Article III. Responsibilities, Section E. “To oversee and provide consultation on the appointment , performance, or removal of the Chancellor, who shall be the finance officer of the Archdiocese.”

  • BCI Concerns:
  • What exactly is the objective criteria that the performance of the Chancellor is being measured against?
    How are conflicts of interest dealt with?  For example, Laura Sen, President of BJ’s Wholesale Club, was added to the  Finance Council during the past year. Coincidentally, Ms. Sen was a former board member at the Abington Savings Bank when Chancellor Jim McDonough was CEO there.  Alert reader, “Clem” reminded us that she held 10,000 fully vested stock options in the bank when Abington Bank was sold to Seacoast Financial, and she had the choice of taking $34/share in cash (which would have been a $340,000 payout), or converting the Abington stock options to 14,468 Seacoast stock options (which, at an exercise price of $7.35/share and a closing price of $32.66, left Sen with $366,000 in stock value).  By virtue of her profiting handsomely by service on the Abington Bank board with McDonough, Sen has a built-in conflict of interest in assessing his performance as Chancellor.

2. Term of Service

  • Charter Says:
  • Article V. Term of Office: “No member may serve more than two consecutive 5-year terms…In the discretion of the Archbishop, based on the recommendation of the steering committee, a member turning 75 or completing two consecutive five-year  terms of office may be invited to become a Life Member, including committee membership.

  • BCI Concerns:
  • The first and second sentences above contradict themselves.  Either someone is a member for no more than two consecutive 5-year terms (10 years maximum) or they are not.  If the intention is to prevent someone from usurping too much power–a necessary condition here in Boston–then there needs to be a term limit.  Period. The idea of honorary members is nice-sounding in principle, but the “Life Member” provision means someone with an agenda other than advancing the good works of the Catholic Church could be there influencing the direction of the archdiocese for 30-40+ years if they happen to have good genes.

3. Conflicts of Interest

4. Compensation

5. Oversight for Asset Sales

6. Whistleblower Policy Oversight

7. Effective Information Technology

8. Manipulation of Committees

9. Membership

10. Approval

Sorry to leave you hanging with just a few at a time, but for those who like shorter posts, you get your wish this week!  See you tomorrow for more exciting developments.


St. Johns Seminary Squeezola: Chancellor Conflict of Interest and Money Grab

October 27, 2010

We are continuing our exclusive series “Seminary Squeezola” about how both the Boston Archdiocesean leadership and Boston College have been inhibiting the ability of St. Johns Seminary to be more prosperous.  Today we discuss the money grab for those seminary assets and conflicts of interest by Archdiocesan Chancellor Jim McDonough and other archdiocesan leaders.

For new readers, in our first exciting episode, St Johns Seminary “Squeezola, we reported on how Boston College is encroaching on the limited space left for St. John’s Seminary. In our second episode, St. Johns Seminary Squeezola: The 2007 Sale of Property to BC, we gave some of the history of the 2004 and 2007 sales, and how the archdiocese–and specifically Cardinal O’Malley, Chancellor McDonough, Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson who serve on the seminary board–disregarded the recommendations of the Vatican’s apostolic visitation committee that no more property from SJS be sold.

In 2007, against the recommendation of the then-rector and the Vatican’s apostolic visitation committee, the Seminary trustees voted to sell the remaining property of the seminary to BC so the archdiocese could raise needed cash.  The rector’s letter opposing this sale can be found here at Boston.com and has been posted there available to the public since 2007.

Here is his letter of resignation filed shortly after the trustees 2007 vote (it’s part of the same Boston.com document–just the last 2 pages).  Note the passage that says, “The Chancellor stated emphatically last night that the seminary will not be recompensed according to the value of the assets conveyed, but the $65 million to be derived from this sale will be applied “where it is needed.”  Anyone else besides Boston Catholic Insider wondering why the Chancellor is even on the Board of Trustees of the seminary when his interests are directly in conflict with those of forming seminarians?  Read on:

Eminence and Trustees:

24 May 2007

The morning after yesterday’s meeting of the Board of Trustees finds me still uncomprehending and deeply distressed.

The way in which a $65 million project was presented with no advance specific information that would allow study and consultation, and then be voted favorably is incomprehensible to me. The fact that no one in the Seminary was consulted, or even informed about the proposal is incomprehensible to me. The fact that public events to announce the news were scheduled even before our meeting was held last night and are being carried out this morning is incomprehensible to me. Finally the fact that announcements are being made to the public with no vote taken at all by the Corporate Members is not only incomprehensible to me, but is contrary to law. Last night’s meeting was a burlesque of the Board of Trustees and of the ways of proceeding of any serious board.

Even more distressing to me is the substance of last night’s “deliberations.” Exaggerated statements about a projected budgetary deficit for FY08 served as the point of departure for the presentation, the explicit recommendations of the Congregation for Catholic Education were dismissed peremptorally, a proposal was made to remedy a problem that we do not have, the remedy proposed is that the seminary alienate assets that are needed to assure its future fiscal viability and all this was done in the name of assuring our financial stability and viability. In my judgment, all of this is utterly preposterous.

For the second time in three years, RCAB plunders the assets of St. John’s Seminary. In 2004, the seminary conveyed to RCAB assets worth about $56 million and received in recompense $21 million and a promissory note for $4.8 million. If the seminary were in possession of even the cash represented by the note, our financial “problems” would be greatly eased. Instead the seminary is presented as “not able to make it financially.” Now, assets of the seminary will be taken and combined again with assets of RCAB, who will in turn sell them to BC. The Chancellor stated emphatically last night that the seminary will not be recompensed according to the value of the assets conveyed, but the $65 million to be derived from this sale will be applied “where it is “needed.” Clearly, in this disposition the seminary is considered as not one of the “needs” of the archdiocese – even as a beneficiary of its own assets.

I do not wish to be associated with an organization that shows so little respect for people who have been charged with responsibility for it and so little respect for truth. After prayerful consideration and with the support of Fr. Dominic Izzo, O.P., my Prior Provincial, I hereby resign as Rector of St. John’s Seminary, effective immediately….

