Finance Council Top Ethical Concerns: #4: Compensation–Mary Grassa O’Neill

Today we continue our “Top 10 Ways the Finance Council is Conflicted, Self-Contradicted, or Perhaps Even Corrupted” with the second part on compensation.  If you have not yet read yesterday’s post on  Compensation: Six-Figure Salaries, do check 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 with:

#4: Compensation–Mary Grassa O’Neill

Before we dive in here, we pause to remind everyone that a key responsibility of the Finance Council is to “advise the Archbishop on the development and implementation of strategies to assure the financial soundness of the Archdiocese.”  The archdiocese needs to be financially sound in order to accomplish the goals of the Catholic Church, which the Code of Canon Law (1245 §2) tells us are as follows:

These proper objectives are principally the regulation of divine worship, the provision of fitting support for the clergy and other ministers, and the carrying out of works of the sacred apostolate and of charity, especially for the needy.

It is probably self-evident to everyone that if the Archdiocese is not a good steward of donations and temporal goods–for example, by over-paying certain lay employees–then donors are not going to want to give money and the Church cannot continue doing her good works and achieving these objectives.

Anyway, as we mentioned yesterday, the Finance Council has responsibility for consulting and overseeing compensation, but we cannot see what they have accomplished in recent years.  Is the practice of paying comparable or better pay than private-sector jobs helping advance the mission of the Church?

BCI Concerns

The poster-person who exemplifies what is wrong with lay “executive compensation” in the Boston Archdiocese is Catholic Schools Superintendent, Mary Grassa O’Neill. She is not the only person, as people commenting yesterday observed.  But she is the highest-paid, so we focus on her today. Quite simply, her $325,000 salary appears to be objectively unjustifiable and without precedent.  Below we focus on how to look at compensation, whether she is overpaid, and then questions and concerns we have received.

1) Looking at Compensation

As “Objective Observer” observed yesterday in comments, there are different standards for looking at compensation, and various points to consider, for example:

1. Look at comparably qualified individuals in other entities. This can be boiled down to, “What does a Ph.D. in education get paid?”

2.  Look at the scope of responsibility of the comparably qualified individual in other entities (e.g. Ph.D. in education).

3. Look at compensation in comparable organizations.

4. Another essential question is, “What is the compensation of the other managers in this organization?”  In the RCAB case we would ask what the principals of the schools are paid in order to determine what the superintendent is paid.

2. Overpaid?

Much as we know we may be disappointing our readers who have high expectations of us, the blog is not prepared to undertake the rigorous analysis called for above.  We do simply a poor-person’s version of #2 above, but we will try nonetheless, since we think this analysis is better than what the Finance Council, Chancellor McDonough, HR Director Carol Gustavson, and Jack Connors have done up to now.

As we have said previously, the biography of Dr. Grassa O’Neill lists impressive accomplishments, especially in her most recent stint in a school operational role as Milton superintendent of schools from 1993 to 2003, where she, coincidentally, worked with current general counsel, Beirne Lovely, on the Milton School Board, and where her annual compensation was about $138,000 in 2003.  (We know this because this chart of Mass superintendent salaries from 2006-2007 says her successor was paid $168K in 2006, an increase of 22% from 2003-04, so that means Dr. O’Neill was making $138K in 2003). 

An ideal comparison is vs the salary of other similarly-qualified school superintendents at other large Catholic archdioceses, but we just cannot find published information about those.  So, the best we can do is to compare her salary to those published for other large urban-area school superintendents. And we need to acknowledge an error we made previously.

At one time, we told you that the Boston public schools superintendent was paid more than Mary Grassa O’Neill, but we learned yesterday that we did not have complete information.  On paper, this 2009 source said the compensation plan for the Boston public schools superintendent, Carol Johnson, Ph.D. paid her a base salary of $280,288 and a bonus of another $55,549, so we thought she was earning $335,838 for managing a school system of 56,000 students.

But yesterday we realized that Carol Johnson is refusing to accept her bonus.  Yes, readers, a public official is refusing to take the bonus.  According to the Boston Herald of July 6, 2010, she makes $275,000.

[Superintendent Carol] Johnson told the Herald she won’t take any pay hikes or bonuses during the rest of her contract in Boston.

