Boston Globe: Archdiocese to get new vicar general

Today the Boston Globe reported on the appointment of Msgr. Deeley as the new Vicar General. This article repeats some details and quotes from the archdiocesan announcement that we posted on yesterday. But they got a few things wrong or incomplete, so BCI felt it appropriate to respond. Here are some excerpts, followed by BCI commentary:

Archdiocese to get new vicar general in the fall

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley is getting a new top aide: Monsignor Robert P. Deeley, a Massachusetts native, will return this fall from assignment in Rome to become the vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Boston Archdiocese.

The job is like a combination of lieutenant governor and chief of staff, carrying out O’Malley’s vision while dealing with religious and spiritual issues and the nuts and bolts of running a large organization, according to the Rev. Richard M. Erikson, who has held the job since 2006.

Erikson has spent his time in office grappling with the fallout from two major crises that occurred before he arrived — the sexual abuse scandal in 2002, and the closure of dozens of parishes in 2004 and 2005. The archdiocese has struggled since then to balance its budget, deal with underfunded pension funds for priests and lay employees, keep parishioners in the pews and students in the Catholic schools, and deal with a major shortage of priests.

Erikson worked on a variety of fronts to address these problems; on his watch the archdiocese trimmed some programs and laid off employees, began a controversial transition to a 401k-style lay pension plan, and launched a campaign to bring inactive Catholics back to church.

A small but vocal group of critics have complained about high salaries paid to top lay employees, the church’s handling of its pension funds, and a variety of other financial and administrative policies.

But O’Malley had only praise for Erikson yesterday, saying in a statement that Erikson’s “contributions are many, especially in the areas of communications, transparency, and revitalizing our efforts in the area of pastoral planning and evangelization.’’

Deeley, a canon lawyer, served as president of the Canon Law Society of America while a pastor in Quincy. In September 2004 he was assigned on a temporary basis to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican department that oversees doctrine and handles cases involving clergy abuse of minors. The head of that department at the time — then-Cardinal John Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI — requested that he stay on as an official of the Congregation, according to the archdiocese.

“Monsignor Deeley is a well respected and accomplished priest who has served the Church with distinction in the Archdiocese of Boston and in recent years in Rome,’’ the cardinal said in a statement.

By Erikson’s description, the job at times resembles the work of the chief executive officer of nearly any big company: He has plowed through stacks of property leases to decide which to approve, dealt with budgets, and made personnel decisions. But the post also brings a spiritual component.

Erickson recalls being asked to give special permission for a terminally ill man to be wed on his deathbed because he deeply wanted to marry before he died. “My answer was an instant yes,’’ he said.

What particularly rankled BCI is the characterization of us and those who follow the blog as “a small but vocal group of critics.” We do not know why the number of critics was characterized as small, and apologize for not keeping the Globe current on our readership numbers. Since BCI started, 196,898 unique visitors have checked out the blog at least once, and more than 71,000 are repeat visitors.  Most are from Massachusetts, so this represents a healthy percentage of the Mass-going Catholics in the archdiocese.

Furthermore, the characterization by the Globe that we have complained only about high salaries, pension funds, and other financial and administrative policies is incomplete.  To be fair, it is true we have complained about those. But we regret that perhaps through harping on the excessive six-figure salaries and pension fund issues lately, that may have overshadowed the more systemic problems we have also complained about, such as the leadership vacuum, lack of integrity, corruption, deception, ethical breaches, cronyism in hiring, abdication of teaching and governance responsibility by the Cardinal, and possible breaches of civil law as well.  We will do our best to highlight some of these other areas more effectively in the future.

The Globe article also says the job is to help carry out Cardinal O’Malley’s vision.  For the sake of the new Vicar General, BCI hopes this vision is made a lot clearer going forward than it has been up to now. Long-time readers may recall that in our first post, on June 23, 2010, Inside the Boston Archdiocese, we raised the lack of clarity of the Cardinal’s vision as a key concern, along with others about Vicar General Richard Erikson in the current leadership structure:

Responsibilities: “Taking Cardinal Seán’s vision for the Archdiocese of Boston and making it a reality.

Boston Catholic Insider Comments: It is not clear to us what Cardinal Sean’s vision for the archdiocese is, and where we would find a written statement of that, so it is also not clear to us how anyone, including the Vicar General, would make it reality. In actuality, it is the Chancellor who coordinates personnel and central administration efforts in the Boston Archdiocese today.  It is also not clear what key initiatives or programs Fr. Erikson has actually driven or led in his time in the role.

Lastly, because the current Chancellor, Jim McDonough, engineered an unusual reporting relationship direct to the Cardinal (rather than to the Vicar General) and grabbed enough power that he has become more influential over personnel and central administration than the Vicar General, the sad reality is that Fr. Erikson was cut out of many key decisions and was really not at all like the CEO of the archdiocese or a big company.

