New Vicar General? New Chancellor?

In follow-up of our most recent post, Musings on the Future of the Archdicoese of Boston: Episcopal Leadership, while we are on the topic of leadership, we thought we would take the discussion a step further today.

First, if you have not yet read the episcopal leadership post, that would be a good foundation before reading this post.

As mentioned previously, rumors have been making the rounds for a while that the Vicar General plans to go back to full-time service in the Air Force this spring.  And if the current Chancellor does not continue on after his 5-year term expires expires in June, that key position will also be filled with someone new. The combination of two open positions in such key roles presents an opportunity to either fix some significant problems and “right the ship” by filling the positions with outstanding Catholic leaders well-suited to these roles, or to send the proverbial archdiocesan cruise ship at an even faster speed ahead into an iceberg quicker than you can say the word, “Titanic.”

There is much to say about the topic of how to fill these key roles and how to fix the current dysfunctional management.  Apparently unique in large archdioceses as best as we can tell, Cardinal O’Malley allowed what has been in Boston a combined Chancellor/CFO role (most are separate roles) to also maneuver a reporting relationship direct to the Cardinal and become more like a COO or CEO.  That, combined with a Vicar General today whose expertise is in grief counseling and who is better suited to pastoral ministry than strong-willed leadership amidst the Boston political hornets-net, leaves us with a leadership vacuum where the Vicar General who should be the #2 in command is largely a figurehead–or even worse, at times more like puppet manipulated by other power-hungry cabinet members and advisors.

How should the Cardinal go about fixing the broken and dysfunctional organizational structure he has allowed to exist in Boston that plays to his own weaknesses and is contributing to our current problems and trajectory?   We offer brief thoughts on both the structural issues and the key issue of how to conduct the searches.

Organizational Structure Issues

This merits a post or two alone, so this is just dipping a toe in the water.  As one example, should the Chancellor be a priest or a lay-person?  In the Code of Canon Law, here is the high-level overview of the job:

Can. 482 §1. In every curia a chancellor is to be appointed whose principal function, unless particular law establishes otherwise, is to take care that acts of the curia are gathered, arranged, and safeguarded in the archive of the curia.

The Chancellor role is often filled by a priest or religious with knowledge and expertise in both Canon Law and in organizational management.  But it is also often filled by a layperson.  Should the position of “Chancellor” be combined with the equivalent of a “Chief Financial Officer” role as has been the case here in Boston, with broad responsibilities over budget, financial reporting, cash management, investments, risk management, MIS, benefits, human resources, cemeteries, real estate and facilities?  Or should they be separate roles, as is the organizational model in other large archdioceses (e.g. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit) where there is a Chancellor with organizational management responsibilities reporting to the Vicar General, and often a separate CFO or Director of Finance who also reports to the Vicar General?  This is just food for thought.

But, before anyone even attempts to tackle those questions, we think the question of how to conduct a search needs to be asked.

How to Conduct a Search

BCI has covered, perhaps ad nauseum, the “sham searches” that have become literally an art and science here in the Boston archdiocese–starting with the Secretary for Communications, through the Chancellor, Superintendent of Schools, Cardinal’s office manager, and the new Secretary for Institutional Advancement–the “mother of all sham searches.”  There are even more, but we will leave it with these for now.

Can Boston construct a truly competent search committee for any key job, free of blatant conflicts of interest? Sufficient concerns about the current Chancellor lead us to offer guidance towards what we believe should be an open, independent search for a successor to him. Assuming such a search is undertaken, who should lead it?  Is there anyone within the Archdiocese who can articulate what the Chancellor’s job really is, and also guide the search?  Are the halls, offices, and cubicles of 66 Brooks Drive devoid of good minds with clear thought and a moral compass?  Who might have a reputation for independence and integrity?  Who has not been called-out for deception, excessive compensation, or conflicts of interest on this blog?  BCI challenges Cardinal O’Malley to think of just one person who is wise and above reproach.  We invite the Cardinal to think of one person who could direct a conversation and search process to yield a truly independent chancellor…one who seeks only the long-term best interest of the Catholic Church in Boston–and no other individual or institution.  Who can help put Boston on the straight and narrow path canonically, ethically and legally, and keep us there?

Besides the possible search for a new chancellor, what will the profile of the next Vicar General look like? Will the Cardinal appoint a strong Vicar General with backbone, like Bishop Lennon, who would simply not tolerate the nonsense, corruption, political scheming and breaches of fiduciary responsibility that have transpired under the reign of certain people in the Chancellor’s Suite on the 4th floor, as well as those who advise and influence them? Given that neither the Cardinal nor the current Vicar General had any experience as a pastor or had substantial training or experience in financial or business management, will previous experience as a pastor or experience in a significant leadership/management role be important to look for in a new Vicar General?

Those expert in studying and understanding traits of outstanding leaders say the common attributes include Integrity, Dedication, Magnanimity, Humility, Openness, and Creativity.  How will Cardinal O’Malley find these attributes in the right combination–and others such as skill in dealing with confrontation and conflict to make up for his weaknesses–for what could be the two most critical roles he fills in the next few months?  Getting the right person(s) on the ship–and the wrong people off the ship–could make a huge difference in the next stage of the voyage and the future of the Archdiocese of Boston.

The Archdiocese of Boston is in desperate need of strong leadership. Priests and laity of this archdiocese need the Cardinal to aim for a better fit with Boston’s current requirements  in filling these crucial roles than the individuals we have today in those positions.  We pray that when the Cardinal enlists assistance in the search(es), he turns to someone to lead either or both searches who is smart, a clear thinker, is known for integrity, is free from conflicts of interest, is faithful to the teachings of the Church, and who seeks only the long-term best interest of the Catholic Church in Boston.

This is the time to think “outside the box.”  Can Cardinal O’Malley do this?  Will he at long last right the ship with at least the filling of these key leadership roles, or will we keep heading towards an iceberg with more of the same for the next five years?

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