BCI has been very busy this past week and has wanted to say a bit more about the overall deception by the archdiocese regarding the Daughters of St. Paul legal action to recover pension funds for their lay employees.
Among the more troubling aspects of the situation is the deceptive “spin” from Communications secretary Terry Donilon sent out late last Thursday night saying that the archdiocese played no role in the leadership changes inside of the Daughters of St. Paul. The archdiocese knew that the Boston Globe was going to publish a story the next day (Daughters of St. Paul replace local leader), so this was an attempt to protect the image of the Cardinal and archdiocese. Here is the email he sent out Thursday night around 9:30pm.
I want to make you aware of a story we expect to be published in the Boston Globe tomorrow (Friday, May 27th) regarding the Daughters of St. Paul and changes in the local leadership. We were asked for comment about the leadership changes and what if any role the Archdiocese had in advancing such changes because of the recently settled lay pension plan lawsuit. Neither the Cardinal nor the Archdiocese had any role in the leadership changes and in fact has made it a priority to look past the lawsuit to continue the strong and effective shared ministry on behalf of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Boston.
Thank you and my apologies for the lateness of this notification.
In the opinion of BCI, a key problem with this message is that it is simply untrue. We do not know if Terry Donilon knew the truth and sent a message he knew was not true, or if he was given this message by someone else higher up who knew it was untrue and was asked to just send it along. Regardless, BCI thinks it says a lot about the archdiocese that they would send a message they know is not accurate.
It is undisputed that Cardinal O’Malley knew the Daughters were looking to recover pension funds for their lay employees and he and the archdiocese let the pension complaints from the Daughters drag on for 5 years. It is undisputed that Cardinal O’Malley called the Superior General Sr. Bruscato in Rome to complain about the lawsuit. It is also undisputed that not long after that, the provincial leader Sr. Sato and other leadership team members were abruptly removed. A benefactor to the Daughters was quoted in the article saying: “the cardinal had called Bruscato in Rome and told her that he was embarrassed by the lawsuit. As a result, Nicotra said the nuns told him, Bruscato…ousted Sato.” Hello? No role in “advancing such changes”?
Q. “How can you tell when [insert name] is lying?
A. “Their lips are moving.”
As we wrote in some of the comments last week, had the Cardinal and his staff acted on 5 years of complaints (which started before the the provincial leadership just removed was installed in July 2008)–including advance word to him and the Trustees that legal action was imminent–there would have been no legal action and thus no removal of the provincial leadership.
Trustees of the lay pension fund include Cardinal O’Malley, Chancellor Jim McDonough, Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson, priest-secretary to Cardinal O’Malley Fr. Robert Kickham, Fr. Bryan Parrish and Fr. Joseph K. Raeke. Are all of these people willing to go on the record and say that there was never any advance word at trustee meetings and they never saw anything in writing to them as Trustees that informed them legal action was a next step if this dispute was resolved? If they had acted to preclude the legal complaint and resolve the situation, then there would have been no lawsuit, no call from the Cardinal to the Superior General, and no removal of the provincial.
The Daughters’ legal complaint was quietly filed on December 20, 2010 and the archdiocese did little to resolve it before word got out. See this post and this court information about the complaint. As we wrote in our March 9 post, citing publicly available information on the archdiocesan benefits website, “During December 2010, a Complaint for Equitable Relief and an Accounting was brought against the Plan’s Trustees by the Daughters of St. Paul, a participating entity in the Plan. The entity is seeking a transfer of the assets and liabilities allocable to it relative to its current and former employees who have been participants in the Plan.” Nearly 3 months had passed since the complaint was filed when BCI wrote our March 9 post. The general public beyond BCI readers did not even know about the complaint until March 21 when the Boston Globe published their article about the legal action–3 months after the action was filed.
If the Cardinal was really troubled by the lawsuit, he could and should have worked double-time to settle it in the days and weeks right after it was filed. We know unequivocally from comments made by the Cardinal that he was particularly disturbed by BCI’s March blog post about the legal action and the subsequent mainstream media coverage by the Globe and other publications which he felt were embarrassing and hurt the Church. Yet, he has never expressed openly to the Pastoral Center staff or clergy to the best of our knowledge that he was disturbed by the 5 years of foot-dragging by his staff at the archdiocese or by the lack of progress by his team in the weeks after the legal action was filed. This whole thing is reminiscent of how the archdiocese initially treated complaints of sexual abuse years ago–it was the parents and victims legitimately complaining who were the problem, not those in the hierarchy who ignored the complaints for years. Once again, had the Cardinal himself pushed to settle the lawsuit in December, January, or February within 3 months after it was filed, there would have been no Globe story, no embarrassment, no call to the Superior General, and genuinely no role in advancing the removal of the provincial.
BCI does not know exactly when the Cardinal called the Superior General in Italy to complain about the situation. We believe it was somewhere around the time of the Globe article in late March but we do not have the date. Did the Cardinal specifically ask the Superior General to remove the provincial leadership? Doubtful. But was it because of Cardinal O’Malley complaining to the Superior General that the removal action followed? Put another way, had the Cardinal not called the Superior General to complain, would the Superior General have removed the provincial? Unlikely.
Had the Cardinal taken responsibility for his own actions and those of the archdiocese for 5 years before the legal action and/or precluded the negative media coverage by settling the case after it was filed and before it hit the mainstream media, and had he not called the Superior General to complain after the proverbial “doo-doo” hit the fan, would the Superior General have removed the provincial? Probably not.
The question was: What if any role did the Archdiocese have in advancing changes in local leadership of the Daughters of St. Paul because of the recently settled lay pension plan lawsuit?”
The answer was “Neither the Cardinal nor the Archdiocese had any role in the leadership changes.”
If the archdiocese is really asking us to believe there was no cause-and-effect between the complaint from Cardinal O’Malley (with associated playing of “red hat” trump card to the Superior General) and the action against the provincial leadership, then BCI has a bridge in Brooklyn up for sale.
Going forward, beyond a need to address what went wrong internally that led to the 5 years of frustration for the Daughters, the associated legal action, and failure of the RCAB to act on the legal complaint quickly, the archdiocese needs to do a better job at rebuilding and maintaining trust. We suggest the archdiocese look at this overall situation and also the most recent communication. Was Terry the author of the deceptive statement acting in cooperation with those who have actual knowledge of the situation, or was he told a lie by those in the know and directed to use it as a public statement? Either situation calls for corrective action.
Lastly, if the Cardinal and archdiocese have “made it a priority to look past the lawsuit to continue the strong and effective shared ministry on behalf of the faithful,” how exactly did the removal of the provincial leadership team and associated decimation of morale with the Daughters play into that plan? And more importantly, what are you doing to repair situation?
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Obituary: Senior Priest, Fr. Jim Lyons, “one of the archdiocese’s best liked priests, especially among his brother priests,” died unexpectedly at 77-years-old. It is unusual for Cardinal O’Malley to celebrate the funeral of a priest, so you know he was special in the eyes of many. Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord. Let perpetual light shine upon him, and may his departed soul remain in peace in heaven!