Top Ways to Improve the Boston Archdiocese

In view of the newspaper articles about the major reorganization planned for parishes in the Boston archdiocese and reader feedback to our last post on this topic, “Radical Reshuffle for Boston Archdiocese,” we thought we would start a series on the top ways to improve the Boston archdiocese and try to get it growing and improving instead of shrinking.

We did something similar last December, and will get this started by drawing from our December 2010 post, Top 10 Ways to Improve Cardinal Sean’s Blog and/or Help Address Governance Concerns in Boston. A lot has happened since then.  So, we will update this as we go along, and post could be thought of as more like “Top Priorities for the Archbishop of Boston and Vicar General.”

  1. Teaching: The key responsibilities of the bishop are to teach, sanctify, and govern.  However he wishes to do it, the Archbishop of Boston should use the pulpit, The Pilot, Catholic TV, his blog, pastoral letters to the faithful and/or other mediums to teach on a regular basis.    Maybe it is a written excerpt from the Cardinal’s homiletic preaching on the Sunday Mass readings, something about Catholic teachings and the intersection with the public square on faith and morals, or other teaching. It just should happen regularly an in a visible way.
  2. Parish Support and Outreach: We assume that the Cardinal and his team are meeting with pastors of the 40% of parishes currently in the red to brainstorm, apply the best minds and resources from the Pastoral Center, cut archdiocesan fees, share best practices from other parishes, and figure out how to help as many as possible become financially solvent ASAP.
  3. Central Ministries Governance (Salaries): Besides formation of a Finance Council Compensation Commitee comprised of mostly very wealthy executives, there is no evidence anything else has happened to address the very high salaries paid to a small group of archdiocesan leaders and how this takes away from funding other important initiatives to advance the mission of the Church. This blog has documented many times how the archdiocese can cut $500K-$1 million or more in unnecessary expense from those salaries, so those funds can be freed for ministries and advancing the main mission of the Church in Boston. This should be made a high priority for the Archbishop of Boston and his lay executives, instead of what appears to be a back-burner effort by outside consultants and wealthy Finance Council members.
  4. Central Ministries Governance (Team): A key challenge for the Archbishop of Boston going forward remains to make sure he has the right team in-place, and also determine to what extent the current Archbishop of Boston wants to be in his own job. There should be no question that Jesus himself, wanted his job and mission. And among Jesus’ first public ministry actions was picking his team.  He chose the disciples and immediately began proclaiming a powerful new vision of the Kingdom of God. Does Cardinal O’Malley even want to be here himself?  If not, what is he doing about that?  If so, does he have a team of senior people who share a sense of holy dissatisfaction with the status quo of corruption, conflicts of interest, ethical breaches, cronyism, excessive compensation, and deception?  If he does not have a team with these views, then he personally– or with the help of a new Vicar General–should undertake a process of reviewing his team and replacing people (full-time staff and outside advisors) with Catholics who accept and believe what the church teaches and first and foremost want to serve the Church in an ethical manner and build the Kingdom of God.  HR and functional managers need to define job descriptions for each key executive role, objectives, accountabilities, and measurements of success (credit blog commenter, A.J. Constantino, who recommended this as Standard Operating Procedures last year in his Dec. 9 comments).  Those goals, high-level job descriptions, and measurements of success should be shared by the Vicar General in communicating new hires internally and made a part of the fabric of how the archdiocese operates.
  5. Pastoral Leadership and Support for Priests: If the Archbishop of Boston cuts his travel schedule outside of Boston and also cuts his blogging time to tell a small number of blog readers about his travels, that time could instead be put towards meeting one-on-one with 4 priests a week for 30 minutes each to listen to and respond to their needs and concerns. This is not just for seminarians or young, recently-ordained priests, but should apply to ALL priests.  In a years’ time, he will have met with 200 priests and in two years, it will be 400 priests. Abiding by established diocesan guidelines for how pastors are appointed would be an excellent idea to improve presbyteral morale, instead of allowing people who know the Cardinal to circumvent the established process by going directly to him, as recently occurred with the appointment of the new pastor to fill an opening at an excellent parish in Norwood.

There is much more for us to cover: Central ministries governance and spending, evangelization, boosting Mass attendance, shoring up of Clergy and Employee retirement funds, Catholic schools mission and direction, communication between the Cardinal and parishes, a credible anonymous whistleblower policy, dealing with people who publicly support people and causes contrary to Church teachings, the need for the Cardinal to respond to mail.

What do you think of this list for starters?

36 Responses to Top Ways to Improve the Boston Archdiocese

  1. BU Catholic Center alum says:

    I think more funding for college campus ministry is important, since that has been cut way back in recent years.