“I don’t think in a period where schools are cutting resources for children, any of us can expect to take raises,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s contract pays her an annual salary of $275,000 through June 30, 2012. She has also refused annual performance bonuses, a 2.5 percent pay raise each year and a $600-a-month car allowance.

“I don’t expect anyone to do what I’m doing,” said Johnson, the city’s highest-paid worker. “But in the public sector, you’re held to a higher standard of accountability with the use of public resources, and that’s how it should be.”

Pause for a moment and re-read that last quote.  The highest-paid worker in the city of Boston said, “in the public sector, you’re held to a higher standard of accountability with the use of public resources, and that’s how it should be.”  When is the last time you heard someone at the Pastoral Center say something like that publicly?  And Dr. Johnson is in the midst of a massive effort to close or merge a dozen Boston Public Schools, as today’s Boston Globe reports, so her job is by no means a walk in the park these days.

Even if Grassa O’Neill is considered equivalent in capability and earnings potential to the Boston Public School superintendent by virtue of education background and geography, Boston Catholic schools have 42,500 students, which is 24% fewer than Boston, and no unions.  And besides that, this is the Catholic Church, where you want people who buy into the mission of serving our Lord and are willing to hold themselves to a “higher standard of accountability” with the use of limited donor resources and the widow’s mite. 

We know you count on BCI as an accurate source of information and apologize to our readers for mistakenly telling you that Mary Grassa O’Neill made less than the Boston Schools Superintendent who oversees more students, when in fact Grassa O’Neill is collecting $50,000 more.  We also apologize to Dr. Grassa O’Neill if there was any offense taken by this miscommunication.  We will try harder to get it right in the future.

Given this imperfect comparison and the factors outlined by “Objective Observer,” it is almost irrelevant to compare vs other public school superintendents, but we had the chart already made, so here is an equally imperfect comparison just for your reference:

In terms of who is responsible for agreeing to these terms for Grassa O’Neill, her $325,000 salary was approved by Jack Connors, who is worth about $500 million. and Chancellor Jim McDonough, who came away from his last job as CEO of Abington Savings Bank with around $9 million in stock value (from 255,000 stock options worth $35/share) when Abington Bank was sold, on top of the $437K/year in total compensation he was paid. Apparently, the $325K is what Mary required in salary to leave her previous job at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (a non-comparable institution and function as per #3 above) and join the Archdiocese.

One cannot help but ask if anyone can find a Catholic schools superintendent anywhere in the country who earns this level of compensation.  We cannot.  

3) Questions and Concerns

For this amount of money, one also cannot help but ask what is the Boston archdiocese getting for this?  Grassa O’Neill’s biography says she may be a fine public school administrator, but what exactly is her job description here running Catholic Schools?  How is her performance objectively measured to earn this level of compensation?

We have heard from or spoken to parents and teachers from the North Shore to the South Shore to the western suburbs and we get the same questions all the time about the Catholic schools office.  This recent email is representative of what we keep hearing:

“Two of my children attend ___School in ___   To my knowledge, there are no policy directives, there is no guidance or help of any kind from the Archdiocese where school administration or development is concerned.  I look at the Office of Education’s web site, and all I see are reports of what individual schools are doing, apparently under their own auspices and with no involvement from the Archdiocese.  I mean, it’s not just a matter of her apparently being overpaid, it’s that her job just doesn’t seem to amount to anything…”

Just to clarify, we do not consider this a “personal attack.”  Grassa O’Neill has an impressive biography on paper.  Her salary and the comparison to other schools is factual, objective, and a matter of public record.  And we have received a number of complaints from parents and teachers about the lack of responsiveness from the schools office and/or perception that they are not bringing value nearly commensurate with the published salaries.  There is also an increasing perception, fueled by articles like this one from Tuesday’s Globe,  that the Catholic schools are becoming more focused on trying to appeal to non-Catholics than they are to maintaining an authentically Catholic education. Jack Connors’ quote on the Campaign for Catholic Schools website would serve to validate this direction: “While people may think that we are rebuilding a few Catholic schools, in fact we are rebuilding the Catholic faith.” (click image)

No offense, but how many people want Jack Connors rebuilding the Catholic faith with our donation dollars?  And who is providing the Catholic oversight for Jack to rebuild the faith? Is that an independent project to rebuild the faith for all of us in Boston, or are Cardinal O’Malley or some theologians also involved?  Or is the $325K salary because Mary Grassa O’Neill is helping oversee and administer the effort to rebuild the faith? (Sorry, we digress).