As BCI understands the story, when Chancellor Jim McDonough was reporting to the Vicar General early on–as virtually all other dioceses structure the reporting relationship–Fr. Erikson had called the Chancellor out on a couple of things, as he should have. In the August or September timeframe in 2006, Jim McDonough made sure that would not happen again. How? Sources tell BCI that when Fr. Erikson was out of town for a short time, Jim McDonough put a letter on the Cardinal’s letterhead decreeing that he would report to the Cardinal, and gave it to the Cardinal’s priest-secretary, Fr. Kickham, to have signed.  The next time Fr. Erikson approached Jim about an issue, Jim simply showed him the letter, and the Vicar General was henceforth without any power or authority over most of the administration of the archdiocese. Almost all key personnel and administrative decisions since then were made by others, and Jim McDonough ended up being more like the CEO or COO.

BCI hopes that the Cardinal and Msgr. Deeley consider some reorganization of the reporting structure and division of responsibilities such that this situation is rectified. As suggested in comments yesterday, BCI will also start a running list of ideas and issues for the new Vicar General to consider tackling.

BCI again extends our heartiest congratulations to the highly-respected Msgr. Deeley on his well-deserved appointment!

24 Responses to Boston Globe: Archdiocese to get new vicar general

  1. Liam says:

    A blog’s following is in no valid way a gauge of its support. Lots of blogs, especially polemical blogs like BCI, attract lots of lurkers who don’t share the views of the blog.

  2. Boston pastor says:

    Every computer-skilled priest I know reads BCI because it’s more accurate than anything we get from the Chancery, not because it’s polemical. When we get together for fellowship, almost all agree with it. A lot of my parishioners are reading it now–instead of complaining, a number who used to give to the Catholic Appeal have stopped giving because of what they’ve read about the salaries and corruption.

    • Michael says:

      My family has stopped giving because of the corruption and unconscionable way in which monies (in forms of “salaries”) are being stolen from the Church.

  3. Fr Bill says:

    The Globe is hardly an accurate journal … couldn’t even properly name Cardinal JOSEPH {not John] Ratzinger .as Pope Benedict XVI

    I heartily agree with the Boston Pastor!

    BCI is read by many Vatican Offices as well …

    • QC Guy says:

      who at the Vatican would be : #1 interested and #2. ‘capable’ ??

      • Fr Bill says:

        QC Guy:
        Friends and associates who had great affection for the Faithful of Boston.
        It is not up to me to name names. Sorry .

      • Jack O'Malley says:

        Fr. Bill,

        What is the object of your coyness? You demure to say what you purport to know and readers here are presumed to nod their heads and swallow it on faith?

        Sorry. No deal. BCI will preserve your anonymity even if you haven’t learned to post anonymously through proxies. Are you even a priest? If so, in this archdiocese?

        I guess what I mean is: eloquere aut tace which is as close as the Church’s language gets to “put up or shut up.” So, out with it, pal.

      • Folks, please do not pressure any readers to reveal anything more about themselves, or what they may know about who may be reading BCI. Priests face enough very legitimate concerns about retaliation and threats to their livelihood. We will post something about that in our next post. In the meantime, we would ask you to back off on the pressure.

  4. Matthew says:

    Msgr. Deeley is a fair and faithful priest.
    He will make sure as he has done in the past that all priests rights are met under cannon Law.
    So those of you who violated these rights.start running………………….
    Hope shines for our Church of Boston

  5. Gatekeeper says:

    Congratulations to Msgr. Deeley. He is very special.

  6. QC Guy says:

    we must all pray that Msgr. Deeley receives all of the authority needed to really impact the many issues facing the archdiocese. the chancellor must be reined in !

  7. Disappointed Priest says:

    Msgr. Deeley is a much stronger personality than Father Erikson. I doubt he will bow to Jim McDonough, Father Tom Foley, etc. He’s a good choice, and we all hope he has the guts to lead.

  8. Fr Bill says:


    Your wit and Old Latin Proverbs may impresses and silence some … However we can respond in kind … “Merda taurorum animas conturbit”

    Jack your rage and anger pours out of you in almost everything you write + say.
    I would have to assume that rage has a cause .

    You are welcome to your opinion and though I disagree with much of what you write, you have the freedom to do so and I would defend that right.

    You act as if the public has the ‘RIGHT TO KNOW’ …’ Sorry Jack that is not the case, believe whatever you wish … I wish I could help you with your rage + anger … it is truly a poison … I know this from my own personal struggle with the same. Confidentiality is a valuable promise which my office must respect.

    You are most likely very talented and you feel unappreciated and undervalued. So many have suffered the same. I do not taunt or make light of these pains, they are quite real.

    Oremus Pro Invicem …
    I will think of you at the Eucharist this weekend … Please do the same for me.

    Fr. Bill

  9. Jack O'Malley says:

    Fr. Bill,

    You’re right – I am angry. But the ultimate cause is not the comparatively petty peculations of the Braintree oligarchy. Most readers will know that I am angry at the novus ordure church which has corrupted the Mass. But enough about me.

    But I have to correct you on one point – I don’t feel unappreciated or undervalued.

    But this: “the shite of bulls disturbs souls”? This in Latin from a priest? (Nonne tu re vera sacerdos es?) I don’t think I should write the American term for the substance you allude to since it probably won’t get past the censor. I’m not even sure what that is supposed to mean or what lesson I should take from it. BTW, when did “conturbare” become third conjugation? 😉

    I do appreciate the prayers and will pray for you as well.