I ask for your prayers and promise you mine.

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr. John A. Farren, O.P.

Rector

Interesting, eh?  Does any of this way of operating sound familiar?

Here is the listing of the Board of Trustees of SJS.  (Note, this is slightly out of date in that not all of the lay people listed are still on the board–we know of at least one person who resigned after the “burlesque” since all Corporate members were not included).

The key players in this 2007 vote who had an inherent conflict of interest are Cardinal O’Malley, Chancellor Jim McDonough, and Vicar General Fr. Erikson (despite his having previously served on the SJS faculty).  They needed cash, and that need was in direct conflict with the needs of the seminary and the recommendations of the Vatican’s own apostolic visitation committee.  (Coincidentally, the USCCB chair of the secretariat for the clergy, consecrated life, and vocations who announced the visitation report summary was Cardinal O’Malley).  How does he reconcile the conflict of needing to push vocations for the U.S. bishops and for his own diocese, but then disregarding the visitation committee’s own recommendation for SJS that “in order to ensure the integrity of the seminary… no more property [on the campus] should be sold”?

How did the Cardinal, Vicar General, and the Chancellor justify grabbing the seminary land and buildings while at the same time, the Chancellor admitted that the seminary would not even be fairly compensated in return?

As part of this sale, we hear from sources that without consulting the prior rector, the Chancellor also included in the sale transaction to BC the dorm rooms that are located over the refectory, leasing them under a 99-year lease, which is effectively considered a sale.  We also are told that Chancellor McDonough bends over backward to accommodate BC in all things, and that he is one of its strongest allies.

The conflicts of interest start at the top.  We give the Cardinal due respect and credit to serve as the chairman of the board of the diocesan seminary, but it should be noted that the seminary is not Corporation Sole.  It predates Corp Sole by 15 years, and was chartered by an act of the Legislature, as was Corp Sole.  They are distinct in every way (seminary is a university technically, Corp Sole is a religion) with the exception of interlocking boards with profound conflicts of interest.  The Cardinal, McDonough and Fr. Erikson have voted according to documents online, in direct conflict with the best interest of the seminary, in order to benefit Corp Sole.  By coincidence, archdiocesan Beirne Lovely attends some of the seminar board meetings, where he states that he is not the seminary’s lawyer.  So one might ask, why is he even there?

Why are these conflicts of interest tolerated?  How do we get these people with inherent conflicts of interest off the board of the seminary?  Are any priests safe and secure enough in their role and relationship with the Cardinal that they are willing to stand up and tell the Cardinal he needs to start making some governance changes? Why do people–even those supportive of the seminary and posting to this blog supportive of the seminary–allow themselves to conclude that the final takeover of St. John’s Hall by BC is a foregone conclusion, when the seminary is prospering?  Should not the first move be to remove people from the Board of Trustees who have clear conflicts of interest with agendas other than the prosperity of the seminary and the formation of priests for the future of the Catholic Church?

ps. Speaking of burlesque, we hear through the rumor mill that the archdiocese is putting final touches on how they will spin the “sham search” for the secretary of development.  Supposedly, the curtain rises on the show with the announcement next week.  Would anyone like to place bets on which “busy news” day next week they will choose for the announcement, when it’s least likely to get a lot of attention?


Terry Donilon Sham Search: Part 2

October 21, 2010

In follow-up of our last post about the sham search that selected Terry Donilon as secretary of communications, we received a lot of emails and comments from readers.

Some people were even more troubled about how things really work in the Boston Archdiocese.  Some said it proved things they suspected.  And some asked how they can be sure what we wrote about it being a “sham search” was true. Today we give you some more details to explain how we know it was a “sham search.” 

For clarification, when we say “sham search” we are not referring to one where several qualified candidates were interviewed by all members of a committee, the best person from a pool of candidates was selected, and somebody who was interviewed and beaten out for the job with an axe to grind is using this blog to air their gripes.  We are talking of situations such as where resumes of qualified candidates never made it to committee members, committees never met, qualified candidates could not get an interview, the candidate was chosen before the search committee ever convened, and/or search committee members had known conflicts of interest but still were allowed to play a key role in the selection process.

Though we cannot publicly identify the individuals by name, we know of several people who applied for the Communications job when it was open in early 2005. Among the people who applied when Terry Donilon was hired was a person who was head of public relations for a Boston-area organization with a national reputation. This person was also a devout Catholic, served on their local parish council and genuinely wanted to be in a setting where their considerable skills could be used in a Catholic organization. They also were excited about the chance to support an archbishop who seemed at the time like he could turn things around after the meltdown of 2002. The person knew this would require a pay cut and was OK with that.

When the person was not able to get an interview for the job and learned their resume had not made it to the search committee, they called the Chancery to find out why, and were told they would get a call back. Of course they never did get that call back.  (As an aside, we were roaming past the HR department in the Pastoral Center recently and snapped this photo of someone in HR while their phone was ringing with calls from qualified applicants for positions).  Anyway, this person applying for the communications job later learned their resume had never even made it to the search committee. Why? Look at the title of the blog post for the two words that start with “S.” How many people were never considered? We do not know.

The #2 position, Director of Communications, was created later in 2005 in order to get someone articulate, knowledgeable about the Church, with good spelling and communications skills, and who could travel with the Cardinal to deal with news media at bishops conferences, in Rome, and elsewhere. In other words, to do a lot of what the first person hired was probably supposed to do, but was not capable of. This search was a legitimate one.

That same person applied again, and after someone ensured their resume got to the archbishop’s office (with a message it was a shame they were never given a chance in the first round) , the person was interviewed. The job went to a very qualified person, Kevin Shea, who had previously worked in PR for the Boston Red Sox for 14 years. So at least the person we referred to earlier was passed over for a legitimate reason. And their resume was later passed along to other Catholic agencies affiliated with the archdiocese with a positive recommendation.

