Misreporting Moving of Tomb

July 30, 2011

By now, people who read the Boston Globe or The Boston Pilot know that the tomb of the late Cardinal William O’Connell was moved last week.  What most people reading these stories do not know is that there was a key detail published in both stories that was not exactly accurate, fed by a deceptive statement by the archdiocese.  BCI is always amazed at how the archdiocese spins things, and how the mainstream media often fails to fact-check this stuff.

First, an excerpt from the Boston Globe report:

Nearly 70 years after O’Connell’s death, his remains were quietly moved a short distance last week from a crypt beneath a small chapel in Brighton to a courtyard at St. John’s Seminary, ending an unusual court fight over what to do with the bones of one of the most influential Roman Catholic leaders in the city’s history.

The seven-year dispute pitted the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and Boston College against the living relatives of the late cardinal. The church and BC wanted to relocate O’Connell’s remains from land the school bought from the archdiocese in 2004 so that the college could redevelop the property.

But the cardinal’s relatives were determined to defend the wishes of their famous ancestor. O’Connell, they said, had clearly chosen the place of his own tomb, a little building on a hill to remind young seminarians to pray for an old cardinal’s soul.

Now, the cardinal’s remains are even closer to the seminary.

“In accordance with an agreement reached with the late cardinal’s next of kin and in keeping with the wishes expressed in his last will and testament, his remains have been re-interred on the grounds of St John’s Seminary with prayers performed . . . by Bishop Arthur Kennedy, rector of St. John’s Seminary,’’ the archdiocese said in a statement yesterday.

The deception is in the last statement in the passage BCI has marked in bold.  If you have not figured it out yet, read on.

By the way, below is a picture of the chapel and mausoleum that used to be there serving as the burial location for the late Cardinal.  

The structure has now been demolished.

The Boston Pilot reported the following:

BRIGHTON — The remains of the late Cardinal William O’Connell, who was Archbishop of Boston from 1907 to 1944, have been moved from from a vault in a chapel on Boston College grounds in Brighton to a new burial location at St. John’s Seminary also in Brighton.

The reinterment marks the end of a contentious process that started in 2004, when BC purchased from the archdiocese much of the grounds of the former chancery in Brighton including, the chapel that served as burial place for Cardinal O’Connell. The archdiocese used much of the proceeds of the sales to pay for settlements related to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

At the time of the sale in 2004, the archdiocese agreed with BC to relocate the cardinal’s remains to a new location. In the agreement, BC retained $2 million from the sale pending the completion of the removal of the remains from their grounds.

In a statement to The Pilot released July 27, Donilon confirmed the move of the remains and explained that an agreement was reached with the cardinal’s heirs.

“In accordance with an agreement reached with the late Cardinal’s next of kin, and in keeping with the wishes expressed in his last will and testament, his remains have been reinterred on the grounds of St John’s Seminary with prayers offered by Bishop Arthur Kennedy, Rector of St. John’s Seminary.”

Cardinal O’Connell moved the archdiocese’s headquarters from Boston to the Brighton campus. He had repeatedly stated his wishes to be buried on the Brighton site. He was buried in a concrete vault beneath the marble floor at the foot of the altar in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, constructed in 1928.

In 2009, BC won city approval to develop the former archdiocesan chancery grounds where the chapel is located as the school’s Brighton campus.

“Out of respect for the late cardinal, we do not think that it would be appropriate to have a gravesite on a college campus, especially on a site in close proximity to a proposed parking facility,” BC spokesman Jack Dunn told the Pilot in 2009.

Once again, note the passages in bold.  Anyone see the deception yet?

The deception is that the statement from the archdiocese and comment from the BC spokesman pretend that St. John’s Seminary actually has “grounds”  of its own. The reality is that there are no “grounds” of the seminary any more–those grounds were sold off and are all owned by Boston College, not St. John’s Seminary any more.

Last October, we reported in “Seminary Squeezola: BC Brighton Campus Plans”  that  St. Johns Hall is all that remains of the former St. Johns Seminary property for the seminary, and even that building sits on land now owned by Boston College.  The building itself is legally considered a “condominium.”  You can verify that in the St. Johns Seminary 2010 annual report on page 9, where it says: “The Seminary retained an ownership of a condominium in St. John’s Hall.”