Here is one more example just posted to the blog by another parent:

Recently, I had a meeting with her as a result of concerns parents had about the promotion of atheism, homosexuality and transgenderism at Sacred Heart School, a non-archdiocesan “catholic” school, in Kingston (nonetheless under the authority of the Cardinal). During our meeting she displayed either a complete lack of understanding of the Catholic church teaching, or possibly an arrogant disregard of the Church’s position.

She agreed to negotiate on behalf of several concerned parents with the school to get the school to take five steps to correct the problem. She met with the school principals who essentially told her to “take a hike.” She came back from her “negotiation” empty handed. Result: not one corrective step will be taken by the school. A not so super performance by the superintendent.

Notwithstanding several requests to have her explain her absolute failure in person, she avoided e-mails and refused to meet with us again. She only responded to e-mails after additional pressure was placed on her by the Vicar General’s office. When she finally did respond via e-mail she wrote nothing substantive — a brush-off thank you note.

These are just two examples of many we have received. 

Why can’t proudly non-Catholic HR Director Carol Gustavson make a couple of calls to other dioceses to ask about salaries just as a sanity-check before Grassa O’Neill is told that her salary needs to be cut by $75-100K.  No compensation committee needed.  If Chancellor Jim McDonough is not sure where he might put the money and it is somehow earmarked for education, try giving it to Fr. Clancy in Campus Ministries. Based on what BCI has seen, we are confident it can really put it to fantastic use by Fr. Clancy ministering to Catholics on college campuses, instead of him having to raise funds himself or shut-down individual campus ministries.

By the way, just a side note to Chancellor McDonough and Cardinal O’Malley.  We keep hearing in various ways from pastors–especially those whose parishes are running in the red–that they are concerned about paying their own parish bills and do not trust that what they pay to Central administration is being used effectively.  We are hearing from donors as well who do not trust how effectively their contributions will be used. 

We do not know if the six-figure salary situation specifically is part of the reason for all of these concerns, but you might want to try and work on this issue of pastors and donors not trusting the Finance department. We are glad to help with drafting of job descriptions, ideas on people for search committees (if there is such thing as a legitimate search any more), etc. or in some other capacity if you need our assistance.

In our next exciting episode, we take up the new Compensation Committee.  Stay tuned, and have a blessed weekend!

28 Responses to Finance Council Top Ethical Concerns: #4: Compensation–Mary Grassa O’Neill

  1. Tom says:

    More high-level bureacrats according to this week’s Pilot (http://www.thebostonpilot.com/article.asp?ID=12700):

    Schools Office adds new regional superintendants
    By Jim Lockwood
    BRAINTREE — The archdiocese has appointed three regional superintendents to its schools’ office staff. The archdiocese says the move will allow the Archdiocese of Boston’s Catholic Schools Office (CSO) to more directly collaborate with its schools and existing archdiocesan school officials to focus on other administrative tasks.

    • Reader says:

      According to the Pilot article, there will now be six (6) associate/regional superintendents?

      Implications of the possible centralization this presages are worrisome to me.

  2. A Priest says:

    I think it is reasonable to look at the facts of the situation and if Dr. O’Neill is over compensated, and I think she is by a large margin, than that is a reasonable fact to report and should not be considered a personal attack. I don’t think anybody working for the Church should make that kind of money, especially when there are so many hard working people in parish ministry who can’t even get a truly living wage and we constantly have to tell them that they are doing it for the greater glory of God…why isn’t it the same for the central administration? My secretary is worth triple what she gets but she understands I can’t pay her that, and she continues to work and work hard. This is the stuff that needs to be continually looked at and have the light of day shined onto it. Good work BCI

    • Former Employee says:

      As I recall, when you reached a certain level you were grossly overpaid, but until you reached that point you were grossly underpaid…..and whenever there would be lay offs it was always numerous low paid employees (probably living pay check to pay check) who got cut, while the high paid employees often remained.

      Most interesting is that the low paid employees woudl often be more dedicated to the mission than the fat cats, but they would get cut.

      Just an observation.