As best as we can tell, Kevin Shea, was a “rock star” when it came to PR. Here’s the October 15, 2005 announcement, Kevin Shea Joins Archdiocese Communications Team. We are told by sources that he applied the first time and been spurned by Ann Carter in favor of Donilon, who came via the Larry Rasky/Donilon family connection. Kevin was young (under 40) and was very affable and articulate. He traveled to Rome with the archbishop when he was elevated to Cardinal in March 2006, and as you can see evidenced from this article, he set up the Cardinal’s tour of the Bridge of the Angels for reporters, and opened up access to reporters so Michael Paulson at the Boston Globe no longer had the exclusives. (Does anyone think it was just a coincidence that the cardinal made a point of showing off his “Red Sox” when he first met reporters after the consistory when his PR guy just so happened to have previously worked for the team?). Shea also played a key role starting the Cardinal’s blog coincident with Cardinal O’Malley’s October 2006 trip to Rome to take possession of his titular church. By the objective measures against which these bloggers can measure him, overall he did a very good job.

He also lasted only a little more than a year.

Here is the December 2006 announcement of him joining Boston College to become special assistant to BC President, Fr. Leahy, which means chief-of-staff and Fr. Leahy’s liaison within the University and to the larger community. Some of the best former assets of the Boston Archdiocese have gone to Boston College, courtesy of Jack Connors. In this case, we are told that the former Catholic Charities VP of external affairs, Jack Dunn, who had been at director of PR at BC since 1998, scooped-up Shea for BC at the request of Jack Connors.  It is a very important job, and makes Shea perhaps among the most influential lay employees at Boston College.

Why did he leave the Archdiocese of Boston?  Did it have anything to do with him perhaps being frustrated or frequently at odds with his less qualified boss, Mr. Donilon, who came in via a “sham search”?  How many other talented people like him have come and gone?  (For the record, we do not know Shea, nor have we ever met or communicated with him.  There is no bias or agenda here.  We are just recognizing that the guy was highly competent).

How many people have never been considered by Archdiocesan so-called “search” committees for jobs like his because it was “sham search”? How many qualified people were not considered this summer for the Secretary of Institutional Advancement role, or the Mass Catholic Conference Exec. Director position when Ed Saunders was hired by Fr. Bryan Hehir in 2005? How exactly did Mary Grassa O’Neill come to be hired at the $325,000 salary by a search committee whose full membership has never been disclosed publicly? We recently heard from a very qualified faithful Catholic who has applied for 3 positions at the archdiocese this year, been told they would be interviewed for at least one, and then rejected without the interview. (Here are several more photos we snapped in the HR department and Chancellor’s suite at 66 Brooks Drive when we told them we were from Boston Catholic Insider and wanted to talk to them about sham searches). 

 

How many extremely qualified lay people are serving today on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council or have served in the past, and whose tremendous talents could benefit this archdiocese in a full-time role with great positive impact to the Catholic Church, but who are never considered or asked to apply? How many qualified people refuse to even apply for a position because they know that most, if not all of the searches, are rigged by the time they begin? How many highly competent people have been employed by the archdiocese but were allowed to slip away? How many capable, experienced people who wanted to serve the Catholic Church were pushed out by the Connors/Hehir/McDonough regime and the cronies they have brought in since 2005 and replaced by 6-figure salaried people who did not care one whit about serving the Church and advancing her saving mission?

So here we sit. The Boston Archdiocese still has Terry. And the sham searches continue.


More Connors Conflicts of Interest

September 24, 2010

“…an 80-year-old grocer who credits a parochial school in Roslindale, MA with helping his family when his mother died, said yesterday he is giving $20 million to…revitalize struggling Catholic schools.” (March 16, 2010)

“Catholic education was a great gift in my life. When I saw the number of Catholic schools that were closing, we wanted to help.”

The $20 million gift by the founder of Roche Brothers to address the problem of Catholic schools closing sounds like it would have been perfectly suited to the Campaign for Catholic Schools building a new academy in nearby Dorchester, does it not?   And it would have closed that $20 million fund-raising gap we have talked about in the last few posts and made it a no-brainer to pay back the loan from the Archdiocese?    Where did this generous gift go instead?  Boston College, where Jack Connors is on the Board of Trustees and was former Chair of the Board.

Patrick Roche’s story is an inspiring and uplifting one.  He lost his mother at a young age, the local Catholic school provided support and a safety net for him and his brothers, he built a supermarket chain on sound principles of great customer service and treating employees well, made a profit, and has been generously giving back to Catholic schools.  Wow!  People have nothing but the very best to say about Patrick Roche, his family and their benevolence, so this post is not about the Roche family. Roche was a long-time benefactor to Boston College and to Peter Lynch’s Catholic Schools Foundation, so the final decision of where to give money was his to make and clearly could have gone either way.

But, we just do not understand how so many conflicts of interest can continue, and how those conflicts benefit this struggling archdiocese. And as you can imagine by now, we have a number of questions about how the Archdiocese of Boston and the Campaign for Catholic Schools missed out on this one.

To what extent was Jack Connors involved in this deal?  If he was involved, where did he suggest Patrick Roche give his money—to Boston College (specifically the Lynch School of Education), or to the Archdiocese’s Campaign for Catholic Schools?

Patrick Roche said in the BC press release, “Catholic education shaped who we are today, and when Boston College gave us an opportunity to help strengthen Catholic education through this center, we knew we wanted to help.”

In “The Invisible Hand of Jack” we heard “Who is going to say no when Jack comes calling?”  Jack was quoted in the Boston Globe article about the Roche donation saying, “We’re going to kind of draw a line in the sand, and we don’t think we should close any more schools.”

Did Jack call Patrick Roche and urge him to use this opportunity to help by giving the $20 million towards the Campaign for Catholic Schools?  Did Mr. Roche say “no” to Jack?  Did Jack never ask?  Or did Jack guide Mr. Roche to give the $20M to his wealthy alma mater, Boston College?

