Dismantling the Diocese?

We normally try to focus on just presenting you with the factual information you cannot find elsewhere, but today is a bit of an exception. Please read our post from yesterday “Biggest Boston Archdiocesan Sham Search Yet Now Announced” to get the foundation for today’s post.

In Sean P. O’Malley’s first message to us after he was named Archbishop of Boston, he spoke in inspirational terms using the words of St. Francis about “rebuilding the Church” in Boston. In the opinion of these bloggers, yesterday’s news about the naming of Kathleen Driscoll as the new Secretary of Institutional Advancement feels not like a step forward in rebuilding the Church, but rather the next step in dismantling of what was once a great archdiocese. It also confirms a leadership vacuum, governance crisis and lack of integrity from archdiocesan leaders that should be troubling for everyone in Boston and across the country and world, as what is happening here could readily happen elsewhere and may be happening without people realizing it.

On the positive side of rebuilding the Church, the sexual abuse cases looming over us in 2003 have largely been settled, parish closings and “reconfiguration” were necessary and had been anticipated well before the sexual abuse crisis hit, we have faithful dedicated priests and religious, the central archdiocesan budget is balanced, the clergy retirement fund has at least been stabilized, the seminary (with what remains of their original space) is thriving, and we hear that vocation efforts are also doing well relative to recent years.

However, the news of yesterday confirms a troubling reality.  Behind the scenes in the “rebuilding of the Church” and now coming front-and-center have been a sell-off of the seminary property and buildings against a Vatican committee’s recommendations, the sell-off of Catholic healthcare, conflicts of interest, pushing-out of long-term employees committed to the mission of the Church in favor of paying 6-figure salaries to people not committed to the Church, deceit and deception, corruption, a culture of retaliation against people who speak out, squandering of donations, throwing the fine reputations of outstanding priests under the bus (along with their ministry), possible violations of canon law so the archdiocese can grab and move around money at will, undermining of Catholic education, reneging on previous promises of pension benefits to long-time  employees, and much more.  With yesterday’s news, you can add an abdication of episcopal authority to the list.

For every one step forward taken in rebuilding, the deceit from the highest levels and clear dismantling of the Church makes it feel to this writer like we take several steps backwards.

Please take some time to read both the post from yesterday “Biggest Boston Archdiocesan Sham Search Yet Now Announced”and especially the comments from our well-informed readers.  There are at least 5 things every Catholic should be concerned about.

1) Deception about the search.

In mid-June we were all publicly told there was a search committee formed to fill the role.  In reality, there never was a search.  The search committee members, priests and every Catholic in the diocese were deceived.  As best as we can determine, that deception has been known for months at minimum by Cardinal O’Malley, Vicar General Fr. Erikson, Fr. Bryan Hehir, Chancellor Jim McDonough, HR Director Carol Gustavson, and Jack Connors.  Why do we know that? Simple–they knew they were not interviewing any candidates.  There is more, but that is for a future post.  How can anyone believe a word that comes from these people about anyting in the future when they were all a part of the deception?  Catholics deserve an explanation and a public apology for this deception and violation of trust.

2) Why the choice of Kathleen Driscoll?

We do not know Kathleen Driscoll and are not judging or criticizing her on a personal basis.  She did fund-raising for the Campaign for Catholic Schools for about 3 years.  We hear in the PR that they raised $58 million.  We know that $15 million of that came in a one-time special grant from the Yawkey Foundation, so the net is she raised more like $43 million from donors.  That’s about $15 million/year.  The previous staff at the Catholic Foundation that met or exceeded their goals every year since 2003 was doing that amount.  What makes Kathleen any better than them?  By the way, the Catholic Schools campaign has failed to hit its goal of raising $70 million by the end of 2010.  The reward for failing to hit your goal is now putting the person who didn’t hit the goal in charge of raising vastly more than they have ever done before.  How’s that compute?

3) How does a newly established 501(c) (3) organization for fund-raising ensure donors of “independence” and “accountability”?

