Today, BCI is one-year-old. We do not know whether it is best described as a “first anniversary” or “first birthday”– but suffice to say, it is one year since our first post.
Without really knowing where we would be heading or how long this blog would be around, we said at the time we were “a new blog that we hope will help people learn more about what is happening inside the Archdiocese of Boston.”
We believe we have succeeded at that. Today we would like to thank you for your continued readership, recap the past year and share a few thoughts for the coming year.
The reason for BCI is as we said in our Open Letter to Cardinal O’Malley and archdiocesan leaders last August:
We write to you on behalf of thousands of people in the Archdiocese of Boston asking that you take steps to address concerns which undermine the mission of the Catholic Church in Boston…Our driving purpose with the blog in putting certain topics out in the light of day is simply to expose verifiable facts and matters that most people objectively feel should be addressed or corrected so that we can build a stronger Catholic Church in Boston and continue the good works of the Church…Our hope with the blog was to give a voice to laity, donors, and the many outstanding priests and people faithfully serving the Archdiocese who are frustrated and fed up with the corruption, cronyism, and general direction of the Archdiocese.
This still remains. A few things have changed since then and lot has still not changed. So despite our desire to just have the archdiocese operate with integrity and transparency, that has largely not happened yet, so the BCI continues to have no shortage of material to write about.
First Year Significant Events
There are highlights and lowlights from the past year. BCI posted 207 blog posts and they generated about 2,900 comments.Readers have had a lot to say to us and the archdiocese.
Our most recent survey asking for your input had some technical issues that prevented many readers from responding initially earlier this week. We asked readers one question: “Rate for each of the following, how serious you feel these mistakes, breaches of trust, or examples of corruption are that have been propagated by the leadership of the Archdiocese of Boston in the past year.”
Of the hundreds of responses received so far, here are the top ten. The column on the right represents the percentage of all respondents to each question who rated the seriousness of this issue the highest–4 on a scale from 1-4, meaning “Very serious, heads should roll.” (For example, 80% of respondents said “Mary Grassa O’Neill’s $325,000 annual salary” was a very serious problem).
Beyond the survey, in no priority order, here are some additional thoughts from BCI on what we see as highlights and lowlights from the past year. BCI does not claim credit or blame for these. We simply share these as events or things that occurred, which may or may not all have some connection to BCI.
- Decision of archdiocese to block access to BCI for Pastoral Center employees in August of 2010. Terry Donilon and archdiocese criticize BCI for “unfounded claims” but never provide any basis for the criticism, making their claim of “unfounded claims” the real “unfounded claim.”
- Caritas Christi sale/transfer to Cerberus: extensive conflicts of interest exposed, along with $25 million sellout provision for Cerberus dropping Catholic identity/ethical directives and permitting abortions at Caritas hospitals
- BCI priest appreciation post: more than 70 priests were publicly recognized for their outstanding ministry by BCI readers
- “Sham search” for new Secretary of Institutional Advancement undertaken under the chairmanship of Jack Connors and publicly announced to the archdiocese. Faithful Catholics and committee members were deceived into believing an “open search” was being undertaken when it was never intended. BCI called the “sham search” for what it was and announced the name of the insider pre-selected for the job, Kathleen Driscoll. The archdiocese acknowledged she was chosen to committee members and the public months after BCI questioned the integrity of the search and her name had been posted publicly on the blog.
- Archbishop Timothy Dolan elected president of USCCB, defeating expected winner, Bishop Gerald Kicanas. The vote followed an aggressive “Red Alert” campaign by BCI and others that got people from across the country faxing and emailing bishops prior to the vote.
- Archdicoese finally publishes names of Finance Council members and committee members on website. Archdiocese also starts signing letters with actual names of trustees of lay pension fund, instead of anonymously.
- 2011 Pastoral Center operating budget published at BostonCatholic.org six months into the fiscal year
- Compensation committee formed to address criticism of excessive six-figure salaries, though BCI thinks a committee hiring expensive consultants is the wrong solution and overkill. The excessive six-figure salary problem continues unabated and appears to be getting worse, not better.