If the goal was to provide continuing education for Catholic school teachers, why not give the money to the Boston Catholic schools and restrict it to grants for continuing ed for Catholic teachers, or maybe salary increases for the ones who complete continuing education programs?   Those teachers could take classes at nearby Emmanuel College, where many Catholic teachers already benefit from tuition discounts and the fine work at the  Carolyn A. Lynch Institute, which, by coincidence, “provides a range of collaborative programs and services that enhance the professional development of urban teachers and enrich the education of PK-12 students in the city of Boston.”  But then the tuition dollars would have been going to Emmanuel instead of BC.

As an aside, we wonder how Peter Lynch, the incredibly generous and tireless advocate and fund-raiser for Catholic education, managed to deal with the minor conflict of soliciting $20M for the newly renamed Roche Center for Catholic Education at BC’s Lynch School of Education, while he also coincidentally serves on the Archdiocese’s Finance Council that would have approved the infamous $26 million loan to Jack Connors’ Campaign for Catholic Schools.

To be fair, Roche  may have decided that he wanted advance the goals of providing professional instruction, technical assistance, and research to teachers, which his contribution to the BC center is supposed to support.  But still, his quotes in the article and choice of where to give money just do not really add up to us.

Roche yesterday credited his parochial school with providing a critical safety net when his mother died, leaving his father to raise four sons, ages 6 to 12. Roche, who was 9 at the time, remembers his parish and school embracing him and his brothers as family would.

“Everybody at the school was just fantastic,’’ he said. “All our friends and neighbors went to the school, and they just became closer to us.’’ Attending Mass so often, he added, “kept you closer to God, I’d say.’’

Does this sound like the kind of guy who wants to ” develop curriculum for an increasingly diverse student population“?  We hope and pray that the profound impact which Catholic education had on Patrick Roche can  be duplicated through his contribution to BC.  Unfortunately, the record from BC in this area and some of the initial comments by the newly-hired executive director of the Center for Catholic Education make us question whether that will happen, but that is a topic for another time.

For now, can someone let us know how Jack Connors and his fund-raising team are doing with that $20 million fund-raising gap?  And can someone also let us know what the consequences will be to the Chancellor and others if that $20 million loan is not repaid?  A commenter on our last post, Moving Money, Building Distrust, suggested that heads should roll.  What do you think?


Whistleblower Policy

September 10, 2010

For those visitors who have not yet seen the letter we received from Vicar General Richard Erikson and our proposed response, please take a moment to read that before checking out today’s post.

Today we visit the issue of a “whistleblower policy” first mentioned in Open Letter of several weeks ago.  This has been recommended by archdiocesan auditors for several years now, but the recommendation has apparently been ignored or not acted on in any visible way–kind of like the concerns raised in this blog and by faithful Catholics and clergy for years.  Since we first posted the idea, several archdiocesan audit aficionados (ie people from the outside audit firm and others who love the pursuit of auditing but prefer to remain anonymous about it) have shared the specific recommendation made to the archdiocese.  We have also heard from people expert in this area who pointed us to the publicly accessible policies that other dioceses have in place.  We share this for your knowledge and edification, and to also hopefully stop the discrediting of this anonymous blog by the archdiocese.

Anonymous Submission Process Recommended by Auditors to Boston Archdiocese

  • Currently, the [Archdiocese] does not have an anonymous submission process where employee or donor concerns are able to be communicated to the [Finance Council/Archbishop/Boards of Directors].
  • We recommend the implementation of an anonymous submission process where employee or donor concerns can be voiced directly to the [Finance Council/Archbishop/Board of Directors].
That is the recommendation.  We did not make this up.  This is not new.  Explicit in a whistleblower policy is that there is no risk of retaliation, and either explicit or implicit in such a policy is an actual framework and commitment that someone with authority will promptly investigate the claim and act on it if the claim is found valid. Here are two examples from other dioceses:

Archdiocese of Indianapolis:

In “Whistleblower Policy: How to Report Suspicions of Misuse of Funds and Property” they state that they “highly encourage and would be grateful for any information regarding the misuse or the potential for future loss of funds or property…If you suspect misuse of funds or property but do not have complete proof, we would still appreciate any information you could share.”  They use a 3rd party hotline service, called EthicsPoint, and commit anonymity, that every claim will be investigated, and that a report will be provided afterwards to every individual who makes a report and provides contact information.  We do not recall seeing this same spirit of appreciation and openness in the statements from the Archdiocese of Boston regarding this blog, but will reread them in case we missed that.
Here is the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ “Non-Retaliation” policy:
Non-Retaliation
The parishes, schools, agencies, and other entities of the Archdiocese sincerely appreciate reports that are made and will not retaliate or take action against any person who makes a report. For employees, they will not suffer a loss of employment, a decrease in wages, or other adverse consequences due to making a report. For other individuals (volunteers, parishioners, parents, clients of programs, etc.) who make reports, the Archdiocese will make every effort to protect their identities and their interests.
Diocese of Charlotte

In their Code of Ethics Policy of the Diocese of Charlotte, they open witha list of 15 principles of ethics and integrity including the following:
  • Church Personnel will conduct themselves at all times in a manner that is consistent with the teachings and precepts of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Church Personnel will exhibit the highest Christian ethical standards and personal integrity.
  • Church Personnel will continually and objectively examine their own actions and intentions to ensure that their behavior promotes the welfare of the diocese and exemplifies the moral tradition of the Church.
  • Church Personnel will be responsible stewards of diocesan resources, human and financial, observing both canon and civil law
  • Church Personnel will share concerns about suspicions of inappropriate behavior with the appropriate supervisory or management individual.
  • Accountability: The Diocese and all its parishes, schools and organizations are responsible to its stakeholders, which includes donors and others who have placed their trust in the Church. To uphold this trust, all Church personnel will: Promote good stewardship of all Church resources, including donations, grants, program fees, and all financial support….Use all Church resources in a prudent-like manner, avoiding unnecessary and excessive spending and wastefulness.
There is a 16-point list on Conflicts of Interest.  16 points.  See section 6.1
Conflicts of Interest: A conflict of interest may exist when persons employed by the diocese (i.e., the Central Administration, parishes, schools, agencies, and/or affiliated entities), or volunteers with influence over certain activities or transactions including those serving on advisory or consultative boards, councils or committees have a direct or indirect financial interest, as defined below.