Bottom line: there are in reality no more “grounds of St. John’s Seminary.”  BC owns all the land. Thus, the remains of Cardinal O’Connell were moved from the former chapel and mauselium that was on land currently owned by BC, to another plot of land that is also owned by BC, which is very close to St. John’s Seminary. Cardinal O’Connell was re-buried in a gravesite which is today legally Boston College property, not the “grounds of St. John’s Seminary.”

That is the reality, but BCI figures that would not have sounded so good in probate court or in the press statement.  What do you think?


Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Sambi, Dies at 73

July 28, 2011

U.S. apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, has died at the age of 73 after complications from recent lung surgery.  Here are a few excerpts from news articles about his passing:

US Catholics mourn death of Archbishop Sambi:

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2011 / 01:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics across the nation are grieving the loss of Vatican representative to the U.S. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on July 27, at the age of 73.

“He had a ready smile, was approachable, and was good with people from every walk of life,” Monsignor Walter Rossi, head of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington,  D.C. told CNA on July 28.

Dolan: US church had ‘highest respect, deepest affection’ for nuncio

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio to the United States since early 2006, “enjoyed the highest respect and deepest affection” of the U.S. bishops and the nation’s Catholics, said New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Sambi, 73, died July 27 at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore apparently from complications of lung surgery performed approximately three weeks earlier.


May he rest in peace.

Correction to Kickham Kin Commentary

July 27, 2011

Readers, when BCI makes a mistake and we become aware of the mistake, we come out and acknowledge it.  Today we learned we may have made a rather significant mistake in our post from yesterday where we wrote that Christopher Kickham, cousin of the Cardinal’s priest-secretary, Fr. Robert Kickham, got a job in Parish Pastoral Services at the Pastoral Center.

Sources now have corrected BCI telling us that Chris Kickham is actually the brother of Fr. Robert Kickham, not his cousin.  In the interest of full disclosure, we originally heard that Chris Kickham was the brother of Fr. Kickham, then went to double and triple-check the information and were told the new guy in the Pastoral Center had been announced as Fr. Kickham’s cousin. Thus, that is what we wrote. Now we are hearing what we published yesterday is incorrect and Chris and Fr. Kickham are indeed brothers.

We apologize for any confusion or offense that may have occurred as a result of the post.  We also regret that we may have under-represented the degree of perceived cronyism and nepotism associated with this situation.

As Deacon A.J. Constantino said in a recent comment, “When you are a manager, you do not want internal staff to be at the water cooler saying candidate XYZ had the job because of who he/she is.”  BCI agrees.

We have thoroughly documented a number of other instances of cronyism and nepotism in previous posts which serve to undermine transparency and trust in the management and leadership of the archdiocese.  BCI does not know the extent to which internal or external candidates were actively considered and interviewed for this job. But we maintain our opinion that the hiring of the cousin or brother of the Cardinal’s priest-secretary for an open position when their  published work history and experience do not match the published criteria for the position gives the appearance of nepotism and cronyism which in turn undermines trust.

Kickham Cousin Collects Chancery Paycheck

July 26, 2011

Our discussion today is a mix of a little bit cronyism, a little bit nepotism, and a little bit just plain looks bad.

Before we get into the main topic, BCI knows that they call 66 Brooks Drive the “Pastoral Center,” not the “Chancery,” but since people have observed to us that 66 Brooks is often not “pastoral” and its location is not exactly central–and we all know it is run by the current “Chancellor”–BCI decided to call it the “Chancery” for the subject line of our post today.

Most people are aware that Fr. Robert Kickham is one of two priest-secretaries to Cardinal O’Malley, and he plays an important behind-the-scenes role as gatekeeper to the Cardinal. That means he controls a) Information that either makes it to the Cardinal for his review and action or does not make it to the Cardinal, and b) Access to the Cardinal, meaning some people can get time with him and some people cannot get time with him.

Fr. Kickham has a very tough job. Many people respect Fr. Kickham, or at least they say they liked him in years past–before 2004 when the members of the current regime began their takeover of the archdiocese.  As the key gatekeeper, Fr. Kickham is somewhat like a “chief of staff” to the Cardinal. From the vantage-point of BCI and many others inside and outside of 66 Brooks Drive, it has appeared in recent years that Fr. Kickham has tended to grant people like Chancellor Jim McDonough, Fr. Bryan Hehir, Jack Connors, Terry Donilon and others relatively free and ready access to the Cardinal, thus enabling them to wield considerable influence and power, while at the same time it has been difficult for others, including many priests, to get any time with the Cardinal.