      Would someone remind me how many six figures got cut during the lay offs last summer? I forget.

  3. PriestsForTransparency.com says:

    A few years back, I attended a meeting related to the new model of parish taxation and support of the chancery offices.

    A few members of the audience asked a number of questions of Scot Landry and Jim McDonough who were doing the presentation. At the time, they were the only two that had salaries greater than two hundred thousand.

    The questioners suggested nobody working for the church should make six figures – if they really cared for the church they should be willing to work for a lot less than they’d make in the private sector.

    Landry and McDonough had responded by acknowledging that they understand they were compensated highly by church standards, understood why some people would object to their salaries, and hoped that most people would judge that the church and the parishes got good value from their efforts. They provided background saying that the search committees that advised the Cardinal on their hires both recommended salary ranges up to 250,000 to find the best available person – not just “the best they can get for $X [a lower salary]”. And they both said that they had taken huge salary cuts to take their positions – which I believe in both cases

    Most priest I knew had no problem with the Chancellor and Fundraising roles being paid what they were being paid, particularly because it was clear that neither of those 2 took the job for the money. But we were shocked when we started seeing a lot of other positions being paid more then them where common sense said it’s unlikely that the people were taking salary cuts; more likely, the church was offering more money to entice them to take the role. That seems wrong.

    In my experience of hearing Dr. O’Neill present, I am impressed by her. But I do question the wisdom of hiring any Catholic school superintendent that makes 10 times the average salary of a catholic school teacher and so much more than a great religious sister would make in the superintendent role. I also question the wisdom of those who approved the offer at the Archdiocese – why would they think that it made sense that the School Superintendent and the General Counsel would be the top 2 salaried positions? And who thought “crossing the $300K” threshhold made sense under any circumstances?

    All roads lead back to the Finance Council on this (Kaneb, Connors, McDonough). Kaneb is a billionaire according to reports, yet in year one of the Clergy Appreciation Dinner he refused to let the committee reach out for “major gifts” (big donors) and instead forced the priests to raise money on the backs of middle class parishioners who wanted to show their “appreciation.” In the same way, Kaneb and Connors recommend/approve these salaries (or neglect to rein them in) on the Finance Council by allowing the burden of these positions to be borne by all those parishioners giving $100 or $200 to the Appeal after the pastor asks for it. If they could demonstrate that they fund these positions through the direct contributions they make to the Catholic Appeal, they should share that. Because otherwise it is scandalous.

    I don’t have high hopes for this compensation committee, but I’d feel much better if the entire committee was priests and that McDonough had to be accountable to them for his own salary, and the same goes for the other highly-paid executives. With some, I’m sure that they will show that the Archdiocese is getting a “great value” despite the high compensation. But the Cardinal should hear from his priests who raise most of the Catholic Appeal funds on this issue because it scandalizes most of us and the parishioners who are aware of it and it needs to change.

    • Hoodwinked Priest says:

      PFT,
      I think you should perhaps be writing under a name similar to mine–perhaps “Naive Priests for Transparency.”

      Ths issue isnt what these people earned or could have earned in a totally different private sector organization like the post says–as CEO of a publicly-held bank in the case of McDonough, and in a private company in the case of Landry–the issue is what the Catholic church pays for these roles to people of this background. Look at what the previous Chancellor and VP of Development made and also compare with what those functions are paid in other archdioceses. Look at what our agnostic HR director is paid vs other diocese, the legal staff, the finance staff, the communications guy.

      If people are taking salary cuts, that’s their decision–the salaries should be what the Church standards are, not just some percentage off what they used to make in the privte sector. Donna Morrissey, former communications person took a pay increase when she left a private PR firm and came to work for Corporation Sole. Many people at the Pastoral Center could not be making what they’re making today in the private sector.

      Mcdonough clearly doesn’t need the money–he made a lot of $$ off Abington Bank and was not working before, so he could work for free. He’s in this for something else, and it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to see that it’s more likely power and influence with the South Shore Irish than service to Jesus. If BCI wants to censor me, they may, but me thinks this is just fact not personal attack.