From the Vicar General’s email and press announcement we learned the following:

Kathleen will be responsible for leading, directing and managing a new independent development organization, Boston Catholic Development Services (BCDS)…The newly established 501(c) (3) organization will ensure donors of independence and accountability.”

Who approved this?  What exactly was the problem with accountability to the Archdiocese of Boston before which this now solves?  Who will this be accountable to going forward?  Jack Connors?  Whom else?  What is it independent of?  The Catholic Church?

Here is who they say they will be accountable to:

A newly established Board of Trustees will provide oversight and some of its members will include member(s) of, the Archdiocese, the Campaign for Catholic Schools and Catholic Charities (if they choose to join). BCDS will also be accountable to the respective boards representing the entities they serve such as the Archdiocese, the Clergy Fund and Campaign for Catholic Schools.

For any Catholic who supports the mission of the Church and for any donor, this sounds downright scary.  There are a host of canonical and governance  issues we are not prepared to go into today.  But here is who they might draw from if they tap the Catholic Charities board: James Brett, (buddy of Jack Connors and Fr. Bryan Hehir on the search committee for the new MCC head, and part of the Hanover crowd of cronies), Kevin Driscoll (familiar last name), Fr. Bryan Hehir, Jeff Kaneb (whose wealthy daddy helped him get on the CC board and whose daddy is also Vice Chair of the finance council and board of Partners), Vicar General Fr Richard Erikson,  and Michael Sheehan (CEO of Hill Holliday and another buddy of Jack Connors).

4) What is going to happen to the Catholic Foundation assets and Catholic Appeal contributions?

This most recent annual report for the Catholic Foundation shows net assets of about $36 million. This comes mostly from people having given to specific endowments (e.g. St. Johns Seminary, named high schools, trusts) and the funds are either permanently restricted ($15.3M) or temporarily restricted ($18.2M) for that purpose. About $15.5M is designated for “RCAB Corporation Sole.”  This writer does not yet understand to what extent the monies I gave to the annual appeal were spent in the year they were given (which typically happens with most of the donations to fund operations) and to what extent some of that money was put in the bank in previous years as part of this endowment asset.  I thought my contributions were going to specific causes I knew about and supported within the archdiocese.  I gave to Catholic schools separately when called upon and when I wanted to.  Now it is unclear how much of that $15.5M designated for Corporation Sole or how much of the other temporarily restricted funds upon expiration of the restriction will get glommed together in one big pool to go wherever they have red ink.  Who is to say that if the Campaign for Catholic Schools has to pay back the $20 million loan from the archdiocese to pay for Jack Connors’ $70 million school in Dorchester–where it was known from the get-go there was not enough of a Catholic population to sustain it–they will not now draw on some of the “Corporation Sole” assets? Every donor should be concerned over this. 

5) Who is really in charge of the Archdiocese of Boston?

Our readers have been asking this question for months.  In our second blog post, Inside the Archdiocese of Boston back on June 23, we said the following about Cardinal O’Malley:

Top of the organizational chart, at least on paper….Existing commitments to Vatican committees, his own blog posts, and increasing travel during the next year as apostolic visitor to Dublin all give a message that his role in Boston is apparently becoming more ceremonial in nature.

This announcement says it is much worse than what we wrote in June, and even worse than just the detached “float above it all” governance style and excessive hands-off delegation of key responsibilities we hear complaints about all the time.  With all fund-raising now turned over to Jack Connors’ designee, it is impossible not to conclude that the diocese is actually being run by the people pictured in the pink box. (click on the graphic to enlarge)

Based on what we have documented on this blog, do you think the agendas of the people pictured in that pink box are always the mission of the Catholic Church–salvation of souls and carrying forth the healing ministry of Jesus Christ–and advancing the better good of the Archdiocese of Boston? Does anyone else thing the diocese is moreso being dismantled rather than rebuilt?

There may be more than 5 areas for concern but that was our first pass.  Comments and reactions to our portrayal of the current situation are most welcome via comments to this post, confidential emails (bostoncatholicinsider(at)gmail.com) or via the Contact Us page.

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