Terry Donilon Sham Search: Part 2

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.

12 Responses to Terry Donilon Sham Search: Part 2

  1. Angry Parish Council Member says:

    Every time I think I have heard the worst, you guys keep coming back with something else yet more troubling. It’s almost like the revelations of sexual abuse that kept dripping out every few weeks like Chinese water torture during the “Long Lent” of 2002.

    Just so that I and other readers can calibrate on where we’re at, can the Boston Catholic Insider bloggers give some measure of how far along we are with these disclosures? Are we nearly at the end-zone, or are we more like at the 50-yard line? I’m going to the pharmacy over the weekend and would like to know how large a bottle of Maalox to purchase.

  2. PriestsForTransparency.com says:

    I had a chance to work with Kevin Shea on an issue back in 2006. He was great to work with.

  3. Women's Conference Attendee says:

    I remember hearing at the 2008 and 2009 Women’s Conference that Kevin Shea recommended to Father Leahy that Boston College host the Catholic Men’s and Women’s Conferences. Those were my favorite conferences. Thanks to Kevin! At least some good came out of him leaving the Archdiocese.

  4. Molly says:

    Thanks for this “part 2” post! I work for a not-for-profit and have worked for another in the past. The number one goal outside of its mission is to have a good reputation, they really go hand in hand. Having whistle blower policies and independence with the Board of Directors helps avoid negative press. It seems like the Archdiocese doesn’t care about its reputation and the impact it has on the Church’s mission.

  5. Jerry says:

    all power corrupts-absolute power corrupts aboslutely

  6. FairnessAndFacts says:

    I’m a first-time commenter…

    You wrote:

    “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?”

    My answer:
    It’s hard to know the actual answer to this question, but the answer SHOULD BE ZERO. If someone wants to help the church and has a decent background for a position they should apply. Even if they don’t an interview or are never offered the job. This is the church. It’s worth the effort and the attempt, no?

    I grant that it is a true scandal when qualified people are not interviewed or lied to. But this Church will never turn around if good Catholics say that they won’t work for the Church because of some of the corrupt actors there. Walk around the Pastoral Center some day – most of the people who work there are great people that work hard, pray, attend daily mass, and love the Church. You may want to join them in taking a pay cut and working hard to make things better. They need more like them.

    • FairnessAndFacts, Welcome to the blog and thank you for your feedback. Agreed–this writer wishes the number was zero as well! We get emails from qualified people who have applied not just once for a job (and could not get an interview), but again for different jobs, and we have encouraged them to keep trying. We have prayed and continue to pray for their success. We did not intend for the rhetorical question to come across as discouraging good people from applying, as we hope and pray that they do apply and more get to work for the Church to help turn things around. But a problem clearly does exist and part of our goal remains to cast light on it so that the problem can be addressed. By our asking that question among other important ones, we hope that those people in the Pastoral Center reading the blog who care about the good of Church and are in a position to make a difference in hiring practices might find some way to pass around these questions to their colleagues. Hopefully perhaps the next time there are plans to embark on a “sham search” or a sham search is underway, some people inside might think and behave differently.

      • Michael says:

        This is the church. It’s worth the effort and the attempt, no? … You may want to join them in taking a pay cut and working hard to make things better.

        Yeah … a pay cut … not if you are the superintendent of Catholic Schools. So much for altruism. If I could get her pay cut, I’d be rich. And I wouldn’t mind it that much — the excessive salary she makes — if she actually possessed true Catholic values … but one cannot be rich in all things … eh?

    • FairnessAndFacts says:

      Michael –

      95% of the people who work at the Pastoral Center take pay cuts to work there or clearly can make more elsewhere. They are good people.

      Calling out 1 (or a few) of the 250 people that work in Braintree can have the effect of coloring the perception of all pastoral center employees. That’s unfair to them.

      • carolyn says:


        There are definitely some highly qualified people who do actually get hired, or have been retained, at 66 Brooks. They work away in cubicles, and even a few offices. Let’s call them the 50% who belong there.

        But the people who either determine the direction of the Church in the Archdiocese (from schools to parishes to hospitals to real estate transfers and vendor choices) or who represent the Church to others (p.r., fundraising, cabinet), it could be argued, seem to occupy their positions based on something besides being the most qualified person a diligent search could have found. And the list of incredibly qualified people who have been hung out to dry, or who have fled out of principal, is longer than a chimp’s arm. So let’s do justice to fairness and facts, and acknowledge that much has been squandered in terms of human resources. (And I’d argue vigorously against your 95% number… e.g., the bostoncatholic.org website has the name of more than one deceased priest serving as pastor in a parish, and my own pastor is listed at a parish he hasn’t been in for 18 months.)

  7. Cormac says:

    Love your illustrations!
    Seriously, I always wondered why the Globe had such easy access to the Cardinal, and yet orthodox Catholic publications were told in essence, “Don’t call us; we’ll call you.”
    Now the dots connect!

  8. bitsnbytes says:

    Carolyn, if you see bad data on the bostoncatholic.org website, send in a correction. It usually works for me.

    They love to roll out flashy new internet gizmos every now and then, but keeping the basic data current isn’t so glamorous, and they don’t bother doing that grunt work unless you draw it to their attention. This is a perennial problem with information projects, not just a flaw with the RCAB site.

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