      Are parishes and is the archdicoese getting good value for McDonough’s efforts? No. Landry’s, I don’t know. He’s self-funded now anyway. This is not just about people about $300K. You’re in the wrong place sendng the dogs barking up the wrong tree. Are parishes and is the archdiocese getting good value for Terry Donilon’s efforts? No. Do Worcester or Fall River or other diocese pay $166K for a communications manager (not even director), which is all he is on a good day? No. How about what we’re paying all of the assoc. superintendents or regional superintendents of schools? How about what we’re paying our HR director? Good value? No.

      As for Mary Grassa O’Neill, you’ve obviously not talked to her about the Catholic faith and you’ve obviously not read the non-discrimination policy for Catholic schools where she is presiding over the manipulation of the Holy Father’s words, and you’ve not read or heard what’s happening in Kingston. She is “impressive” perhaps in her skills as a public school administrator, raising academic standards, and the like. We’re now no longer building Catholic schools in the archdiocese–we’re building public schools with secular values that happen to have the “Catholic Archdiocese of Boston” label. That’s not worth $325K to pary a superintendent, or $225K, or even $150K.

      40% of parishs can’t pay their bills today. The archdiocese is drawing down restricted funds to pay the bills today in many cases. In my humble opinion, the salaries of everyone at six-figures should be re-evaluated relative to what other dioceses are paying comparable people, how’s success defined for the roles, what value is the Church getting, and whether those people are even doing the job well today. MGO’N, Bernie Lovely, McD are just a few manifestations of the problem, of many.

      • Carolyn says:

        Amen, Father.

        You hit a lot of nails on the head. My pastor finds a way to spend every dollar twice, and his parishioners deeply appreciate his good stewardship. One cannot say the same for the central administration of RCAB.

        All arrows point back to Jack Connors and Bryan Hehir, two highly intelligent, stunningly manipulative men who share the same goals for different reasons.

        On both the canonical and civil sides, there is plenty of abdication of duty to lay at the ordinary’s feet. Laity can discuss this until we’re blue in the face, but the presbyterate stand the only chance of altering the course of what is now a road to perdition. Ask yourself, who among the church-going laity would not support you in this?

        But be careful what you pray for — BCI needs to start looking at who would fill the void if this crowd were bounced. And that discussion ahs to start with how the new people would be chosen.

        Please keep thinking and posting. You’ll lead us toward a well-run diocese, and we desperately need that now.

  4. SAd Boston Priest says:

    Some may think me paranoid BUT I have felt an anti-clerical breeze blowing through the halls and offices of Flatley Memorial, aka Pastoral Center, Corp Sole-headquarters … these high paid employees {Corp. Executives] have ridden rough shod over various decisions within the Clergy Fund … the priests are the lowest paid persons in the Diocese and their pensions and medical coverages are on shakey ground … most of us don’t complain because that is not a reason that we sought Holy Orders … however to be begrudged even a surety of that pitance is more than a little annoying … Also as other ‘brothers’ have noted it is very embarassing in front of the many volunteer and very dedicated low-paid parish workers.
    I envisioned living Holy Orders in true fraternal collaboration with my Bishop and other brother priests, deacons, religious and dedicated parishoners.
    It now seems I have become a dispensable and replaceable cog in a Corporation greater than any ‘power’ that even my bishop can control!!!

    • A Priest says:

      I have felt that breeze as well. I was trying to get to a meeting there once and this fellow wasn’t going to let me onto the floor because I didn’t have a badge…I had my clerics on, I was obviously a priest, but for some unknown reason that wasn’t enough. When the doors opened I went through anyway and called over my shoulder to the guy to call the cops if he had to but I was going to my meeting. True story.

  5. McKinley says:

    Seventy Thousand more than the superintendent for the New York school system? It make you wonder where the cacophony from the crony think tank at 66 Brooks Drive comes from, doesn’t it?

    This job should have a salary of a hundred thousand dollars less. That is a lot of money to overpay one person.

    Did they pull the number out of thin air?

    This is not personal to Grassa O’Neil at all, but she sure must have walked out of her job interview crowing one loud “Ca-ching!”.

    I hear she is a lovely woman but I agree with the parent who speaks of his experience over the scandal at Sacred Heart.

    That she ran home from Kingston with her tail between her legs when this principal told her to take a hike after he published an article praising ideas of a pedophile should give people little confidence that if there was ever actually a pedophile in a Catholic school being protected by a principal that they have any process in place to deal with it. They do not. All anyone has to do in this diocese is hand them a broken bottle and tell them to scratch themselves with it and that is the end of the matter to them.

