From the archdiocese that lacks the leadership and fortitude to summarily shut-down a handful of “Invisible Vigils”–which continue to waste millions of dollars in scarce donor funds six years after they began and six months after their last canonical appeals were exhausted– now we have yet another committee to talk about the future parish and pastoral configuration of the archdiocese.
Before we dig into this new committee, how is that new Finance Council Compensation Committee coming along that is supposed to look at the $1M+ in excessive six-figure salaries? They approved it Nov. 4, but the names still are not even posted anywhere like, say, the Finance Council page of the RCAB website, so it sounds like there is stunning progress to report there. So now we have a yet another new committee–at least this time with names publicly announced, rather than the anonymous committees the folks at 66 Brooks Drive seem to have favored in recent years, like the anonymous search committees that chose Mary Grassa O’Neill and Terry Donilon.
Here is the notice from Wednesday announcing the new committee:
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley today announced that he has formed an Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission.The work of the eighteen member commission is to present a final recommendation to the Cardinal for a pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Boston that identifies the resources available for the foreseeable future and allocates these in a manner that will allow the mission of Christ and his Church to grow stronger in our Catholic community.
In case you are wondering what this means they will do, in principle, they are to come back with a plan to create a much smaller number of “parishes” and pastors of those newly-defined “parishes” comprised of mostly the same number of church buildings as we have today. The Boston Globe described is as follows:
Under a draft proposal, neighboring parishes would be merged into a single parish, with worship at multiple church buildings. Each clustered parish would be run by a pastor, with help from a team of priests, as well as a consolidated lay parish council, finance council, and parish staff.
BCI’s take on this as of now is that the commission will meet…and meet…and meet, and not really get any place. Last time around in 2004, there were recommendations made by clusters, there was a central committee, there was a review by the Cardinal and his advisors like Fr. Bryan Hehir, Jack Connors and a host of others weighed in behind the scenes, and a lot of “recommendations” never made it through the quicksand and political snares. What did we learn from that effort, and what will make this one different to avoid the snares of the past? Not clear.
There are some good people on the committee, and some that we do not see as adding meaningful value. One person familiar with the composition of the group described them in an email to BCI as a “circular firing squad.” Lest BCI be accused of personal attacks, we will make observations about the committee without mentioning specific names.
- Why so many money people? (And when we say “money people,” we mean big money people)
- Why the recycled cronies of Fr. Bryan Hehir and Sr. Janet Eisner–yet again? Are these people the only ones considered qualified or sufficiently politically-connected to serve?
- Why the person who led the “sham search” that placed the current Chancellor? Are we so pleased with how that choice has turned out that we want this person’s wisdom and insights once again?
- Why the person who led one of the previous planning committees which solicited input from everyone, included input from only a few while neglecting to include some of the best ideas in the report, and basically got nowhere fast? Do we really want a plan for “priestless Sundays” in which hostesses distribute pre-consecrated hosts to those who show up for a “communion service”?
- Why include someone on the committee from a particular religious order when one of that same order’s members instructing a Masters of Arts in Ministry (MAM) class on immigration not long ago asked Catholic students to role-play being a foreigner in a strange land by assuming the identity of a gay or lesbian on another planet?
- Why soak up one of the limited spots with someone from a parish that moreso resembles a part of a college campus rather than a diocesan parish?
- Why will the committee work not be transparent and public as it progresses? What is the means of public comment and parish input before the merger plan is communicated?
- What about the charter, composition and operating approach of this latest committee and effort is to instill such confidence by clergy and laity that a redo of any “recommendations” will not occur this time around?
If the Cardinal and his leadership cannot make a decision to cut the salaries of overpaid bureaucrats to save $500K-$1M+/year when the supporting information is objective and clear, and if the Cardinal and his leadership cannot make a decision to end “Invisible Vigils” costing $500K-850K/year after all appeals are done, then who in the world thinks this new pastoral planning effort–operating behind closed doors under no deadlines–will reach a set of recommendations and decisions that are acted on?
We hear from multiple sources that the Cardinal is on-the-road for a good part of the next 3-4 months, perhaps in the diocese only 14-20 days between now and the end of May. The Vicar General may be heading back to the military in the spring. With an absentee archbishop, who is setting the future direction of the archdiocese? Is that responsibility now abdicated to this new committee?