UPDATE: New information was added to this post at 7pm on Friday, Aug. 27.
This weekend’s edition of The Boston Pilot covered the situation of the archdiocese blocking access to our blog, and we would like to extend a hearty welcome to all Pilot readers! Since many visitors may be new to the site, we would like to briefly share the purpose of this blog, correct part of the archdiocese’s version of the story, and also give you a quick summary of what we have been covering over recent weeks that led up to the blog being blocked. (Regular readers, sorry if some of this is repetitious, but you’ll still find something new today!)
Purpose of Boston Catholic Insider Blog
As we stated in our Open Letter to Cardinal O’Malley and Archdiocesan Leaders on Monday [Note: 4 days have passed with no response yet], our purpose with the blog in putting certain topics out in the light of day is simply to expose verifiable facts and matters that most people objectively feel should be addressed or corrected so that we can build a stronger Catholic Church in Boston and continue the good works of the Church. We are not looking to “change the Church” or anything like that. Our hope with the blog is to give a voice to laity, donors, and the many outstanding priests and people faithfully serving the Archdiocese who are frustrated and fed up with the corruption, cronyism, and general direction of the Archdiocese. More than 20,000 people have visited the blog already from around the world–including many U.S. dioceses and the Holy See–and one third come back regularly, so we must be doing something right. [If you share our goal of continuing the good works of the Church and would like to receive email updates from the blog, just fill in your email address in the subscription box to the right].
All posts are carefully researched, fact-checked, and verified with multiple sources. As The Pilot correctly reported, the writers are people with close ties to the Archdiocese of Boston who are not identified by name on the blog so they can avoid possible repercussions and threats to their livelihoods. The writers are faithful to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
Corrections to Archdiocese Version of Blocking of Blog Story
The Pilot cites statements by Terry Donilon and the archdiocese saying the following:
“The anonymous authors of this site were actively spamming the employees of the Archdiocese with links to the site, interfering with their work day, so we did block access to it from work computers.
Cardinal O’Malley and his staff are dedicated to building unity in Christ and Christian community within the Archdiocese. Toward that end, we have reached out to bloggers on numerous occasions to ask them to enter into a professional and Christ-centered conversation with us. We are concerned about the harm caused to individuals and to the community by anonymous and unfounded claims on blogs.
If the Cardinal and his staff wish to build unity in Christ and Christian community within the Archdiocese, we are totally on-board with that aspirational goal! As for the rest of the statement, we mostly differ. The archdiocese accused the blog of “spamming” employees with unsolicited emails, when in fact just 2 email announcements about the blog were sent only in late June and early July, and no subsequent emails were sent in the 4+ weeks prior to the blocking of the blog. The statement says the archdiocese has reached out to bloggers, but the fact is that we have sent Cardinal O’Malley and members of his staff 5 emails since July 23 asking for answers to simple questions of concern to Boston-area Catholics, and the archdiocese has not responded. (One email regarding the hiring of Terry Donilon and James McDonough is re-published here). No one has asked to enter a conversation with this blog. If the archdiocese felt any claims were “unfounded,” they clearly knew how to reach us, and we still encourage the archdiocese to inform us of any inadvertent errors so that we can make necessary corrections. In the past two months, we have received no such notices from the archdiocese, so their statement that we “do harm” by publishing “unfounded claims” is itself unsubstantiated. Furthermore, if the content of the blog about cronyism and corruption in the archdiocese is so compelling that it distracts employees from their work, wouldn’t a better response strategy be for the archdiocese to immediately implement a credible “whistleblower policy” and engage employees towards addressing the documented problems for the good of the Church, and as a result, simply leave the blog with nothing to continue writing about?
What We Have Been Covering
The Pilot correctly reported that the blog posts are “critical of certain high-ranking Church officials,” saying:
the blog alleges cronyism and conflict of interest in the hiring of certain Pastoral Center employees and vendors and questions some of the salaries of archdiocesan officials. Boston Catholic Insider also criticizes the sale of the archdiocese’s Caritas Christi hospital network to a private-equity investment firm and questions the financial transparency of the archdiocese.
If you read our posts, that is absolutely what you will find on the blog. The conflicts of interest and/or appearances of unethical practices seem to be typically exhibited by people who work for the Church and/or serve on its various boards and committees. Coincidentally, you will see names such as Jack Connors, Jim McDonough, Fr. Bryan Hehir, Terry Donilon, and John Kaneb appear more than once on the blog. Here’s a quick summary:
Cronyism and conflicts of interest in hiring: As we have reported on this blog, a number of key positions in the archdiocese have been filled in recent years by search committees or search processes tainted by some controversy, such as an inherent conflict of interest, cronyism, excessive compensation relative to comparable positions elsewhere, public questions raised about the search, or prior relationship that gives the appearance of bias. These include:
- Terry Donilon (Secretary for Communications)
- James McDonough (Chancellor)
- Mary Grassa O’Neill (Superintendent of Schools)
- Dr. Ralph de la Torre (CEO of Caritas Christi)
- Edward Saunders (Mass Catholic Conference Executive Director)
- Office Manager for the Cardinal
- Director of Real Estate
This is not stating that everyone above is unqualified for their job–it is just stating the objective fact that the filling of these roles and certain other less visible positions have seen similar controversies. We document on the blog how people were hired at six-figure salaries with no prior church experience (including a former associate of the Chancellor who worked with him at Abington Bank), and how a number of employees had some connection to a person with significant insider influence. Beyond those named above, other people with significant influence into these controversial hires or who themselves had a conflict of interest with their involvement in the hiring process include Jack Connors, John Kaneb, and Fr. Bryan Hehir. The HR director, Carol G., who had no prior Catholic Church experience and is not Catholic, has also played a role in many recent hiring decisions.