    Beirne Lovely, God Bless him, but even the people working at 66 know they have to work around the lug.

    By the way, repeated attempts to get confirmation on whether the Archbishop is or was informed about serious matters has led to another epiphany that needs to be unravelled and exposed for what it is.

    I am told – and this has been confirmed by various former employees who left in disgust – that the governance of the Cardinal is to appoint folks who are given complete autonomy and control over anything and everything. Every office is headed by a mini archbishop.

    Let’s say for instance you had a couple of students of a Catholic School who reached out to Catholics upset about an article advising children that a pedophile had some good ideas about sex and how terribly oppressive Catholic schools to get ideology on licentiousness out into the open to make people doing it feel comfortable and accepted – and threatened them with death threats. Let’s say one of these persons coincidently had somebody drive up onto their lawn and take down a tree with their car. Let’s say the principal confirmed that he knew the identities of the students making the death threats. Let’s say the police called and the principal told him to take a hike.

    I know what you’re wondering…what would the Archdiocese do?

    Dr. Grassa-O’Neill closes the file and announces that is the end of the matter as there is nothing more she can do about the matter.

    How about taking the word Catholic away from them? That can be done and is going to be pushed to be done. How about sending a letter to every priest from Braintree to Provincetown and tell them that families should not be directed to go to the school? Nobody should be in the dark that Sacred Heart had derailed and is an unsafe place for families who don’t want deposit of faith undermined to their children or threatened with death when they express their concern about anti-Catholicism and immorality being published and passed out to students.

    God only knows what kind of treachery is happening to people all over town in Catholic schools which they don’t have the fortitude to deal with. Anybody in a Catholic school should know that this administration is so completely inept, there should be zero confidence that even if a pedophile were being protected at some Catholic school administration by refusing to answer phone calls from the Archdiocese or telling them to go back to where they came from when they showed up at the school, experiences demonstrate that is end of the matter as far as they are concerned.

    Unless people cooperate with them, what’s a gal making 325,000 to do but sing gather us in under the brass bird with the hole in his backside to store the Blessed Sacrament. Anyone reading know who picked that out? For the love of God, will somebody get a decent Tabernacle worthy of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord up there?

    All the mini archbishops better batten down the hatches for an Advent donnybrook over the ‘non-discrimination’ policy because, God willing and the creed doesn’t rise, a tornado is heading their direction.

    And, if it goes into place, we need to start with a formal campaign to defund parishes of pastors who signed off on it that are on the ‘presbyteral council’. If they’re going to give away our deposit of faith to be popular with the cronies, it is time to make an example out of what lies in the future in a more concrete way — defunding them.

  6. Observer says:

    Respectfully, I am wondering about your remarks about Carol Gustavson. Does she really announce that she is not Catholic? Is she someone who has left the Church, or was she always part of another denomination? Is she also active in another church?

    Just wondering how big a conflict this is for her.

    • Carolyn says:

      When Carol was planning her first Advent Celebration, a chancery employee asked her to what parish she belonged, and she stated, “I used to be Catholic, but I’m not anymore.” Had she never been Catholic, I think people would have figured that not everyone with a particular specialty is going to be Catholic, and not given it another thought.

      Does anyone remember what the job posting stated when McDonough hired her? Something about Catholic preferred… His goal, as overheard by a manager back then, was to find someone who could “get rid of all these menopausal women” without triggering a lawsuit. So I’m not sure “practicing Catholic” was a point on his radar screen.

  7. A Priest says:

    My interactions with Carol G have always left me with the feeling that she is absolutely proud to be a former Catholic. Weirdly so, not at all conflicted. I find that a little odd and I hope this isn’t misconstrued as a personal attack but it is my impression.

  8. McKinley says:

    Thanks for letting us know to keep her in prayer.

    It is frustrating to see Catholics floundering right under their noses and it gives me a special feeling to know that somebody who has separated themselves from Christ’s Church is permitted to be a witness to the pride of leaving the Catholic Church to all the other employees.

