Presbyteral Convocation: Comments by Cardinal O’Malley

This past Monday, December 5, about 400 priests gathered to discuss the plans for a new approach to parish pastoral planning and parish structure in the Boston Archdiocese.  BCI will share some of the publicly available information in various posts.  The first of these is the address by Cardinal O’Malley to the presbyterate.  The video and a transcript of his address can be found below. BCI will let his address stand on its own with no BCI commentary today.

12/05/2011 Strengthening Parishes – Cardinal Seán O’Malley from Archdiocese of Boston on Vimeo.

Archdiocese of Boston Presbyteral Convocation

December 5, 2011

Children often ask me if I am Santa Claus. Of course I am not Santa Claus, but once I was. In 1966 on this very day I was chosen to be Santa Claus. I put on a miter for the first time in my life and my classmates painted my beard white – in those days my beard was red. You see, I was Santa Claus, Heilger Klaus, for our St. Nicholas day celebration which consisted of a play in German about the fourth century bishop. We sang carols and it was the day we gave the Christmas presents to the German nuns and one hundred Christmas tress went up in every nook and cranny of St. Fidelis of Simaringen Seminary. I must confess I never imagined that one day I would have to wear a miter again or that I would live long enough to have a white beard as I do. After the celebration the Guardian of the seminary said “We have never had an Irish St. Nicholas before.” I did not know whether that was a compliment, an indictment or simply a statement of historical interest.

Pope Benedict, a Bavarian, like my seminary professors, has written much about St. Nicholas. One of the most interesting things about this saint is that he is the first saint to be so designated who was not a martyr. The first generations of Christians venerated only Biblical figures or those who died as martyrs to witness to the faith.

St. Nicholas the Bishop participated in the Council of Nicea and contributed to the writing of the Profession of Faith we pray each Sunday. Even though Nicholas did not shed his blood for the faith, he lived his faith in the Incarnation of Christ intensely and that allowed him to serve God’s people with such priestly pastoral charity that everyone intuitively knew that he was a saint just like the martyrs.

We are still the Church of the martyrs. In addition to my friend Archbishop Romero I think of a Guatemalan bishop who told me that in one diocese the catechists went to the bishop and said, “We come to you for protection, our lives are in danger”. The bishop told them, “The only thing I can do for you is accept your resignation. Then they will leave you alone, you will be safe.” Not one catechist resigned, but over a hundred of them were murdered. The bishop who told me that was murdered a couple of months later. We had stayed together at the Bishops Conference in Guatemala City. He was Bishop Gerardi. He was brutally murdered that day after presenting a human rights report to the government.

Yes, we are still the Church of the martyrs. We will probably never suffer the same violence as our brothers and sisters in the faith in Central America but we are called to bear the cross. Discipleship and ministry are never pain free.

Our modern culture has a huge aversion to pain and gives us the assurance that we are all entitled to a pain free existence. The Gospel of suffering teaches something different. In doing difficult things out of love we come to reflect the pastoral love of the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his flock.

I want to thank you for coming to this gathering in such great numbers. Your presence here today is important – and a grace – for at least two reasons. First, today begins a months-long consultation on a proposal to strengthen our parishes for generations to come. I need to hear what you, our priests and pastors, have to say about this proposal. Second, our presence together in dialogue and in service to the Archdiocese is a beautiful manifestation of the sacramental bond we share in the sacred ministry of priesthood through Holy Orders. I pray that our work together today will strengthen that bond between us.

I am grateful for the presence of our seminarians at this convocation. I invited you here, because you will minister as priests in an Archdiocese that is very much formed by the things we discuss here today. It is only appropriate that you be witnesses to our conversation. As I look out at you, I must confess that it is very nice to see how your presence among us brings down our average age. We very much look forward to the day when the Lord and the Church will call you to partake of the ministerial priesthood. May God bless your seminary days richly.

On the day of our ordination to the diaconate, the bishop handed each of us the Book of the Gospels and said very simply, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.” With that mandate, the “Evangelium” – the “Good News” of Jesus Christ – became the center and the work of our lives. As the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests puts it:

Since no one can be saved who has not first believed, priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have as their primary duty the proclamation of the gospel of God to all. In this way they fulfill the Lord’s command: “Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). Thus they establish and build up the people of God. (PO 4)

Each of us knows someone, perhaps even a good number of people, whose lives are empty of meaning, because of a tragic failure in a human relationship or a deep sense of abandonment by God or the Church. Their outward appearance may look healthy and normal, but they are broken and alone. They don’t feel Christ in their lives. A large group of folks do have jobs and their lives show a growing measure of success after success. But because the happiness they are seeking is rooted exclusively in the gifts of this world and not in Christ, in the end the satisfaction they experience is ephemeral and disappointing. It is only in Christ that one can truly know life and live it abundantly.

