Wild West of Boston Catholic Blogosphere

The World Press Conference took place in Rome last week.  Boston Catholic Insider was unable to attend due to prior commitments, but thought you would find comments by Anna Arco, chief feature writer for the Catholic Herald, to be of interest, since they directly relate to the governance issues in the Archdiocese of Boston we have been writing about since June. And yes, readers, we will hit on more governance issues in this post and the next ones!

Her talk was entitled, “The Wild West of the blogosphere can revitalise the Church.”  Here is an excerpt.

“Interactive, easy to use and speedy, the blog provides an accessible medium both for author and reader. It gives voice to those who might not necessarily be heard. Because of links, referrals and blog-rolls, groups of blogs can develop into interlinked and interconnected communities which share interests and give refuge to those who feel misunderstood or disconnected…

And yet the blogosphere continues to be viewed with suspicion, even hostility from…within the Church, where blogs are often seen as hurtful, aggressive, angry “voices from below.”  [Boston Catholic Insider note: sound familiar anyone?] The Catholic blogosphere been described as a Wild West, where barroom brawls are commonplace…

It is true that the tone in the blogosphere is often angry – and sometimes not without cause. People have turned to blogs because they have not been heard, because their concerns are not being listened to or even taken seriously. If their criticism of local bishops is uncharitable, it is possibly because is a real rupture in the communion of the Church that needs to be addressed. I know of more than one case where Church authorities have attempted to shut down blogs that are critical, using arguably the same sort of aggressive tactics they accuse the bloggers of using.

Does that last paragraph sound familiar to anyone?  Does anyone else feel that their concerns are not being listened to or taken seriously here in the Boston Archdiocese? In case anyone is feeling that way,  we have a suggestion to help solve that problem for the good of the Church and Archdiocese of Boston.

We have been at this blogging thing since late June, but that was hardly the beginning of faithful Catholics, priests, and archdiocesean or parish employees trying to get action on issues of concern to the Church.  More than 46,000 unique visitors have stopped by the site since June 23, and more than a third keep returning.  We have sent multiple messages to the archdiocese about these concerns.  We see signs of progress (e.g. naming a bishop outside the diocese to run the new search for the Mass Catholic Conference head, higher levels of concern and responsiveness by certain individuals), yet the archdiocese seems to still turn a deaf ear to most of the big issues we have raised on your behalf for the good of the Church.

People write to the Cardinal and never get a response–or even any indication their letter has been forwarded to the appropriate staff member for review and action.  They see nothing.  At the risk of sounding repetitious, we will remind readers about a few of them, but with a new twist today.  We are suggesting the following as an email you can copy and paste to the Vicar General, Fr. Richard Erikson today.  Here it is:

Subj: Issues of Concern that Require Vicar General’s Attention

Dear Fr. Erikson,

I am concerned about various governance issues in the Archdiocese of Boston that affect the ability of the Catholic Church to keep doing her good works, and I write today to ask for your action and response on several concerns:

  1. Archdiocesan Finance Council current membership. The last list published publicly via web was the membership as of the 2008 annual report.  Most people do not have access to the print version of the Catholic Directory, and no doubt, members have retired and new ones added since the directory last went to press nearly a year ago.  The Boston Catholic Insider blog has documented conflicts of interest for finance council members, Jack Connors and John Kaneb, and I am concerned about potential conflicts or cronyism with new council members who are serving anonymously today.  Boston Catholics have no way of knowing if the “independent” board of directors that is supposed to provide objective advice and counsel, keep the archdiocese accountable for sound financial practices, and ensure best use of donor funds is actually “independent.”  Here is how three other dioceses do this: Archdiocese of Detroit Finance Council, Archdiocese of Milwaukee Finance Council, Diocese of Manchester Finance Council. Why was this published in the past on the Boston archdiocesan website, and is now kept secret?  In the absence of the Archdiocese publishing these names and the backgrounds of the individuals, the Archdiocese gives the appearance that you are hiding something.  When will a list of current members with a short profile of their background be available via the archdiocesan Web site?  If any are past associates of the Chancellor and thus cannot provide independent assessment of his performance prior to renewal of his 5-year contract, what is the process for addressing those conflicts and removing them from any input towards his term renewal?
  2. Whistleblower Policy. I understand that a whistleblower policy has been recommended to the archdiocese by auditors for several years.  Who owns implementation of this?  Is there a committee working on it?  What is the means of ensuring it has independence of the Chancellor, Vicar General, and Finance Council members who have their own conflicts of interest or who lack of authority over addressing many of the problems reported on the Boston Catholic Insider blog?  How will the confidentiality of everyone who submits claims be protected?  What is the date when the policy is expected to be rolled out?
  3. General Complaint Submission Policy. If someone (a lay person, pastoral center or parish employee, or priest) has a complaint about something the archdiocese is doing or is failing to do, what is the means of submitting that complaint and ensuring it gets reviewed and responded to?  The Cardinal’s office and the Pastoral Center have largely become a “black hole” in recent years when it comes to complaints.  A person writes or calls, and just never hears a response.   People wonder if anyone is listening or if the complaints are even being routed to staff for review and action.   Is there any documented, officially process whatsoever for handling complaints?  To whom should people submit complaints so as to ensure they get reviewed and they get some feedback as to the disposition of the complaint?
  4. Status of the Search for Secretary of Institutional Advancement.  Is the search for the new Secretary of Institutional Advancement really an “open search,” or was a lead candidate already identified before the search began?  How do candidates apply?  How many candidates have been interviewed to date?  Who decides which candidates will be interviewed?  So as to avoid the problem of Jack Connors continuing to dominate decision-making in the Boston Archdiocese, what is the process for ensuring that whomever is named to the position has no past ties to Mr. Connors? 

I would appreciate the favor of a response to let me know exactly what is being done on the above issues, and to whom I should address my concerns in the future so as to assure the complaint or concern will be reviewed and responded to.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

[Name]

If you are concerned about the above issues (or others), we suggest you drop Vicar General, Fr. Richard Erikson, a line and tell him–today.  Here is how.  Just copy the text above into an email, edit it as you see fit (or just use the way it is) and send it to Vicar_General(at)rcab.org.  Do us a favor and blind cc: bostoncatholicinsider(at)gmail.com, just so we can keep track of how many are sent.  Naturally, if you have other issues on your mind, go ahead and include those as well. We know these may not be the most important issues that the archdiocese needs to deal with, but they are at least straightforward ones to communicate and address.  (Do not worry, there is plenty of opportunity to get to the “bigger fish.”)

Have you written to the Archdicoese and been ignored?  We are frankly sick and tired of the archdiocese ignoring these concerns and think it is high time that we start documenting for the Vatican how these concerns have been ignored. Do send an email today, and let us know what sort of response you get. And also let us know via comments or email about other instances where you have made your concerns known to the Boston Archdiocse and they have gone with no response.

UPDATE: The Mass Catholic Conference this afternoon announced the names of the people on the search committee.

3 Responses to Wild West of Boston Catholic Blogosphere

  1. David says:

    Not only does the Vicar General fail to respond to inquiries, but even many of the Department Heads as well.

    For example, I contacted the Office of Liturgy and Worship this year asking whether it is permissible for our parish priest to omit the phrase “…for us men” from the Nicene Creed, or to insert inclusive language (i.e., substitute “human beings” for “men”) when using Eucharistic Prayer IV). I received no response.

    I also contacted the Office of Liturgy and Worship asking if I received valid absolution when during confession instead of using the First Person “…and *I* absolve you of your sins…” the priest gave me absolution in the Third Person “…and may *God* absolve you of your sins…” Again, no response.

    David

    • Ignored Pastor says:

      The absolution prayer is a personal act of the priest acting in “persona Christi”, not a general prayer that God may forgive us of our sins (as in the Mass at the Penitential Rite: “May Almighty God have mercy on us . . .”). Hence, the absolution given by the priest referred to by David is questionable both because the correct form is not being used (which is determined by the Church: “ego te absolvo” – “I forgive you”) and because the priest’s adulteration of the form may mean that he doesn’t think that he is forgiving sins “in persona Christi”, which would mean that the Sacrament has been made invalid by him and he is objectively commiting a sacrilege.

  2. […] If you have not yet written to him, copy and paste the text from this post, and let us know how you make […]

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