Financial Interest: A person has a “financial interest” if the person has, directly or indirectly, through business, investment, or family (including
spouses; brothers or sisters; spouses of brothers or sisters; ancestors; children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren; and spouses of
children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren), any one of the following:

  • An ownership or investment interest in any entity with which the diocese has a transaction or arrangement;
  • A compensation arrangement with the diocese or with any entity or individual with whom the diocese has a transaction or arrangement;
  • A potential ownership or investment interest with, or compensation arrangement with, any entity or individual with
  • whom the diocese is negotiating a transaction or arrangement.
  • Compensation includes direct and indirect remuneration as well as gifts or favors that are substantial in nature.
Church Personnel are to avoid situations that might present a conflict of interest.
Here’s an excerpt from their Whistleblower policy (Section 8):
The objectives of the Whistleblower Policy are to establish policies and procedures for:
  • The submission of concerns regarding questionable financial or legal matters, violations and suspected violations of the Code of
  • Conduct, Code of Canon Law and other concerns by the stakeholders of the Church, on a confidential basis;
  • The receipt, retention, and treatment of complaints received by the Diocese of Charlotte
  • The protection of anyone reporting concerns from retaliatory actions.

Reporting Responsibility – Each representative of the diocese has an obligation to report in accordance with this Whistleblower Policy any reasonably perceived violation of: (a) federal, state or local laws, rules and/or regulations; (b) the diocese’s Code of Ethics; (c) the diocesan sexual misconduct policy; (d) diocesan personnel policies; (e) diocesan financial policies, including questionable or improper accounting or auditing matters; as well as gross mismanagement, waste, fraud, embezzlement, neglect of duty; and actions that threaten or are viewed as harmful to the health, safety and welfare of others and any other financial, legal or canonical concerns (hereinafter collectively referred to as Concerns).

Investigation – The person to whom said report was made shall be responsible for a thorough and expeditious investigation of the reported Concern.

No Retaliation – This Whistleblower Policy is intended to encourage and enable stakeholders to raise Concerns within the Organization for investigation and appropriate action. With this goal in mind, no stakeholder who, in good faith, reports a Concern shall be subject to retaliation or, in the case of an employee, adverse employment consequences. Moreover, anyone who retaliates against someone who has reported a Concern in good faith is subject to discipline up to and including dismissal from their position within the Church.

Confidentiality – Reports of Concerns, and investigations pertaining thereto, shall be kept confidential to the extent possible, consistent with the need to conduct an adequate investigation.

So there we have several examples.  We do not know about other people reading this blog, but frankly we are starting to get fed up with the Boston Archdiocese’s lack of response to fundamental issues like this and the ones we have documented.

ps. Silence Meter Update:

  • 18 days passed since posting of August 23 Open Letter, with no response to the specific points raised in the letter
  • 49 days passed since July 23 email to archdiocese asking for explanation of conflicts of interest that led to hiring Communications Secretary and Chancellor; no response.

Vicar General Letter to Bloggers

September 9, 2010

Readers, today we are sharing with you a short letter from Vicar General, Fr. Richard Erikson we received Tuesday, Sept 7 via email from his aide, Fr. Bryan Parrish. The text immediately follows, and our proposed response is found below for your review and input.

TO: The “Boston Catholic Insider” team

RE: “Open Letter”

In response to your “Open Letter” posted on your blog on August 23, and the specific questions you detail, I restate that Cardinal O’Malley and his staff are dedicated to building unity in Christ and Christian community within the Archdiocese. To that end, I reach out to you and your team, with the hope that you will accept my invitation to engage in respectful, fruitful and face-to face dialogue. I am not willing to engage in conversation or correspondence with emails or blog postings from anonymous individuals. If you would like to discuss your concerns in person, please contact my assistant, Mary Jo Kriz, at 617-746-5619 to schedule an appointment.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Very Rev. Richard Erikson, Ph.D. V.G.

We appreciate the amount of thought and consideration that must have been invested by the archdiocese over the past two weeks reviewing all of the points outlined in our Open Letter and determining this was the appropriate response.  We have prayed over this offer of a meeting with the Vicar General since Tuesday (which is why we haven’t posted since Monday) and have decided to decline at this time.  Below is a draft of our planned response.  If anyone feels we have missed something important, please let us know via comments relevant to this topic, or via the Contact Us form.

To: Very Rev. Richard Erikson, Ph.d. V.G.

From: Boston Catholic Insider team

We are in receipt of your letter of September 7 and appreciate your offer to meet for a face-to-face dialogue.  We share in the aspiration of building unity in Christ and Christian community in the Archdiocese–which is undermined and contaminated by the presence of deceit, ethical corruption, and what Pope Benedict XVI described in his June 29 homily as “negative attitudes that belong to the world” including “selfishness, vanity, pride, and the attachment to money.”  Unfortunately, for reasons we have stated previously on this blog and will restate in this response, we are respectfully declining the meeting at this time. The reasons are as follows:

1) Lack of transparency. A private meeting would be contrary to the archdiocese’s own goals of transparency and to the purpose of this blog.   The issues we have documented are important enough to tens of thousands of Boston Catholics and to the future of the Catholic Church in Boston that we feel they are best addressed in an open, broadly-participatory forum such as the Web and a blog provide.  How would a closed-door session advance transparency?

2) Minimized disruption of valuable archdiocesan staff time. As we stated in our August 22 post, Catholic Bloggers Respond to Archdiocese “since we have now heard the archdiocese is concerned that the blog has distracted Pastoral Center employees from their jobs, we would not want to consume the valuable time of archdiocesan cabinet members in a meeting.”  We also realize that since the blog is not viewable in the Pastoral Center, perhaps you were restricted from seeing this post.  If the Vicar General has even one hour to spend in a meeting with us, we feel that time would be better spent addressing some of the issues we have raised for the good of the future of the Catholic Church in Boston.   We would be glad to then publicize that progress on the blog.