Anyway, suffice to say that with all BCI has written about cronyism and nepotism over the past year, and with all of controversy over sham searches, one would think that the archdiocese would finally come around and find a way of letting people who are qualified for open jobs actually apply for them and get the jobs, and avoiding any appearance that friends and family always have the inside track for open positions.  Not necessarily, it seems.

Not long ago, an opening came up for a Parish Services Consultant in Jim McDonough’s organization, reporting into Denise McKinnon-Biernat.  (BCI previously wrote why there was an opening, but that is not germane to this story so we removed that sentence).  Here is the job description posted online for the job:

Parish Service Consultant – Parish Financial Services

The Parish Service Consultant is a multifunctional specialist role that Parish Financial Services Parish Financial Consultantreports directly to the Director of Parish Financial Services and serves as a liaison between the Archdiocese, its Parishes, the Regional Vicars and Bishops. The Parish Service Consultant provides financial analysis communication, support and implementation of Archdiocesan policies to assist parishes. Specific responsibilities include analysis, training and support to parishes in the areas of financial management, planning, budget review, real estate, insurance, facilities, computer and personnel management. Responsibilities also include consultation among Parish Services, Regional Services and other related Archdiocesan departments and agencies, as necessary. The successful candidate will have a Bachelor Degree in Accounting, Finance, or Business Administration and minimum 7 years demonstrated work experience in accounting, finance and/or management; familiarity with real estate and/or risk management issues is a plus.

A lot of people out there looking for jobs have accounting or business degrees and work experience in accounting.  A lot of people have been laid off or pushed into early retirement from the archdiocese. A lot of parish employees are well-quallified for this job. So, of all the people they could have hired for the job, by coincidence, the person hired was Christoper Kickham, cousin of Fr. Robert Kickham.

Christopher has a profile on Linkedin: one of these social media networking sites.  Here is a summary of his background profile:

“Coordinated retail and institutional trading in 5000 foreign publicly traded equities in 42 countries and 18 currencies. Managed numerous client to dealer relationships, achieving superior pricing and liquidity, for one billion equity shares annually. Developed new relationships between US dealers and Fidelity Capital Markets, generating revenues in excess of six figures.”

According to Linkedin, he has been an equity trader since 1992 and has an economics degree from U Mass Amherst (not accounting, finance, or business administration as specified in the job description). BCI understands the work as an equity trader is the same sort of job that his cousin, Fr. Kickham, worked at prior to becoming a priest.

How buying and selling stocks and flagging trades for nearly 20 years prepares someone for helping parishes with their accounting using Quickbooks is not immediately apparent to BCI, but we must be missing something.

The hiring of Chris Kickham is not a secret–it was announced at a Pastoral Center staff meeting. BCI does not know how many people applied for the job through the front door and were rejected.  The position is not of the level that would call for a “nationwide search,” and there was not a “search committee” for this job like there was for the Secretary of Institutional Advancement job, slotted for Jack Connors’ crony, Kathleen Driscoll, even before the search committee convened.

The advertised job assists Denise McKinnon-Biernat on many levels. The people who have held the role have been well-liked by pastors because of their competency and customer service mindset.  BCI hopes the same holds for Mr. Kickham.

Perhaps few people applied for the job and Mr. Kickham submitted a resume and cover letter to HR through the front door and was the leading candidate of many choices. But, that seems like an unlikely scenario given the number of people with strong backgrounds who keep telling BCI they have applied for jobs and never even get an interview.

Regardless of Mr. Kickham’s competency for the job and service mindset, since the background and experience listed on his public resume do not match the job description, the hiring of Fr. Kickham’s cousin gives the appearance of cronyism or nepotism. It could also give rise to the perception that maybe Fr. Kickham asked Chancellor Jim Mcdonough to help take care of his cousin, which presented an opportunity for Chancellor McDonough to return some of the many favors Fr. Kickham has done for the Chancellor. After all, does anyone believe it is a total coincidence that the daughter of Chancellor McDonough just happened to land a job as an assistant media planner at Jack Connor’s former advertising firm, Hill Holiday, without Daddy asking Jack for help?

BCI wonders why the archdiocese keeps doing this. As we reported a year ago in Cronyism IV, Nepotism I, in spring of 2007, the Chancellor propagated a no nepotism hiring policy–albeit which applied to spouses, children and siblings–but even that policy somehow exempted the Chancellor and his family, since not long after it was issued, the archdiocese hired his daughter as a new college graduate, and subsequently his son for a summer job.

