The news on Monday that the Daughters of St. Paul have been stonewalled for 5 years trying to resolve issues with the archdiocese over protecting pension benefits of their lay employees is the last straw. It is time for a change.
As we read yesterday, the “incredible lack of responsiveness, non-answers to very specific questions, and just endless, fruitless negotiations’’ over 5 years by people under the responsibility of Chancellor James McDonough left a community of Catholic religious sisters no choice but to file a lawsuit against the trustees of the pension plan, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley. As evidenced by pickups in publications ranging from the Village Voice and Forbes to the UK’s Daily Mail, NPR, CathNews India, and the Los Angeles Times, the Archdiocese of Boston has become the subject of criticism around the world for their mishandling of this situation and treatment of the sisters.
The management of the lay pension plan falls under the scope of responsibility of the Chancellor, who is paid $250K/year with six weeks of vacation, and who, sources tell BCI, attended very few meetings of the pension fund trustees in his time here. The Chancellor’s point-person for the pension plan, a proud ex-Catholic, has admitted publicly she is not so good with numbers, has acknowledged internally she does not have deep experience with such pensions, has established a reputation in the Pastoral Center for not getting along well with other people, and also has a history of showing-up late for pension-related meetings, leaving early, or missing them entirely–and not actively participating while in attendance. This represents factual information and actions observed by a number of different people.
The manner in which the archdiocese has handled the Daughters’ situation is just one more in a litany of situations that have caused Boston Catholics to lose trust in the financial and administrative management of the Archdiocese of Boston. True, the Central Ministries budget is touted as “balanced,” and there is less red ink hemorrhaging today from Corporation Sole than 5 years ago. But a lot of that came from selling property assets, laying-off or pushing out long-time dedicated employees, and reneging on debts, and 40% of parishes are still operating in the red.
During the Chancellor’s 5-year tenure, Catholics have seen a consistent pattern of promises made and never kept, excessive spending, cronyism and breaches of trust which have harmed the Church:
- A promise that proceeds from closed parishes were to repay debts to the lay pension fund was not kept
- Lay and clergy pension plans remain underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars
- A promise to repay millions of dollars in debt to St. Johns Seminary remains unfulfilled
- A promise of good financial stewardship was not kept. The Chancellor and two other lay executives are paid more than $1 million/year in combined salaries and benefits, while annual payroll and benefits for the top 10 archdiocesan employees has risen to nearly $3 million. BCI has verified that many of these salaries are unprecedented in other U.S. dioceses. Any excessive spending wastes the assets and temporal goods of the Church and takes scarce funds away from parishes, ministry to the needy, evangelization, and retirement needs of priests and former employees.
- Long-time dedicated Church employees in the Cardinal’s office, finance, and HR/benefits have been pushed out and replaced by higher-paid, less-qualified staff with no Church experience. Many of these new higher-paid, less-qualified staff are the Chancellor’s former bank employees or cronies.
- A “no nepotism” policy in Pastoral Center hiring that applied to everyone else was circumvented so the Chancellor’s son and daughter could be given jobs after they graduated from college
- A promise of financial‘transparency’ made 5 years ago has not been kept. The Chancellor played a key role in creating the new fundraising team and in the deception that surrounded its creation. Donations to the annual Catholic Appeal have reportedly fallen from $15 million to $12.5 million–the lowest in five years, and the Chancellor’s team has failed to account publicly for 2010 fundraising results.
When he took the Chancellor position in 2006, James McDonough was already a multi-millionaire from the sale of Abington Bank who said he “didn’t need the job.” Like it or not, Cardinal O’Malley hired the Chancellor and has delegated responsibilities for the areas above to him. Do Catholics in the archdiocese want another 5 years of the above, or is it time for different person and management approach?
Because of these broken promises–and the Chancellor’s failure to uphold his responsibility to be a good steward of assets, temporal goods, and donor funds–BCI is calling on Catholics and priests to urge Cardinal O’Malley to NOT renew the Chancellor’s 5-year term. We also suggest Catholics withhold donations from the Catholic Appeal until after a new Chancellor is named.
You can easily communicate this message to Cardinal O’Malley, members of the Boston presbyterate (for whom we have email addresses), and the Holy See by clicking the “ACT NOW” button to the right.
MARCH UPDATE: The message has been communicated. BCI is concluding the campaign.
Can. 212 §3 reminds Christian faithful of our right and duty to communicate this to our priests:
“According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.”
We are doing exactly that, based on objective factual information. We are not asking that the Chancellor be removed–this is a simple matter of allowing him to finish his existing term, and 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 to serve.