3) Fear of retaliation. As we have stated from day one, we write anonymously in order to protect ourselves against possible retaliation and threats to our livelihoods.  We know of many instances–and some Catholic bloggers have experienced them personally–where those who speak out or have spoken the Truth have been the victims of retaliation, and this continues today for priests, lay employees, and laity.  Because senior cabinet officials have met with outside attorneys to discuss possible legal action against the bloggers and because of the retaliatory nature of the current Boston archdiocesan administration, we simply cannot risk our livelihoods by identifying ourselves and meeting with you.

4) Archdiocese’s public deception and avoidance of the core issues. The public statements by the archdiocese issued during the week of August 23 in response to the blocking of the Boston Catholic Insider blog that “we have reached out to bloggers on numerous occasions” falsely implied that the archdiocese had reached out to this blog, when the archdiocese knew full well they had never done so, and in fact had ignored 4 emails to archdiocesean officials with simple questions about matters of good governance.  The statement “We are concerned about the harm caused to individuals and to the community by anonymous and unfounded claims on blogs” neglected to mention that no unfounded claims had been documented on this blog or ever shared with us. More importantly, the archdiocese has expressed no concern whatsoever over the harm done to the individuals or the Christian community by the well-documented climate and instances of deceit, cronyism, ethical and financial conflicts of interest, excessive spending, and unanswered questions over management of donor funds. These are the sorts of “negative attitudes of the world” that the Holy Father describes as the “greatest danger” to the Church. Why meet if the archdiocese is unconcerned about the core issues and is only concerned about our publicly documenting them?

5) Double-standard with respect to anonymity. With all due respect, we find your statement about not wanting to engage in communications with anonymous individuals to be disingenuous for two reasons. First, the failure of the archdiocese to implement a whistleblower policy as recommended for several years by your own auditors makes anonymity necessary to avoid fear of reprisals. (We will publish the recommendation passed on to us by anonymous archdiocesan auditors who fear reprisal in a separate post).  Secondly, in view of the degree of anonymity the archdiocese maintains day-to-day and expects priests, employees, and laity to accept–for decisions that are very significant towards the future of the Catholic Church in Boston and the Church’s stakeholders–the concerns about interacting with anonymous bloggers are difficult to take seriously.  How can an archdiocese that touts “transparency” be unwilling to engage in a public discourse over issues important to Catholics because the conduit for airing those issues is an anonymously written blog when the archdiocese maintains anonymity or a lack of disclosure of the following?:

  • Current Archdiocese Finance Council members (publicly-accessible via Web) : anonymous
  • Names of people who nominated new Finance Council members in the past 1-2 years: anonymous
  • Sub-committee membership of the Finance Council including Real Estate, Investment, Institutional Advancement, Legal, Steering Committees: anonymous
  • Trustees of the Clergy Retirement Fund: anonymous
  • Compensation for people managing the Clergy Retirement Fund: undisclosed
  • Trustees of the Employee Benefits Fund: anonymous
  • Current voting Board members at Caritas Christi: anonymous
  • Selection criteria and selection process for vendors servicing the Clergy Retirement Fund and Employee Benefits Fund: undisclosed
  • Members of the search committee that selected Cabinet Secretary for Communications: anonymous
  • Person who overruled staff members and approved the conflict of interest of allowing PR firm of Rasky Baerlein to lead the search for the person who would manage them and decide on their compensation and continued engagement: anonymous
  • Person who approved the conflict of interest of allowing Ann Carter of Rasky Baerlein on search committee to select Chancellor, who would ultimately approve all expenses paid to the firm: anonymous.  (This conflict of interest was maintained and allowed even considering that the final candidate  for the job, Jim McDonough, was the former CEO of Abington Bank where Carter profited from having served on the Board with McDonough)
  • Membership of search committee that selected Secretary for Education, Mary Grassa O’Neill and names of people who approved $325,000 salary: anonymous
  • Total cost over multiple years (in millions of $) of  deploying Lawson Software for financial management; listing of important pastoral programs cut as a result of decision to buy overly complex software that is a mismatch for archdiocesan needs: undisclosed
  • Person who approved using as audit firm,  Parent, McLaughlin & Nagle for mandated triennial parish audits, costing parishes in aggregate about $500K/year, and nature of relationship/friendship with  someone in the Finance department that led to their exclusive engagement mandated on parishes: anonymous/undisclosed
  • Name of person who may have already been selected as new Secretary of Development before search committee was convened to give the appearance of a open “worldwide search”: undisclosed
  • Person who has failed to implement a credible whistleblower policy in the archdiocese despite years of recommendations for such a policy by archdiocesan auditors and related entities, hereby necessitating anonymous blog: anonymous

We reiterate, since the archdiocese seems perfectly comfortable practicing and maintaining anonymity on these areas and others that relate to fiduciary responsibility over hundreds of millions of dollars in donor funds and that affect the ability to execute the mission of the Catholic Church for decades into the future, it seems hypocritical to dismiss people blogging anonymously about ethical concerns and mismanagement in these same areas just because the bloggers legitimately fear reprisals and threats to their livelihoods.

If the archdiocese is looking for a model for addressing most of the above, the approach used on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council website for disclosing this information seems like it would be simple to adapt and deploy on the various archdiocesan websites. (But it should have a means of contacting members that  actually works, instead of just pretending to be functional).

5) Apparent reversal from public commitments to transparency. This archdiocese has made public commitments to unprecedented levels of financial transparency which seem to have been largely abandoned at the highest levels:

October 21, 2005 – Financial Transparency Letter From Archbishop O’Malley

This commitment [to financial transparency] was motivated out of respect for people of the Archdiocese as donors and members of our Church and to demonstrate to the general public that the Archdiocese is fulfilling its fiduciary responsibilities.