The hiring of children or other family members like this ends up advancing the perception of a culture of cronyism in Braintree where one hand washes the other. BCI is of the opinion that it would benefit the archdiocese to address this situation. Yet another item for the new Vicar General to put on his list?  What do you think?

On the appointment of Archbishop Chaput to Philadelphia

July 23, 2011

Yesterday, June 22, Cardinal O’Malley issued a statement commending Archbishop Charles Chaput on his appointment to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. BCI also commends Archbishop Chaput and is excited to see him moving up in the proverbial “episcopal foodchain,” as it were.

Here is Cardinal O’Malley’s statement, and below you will find a few other select quotes passed on to BCI from readers from other sources:

From Cardinal Sean O’Malley:

The news of the appointment of Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., as Archbishop of Philadelphia is a source of tremendous hope and joy for me, and I wish to assure him of my prayers and the prayers of the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Boston. Archbishop Chaput and I were classmates together in the seminary. We Capuchins are very proud of the outstanding ministry of this great friar.

Our Holy Father is wise in choosing Archbishop Chaput to become the ninth Archbishop of Philadelphia. He brings with him many skills and talents that will be put to good use in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The people and the clergy of Philadelphia have suffered greatly throughout these past few difficult months. Their new Archbishop is a patient man who will work very hard to bring healing and strength to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. On behalf of the clergy and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Boston, I pledge our prayerful support for Archbishop Chaput and for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as they welcome their new shepherd.”

From Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia:

He is brash, outspoken and fearless — energetic, colorful, cultured…
indeed, even hard-core….he stands set to bring the most revolutionary change American Catholicism’s most traditional major outpost has known in at least a century, to begin its rebuilding from the ashes of the darkest hour in its long, storied history…

Given Chaput’s reputation as a tough, clear, no-nonsense overseer with a knack for shaking things up, that phrasing is no accident. At the same time, though, it is worth noting that for the first time since Edmond Francis Prendergast –the “Big Man” and native son who governed the Philly church from 1911-18 — a Philadelphia archbishop will have served as pastor of a parish.

A member of the Potawatomi Prairie Band tribe, the archbishop’s Native American name is Pietasen (“rustling wind”) — a moniker that led his late mother to call him “Windy.” Accordingly, for an ecclesial model that’s stood as the nation’s oldest, most enduring clone of institution-centric, clericalist Catholicism in the spirit of its roots in 18th-century Ireland, the reported move would represent nothing short of a hurricane.

The son of a small-town funeral director, the high-octane choice — a veteran of leading two intense Apostolic Visitations — would ostensibly come armed with a mandate to significantly revamp a two-century-old ecclesial culture that’s been engulfed by the damning
conclusions of the civil inquest and, just as much, by the eruptive aftermath it’s birthed on fronts ranging from the courts, budgets and pews to the all-important presbyterate, whose traditional penchant for docility, widely-known across the Catholic world, has recently undergone a serious shift…..

From writer George Wiegel, distinguished senior fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, in National Review Online:

 John Paul II, in his apostolic letter published at the end of the Great Jubilee of 2000, challenged the entire Church to leave the stagnant shallows of institutional maintenance and put out into the deep waters of post-modernity, preaching Jesus Christ as the answer to the question that is every human life. In his 1991 encyclical Redemptoris Missio [The Mission of the Redeemer], John Paul insisted that the Church doesn’t have a mission, as if “mission” were one among a dozen things the Catholic Church does. No, John Paul taught, the Church isa mission, such that everything and everyone in the Church ought to be measured by what the management types would call mission-effectiveness.

The old warhorses of the post–Vatican II debates, on either end of the Catholic spectrum, don’t get this; they’re still mud-wrestling within the old paradigm. But Archbishop Charles Chaput gets it, big time. That, and the effective work of his predecessor, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, is what has made the archdiocese of Denver what is arguably the model Evangelical Catholic diocese in the country: a Church brimming with excitement over the adventure of the Gospel, a Church attracting some of the sharpest young Catholics in America to its services, a Church fully engaged in public life while making genuinely public arguments about the first principles of democracy.