- After archdiocese pressures former employees to accept lump-sum payout of pension benefits to save money, concerns with changes to lay pension plan and reduction in earned benefits to former employees were publicly exposed. Cardinal says as long as he has breath in his body he will work to fully fund the plan, but no changes were announced to refund the plan.
- Catholic Schools Campaign fails to ever announce results of Jack Connors’ $70M 2010 campaign
- 2010 Catholic Appeal raised $1.5M less than 2009 appeal with Jack Connors’ new “crackerjack” fund-raising team in-place
- The announcement of Chancellor McDonough being appointed to another 5-year term was made immediately after hundreds of Catholics sent emails to Cardinal O’Malley and priests of the archdiocese asking for him to NOT be reappointed.
- Archdiocese announces “balanced budget” for 2010–a deception, since millions of dollars to “balance” the budget came from a one-time drawing from insurance assets, not operating income.
- Archdiocese announces anonymous whistleblower program and Code of Conduct policy, then sends dismissive responses to whistleblowers and completely ignores their own policy as applies to powerbroker/fundraiser Jack Connors.
- New Vicar General, Msgr. Robert Deeley, named. The announcement gives many faithful Catholics hope that long-standing issues might be addressed in the future.
Who Reads Boston Catholic Insider
BCI is sharing stats on readership primarily so the archdiocese is aware of the extent to which a large cross-section of people are concerned about governance problems. Our readers include priests, religious, bishops, cardinals, Pastoral Center employees, Catholic school teachers, parish employees and volunteers, lectors, youth ministers, attorneys, government officials, parents, college students, and just about any Catholic in the pews.
In the past year, the blog has had 202,104 unique visits (meaning, from uniquely different IP addresses, most of which represent uniquely different people). 129,000 were first-time visits and 72,800 are repeat visits. About 80% are from Massachusetts.
More than 313,000 pages have been viewed in the past year, and that is not counting emails.
BCI cannot say all of these people are necessarily supporters of BCI or of what we are saying and doing. But suffice to say, a lot of Catholics keep coming back to read BCI to stay on top of what is happening in the Boston Archdiocese, including the corruption, deception, cronyism, and ethical breaches of trust that have come to characterize certain parts of the Pastoral Center operation.
We know of no other archdiocese in the country that has a blog like this. Frankly, it is unfortunate that a need or basis is there for BCI to even exist. The odd thing is that BCI has repeatedly told the archdiocese very openly what will make BCI go away–just operate with integrity and transparency as the Catholic Church should. That would deprive BCI of material to blog about, and the blog goes away. Buh bye!
We have listed specific points and suggestions. We have written open letters. This may come as a surprise to many readers, but for the good of the Catholic Church in Boston, we want the archdiocese to operate in such a way as to put BCI “out of business.” Sadly, there are few indications that the folks at 66 Brooks Drive get it yet, though the appointment of the new Vicar General gives cause for at least some hope.
BCI hopes and prays that the archdiocese can continue the saving mission of Jesus Christ. As we said early on, faithful Catholics would like to see an end to the corruption and deception mostly coming from 66 Brooks Drive so we can build a stronger Catholic Church in Boston and continue the good works of the Church. From what we have seen, it will take a lot more new leadership in the archdiocese beyond a new Vicar General to turn the ship.
We sincerely hope BCI has made a positive difference for our readers in the past year. Despite the work of the blog, it is enormously gratifying to receive emails or comments from people who have told us that BCI gives you cause for hope in the future as well as comfort in seeing that concerns you thought you were alone with are shared by many more people than you realized. Will BCI have reason to still be around a year from now to mark our 2nd birthday? We do no know. But with little indication the archdiocese “gets it” yet, we are going to keep at it with the same gusto and approach that characterized the past year.
That is our take on the past year. What is yours? Feel free to write your comments and perspectives on BCI below.
On behalf of the team at BCI, an enthusiastic “Thank You” to our readers, friends and supporters for their help and assistance and prayers over the past year. We hope we have earned your trust and will continue to do so in the next year. Now, onward and upward!
ps. We will return next time with excerpts from your letters to Cardinal O’Malley, so you can keep those going.