April 19, 2006 – Archdiocese of Boston Launches Financial Transparency Initiative

“Our commitment to financial transparency and accountability is an important step in the process of healing the Church of Boston and rebuilding the trust of the people of this Archdiocese” said Cardinal Sean “In releasing this financial information, we hope to achieve a shared understanding of both the challenges and the opportunities we share as a faith community. Together, we can work together to solve our problems and strengthen the Archdiocese’s ability to continue the good works it performs each and every day of the year.”

As we have said before, we are just trying to help the Archdiocese achieve those same admirable goals.  The archdiocese’s criticism of this blog and ignoring of the  issues raised on the blog–which existed well before this blog started publicly documenting them—suggests the transparency initiative has been largely abandoned and make a closed-door meeting pointless.

6) Leadership voids and lack of accountability. On an operational basis, we are well aware that the main power-base of influence and decision-making at the Cabinet level is comprised of Chancellor Jim McDonough, Secretary for Healthcare and Social Services Fr. Bryan Hehir, and Communications Secretary Terry Donilon (whose offices are all in a sequestered area), but it also includes HR Exec Director Carol Gustavson (same office area), powerbroker Jack Connors, and John Kaneb. Though the formal org chart shows lines with those employed full-time by the archdiocese reporting to the Vicar General, is it well known that none of these individuals see themselves as accountable to the Vicar General, and many key decisions are made by them without the involvement of the Vicar General. Though we appreciate the Vicar General’s outreach to us, it seems that to practically address the concerns we have raised would require the active involvement of someone in a role operationally above these individuals–and in position to either require changes in behavior or to affect changes in the organization.

Once again, we reiterate our purpose with the blog in putting certain topics out in the light of day is simply to expose verifiable facts and matters that should be addressed or corrected so we can build a stronger Catholic Church in Boston and continue the good works of the Church today and for the future.  We hope this will make the difficult job and vocation of a Boston priest easier and more satisfying, we hope this will make things better for loyal hard-working Pastoral Center employees who love the Church and are committed to the mission of the Church, and we hope this will give donors more confidence and trust that the archdiocese is upholding its fiduciary responsibilities and using their contributions most efficiently and effectively.

We close by citing the words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI on the Feast of the Solemnity of Peter and Paul, June 29 2010:

Indeed if we think of the two millenniums of the Church’s history, we may note as the Lord Jesus had foretold (cf. Mt 10:16-33) that trials for Christians have never been lacking and in certain periods and places have assumed the character of true and proper persecution. Yet, despite the suffering they cause, they do not constitute the gravest danger for the Church. Indeed she is subjected to the greatest danger by what pollutes the faith and Christian life of her members and communities, corroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening her capacity for prophecy and witness, and marring the beauty of her face. The Pauline Letters already testified to this reality. The First Letter to the Corinthians, for example, responds precisely to certain problems of division, inconsistence and infidelity to the Gospel that seriously threaten the Church. However, the Second Letter to Timothy a passage to which we listened also speaks of the perils of the “last days”, identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to the world and can contaminate the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride, the attachment to money, etc. (cf. 3:1-5). The Apostle’s conclusion is reassuring: men who do evil, he writes, “will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all” (3:9). Therefore a guarantee exists of the freedom that God assures the Church, freedom both from material ties that seek to prevent or to coerce her mission and from spiritual and moral evils that can tarnish her authenticity and credibility.

We would ask that this response be shared with the members of the Archdiocesan Finance Council, the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council, and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, and we continue to welcome a response to the specific points in our August 23 Open Letter.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Boston Catholic Insider blog, on behalf of faithful Catholics in Boston

[To our readers, feel free to offer your feedback on this proposed response through Friday, September 10]


Conflicts of Interest: Part II

July 22, 2010

Here is the next installment in the discussion of the Rasky Baerlein/Ann Carter/Boston Archdiocese  conflict of interest. As you may recall from Conflicts of Interest: Part I , Rasky Baerlein is the long-time PR firm for the Archdiocese, and there are some aspects of their relationship with the archdiocese that appear inconsistent with good governance of any organization, whether it be Catholic or secular.

We mentioned in Conflicts of Interest: Part I that Ann Carter , CEO of PR firm Rasky Baerlein, played a key role on the archdiocesan search committee  that hired Chancellor Jim McDonough, and was previously on the Board of Abington Bank when Jim McDonough was the bank’s CEO.  Ms. Carter joined the Abington Bank board in 2002 for a two-year term, and her term was extended to 2006 by a shareholder vote in July 2003.  (She chaired their Audit Committee during the same time period when the bank was restating their 2001 earnings and revising 2002 financials due to an accounting error).  According to Abington Bank’s July 2003 annual shareholder meeting financial disclosure, Carter held 12,400 shares of stock (or .32% of the shares outstanding).  Jim McDonough held 244,665 shares or 6.28% of the stock.  (These shares are often given as an outright grant to board members, or as options to purchase stock at a pre-determined price).  What that means is that when Abington Bank sold to Seacoast in June of 2004 for $139.4 million, it is fair to estimate that Ms. Carter’s shares were worth .32% of $139 million or about $450,000. If these share were granted to her as a board member, then that would have been all profit for her.  Mr. McDonough’s shares would have been worth about $8.7 million.  Within months, even before that acquisition was even complete, Seacoast sold itself to Sovereign Bank  for $1.1 billion.  So, those shares worth $450,000 in June of 2004 were worth even more in the subsequent sale months later, but we do not know how much more.

What is important for you to know is that in late 2004-mid 2005, Ms Carter made a substantial amount of money on the sale of Abington Bank by virtue of  Jim McDonough having her serve on the Board, and then in December of 2005, Ms Carter (who is also a friend of Jack Connors) was put on the Archdiocesan search committee and played a key role in hiring Jim McDonough as Chancellor.  His appointment was announced on June 5, 2006.  As we stated previously, she was also on the search committee that selected communications secretary, Terry Donilon.  Both of these cabinet officials have decision-making authority over how much Carter (the person who helped select them) would be paid for work by the archdiocese.   We have been told by several sources that staff members at the archdiocese objected to this conflict of interest, but were overruled, and we have been told that their concerns at the time were overruled by current Secretary for Healthcare and Social Services, Fr. Bryan Hehir.