We need a New Evangelization and it must be focused on Christ. As Pope Paul VI told us almost a half-century ago in Evangelii Nuntiandi, “There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed” (EN 22). We need to bring the life-giving truth and person of Jesus Christ to the men and woman of our own day, especially those who have known Christ and his Church but have grown cool in their relationship with him and with her.

Our evangelization efforts in the Archdiocese of Boston will be rooted in and accomplished through five “mission initiatives” to which I commit the Archdiocese and myself today. The first initiative is becoming a Church that more readily and actively welcomes every man, woman and child to conversion of life in Christ Jesus. Everyone is welcome in the Church, because the Lord offers his gift of salvation to all. Let us each accept and help others to accept the radical and transformative call to conversion of life that is offered to us by Jesus Christ.

The second mission initiative is strengthening our parishes as primary communities of faith, communities that have the worthy celebration of the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of parochial life.

The third mission initiative is growing the Church through this work of evangelization. Currently less than 20% of our baptized Catholics are attending Mass each Sunday. We need to change this in a dramatic way and we need to begin doing it now.

The fourth mission initiative is developing excellence in faith formation for Catholics of all ages. Our people thirst for greater catechesis in the faith. We need to marshal, strengthen and make more available the great resources we have to satisfy that thirst.

The fifth mission initiative is re-energizing pastoral leadership. I am deeply aware of how challenging these past ten years have been for you, my brother priests, and how thin you have been stretched. I hope that our work together today indicates clearly to you that I am very much aware of the burden that you carry, committed to discovering ways to lessen the load, and very desirous of supporting and strengthening your love of the priesthood.

Where do we begin in our work of evangelization? I think the answer to that is clear. As I said at Pentecost in my Pastoral Letter on Evangelization (NP 6,7):

If the Church exists to evangelize, the parish is the chief venue where that activity must take place. Our parishes must be true centers of evangelization…

Many parishes are truly mission-based today and they have fervor for this outreach. Others are maintenance-oriented because their parishioners often have a consumer culture mentality. They come to Church to get something, and they expect the leadership to provide it. All the energy and resources of the parish are oriented to serving the people who are present, rather than reaching out to those who are absent.

We must work to help our parishioners to move beyond being consumers to being disciples who share actively in the mission and the ministry of Jesus. We are called to evangelize out of love for Jesus Christ and of the people who will be graced by what His Kingdom of love, peace and justice will bring to their lives.

In placing before you this vision for a New Evangelization before you, I am keenly aware of the challenges facing our parishes today. In fact, it is for that reason that we have gathered here this afternoon. In a little while, Bill Fay and Jack Ahern will lay out for you a proposal from the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission to strengthen our parishes as primary communities of faith and mission. Without getting into the detail of the proposal, I want to say four things about it and your ministry as parish priests.

First, the proposal does not present a plan for the global closure or merging of parishes. This is not 2004. I am very happy about that. The closing of a parish, however necessary, always involves heartbreak. In the proposal before us, any discussion about the closure or merging of parishes will be initiated at the local level, in the pastoral collaborative. Moreover, by stepping away from closure and merging, the proposal puts the brakes on the large-scale downsizing of the Archdiocese that we have been engaged in since the early nineties – and well it should.

A Church that is committed to a New Evangelization and to re-energizing its clergy, lay faithful and parishes is looking at life and not death, growth and not decline.

Second, the success of this proposal turns on the success of the PST, the Parish Service Team. While every PST will have a pastor who is ultimately responsible for the spiritual and material good of a pastoral collaborative, the success of the ministry that takes place within a collaborative will be effected and measured by the respectful and enthusiastic collaboration of every member of the PST. I encourage you as clergy to call forth the religious and the lay faithful of the Archdiocese to the highest level of collaboration in your ministry that the Church recommends.

Third, with the possible introduction of approximately 125 pastoral collaboratives in this proposal, we face a new reality. Priests who have been living alone in a single-parish ministry would have the opportunity to live together. I want to encourage that. I say this not because I am a religious and consider community life normative. I say it, because my twenty-seven years as a diocesan bishop has taught me that the life of the parish priest can be a very lonely thing. You know that better than I do. By sacred ordination, you belong to “an intimate sacramental brotherhood” (PO 8). I exhort you to use the new opportunities provided by this proposal to choose ways to strengthen and reinvigorate the holy brotherhood that is yours in Christ.