    Towards your point 4, I feel the Cardinal should immediately ask for the resignation of people like the pastors of St. Cecilia and St. Ignatius for promoting the Gay Pride Mass and also the resignation of Jack Connors for his ongoing public support politicians and abortions at Partners Healthcare hospitals. I’m good with the other ideas too–would be good to have an archbishop who teaches, sanctifies and governs.

  2. Karen says:

    Hey, layoff Paul Garrity! He is a wonderful priest that has worked miracles at St Mary’s in Lynn and will do the same in Norwood.What is your problem with him?

    • q says:

      Agree that a lot of the criticism of Msgr Garrity is unwarranted.
      That assigning him to Norwood is a VERY poor fit is probably valid.

      He is very liberal, St Catherine’s is not.
      He has an odd liturgical sense, St Catherine’s is rich in orthodoxy.
      He does great work in turning around Parishes, St Catherine’s needs no turnaround.

      Seems a waste of his talents, and a potential to frustrate both sides.

    • Karen, you will note that we did not mention or criticize anyone by name. We suggested that the established diocesan process and guidelines for appointing pastors should be abided by.

  3. Disappointed says:

    With regards to Msgr Garrity and Norwood: What proof is there that the process to assign him was circumvented? I have fine sources that contradict this while I’m not sure he was a great choice for this parish.

    To Karen: St Catherine’s was doing rather well before the change in pastor: lots of money in the bank, strong school leadership, and active parishioners. St. Catherine’s pastoral culture is significantly different than Lynn and at first glance, I will admit that Msgr. Garrity looks to be far more liberal than the parish is accustomed. Many families have chosen this parish, and travel from other towns, because it is more conservative than their home parish. So my guess is that in the near future there will be a trumpeting of the success of Msgr for getting parishioners to come back to Mass, because it feels more like home, more inclusive, more ( fill in fluffy liberal speak here), but what will not be quantified is the families that leave because of the change.

  4. Chris says:

    I would like to see more transparency mandated at the parish level. Wealthy metrowest suburbs pay big bucks to “professional Catholics” who get fancy titles to promote dissident views and chat about their New Age interests (ennegrams, anyone?) and Rainbow inclusiveness. People with far more responsibility and faith work their butts off in urban churches with few resources for peanuts. Why not a system that requires reporting of salaries or at least salary ranges for positions at the parish level? I want to know what a “Faith Formation Leader” makes. How about those professional “facilitators” and the various “coordinators.” I want standards and standardized financial reporting to parishioners. I want to know what I’m getting for my donations.

  5. q says:

    The Archdiocese needs to stop hiring outside consultants to bring in big-money outside cookie-cutter “Programs” to handle its problems and challenges.

    Bringing Catholics back to the Church is not going to be a one-size-fits-all plan. The Archdiocese needs to look at what individual movements and Parishes are doing, and support and learn (and “vet” – some may not deserve support). For some that may mean Latin Mass, for some Neo-Catechumenal way, for some Communion and Liberation, and for some Brotherhood of Hope, Campus Ministry, or connection to an Order or teaching program. In Boston, we have to do more to reach out to the many College students, and need to enlist help from Parishes that have innumerable functionaries to those who are at the front lines.

    • Teddy ballgame says:

      q is right. The consulting and legal fees are huge. For instance 3 years ago an internal recommendation was made to have a third party cut pension checks. The six figured elite did not agree. However a $750 per hour consultant recommends State Street cut the checks and it’s a great idea. Would love to see what that consulting study cost!

  6. James says:

    Agree. But you should qualify to say substantial teaching from the Catechism, Scripture, Magisterium, and Catholic Tradition– not the milktoast and fluffer-nutter sermons we’ve been getting for the last 40 years since VCII. Get back to the ‘red meat’ of Catholic doctrine.

    • Good point–we should have more explicitly stated that.

    • Jack O'Malley says:

      Take it from one who heard those pre-last 40 year sermons: Catholic homiletics is not one of the casualties of VC2, Bugnini or the “bishops”.

      It has been moribund since, oh I don’t know, maybe Segneri?

  7. Warren Goddard says:

    For starters Cdl. O’Mally and all his clergy will gain my respect when they personally, publicaly and continuously preach against contraception.

    • Downhill says:

      Yay Warren! Contraception is the real reason for Reconfiguration.

    • Jack O'Malley says:

      Well, yes and no.

      If only 17% of nominal Catholics attend Mass, then if the other 83% did so we would not be blaming the Pill for the dearth of butts in the pews. There must be some other explanation for the lack of attendance. Now I wonder what that might be?

      BTW, if laymen can still be made cardinals, I would accept an appointment to the Sacred College and have this Archdiocese turned around on a dime. My wife would make a great Matushka. I’d even do the Rosary on BCTV in Latin.