This is the vision that Archbishop Chaput is bringing to Philadelphia, and it has virtually nothing to do with “agendas” as the usual suspects understand agendas. Of course that vision includes addressing serious problems of sexual abuse. The old clericalism that protected perpetrators in various dioceses created serious legal problems for the institutional Church; but it was also, and even more importantly from an evangelical point of view, a terrible impediment to preaching the Gospel and attracting people to friendship with Jesus Christ. It’s his palpable commitment to the latter — to the project of unapologetic evangelism — that will give Archbishop Chaput credibility in cleaning up what needs cleaning up and in healing what can be healed in Philadelphia.

And this is something else the usual suspects miss. The usual suspects’ answer to clerical sexual abuse has been, is, and seems likely to remain the transformation of Catholicism into Catholic Lite. But in situation after situation — Phoenix and Denver being two prime examples — it’s been the Gospel without compromise, joyfully lived, that has turned abuse disaster areas into vibrant Catholic centers where public confidence in the Church’s credibility has been restored. Where Catholic Lite has been adopted as the solution to the problems Catholic Lite helped cause — as in Boston — the meltdown that began in 2002 continues.

With the appointment of Charles J. Chaput as archbishop of Philadelphia, the deep reform of the Catholic Church in the United States — the reform that is giving birth to Evangelical Catholicism even as it leaves the old post–Vatican II arguments fading into the rear-view mirror — has been accelerated.

Similar enthusiasm as described above existed when then-Archbishop Sean O’Malley arrived in Boston in 2003.  That is long-since gone.  If Boston suffers from “Catholic Lite,” then piled on top of that needs to be added ethical and moral corruption in the administration of the archdiocese, excessive six-figure salaries, deception, mismanagement, cronyism, a culture of retaliation, and a range of other problems.

BCI wishes Archbishop Chaput much success and invites all BCI readers to pray for his success in his new role.  Hopefully, Boston can learn a few things from him.

Enough is Enough: Part 2

July 21, 2011

There was yet another article in the Boston Globe Tuesday sympathetic to the vigilers occupying churches in the Boston archdiocese–this one, about St. Therese in Everett. As we learned last week, the church building will stay open as an oratory of nearby St. Anthony in Everett.  BCI just does not entirely get what the protesters are still after, and must be missing something here.

Entitled, “Vigilers resist church’s conversion plan,” here are some excerpts from the Globe article:

EVERETT – Catholics who have occupied St. Therese Church for seven years vowed last night to continue their vigil, despite a plan by the Archdiocese of Boston to convert it to a chapel for use by the Brazilian Catholic community.

“We are still in vigil and will maintain our vigil,’’ said Joan Shepard, a vigil leader, standing behind an altar. “We feel this decision is a mistake… .. It’s very disrespectful.’’

“Aren’t we all children of God?’’ asked Gloria Young, one of a dozen parishioners seated in pews. “We’ve been sitting here for seven years, and for what? So that someone else can use it?’’…

A dozen supporters of the vigil met last night in the hot, stuffy church to plot their resistance to the archdiocese’s new use for St. Therese.

The church on Broadway is slated to become St. Therese Oratory, part of St. Anthony Parish of Everett. Masses will be offered in Portuguese, to accommodate a growing number of Brazilian immigrants in this city north of Boston seeking to worship in their own language.

“The Brazilian population is a very significant part of the growth of the Catholic Church,’’ said Terrence C. Donilon, the archdiocesan spokesman. “This is going to address their needs long term.’’…

Parishioners at St. Therese said they would not leave the church. Some have spent dozens of nights in the church, even after the archdiocese shut off heat and water after a boiler broke in 2009.

“This just doesn’t seem right,’’ said Carol Tumasz, 53, who moved into the church for a period. “What about the rest of the people?’’

Shepard said she received a phone call from the archdiocese last Thursday, but she is angry they did not receive a letter from O’Malley.

“I have received no official word from the cardinal’s office,’’ she said. “Our families built this church, and we saved it from destruction. It’s unthinkable that we will not be able to worship here.’’

Donilon defended O’Malley and said all Catholics will be welcome at St. Therese Oratory. “I understand the people are sad, but the cardinal has been very patient… . We think this is a good new use for St. Therese.’’

A church building that, as of about a year ago, was doomed to closure and sale was saved. Yet the dozen vigilers are going to continue occupying the space because they are not completely getting their way, and a different Catholic community will use the building who didn’t occupy it for seven years?  Does anyone else besides BCI see some of the quotes in the Globe as just a bit whiney?

Sadly, the Globe reporting still fails to ask some key questions of the people occupying the building and their motives. Beyond that, the history once again validates the diocesan mismanagement we mentioned in our last post.