Fourth, the biggest question I have heard raised about this proposal is: “There’s a lot involved in this. What kind of support can we expect from the Archbishop and the Pastoral Center?” I want to go on record today as saying to you that I and the staff of the Archdiocese will do whatever it takes to make this work. No doubt, there will be anticipated and unanticipated challenges. We will meet them, one by one, as they arise and try to do this in an organic way, taking the time needed to do this well. Implementation must be slow, deliberate and mission driven.

What you are being presented with is a proposal, a plan that has been developed to respond to the needs of our faith community. Central to all of this is our vocation to be pastors, to be spiritual fathers to God’s people. The great crisis of modern life is the diminishment of fatherhood and the dire consequences on the modern family. Some men put their work, their finances, their hobbies, their vices, drink, gambling, sexual pleasure, ahead of their obligations to their wives and children. We too are called to be spiritual fathers and we must be willing to put the needs of our family ahead of our convenience, comfort, plans and ambitions. We must never reduce what we do to techniques, organizational process of personal charisma. It is about vocation, identity, relationship with Christ, with the bishop, with our fellow priests and especially with the people we serve. Jesus said, “I have come to serve, not to be served.”

The temptation is to do things that are self serving, that make our life easier and more comfortable, that make us more popular. But being a father is always about making sacrifices for the sake of our family, it is our own kenosis.

A Protestant minister told me recently that he loved the concept of the Catholic parish, that the priest was the pastor of every person living within the parish boundaries whether they were Catholic or not. Ironically we Catholics often forget that concept of Pastor and seem to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for are not using the envelopes. As I like to say, we stand guard over the one faithful sheep and let the ninety nine drift away. Our ministry begins with our own personal ongoing conversion.

That will prepare us to be prophets to our own people and challenge them to an ever deeper commitment to the faith and to make more sacrifices to advance the mission that Christ has entrusted us, to make disciples of all nations. Our task is to make Jesus known and loved. Our task is to evangelize. All of our planning s to do just that and to allow our priests to be spiritual fathers to our people.

Our pastoral love for our people and our devotion to Christ must be very strong incentives to work for vocations, especially vocations to the priesthood. The present proposal of having a pastoral team serving a number of parishes is very flexible. If we continue to grow our seminary we will be able to have more collaborative, each made up of fewer parishes.

It is my stated intention that every parish in the Archdiocese will have a priest a pastor. This is the ideal presented by the Church and we enthusiastically embrace it. Other diocese with greater distances and fewer clergy might opt for something different, but in Boston we will have a priest as pastor in all parishes by having pastoral teams serving more than one parish when necessary.

Allow me to reiterate that pastoral love for our people should impel us to work and pray for priestly vocations. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say, “We must not be a barren fig tree.” The vocations we encourage will allow our Catholic people to have the benefits of the Sacraments and pastoral care in the future. If we drink the Kool Aid of cynicism and negativity we will poison ourselves and the negativity will infect our Catholic people. To do the task of evangelization we need a regimen of vitamins, the vitamins of prayer and priestly fraternity.

We must not look upon ministry as being separate from our interior life. The best service we can give is that of striving to be holy. As Mother Theresa said, we are not called to be successful but to be faithful. And if we are faithful, then we are being successful.

The pastoral needs of the Archdiocese can only be met by a united presbyterate, an intentional presbyterate as Fr. Ron Knott speaks of. Our ongoing formation and priestly support groups, spiritual direction, fidelity to prayer, fraternal correction, time for retreats, days of recollection and priestly friendships are all part of the course in moving forward to meet the challenge of evangelizing. The spiritual vitamins of prayer and priestly fraternity will give us the energy we need to bring the Gospel to God’s people.

Thank you for your presence here today. Know that you are loved by the Catholic people. As your Bishop, I thank you for your faithful response to follow Christ as his priest. Thank you for being a spiritual father to God’s faithful and for being brothers to each other.

Please reflect carefully on what you hear today and prayerfully consider the proposals. Remember that business as usual is not an option. It is not enough to keep trying to do everything as we have in the past. The Church is calling us to a new evangelization. St. Paul in his powerful letter to Timothy on ministry provides a stunning exhortation which the Church today could easily direct to all of us who have been ordained to serve God’s people through the Sacrament of Holy Orders:

For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to the Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake, but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.  (2 Tim. 1:6-7)

I firmly believe that if we stir into flame the grace of our ordination, especially through fidelity to prayer and priestly fraternity, God will give us the strength to bear our share of hardship for the Gospel. Today we come together like the apostles of old to repair nets, to plan for the future, so that moved by the love of Christ and His people we might cast out into the deep, confident that the Divine Shepherd will bless our efforts.

