Changing of the Guard

The story in the Boston Globe on Tuesday about how the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute is losing its leader, Peter Meade, brought to mind a number of questions.  The most important of them concerns leadership transitions here in the Boston archdiocese.

First, and foremost, what IS happening with the status of Chancellor Jim McDonough? He is just a few months away from the expiration of his 5-year term.  Morale on his team is low and turnover has been high. When the previous chancellor, David Smith was going to retire effective July 2006, the archdiocese announced his retirement January 10, 2006, six months in advance (“Chancellor David Smith to retire“).  A search committee had been formed in December 2005–seven months before he was going to leave.  It took about five months for the search committee to select Jim McDonough, who was announced as the new chancellor on June 5, 2006. (“New chancellor appointed.”).  With the current chancellor’s 5-year term up in June, if they are going to search for a new chancellor, that search needs to be underway already.  What exactly are they waiting for?

We brought up the issue of the Chancellor search more than a month ago, in our January 18 post, “New Vicar General? New Chancellor?” In that post, we said the following about the search process, which still holds true today:

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?

We outlined our suggestion for how to conduct the search, and by means of contrast, let us look back five years ago to April 2006 at the last time they filled this position and see what Cardinal O’Malley told the Boston Globe he was looking for in a chancellor at that time:

Ann Carter, who’s here, is on the search committee for chancellor. I told them my preference for chancellor would be a religious woman. I don’t know whether they’ve been able to come up with someone. When I was a bishop before I had a religious woman as a chancellor. It was a wonderful fit, it was a way of holding up this vocation in the church, which, unfortunately is being greatly diminished. But we are a church of great diversity and we’d like to see that…

Well the first question I ask is, “Do you smoke?” (Laughter). It’s a whole range of things, certainly. Certainly their experience, their ability to work with people, their outlook, their energy, their capacity to work, their capacity to work with people, their love for the church. I don’t want people who see this simply as a job. I’m looking for people who have a sense of mission, that they really want to do this because they love the church and they want to further Christ’s mission.

Notwithstanding the inherent conflict of interest of having Ann Carter, CEO of the PR vendor paid by the archdiocese on the search committee, and  notwithstanding the fact that Ms. Carter was a Board member at Abington Bank when Jim McDonough was CEO of the bank and Ms. Carter made more than $400K in profit from her Abington Bank stock, and notwithstanding the “coincidence” that McDonough just so happened to have been chosen from among all other candidates, it is not clear to BCI and a lot of other people whether the current Chancellor even fits the bill of doing this job for the reason given by the Cardinal in the last sentence above.  Beyond the deception, corruption, ethical breaches, propagation of excessive six-figure salaries, sham searches, brain-drain, and conflicts of interest we have documented (which, coincidentally, have occurred over much of the past 5 years), objectively, McDonough is also a multi-millionaire who “didn’t need the job” or money, working for a church in desperate financial condition where every dollar matters.  So, if he really wanted to further Christ’s mission, why has he insisted on collecting $1.25M in salary over the past 5 years that could have better been used to advance the mission of the Church?

With even more long-time Pastoral Center staff dusting off their resumes and seeking jobs outside of the archdiocese because of the current regime , why are they waiting so long to let people know the status of the Chancellor?  Are they waiting for the 2010 annual report to be released some time in the next few weeks (Terry and Ann, how is the press release coming along?), and then, with a supposedly balanced budget they will share if he is staying or going?  Has the Presbyteral Council been consulted about whether his term should be renewed? Is the Cardinal first waiting to figure out who the new Vicar General will be? Or, are they hoping John Straub, the new Executive Director of Finance–who, coincidentally, came into his six-figure-salaried job without an open search–will take over?

We were in a similar place in 2006, when Cardinal O’Malley replaced a big chunk of his leadership team, bringing in a new Vicar General (replacing Bishop Lennon with Fr. Erikson), Chancellor (replacing David Smith with Jim McDonough), Secretary for Institutional Advancement (replacing Kenneth Hokenson with Scot Landry, and subsequently with Kathleen Driscoll),  and Secretary of Education (replacing Sr. Clare Bertero with Mary Grassa O’Neill). Readers of this blog know that the current occupants of these 4 roles have all been the subject of criticism by BCI.

We are already off to a controversial start with a “sham search” bringing in Ms. Driscoll as the new secretary for institutional advancement last November.  Mr. Straub did not arrive via an open search led by someone with a reputation for independence and integrity, who is wise and above reproach.  Will the Cardinal do a better job bringing in a new Vicar General and Chancellor this time around?  For once, can we get someone in the Chancellor role–or separated Chancellor and CFO roles–who came via a truly open, independent search and who seeks only the long-term best interest of the Catholic Church in Boston–and no other individual or institution?  Or are we going to hop out of the frying pan and into the fire–or worse yet, stay in the current frying pan?

5 Responses to Changing of the Guard

  1. Former Employee says:

    You need only read Machiavelli to understand why they do what they do. If they get someone who actually believes what the Church teaches he/she will get frustrated, by hiring “mercenaries” you can always be certain where their loyalties lie.

  2. Alice Slattery says:

    Now that Peter Meade is leaving the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, he will be looking for a job. Please don’t let that be any job in the Boston Archdiocese!! He had been a past chairman for Catholic Charities. He publicly objected to Catholic Charities’ discontinuing the practice of cooperating in arranging same-sex partners to have the opportunity to adopt children through Catholic Charities. Meade claimed that “What we do is facilitate adoption to loving couples.” He also had an article in The Herald in May,2004, claiming :”Gay marriage is just another step in natural social evolution.” His wife, Rose Ann Bacon Meade, had been the president of the Mass. Teachers Assoc.(MTA) when I ,as a teacher who was forced to join the teachers’ assoc. or else could not teach,tried to get a resolution passed stating that the MTA upheld the right of protection of the life of the baby in the womb of a pregnant woman. Rose Ann Bacon immediately stopped the voting procedure, spent a considerable length of time giving a glowing account of how Planned Parenthood had been supportive of the MTA, then engineered the voting procedure to terminate a vote on the right to life issue before the MTA resolutions committee. Teachers in the MTA never had the right to vote on this issue,yet had to pay a hefty dues to support the agenda of the MTA.
    It is a mystery why Peter and Rose Ann Meade are highlighted as prominent Catholics in the Boston Archdiocese. Hopefully neither will be given a job representing the Boston Archdiocese!

  3. […] Changing of the Guard – Boston Catholic Insider […]

  4. Objective Observer says:

    Peter Meade has churned through a few positions in the past four years, but that is not the whole story. Peter is an opportunist. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But like others in Boston (Anne Finucane comes to mind), once you have done as you were told, you are told to move on or out. (In Anne’s case, it’s treading water at BOA.)

    Who, then, is the prime mover? How does Peter Meade bounce from Blue Cross to suspended animation at Rasky Baerlein (with a side order of Rose Kennedy Greenway) to the Teddy Library to… what? Whose hand moves Peter from square to square on the chess board that is Boston? And how did he end up holding court on the question of which closed parish would benefit from a tap of the “back in business” wand?

    No, not Cardinal Sean O’Malley — though in the day Cushing would have had that kind of clout. Who moves the pawns on Boston’s chessboard?

    A hint: It rhymes with “hack.”

  5. […] not granting him a second 5-year term.  We suggest the Cardinal appoint an interim Chancellor and undertake an open, independent search for a new Chancellor immediately for the good of the future of the Catholic Church in Boston and those the Church needs […]

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