      And I’d have Fr. Reed do a proper Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, you know, Panem de coelo praestitisti eis. Omne delectamentum in se habentem, a good old rousing Tantum Ergo and O Salutaris Hostia and the whole traddie schtick. And I’d get Jay Fadden a couple of good-looking suits at Brooks Brothers with what I’d save on firing the elite fainéants at Brooks Drive.

      Benedict would have his smaller Church and the piskies would benefit from the pseudo-catholic noxious ordinarians who in their heart of hearts really love Rowan the druid and Katie Schori the wiccan. I have no illusions about my chances for a red hat however. Bernie Law is on the bishops’ committee. Plus ça change …

      • Warren Goddard says:

        The issue isn’t Mass attendance but rather the 98% living in mortal sin. So much for the spiritual health of the diocese.

  8. Catholic Gal says:

    This is a good list. I would also stress the need for the Archdiocese to practice what it preaches–specifically, to deal justly with everyone, including its own employees and also the priest and religious. The recent fiasco with the Daughters of St. Paul only happened because of very poor administration in the Archdiocese. How about treating the nuns fairly? And Cardinal Sean apologizing to them for the trouble he caused them?

    The point about teaching is a very good one, but any teaching the Cardinal does will ring hollow unless he practices what he preaches. Justice first, then words.

  9. ParishSecretary says:

    Cardinal O’Malley must be reading BCI. We received a bulletin announcement for this weekend indicating that he is releasing a Pastoral Letter this Pentecost on Evangelization. So perhaps he agrees with you on #1. The announcement said it would be available on Friday in the Pilot, on his blog and at

  10. Little Red Hen says:

    “Catholic schools mission and direction,…” — a subject close to my heart! The archdiocese would do well to decide what the mission of Catholic schools is — is it to pass the faith on to the next generation, or is it to provide a (somewhat) affordable escape from the public schools? (Never mind — I think I know already what the answer is.)

    • q says:


      Right now, the trend seems to be a bad one; the CSF has adopted the mission of providing as much (volume, quantity) of “alternative” (non-public) education, rather than providing less, but more Catholic education, and as part of being Catholic, integrating going to the school with participation in the Parish.

      Ditto for a lot of CCD programs; many in the suburbs are beginning to look like free Sunday daycare, with little connection to Catholic Parish life. Another problem with the “professionalization” of children’s programs.

  11. Former Employee says:

    6. Send Richard Erikson back to Iraq
    7. Send Cardinal O’Malley to Iraq
    8. Send Jack Connors to Iraq

  12. Priest says:

    The process for assigning Paul Garrity was indeed circumvented…the priests know this, Paul knows this and the Cardinal knows this…any other “source” is lying. I cannot say anymore but this is truth and I have direct knowledge of this. Everything else being said is true. He’s to liberal, he’s a good administrator, blah, blah, blah….but when you come right down to it he’s not in line with the Pope on major issues, such as the ordination of women and that will not fly in Norwood. Prediction: He’s gone within a year.

    • Matilda J. says:

      Well, all those bishops in Rome 50 years ago didn’t realize what they were getting into when they allowed the laity to have an opinion, did they? (Or did they…?)

  13. TheLastCatholicinBoston says:

    1. Immediately stop the practice and use of Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers.
    – Add a few minutes of silence to Mass while we wait for communion
    – Regain reverence for the Eucharist, the Source and Summit of our Faith
    – Clarify for those poorly catechized; why we assist or attend Mass at all.
    – Eliminate the protestant notion of ‘elders’ or lay hierarchy
    – Elevate the Priesthood to its rightful place in the eyes of the faithful

    2. Give a few Parishes away
    – Fully support those who embrace ‘tolerance’ and ‘dogmatic diversity’
    – Eliminate the need to police dissidents, give them what they want
    – Appoint Fr. Hehir as Bishop of this new official diversity cluster

    3. Freeze hiring diocese wide
    – The Professional Catholic career track is a thing of the past
    – Encourage traditional vocations- Great, please work here, voluntarily
    – Set salary cap for current employee at 4 times the poverty level
    – Continue to welcome the assistance of the highly regarded – pro-Bono

    4. Set up a large teaching internet presence for Roman Catholic Teaching
    – Use only Vatican produced material
    – Encourage family participation
    – support it through events and newsletters etc.

    5. Support both after Mass Coffee hours and the Latin Mass
    – Blending the Mass and a social hour is a Protestant notion
    – The extraordinary form builds reverence and vocations. It does. Really.
    – The Coffee hour builds community which we all desire

  14. Msgr. Paul V Garrity says:

    Please let me introduce myself to you. I am Msgr. Paul V. Garrity. I would be happy to have a face to face conversation with anyone about my 38 years of service as a priest. I am highly insulted by the anonymous charges that somehow I am unfit to be the pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Norwood and by the unsubstantiated claim that personnel policies of the Archdiocese were violated by my appointment to Norwood. Anonymous character assassination is un-Christian and contrary to the basic law of charity. Hiding behind the anonymity of a blog is also very cowardly. I would respectfully request that anyone who has a concern about my fidelity to Jesus and all that the Catholic Church teaches come and see me for an adult conversation.