For example, who exactly are the people occupying the building?  A commenter on this discussion about the closing from 2008 identified as “55 years in Everett” said:

“The people holding the vigil are only a handful and the dollar a week they put in the box won’t pay the bills, that’s for sure. I know people that go down there everyday and sit for two hours at a time and they are not even Catholic! They never went to the church until the vigil started, it’s just a little social gathering for them, and this I know for fact.”

Above and beyond this question, why is the fact that there are 5 other Catholic parishes within a mile and a half away never mentioned?  If you look at the map below, Immaculate Conception in Everett is less than 3/4 of a mile away, just down Broadway, from St. Therese in Everett.  St. Anthony in Everett is 1.1 miles away, and our Lady of Grace in Chelsea is 1.2 miles away.

Two churches in nearby Malden, Sacred Heart (A, in the picture below), and St. Joseph (C in the picture), are also within 1.5 miles away from St. Therese (B).

BCI is curious as to why these 12 people occupying the church would find it so difficult to drive, take public transportation, or get a ride from a neighbor or friend to one of these 5 churches?  Are they even attending Mass on Sundays in an open parish today, or have they been neglecting their Sunday obligation these past 7 years?

Then we have the question of the mismanagement.  As has been said before, for years the archdiocese has really made no effort whatsoever to end the occupancies.  In most parishes, that could have at least saved money on the added costs of maintaining the buildings to residential standards while the parish closings were under appeal.  This March 2009 article confirms the failure of the archdiocese to even try to reclaim the buildings from the protesters:

Similar vigils have taken place elsewhere in the U.S. — including New York City, Kansas and Ohio — but not every diocese has tolerated the dissent. In New Orleans in January, church leaders called in police after two months, and they broke down a door and arrested two protesters as they cleared out two churches.

Sister Marian Batho, an archdiocesan liaison to the Boston area’s occupied churches, said O’Malley wouldn’t consider that approach: “Cardinal Sean is a man of peace.”

O’Malley wants to wait until all the appeals are played out, possibly this spring, and only then approach those refusing to leave, [Sr. Marian] Batho said. “We would hope we could resolve this in a respectful way,” she said.

The vigils are billed as 24 hour-a-day affairs, but some parishioners acknowledge there have been short gaps when no one was occupying a building. The archdiocese does not have the buildings under surveillance, and had no one there to reclaim the churches.

Not even trying to (peacefully) reclaim the churches over the past 7 years when the opportunity has been readily available just seems like mismanagement to BCI. Let the appeals keep running, but to allow people to take up residence in the churches for 7 years does not make sense and suggests weak leadership from on top.

BCI agrees with commenter “Serviam” that Catholic churches are sacred worship spaces that are not just a simple commodity to be bought and sold at will.  It is the place Catholics traditionally expect encountered our Eucharistic Lord both within and outside the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They were often built and supported with the labor and financial contributions of immigrants. Catholic churches carry important memories of baptisms, first Communions, confirmation, weddings, funerals. The decision to close a church should never be taken lightly and there must be grave reasons to close a church.

But what should happen when most–if not all of the people–who carry these memories and attachments to a particular church have accepted the decision the church had to close for grave reasons and have moved on to another Catholic parish, and what remain are protesters who never had much of an affiliation with the church? Or, in the case of St. Therese, the building was spared, but the protesters are still upset because they cannot have it entirely their way.

Is there something about this that the Globe and archdiocese get, but which BCI is missing?

Enough is Enough

July 18, 2011

Yes, BCI did see the headline and article in the Boston Globe today, “Unwilling to give up their vigil: Parishioners of 6 churches told to close will begin appeals today.”  BCI is as frustrated with this whole ordeal as our readers are, but BCI feels triply frustrated–with the media, for sloppy reporting, with the protesters, for not accepting what has been a foregone conclusion for some time, and with the archdiocese for the mismanagement of the so-called “vigils.”