Below is an organizational chart drawn to show how we have come to understand the top level of the archdiocesan hierarchy actually works today. Please note the following:
- Many subordinates of top-level people are not in the chart, as we include just the direct reports of the top-level cabinet secretaries where there was a publicly verifiable controvery such as described above.
- Those depicted in red represent people tainted by some controversy in their own hiring, or via their involvement in the hiring of other people.
The pink box in the upper right of the chart includes those people we are told–and publicly available information validates–comprise the primary base of power and decision-making influence in the archdiocese today. By coincidence, McDonough, Hehir, Donilon, and Carol G have their offices in the central area of the 4th floor, segregated from the rest of the staff. As just one example, our Caritas Coincidences post explains why Jack Connors is in that box:
Connors introduced Ralph de la Torre to the search committee that hired him as CEO of Caritas. Connors is on the Boston archdiocesan finance council that approves deals like the sale of Caritas; he helped secure the archdiocese’s former Brighton property for his alma mater, Boston College; he is running the Catholic Schools fund-raising campaign, he is leading the search for the new Secretary for Development, he drove a cabinet reorganization; he was on the Meade-Eisner reconfiguration commission that reviewed and reversed parish closing decisions a few years ago; and he is friends with Ann Carter of Rasky Baerlein, who played a key role hiring Terry Donilon as well as Jim Mcdonough, who also plays a key role approving the sale of Caritas.
To be fair, the lines on an official org chart would look slightly different from the above, but sources confirm that this does represent a fair depiction of how things functionally work today.
Sale of Caritas Christi to Cerberus Capital
Our blog has shared publicly available information that shows conflicts of interest by Jack Connors and John Kaneb (both on the board of Partners) in the hiring of Caritas CEO Ralph de la Torre and in that Partners would be a likely acquirer of select Caritas hospitals when Cerberus wants to sell Caritas for a profit in the future. We have also noted political contributions by Dr. de la Torre and another Caritas official to Attorney General Martha Coakley (who will approve the deal) just days after the deal to sell Caritas was set in motion, a public endorsement of Coakley by Connors and political donations by Connors and his family to Coakley, removal of symbols of Catholic identity from St. Elizabeth hospital even before the deal is signed, and a host of other questions about why the deal is even happening in view of Caritas recent turn to profitability and increased financial stability.
What we never yet reported previously was Fr. Bryan Hehir’s rather emphatic public statement in the Boston Globe on October 27, 2007 when Caritas Christi was financially struggling, that Caritas would never be sold to a for-profit hospital.
The idea that the archdiocese would sell Caritas to a for-profit system – it’s not going to happen,” said Father Bryan Hehir, cabinet secretary for social service ministry for the archdiocese. “The position of the archdiocese is that we do not intend to sell either the Caritas system as a whole or any of its parts to a for-profit entity,” he added.
Two years later, in November 2009, after Caritas had new management and had just announced turning a $30 million profit, the CEO of Caritas met with Cerberus Capital to set in motion the deal to sell Caritas and make it for-profit. By coincidence, shortly after we posted about that meeting–and the coincidental donations by Caritas’ CEO’s to Attorney General Coakley days after the 2009 meeting–access to this blog was shut off.
Just yesterday our “Spending Money” post started what we expect will be a series of posts on how the archdiocese spends, lends, and moves around money contributed by parishes and individual donors. Yesterday we dealt with the more than $2 million in cost to the archdiocese for purchasing and implementing a complex accounting and financial management software package from Lawson Software that has been described by those close to the multi-year project as “disastrous.”
Amidst the serious topics we cover, the bloggers and our readers try to maintain a little levity when we can. In keeping with the spirit of new media, we invite you to check out two humorous 2-minute-long videos submitted by a blog reader. One is a spoof of a job interview and the other is a satirical portrayal of an unnamed diocese trying to stop anonymous bloggers who are critical of the church hierarchy.
We hope you find the blog to be a worthwhile read and will share word of it with your friends and family members. If you are a parish employee, pastoral center employee, priest, or lay person in the pews and would would like to submit story ideas in confidence, please visit the Contact Us page. All submissions are confidential and sources are never identified publicly.
As was stated earlier, our purpose with the blog is just to expose things that should be addressed or corrected so that we can help strengthen the Catholic Church in Boston and continue the good works of the Church. We hope and pray that God might use this blog and our contributions in some small way to help the Archdiocese of Boston better carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ today and for generations to come.
(Comments on posts are welcome, and we simply ask that they remain focused on the topic of the blog. See the conclusion of the Spending Money post for comment guidelines”