    • TheLastCatholicinBoston says:

      Hey Padre,
      Don’t know you from Adam. The first hit on a Google search of your name gets me to an article with you glowing about the Obama election as some great victory for human rights. The record stands that he voted against a ban on infanticide. (so-called partial birth abortion) There has been 50,000,000 abortions in the USA since your ordination. The Tuskegee Institute has recorded 3,446 lynchings of blacks and 1,297 lynchings of whites between 1882 and 1968. Certainly both are terrible injustices in the killing of innocent human life.,. you’d have to have your mind and eyes covered by a ‘seamless garment’ to not see the disparity of response from your generation. Something went wrong.

      I’m glad you run tight ship. If you want to help right the ship, I’d be glad to meet with you. Faith aside; fidelity to the situation and reality at hand is really the concern at this point.

      I would love your reflection on the following:

      1. Immediately stop the practice and use of Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers.
      – Add a few minutes of silence to Mass while we wait for communion
      – Regain reverence for the Eucharist, the Source and Summit of our Faith
      – Clarify for those poorly catechized; why we assist or attend Mass at all.
      – Eliminate the protestant notion of ‘elders’ or lay hierarchy
      – Elevate the Priesthood to its rightful place in the eyes of the faithful

      • TheLastCatholicinBoston says:

        Give me a brief reflection on the above and I would love to meet you to discuss your fidelity to Rome.

    • Carolyn says:

      Although I’ve never met Rev. Msgr. Paul Garrity, at least that I can remember, I used to work in Lynn and Salem, and heard a lot about him. Maybe what I heard was untrue, but it was fairly consistent no matter who brought his name into the conversation.

      The positives about him tended toward his keeping the parish in the black. He seemed to be able to find money for all kinds of things, and he seemed to insist upon the parish having the resources it needed. He succeeded very well in that respect.

      The negatives discussed by people in Lynn and Salem were: 1. That any time the going got tough, Garrity had the cardinal visit the parish, and voila! he could get what no other pastors in the area could get out of chancery/Brooks Drive. For some reason, the cardinal did his bidding when he wouldn’t even return the calls of other pastors in the area. 2. That there was a North Shore “virus,” involving pastors who employed women with whom they had relationships that were too close for comfort, and that Garrity had caught the virus. Evidently over the course of a decade, there were affected parishes in Salem, Peabody, one of the Newburys (?) and Lynn.

      It could be that the people who talked about this, most of whom had never met each other, didn’t know what they were talking about. But they all told the same story.

      The smoking gun on how he was appointed would point to where he has lived for the past year.

      So if that really is a posting from Msgr. Paul Garrity, he should take pains to explain that his appointment was via standard operating procedure and bore no undue influence; that he never curried favor with Cardinal O’Malley including through unusually frequent visits of the cardinal to the parish; and that he unequivocally avoided even the appearance of impropriety in his relationships. And if he can do that, all I would say is that he should have exculpated himself a lot sooner, and there would be no fuss at all by now.

      • OK says:

        He cannot explain his appointment in any other way than he used undue influence on the Cardinal…this is fact, although it is considered “private”. This is how he can lie on this blog, because he knows that anyone involved in any decision making isn’t going to admit in public what everyone knows is true. It’s win-win for him, at least in public. The priests know what happened and if his ego allowed I’m sure in a moment of clarity Monsignor Garrity knows what happened too. God’s blessings on the parish.

  15. Just saying... says:

    Perhaps you’d better be careful Monsignor, since some people know things you might not want aired in a public forum, including how the policies of the archdiocese were circumvented in both how you left Lynn and how you were appointed to Norwood. Being anonymous is just a protective device to the bitter retaliation that would be handed out in this Archdiocese and people have held back to leveling the real reasons you are unfit, perhaps you’d best be aware of that. Nobody is going to come and face to face meet with you, so nice try at attempting to take the higher ground…it’s easy to be tough when you know nobody will fight. You’re a bully Monsignor but a bully with a story that is not good. Rather than read the Internet perhaps you should concentrate on not screwing up a great parish, don’t mold them in YOUR image, they are close to Christ now, just stay out of the way…or perhaps another “sabbatical” is in order.

  16. Jack O'Malley says:

    Do we really know that the previous comment is actually from Msgr Garrity? It seems rather more pugnacious than pastoral. I know nothing about him but is it conceivable that someone is setting him up for a very public fall here?

    • Little Red Hen says:

      Perhaps it’s an undercover operative from Brooks Drive…

    • Teddy ballgame says:

      As a former employee who worked with these guys take my word for it, most are more pugnacious than pastoral.

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