    • Lazarus' Table says:

      Sad Boston Priest, it may be of little or no comfort for you to know you are not alone in your feelings. There are many priests, I suspect, who for one reason or another are living lives of “quiet desperation” because they have been abandoned by even the “caregivers”. Once upon a time the presence of laypeople in hierarchical positions was a real plus, because lay people seem to have a better grasp and understanding of humanity and human nature than do some priests and they brought that understanding to the Church. Today, however, it is a different story. “Water seeks its own level” now seems to reflect the hiring policy of both lay and clergy at 66 Brooks, and that sense of humanity has been lost. Priests struggling with their humanity through depression, addiction, acting out, etc are set upon an ice floe and pushed out to sea (with the assurance of prayers, of course) to starve to death. Some perhaps have died before their hearts stopped beating. It’s the “business” of the church that counts and woe to those priests who hinder its advancement. Before encouraging a possible vocation, be sure that person is strong enough and willing enough to surrender every sense of “self” (strengths and weaknesses); they’ll be swimming with sharks.

  9. McKinley says:

    “Priests struggling with their humanity through depression, addiction, acting out, etc are set upon an ice floe and pushed out to sea (with the assurance of prayers, of course) to starve to death. Some perhaps have died before their hearts stopped beating. It’s the “business” of the church that counts and woe to those priests who hinder its advancement.”

    Truer words were never spoken.

    And, the duplicity of seeing them out in the streets advocating to give illegal aliens benefits none of us can pay for and how kind they are to strangers who need their help, is staggering.

    The hypocrisy is unbearable.

  10. Catherine&John says:

    This stuff is mind blowing, Please God let the Cardinal become engaged, interested and concerned for what he is Lord over

    • Objective Observer says:

      At the moment, C&J, he is Lord over the skies en route to Paraguay. After a week or so there, you can bet the blog will be full of lush photos.

      Is that what you had in mind as engaged, interested and concerned? Or were you thinking more of the job of the ordinary as described last night by Cardinal Burke at the St Thomas More dinner?

      Having spoken to three people so far this a.m. who were at the dinner, I’d say Cardinal O’Malley would have been squirming had he been present to hear the remarks of Cardinal Burke.

      And in the engaged department… he was also not present at the annual dinner of St Sebastian’s School, where he is chairman of the board, nor was he at the Christmas Gala at St John’s Seminary, where he is likewise chairman of the board, nor was he at the Crossroads fundraiser in Dorchester http://www.crossroadsculturalcenter.com — ironically he is going to speak in NYC in January at a Crossroads event there.

      Take your pick, if it’s in Boston, he’s not. Invincible in travel, invisible in Boston. Maybe Jack O’Malley can translate that into Latin so it sounds better.

      • Jack O'Malley says:

        Objective Observer,

        Maybe “Invictus peregre, domi invisus”? (Unconquered abroad, unseen at home). Unfortunately “invisus” can also mean “hated” and I don’t think anyone hates His Peripatetic Eminence.

        So maybe just a literal rendering: “Insuperabilis peregrinando, Bostoniae invisibilis.” Or mix ‘n match ’em!

        The Anglo-Catholics have flying bishops; we have a frequent-flying cardinal. The poor guy must be a challenge for the TSA gropers.

  11. Angry Parish Council Member says:

    Speaking of travel, has anyone else begun to feel like the archdiocese should just pull the plug on the Cardinal’s blog? In case anyone missed his latest post, after the Cardinal told us about his travel to Florida to be with his family for Thanksgiving, the next most important thing he told us about the consistory in Rome was a show-and-tell of his cell-phone photos of the floor at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with a comparison of whose cathedral is bigger.

    “I used my phone to photograph some the markings on the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica that indicate the measurements of the different major churches of the world.”

    Nothing about the consistory, just the photos comparing cathedrals. Who cares?

    • Clem Kadiddlehopper says:

      I wondered, when I visited the Vatican, who pays attention to those markings on the floor of St. Peter’s. Good to see that Sean is paying attention…to something.