1. First, the media.  The Globe reports, “Today, all six churches plan to send letters to O’Malley, kicking off an appeals process expected to last two to three years.” BCI is curious as to where in the world that time range comes from? Who exactly “expects” the appeals process to last that long?  Is it Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes?  The Council of Parishes is apparently so incredibly active as an organization that they simply have not even had a minute to update their website in six years, since May of 2005.  They list sixteen parishes as “members,” but ones like Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton and St. Anselm in Sudbury came off the closure list years ago while others have long since closed.  Does Borre’s “Council of Parishes” actually have bylaws, elect officers, meet as a council, take minutes, make collective decisions, etc., or is now really just a virtual organization that gives Borre a platform of credibility from which to speak and be quoted? (Seems to BCI that we may have more people actively involved with this blog than Borre has with his Council of Parishes, so we should create a “Council of BCI” for added credibility, but we digress…)

And never once has a reporter asked the people who are protesting the parish closures exactly what their involvement was with the former parish before it was suppressed.  BCI hears from former parishioners all the time who have moved on to the welcoming parish that those protesting were virtually unknown in the previous parish community before they took up their protest.  Why doesn’t someone from the media ask them what they did before in the parish–were they CCD instructors, Eucharistic ministers, lectors, choir members, members of the Knights of Columbus or Rosary Society or Ladies Sodality, involved in pro-life ministry or the St. Vincent De Paul society?  Why doesn’t the archdiocese ask them, so they know whether the people they are negotiating with even have the standing to have a say in the matter?

2. The protesters.  People commenting on BCI have said it well.  In our post six months ago, “Free Snow Removal and Invisible Vigils”, a reader, “Priest Just Wondering” said:

I’m “JUST WONDERING” what are these groups waiting for? They made request after request to Rome and Rome has spoken…..N O! What part of N or O don’t they understand?

Reader, Carolyn, said just today:

“This morning’s news brings the stunning revelation that the people who have been periodically occupying a handful of closed churches (and based on the one near me, it is anything but 24/7) intend to stay and seek yet another appeal which they believe will take 2-3 years. These are people who in most cases didn’t darken the door of their parish church every Sunday but seem to live nearby enough to worry about the property value.”

If these people really want to participate in the full life of the Catholic Church–meaning receiving the sacraments, worshiping at a Catholic Mass (not a prayer service), and involvement in other ministries with a spiritual community, why would they not just drive a few minutes down the road to the welcoming parish and join that community instead of camping out in a closed church building for 6-7 years?

3. The archdiocese. We have described the problem of archdiocesan mismanagement of the protesting churches multiple times, including in “Vigil Vigilance”,Free Snow Removal and Invisible Vigils” and other posts.  Lest this be in any way unclear to readers, let us repeat the word: at the root of the problem is mismanagement.

In 2008, Terry Donilon was quoted in the Boston Globe saying: “These vigils have to end at some point. It’s an issue of fairness to the parishes that are open and struggling to serve people.”

Coincidentally, in 2011, two and a half years later, Terry Donilon was quoted in the Boston Globe today saying: “We’re not looking for a confrontation, but at some point, the vigils are going to have to end.”

Does anyone else notice the uncanny similarity between what Terry Donilon said today and what he said in 2008? As of that time, the archdiocese said they had spent $2.2 million on utilities, insurance, and other building costs at all churches that had been in vigil over the previous four years. Two and a half years have passed. Who knows what that cost is today. When is the archdiocese going to put their money where their mouths are and do something?  Nobody knows. Even the biggest brains at 66 Brooks do not know either.

As BCI asked previously, why is it that the archdiocese does not just change the locks and padlock the doors of these facilities when they are empty to end the vigils and stop spending all this money on maintenance that could be used elsewhere? In the beginning, as we have said before, Cardinal Sean’s own instructions to the property management company were that if a building was found unoccupied it should have been locked, and the locksmith called to change the locks.  Then Fr. Bryan Hehir, Ann Carter, the PR wizards at Rasky Baerlein said no, that would be a breach of trust, so even those found empty were left alone. That has gone on for seven years. In situations where a church is occupied, people could be permitted to leave, but no one would be allowed to enter. It is very simple.

But alas, nobody has the backbone at 66 Brooks Drive to do what should have been done 6-7 years ago.  So, kids “raid the fridge” and sleep-over at the church building “in bedrooms that were once the vestry and the church’s confessional.”  Elsewhere, BCI has heard about sleepovers with pizza set out on the altar like a buffet and quilting classes in the sanctuary. BCI is not sure if Peter Borre is still doing his drive-by deliveries of ciboria containing the Blessed Sacrament consecrated by a sympathetic priest or if Eucharist abuses are still tolerated today as they were in the past, when the Blessed Sacrament was sometimes present in the sanctuary during social gatherings.

When exactly will the archdiocese conclude that enough is enough with these vigils?  Will they delay for several months longer and make this yet another item for the new Vicar General to take up in the fall?

What do you think?

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