Penn State and the Boston Archdiocese

The sexual abuse scandal at Penn State has dominated headlines this past week, and an AP articlepicked up by newspapers across the country drew parallels between what happened at Penn State and what hapened in the Boston Archdiocese. BCI sees further parallels with how the “protect the institution” mindset has contributed to the deception and governance problems we have been chronicling for more than a year, and we are continuing the “Vatican S.O.S. – Ask for Stronger Episcopal Leadership in Boston” effort described in our last post.

As far as the comparison between the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State and the same in the Boston Archdiocese, the AP article refers to the failure in both situations of officials to notify police and parents, the consequences of administrators resigning (Cardinal Law) or being fired (Joe Paterno and the President of Penn State), and the failure of respected leaders to take swift action to protect children.

“The sort of instinct to protect the institution is very similar. And of course, in both cases, it backfires horribly. If your idea was to avoid a scandal, you sure failed,” said Phil Lawler, who wrote “The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture.”

In a recent Boston Herald column, Joe Fitzgerald cited a comment from the priest who is currently Assistant Vicar for Administration, Fr. Bryan Parrish.

At the height of the scandal in the Catholic Church, when Cardinal Law was featured in the role Joe Paterno now plays, a young priest named Bryan Parrish offered an interesting theory.

“I think part of this stems from the history of Irish Catholics in this part of the country, back to a time when protecting the institution was necessary,” he suggested. “That mindset of dealing with our problems internally has been perpetuated to this day, a ‘let’s keep it all in the house’ approach that led to a lack of openness.”

“Dealing with problems internally.” “Let’s keep it all in the house” approach. “Lack of openness.”  Sound familiar?

Today, instead of sexual abuse of children in the Boston Archdiocese, we have abuse of donor funds, deception, and failure to clearly teach the truths of the Catholic faith so as to save souls.

As we said in our most recent post, we are hoping that messages from faithful Catholics in Boston and other parts of the country to the Vatican might help Cardinal O’Malley better understand the urgency of these matters so he will take action on them. What happens in Boston often affects the rest of the country, so this is a matter of concern well beyond Boston.

Since the concerns below have been raised for some time with no response by the Boston Archdiocese, we have drafted a letter/petition asking the Vatican to take whatever actions deemed appropriate to help address the concerns listed below.  If you agree with these concerns, click on the “Vatican S.O.S” graphic, fill in your name, and a fax or email will be sent to the U.S. Apostolic Nuncio, and the Prefects for the Congregation of Bishops, Congregation for the Clergy, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Apostolic Signatura, and Pontificial Household.

Below is a shortened version of the key points. The whole letter can be found when you click on the “S.O.S.” link:

I respectfully request that the Holy See take steps to address the ongoing problem of weak episcopal leadership in the Boston Archdiocese.

In Boston today, we face challenges including declining Mass attendance (only 17% of Catholics attend Mass regularly), a declining number of priests, declining financial stability for parishes (one third of parishes operating with annual deficits), declining enrollment in Catholic schools, and declining influence of the Catholic Church’s voice in public policy. At the same time, in recent years, Boston Catholics have seen the following shortcomings in episcopal leadership in the areas of teaching and governance:

  1. Cardinal O’Malley publicly criticized pro-life Catholics in 2009 for their objections to a Caritas Christi hospital joint venture that required referring patients to abortion providers, saying the pro-life Catholics were “doing a disservice to the Church.”
  2. Cardinal O’Malley presided over the nationally-televised rite of Christian burial for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy which violated Catholic funeral rite guidelines, and he criticized pro-life Catholics who complained about his role in the public coronation of Kennedy, given his public policy support for abortion.
  3. Cardinal O’Malley has allowed a retired business executive, Jack Connors, to serve on the Finance Council and as chair of the Institutional Advancement Committee, despite Connors serving as Chair of Partners Healthcare, which profits by being one of the largest abortion providers in Massachusetts, and Connors public fund-raising for pro-abortion political figures whose policies work against the pro-life mission of the Catholic Church.
  4. Cardinal O’Malley, through his spokesman, failed to clearly articulate Church teachings on sexual morality, marriage, and the salvation of souls in the recent situation of St. Cecilia’s in Boston, where the pastor planned to celebrate a Mass commemorating Boston’s Gay Pride Month. Ambiguous, conflicting statements by the archdiocese led to a national scandal and failed to teach the faithful about the path to salvation.
  5. Since 2006, Cardinal O’Malley has squandered donor funds at the expense of ministry programs by paying millions of dollars in excessive six-figure salaries to lay archdiocesan executives, while the standard paid by other dioceses for these same roles is much lower than Boston.  The archdiocese spends $1 million annually on salaries and benefits to 3 late-career executives–including  $325K to the Catholic Schools Superintendent–and $2.7 million to just 10 lay executives.
  6. In 2007, Cardinal O’Malley approved the sale of St. John’s Seminary land and buildings to Boston College, against the recommendation of the Vatican’s Apostolic Visitation committee.  Furthermore, the archdiocese has failed to put a plan in place that will provide for repayment of some $40 million due to the seminary.
  7. For seven years, Cardinal O’Malley failed to force vigil protesters to leave closed church buildings they had been occupying at a cost of millions of dollars to the Catholic faithful, and neither the Cardinal nor his spokespeople, ever publicly cautioned the protesters that missing regular weekly Sunday Mass places the salvation of their souls at risk.
  8. Cardinal O’Malley allowed a widespread deception to take place in 2010 over the hiring of a new Secretary of Institutional Advancement by announcing an open search and installing a search committee, when the person slotted for the job had already been identified and no open search ever was intended or occurred.
  9. Cardinal O’Malley approved cutting promised pension benefits to lay employees by tens of millions of dollars, while not collecting what was due in pension contributions from participating employers.
  10. The Clergy retirement plan remains underfunded by several hundred million dollars, and no plan has been articulated for how this gap will be closed so as to provide for the retirement of our dedicated priests.
  11. A provision in the 2010 sale of the Catholic Caritas Christi hospital network to a private equity firm allows them to abandon the Catholic identity and begin providing abortions at these hospitals for a mere $25 million paid to a charity.
  12. Finance and Administration expenses for the 2011 fiscal year have increased to 36 % of the annual $28M Central Ministries operating budget, while  in the year  that Pope Benedict XVI has declared a “Year of Faith,” the Faith Formation and Evangelization budget has been reduced to 14% of the total operating budget.

Much good is happening the Boston Archdiocese. However, the actions described above have breached trust with the Catholic faithful and have compromised the ability of the archdiocese to carry out her mission of continuing the saving ministry of Jesus Christ.

With the future of the Boston Archdiocese and the salvation of souls at stake, I respectfully request that you act decisively in whatever way you deem appropriate to address these concerns over the episcopal leadership of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Canon 212 §2 and §3 tell Catholics we have “the right to make known their needs, especially spiritual needs, and wishes to the Pastors of the Church, and “the right, indeed at times the duty to…manifest to the sacred Pastors their views which pertain to the good of the Church.”  That is what we are doing.

Faithful Catholics in Boston have brought these matters to the attention of the Cardinal and his staff through every means possible and there has been no visible action taken.  It is for that reason that we are providing a means for Catholics to share their concerns with the Vatican in the form of this “S.O.S.”

Hit the “S.O.S.” button to the right, fill in your name and other information (optional) and hit “Sign the Letter.”  A fax and/or email will be immediately sent to the offices named, and only to those offices.

Please share this with your like-minded friends and family members and ask them to also sign the letter.

Lastly, RealCatholicTV had a news roundup item about this campaign on Friday.  We thought you might find their news report to be of interest.  See below:

One Response to Penn State and the Boston Archdiocese

  1. Keep them coming…

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