    • Fr Bill says:


      If I have offended, I am truly sorry!

      The Latin phrase is much like the saying:” If you don’t succeeed with ‘brilliance’ then battle them with …”

      We must work TOGETHER for the good of our beloved Church.

      You do represent the pain of so many … that pain can only be lessened through familial acceptance and genuine charity … different as we are … we are trying to follow Jesus’ command to love each other …

      Fr. Bill

    • Jack O'Malley says:

      No offense at all, Father. And I apologize for my hasty remarks earlier.

      I am totally with you on praying for the good of our beloved Church.

      Restauretur Missa Vera. Atque gratias agamus Pontifici nostro Benedicto XVI ob litteras apostolicas Summorum Pontificum et instructionem Universae Ecclesiae.

      • Fr Bill says:


        I wish we could meet and celebrate the Eucharist together .

        What surfaces as anger is frequently disappointed Zeal turned inward and it is truly very painful. I know Jack, I too have been there.

        May the Lord restore our spirits and renew our ability to dream dreams and excite others not to abandon hope … At tomorow’s Healing Mass I will be lifting the exhausted Remnant of the beloved Church of Boston. Join me in that prayer…. Mass begins at 11am … let us be joined in fraternal prayer for the good of all.

      • Jack O'Malley says:

        Thanks Fr. Bill. Let me contemplate your words about anger and zeal: you have struck a chord in anima mea and I want to hear it reverberate a bit.

        I will join you spiritually at the 11:00 AM Mass. But I must confess I will be attending two Masses at once since Fr. Higgins is celebrating the “extraordinary form” or the Roman Rite (“O quam vera atque non vera vocatur!) at 10:30. I will assist physically at neither since it’s Fathers’ Day and I must keep the family happy. So I will be at a local novus ordo happy clappy but I will say the Te Igitur from the old missal with you in mind, Fr. Bill.

        Will you ever offer the Old Rite? It’s easy to learn. I knew it by heart as a mere altar boy. Literally, the entire Mass. Then, the V2 merda taurorum 😉 hit the fan. Tantum peius. (Not sure how to say tanto peggio (tant pis) in Latin.)

        Roaming Roman must be apoplectic at this point. To come back to our sheep, Msgr. Deeley, be a friend of Tradition and rouse Seán from his torpor. Though I thought his blog post was encouraging inasmuch as he quoted himself from several years ago. He has the makings of a good prelate and a superlative Irishman. He will fight. We Irish always will in defense of the Faith. We’ll rally round him when he raises the Vatican standard. Lead, Seán. Tu duc. Nos et sequemur.

    • QC Guy says:

      BS bothers people

      • Jack O'Malley says:

        The Blessed Sacrament does indeed bother a lot of people. The existence of objective Truth is a stumbling block for the relativists. It has ever been thus and shall always be. Non praevalebunt.

        Or have I misconstrued your vulgar acronym?

  10. RoamingRoman says:

    Jack – I think it’s about time you start a traditional mass blog. You have a lot to say about it and have passion. It’s annoying to see too large a percentage of comments on this blog, regardless of what the blog post is about, start to take a turn toward the Latin Mass or toward your anger at everything in the church because of the novus ordo – all because of YOUR numerous comments. Time to host your own party. I’m sure the folks behind BCI could send you some pointers on establishing/running a blog. As a member of the BCI “community” of readers, please keep your comments on BCI related to the post at hand. You’ve made your point on the TLM/Novus Ordo. Message received. Feels like a million times by now. So many of the recent posts have you commenting back and forth with other readers. If this were a live community meeting at a parish, many of us would be telling you face-to-face “Enough already.” You are welcome here but accept the group’s norms.

  11. Jack O'Malley says:

    Dear Roaming,

    You’re late to the thread but I gotta ask, feel better? Venting is therapeutic, no? You high on those spiritual endorphins? Whee! Just ran five miles on the road to Damascus? Any visions, persecutor? Thought not.

    Yet apparently for you the message hasn’t sunk in. There’s only one way to repair the Church: Tradition.

    So keep on roaming, pal. The piskies are where it’s at. Go for it. But say a prayer for Fr. Hunwicke as the door hits you on the way out. A better man than you wants in.

    Methinks there is a pharisee loose in the blogosphere. And not a disciple of Gamaliel, meseems. Conticesce caudex concitate.

  12. cleghornboy says:

    “The job is like a combination of lieutenant governor and chief of staff, carrying out O’Malley’s vision while dealing with religious and spiritual issues and the nuts and bolts of running a large organization, according to the Rev. Richard M. Erikson, who has held the job since 2006.”

    I won’t go into a lengthy discourse on the priesthood as vocation, a calling (vocare) from God. But I believe Fr. Erikson’s comment is most significant – and most terrifying . For it indicates that he views his priestly calling as a mere “job” or “career.”

    May it not be said that such an attitude is inconsistent with the lofty calling of the Catholic priesthood? Church or bureaucracy? Supernatural faith or business corporation?

    Lord have mercy.

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