  12. Lazarus' Table says:

    I can’t be angry with Card. Sean; consider all the painful issues with sex abuse he’s had to deal with in various dioceses– listening the victims’ stories (and I think he’s sincere with them), trying to work out settlements, etc etc. It all has to do a number on someone. Who supports him? On whose shoulder can he cry? WHo is his friend? Now I know that doesn’t releive him of his responsibilities to the archdiocese but who in their right mind would WANT to be (officially) a bishop in Boston? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the health of the archdiocese depends on the health of its shepherds– physically, emotionally, spiritually. Let’s work to expose and resolve problems and abuses, but let’s also find ways to “heal” the injured shepherds among us.
    Jesus knew St Peter needed that healing, and afterwards told him, “And when you have recovered, you in turn must strengthen your brothers.”
    You can’t give what you ain’t got. Let’s pray and work for the strength, health, holiness and happiness of our shepherds, so they can help us all find it.

    • Objective Observer says:

      Dear LT,

      Perhaps you missed an earlier discussion in comments on BCI about Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s actual role in abuse settlements and the consolation of the victims. (Could BCI locate the link?) That might help you understand the extent to which he does not actually deal with much in that respect. The public perception that has been crafted with great care does not line up with what has actually taken place.

      Your compassionate heart enlightens our discussion here. There was a time in 2003-2005 that I shared exactly your point of view, wondering who was caring for the caregiver. Rather than share with you why that stopped being a legitimate point of view for me based on close observation, I will offer you this:

      Boston needs an Archbishop who is fully engaged in his role; who listens, ponders in prayer and acts in wisdom and strength; who is both able to and willing to do the job. Sean is not that man. And so it matters less who offers him a shoulder to cry on, and more who can lead the Roman Catholics of Boston without crying. Sean’s problem is that the Archdiocese is made up of people, and and many of them are marked by imperfections, wounds, great need and some anger. They also bring with them deep faith, fervent prayer, trusting hearts and perseverance. Utter abdication of his canonical and civil accountability is not what they hoped for in return.

      The homily Cardinal O’Malley preached during his installation was arguably the finest example of public speaking Boston has ever heard. People streamed out of the Cathedral on that breezy July afternoon lifted up and full of hope. A tiny number of people had already seen the hint of overcast at 2101, but believed it would be overcome by the grace of the Holy Spirit, bestowed on a people in great need of strength. After a year or so, it was apparent that the Holy Spirit had something else in mind.

      Compassion must prevail in all our dealings. That does not mean that we do not deserve competence in our ordinary… or even greatness. We can be both compassionate and clear-eyed. Thanks for reminding us of that.

      • Lazarus' Table says:

        OO, I respect and agree with virtually all that you write. I am certainly not privvy to any inside workings and that may color my perception of things. But I just find it so frightening to think our hierarchs can effect any healthy changes without alot of outside, nonclerical help (or force). In his book CATHOLIC BISHOPS, John Tacy Ellis quotes one bishop as saying, “Rome will use you, abuse you, then throw you away.” Our own hierarchy has no problem chewing up and then spitting out priests. The blindness and ignorance that allowed the sexual abuse of children to happen still allows other forms of abuse to endure. And the abused now abuse. I don’t know. I don’t understand. How can we bring the spirit of Christ to such a sick situation? How can we encourage our shepherds to say with Mother Teresa, “We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful”? Who will help us be “both compassionate and clear-eyed”– certainly not the uncompassionate and the blind. Where are the people of love and wisdom who can come together, speak together and act together? Forget 66 Brooks; it’s a self-perpetuating disfunctional fraternity. My dear God, PLEASE HELP US!

      • McKinley says:

        When you’re so overwhelmed that you’re paralysed and crying, when the Holy Father asks you take pile on another mess of a diocese, you’d tell him that you’re in over your head with the mess on your own hands. You’d say if you have less time and attention to spend on your primary responsibility, the people in your own See are going to continue to drown in the chaos, die unrepentant, lose their souls.

        This reminds me of advising compassion for a firefighter who won’t leave the fire station when the 911 calls comes in because the fires make him cry.

        There’s a time and place to cry about fires. We can have compassion for the firefighter who, for whatever reason, is incapable of saving people on fire. After several years of watching him hire arsonists and when colleagues are screaming ‘get the hose’ he instead blogs about how many bricks there are in the buildings he’s touring, it’s time to call in the fire chiefs.

        I feel sorry for the man but I feel sorrier for the people who are drowning in the chaos. And, really, it is an injustice to continue to ignore the mess any longer. The structure of the Roman Catholic Church has just been dismantled. Our children have the right to inherit that structure.

  13. SAd Boston Priest says:

    Finally … We see the “Emporer is NAKED!

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