In addition, we know that Rasky Baerlein PR services are used by four different groups in the Archdiocese corporation sole—the Communications secretary (Terry Donilon), the Office of the Delegate (that handles sexual abuse claims), Caritas Christi, and Catholic Charities.  But Rasky has a billing arrangement where they charge each entity separately and where the archdiocese does not aggregate those four  separate charges to show if the annual payments were to make Rasky Baerlein a “top-paid vendor” in the archdiocese’s annual report.    Hypothetically speaking, if each entity were to pay Rasky $25,000/month for services, the Archdiocese would be paying Rasky $100,000/month or $1.2 million annually, but it would not show up on the annual report as a “top vendor” because the charges are billed to four separate agencies.  Even if that is an acceptable accounting practice, it would defeat a purpose of giving transparency to top vendor charges when ones like this are excluded from the archdiocese’s annual report. We do not know the actual amount Rasky is paid and welcome the archdiocese clarifying for us the exact amount of the Rasky billings. If we are mistaken they would be a top vendor we will make an appropriate correction.

It is difficult to understand how the Communications Secretary and Chancellor–who owe their current jobs at least in part to Ms. Carter, who served on their search committee amidst a clear conflict of interest–could responsibly decide on how much to pay her and her firm today, or even on whether to continue using this firm vs other less expensive PR agencies.  This conflict of interest also raises major questions over whether all qualified candidates were objectively considered by the search committees for these roles, and how many qualified candidates may have been passed over.  Furthermore, it is difficult to understand how this arrangement benefits the archdiocese today, and it is also difficult to understand how failing to disclose the aggregate amount paid to Rasky by the various archdiocesan agencies is consistent with the stated goal and principle of financial transparency.  Twenty one positions were recently eliminated at the archdiocese to save money.  Healthcare benefits to priests have been cut.  The clergy and employee retirement funds are underfunded by tens of millions of dollars.  Parishes are being asked to give a mandatory 18% of their contributions to the archdiocese.    Something does not feel ethically right about this arrangement with Rasky Baerlein and Ann Carter.

We will email all of the parties involved in this from the archdiocese and ask them to disclose why this conflict of interest was permitted, why the arrangement remains in place today where people even somewhat indebted to Ms. Carter decide on how much her firm is paid for services, and what steps are being taken to immediately address these conflicts for the common good of the archdiocese and to restore trust with priests, chancery workers, donors, and laity.  If any readers would like to add more to this, we invite you to comment below or to send us confidential email at (bostoncatholicinsider@gmail.com).


Conflicts of Interest: Part I

July 19, 2010

If you did not get to read our last post, “Responses to Injustice? Inconsistency?” we invite you to read it.  Today we begin a series of posts that focus on grave conflicts of interest, and illicit, perhaps corrupt behavior in the Pastoral Center/Chancery which affects everyone in the Archdiocese—pastors, priests, laity, donors, and Pastoral Center employees.  We have been asked to cover this for weeks and start today with the Archdiocese’s relationship with Ann Carter of public relations firm Rasky Baerlein.  Today you will learn about ethical conflicts in the hiring of Cabinet Secretaries Terry Donilon and Jim McDonough.  Next post we will cover financial irregularities and more about the conflicts.

Ann Carter (also known by her married name as Ann Jameson) is CEO of PR firm Rasky Baerlein, the long-time communications firm used by the Archdiocese.  Many people have seen her name appear in public statements from the Archdiocese.  She also is a close friend of Jack Connors, Jr.

Ms. Carter was on the search committee in early 2005 that selected Communications Secretary, Terry Donilon–the position that would determine when she was retained, how often and for how many hours she was retained, and what she and her firm would be paid. She was quoted in the Boston Globe on April 15, 2005 in their announcement of Donilon’s appointment saying, “Terry Donilon is an experienced communicator who loves the church.”   The person quoted in such announcements is usually the person who led the search.  People inside the archdiocese familiar with Terry’s work indicate that he is spelling-challenged and writing-challenged.  We are told that resumes of far superior candidates interested in the job never made it to the full search committee.

Ann, the PR vendor for the Archdiocese,  was also on the search committee that selected Jim McDonough as Chancellor in 2006. Jim was former President and CEO of Abington Bank, where Ann had served on the Board of Directors and also as Chair of the Audit Committee.  According to the bank’s Annual Report, Ann served in these roles while Jim was running the bank.  She would have made a substantial sum of money when the bank was subsequently sold, but that is a topic for a future post. The Chancellor search committee was led by banker, Neal Finnegan, and included banker Giles Mosher, HP Hood head John Kaneb, Fr. Art Coyle, philanthropist Joanne McGrath, and venture capitalist Jo Tango.  We are told that Finnegan chaired the committee mostly in name only and followed Carter’s lead to select the former CEO of the company where Ann had served as a vendor (in a PR capacity) and financial stakeholder in a Board capacity. The chancellor approves the budgets and expenditures for every department, including Communications.

In the case of both search committees (Communications and Chancellor), the Archdiocese was warned by archdiocesan staff members against the absolutely unethical conflict of interest of having a vendor/contractor (Carter) on the search committees to hire those who would determine whether her firm was engaged and how much her firm was paid, but those concerns were overruled.  We are investigating how those concerns came to be overruled (and by whom) and we welcome your anonymous comments and emails on that area. Clergy, laity, and employees may all wish to ask how this conflict of interest serves the good of the Church fiscally.

In our next post we will also discuss how the separate billings from Rasky to multiple entities across the Archdiocese corporation sole have been orchestrated so the high aggregate fees paid to Rasky are hidden from financial disclosure documents and “top vendor expense” listing by the Archdiocese.


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