Finance Council: Conflicted, Contradictory, or Corrupt?

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.

9 Responses to Finance Council: Conflicted, Contradictory, or Corrupt?

  1. Tradcath says:

    Thanks for keeping us posted. Natch by now you’ve read last week’s Fall River Anchor. Boston needs to be accountable and you just might make it happen.
    The Tradcath

  2. SAd Boston Priest says:


  3. Carolyn says:

    Thanks so much for beginning to parse this somewhat complex and deeply troubling mess. In the old caricature of a cliffhanger, there’s a damsel in distress, usually lashed to train tracks by a dastardly villain, as a locomotive comes steaming down the track. BCI is writing a more frightening cliffhanger, because we are the people lashed to the track, and the juggernaut of RCAB financial foolishness is heading right for us… Stay tuned if your heart can stand it!

    • Michael says:

      I was kinda hoping the damsel in distress was Dr. Mary Grassa O’Neill and the BCI train was actually going to hit her – metaphorically of course.

  4. […] 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 […]

  5. thank you for all of your work on this topic. Where there was darkness, you have brought light. The work continues.

  6. […] Self-Contradicted, or Perhaps Even Corrupted.”  Click the following links to read #1: Consultation on Performance or Removal of the Chancellor, and #2 Term of Service, and #3 Conflicts of Interest.   Today we continue […]

  7. […] out both the post and the insightful comments.  And for new readers, you can catch-up by reading #1: Consultation on Performance or Removal of the Chancellor, and #2 Term of Service, and #3 Conflicts of Interest. Today we continue […]

  8. […] part on compensation.  To catch-up on what we covered previously in the flow, start by reading #1: Consultation on Performance or Removal of the Chancellor, and #2 Term of Service, and #3 Conflicts of Interest. Then you may want to recap on #4: Compensation–Six […]

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