41 Responses to Presbyteral Convocation: Comments by Cardinal O’Malley

  1. Lazarus' Table says:

    How will the success of these initiatives be measured?
    Increased attendance at Mass?
    Increased giving?

    It is said that Mother Teresa was once criticized for her lack of converts in India. She responded: “I am not called to be successful; I am called to be faithful.”

    Let us seek to be faithful.

  2. CB says:

    Evangilization should begin with visibility. In that I mean priests should be seen in their ‘clerics’ when out in public. They seem to have a reluctance to being recognized as a priest. In not many years past, priests and nuns were respected for the Faith they represented when seen in public places. But today they have disappeared behind church doors. Cardinal O’Malley always appears in clerical garb, highly visible in public, and respected. Let’s not just ‘dialogue’ about our precious Faith, but also, let’s not
    be afraid to be seen in the marketplace as Catholics.

  3. Lazarus' Table says:

    Less than one-tenth of one percent of all Catholics are priests. With all due respect for CB’s comments, it is not their visibility in clerical attire that will make the difference but the visibility of Jesus in the 99.9% that will.

  4. Mark Frances says:

    Every measure of reform has to be seen in the light of the predictions of Malachi Martin and the road away from sin and onto the highway of social justice.

  5. Jack O'Malley says:

    CB is precisely on point. A priest should wear a black suit and Roman collar when in public, a cassock on Church grounds, and a maniple when celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At the L Street Bath House, he may appear arrayed like Adam without censure.

    Obiter dictum, expecting the 99.9% to evangelize when they have not been catechized is like expecting an illiterate to deliver your mail correctly. BTW, even Cliff Clavin wears a uniform.

    • Gargamel says:

      A black suit and roman collar when in public? What! That makes the priest look like a lawyer or a politician. In case you don’t know – believe it or not – the Holy See modified the USCCB’s direction regarding the cassock: the priest can wear it anywhere, not just on the church grounds.

  6. Itstheorientation says:

    Pastoral Collaboratives?!!! Are you kidding? What a Card! He starts out talking about Santa Claus and promising not to close or merge any more parishes (after apparently 20+ years of doing nothing else) and turns out he’s [edited by BCI] and y’all got 125 collaboratives. Kulaks unite! Throw the bum out before he does away with your entire Archdiocese – I am serious. I am talking class action lawsuit. The time is NOW!

  7. What does Santa Claus got to do with the administration of the archdiocese?

    • Carol says:

      I’m with you Chris. This tragic announcement was an inappropriate moment for a diddy about the travels of an Irish St. Nick.

  8. Carolyn says:

    Well, given that he was a bishop, I suppose everything.

  9. Angry Parish Council Member says:

    Much as I’d normally join with critics of the archdiocese, on this one I can’t yet offer a better suggestion. The number of Mass-goers is down, Catholics are fewer, the number of priests is down. If there are two options–pastoral service teams while keeping all of the churches open for now, or closing 160 parishes to get down to 125, which is the best choice, or the least bad one? If I had to vote, I’d rather have this plan than close a hundred or a hundred sixty parishes.

  10. Carol says:

    Blech. I couldn’t get beyond the caca about Santa Claus. I get the gist. Instead of closing parishes and keeping the Sacraments and Deposit of faith under the guardianship of a priest, he’s handing over parishes to the malformed lay people he’s been grooming for the last decade. There will be a priest assigned over the heads of all the moonbats that we’ll never be able to get a hold of as they sabotage our catechesis and sacraments.

    The Chancery is just crawling with geniuses. God help us.

    I wonder where we are as the Mystical Body continues along Via Dolorosa. Have we left Gethseme? Are we even there yet? I don’t know. I think we may be watching the Last Supper.

    All I can say is, these are the days to dig the brown scapular out of the drawers and wear it like your undergarments. The devotion promises that you have access to Viaticum when approaching death.


  11. Jack O'Malley says:

    I didn’t know that, Gargamel, thanks for the update. I don’t follow the USCCB as a matter of course in any event. Their pontifications are not a matter of de fide. Perhaps they should just adjourn sine die. No one will notice. It won’t happen though. They are in love with their mouths.

    But I didn’t mean to imply a priest could not wear the cassock outside of Church grounds, just that he should be dressed as a priest with Roman collar everywhere (except maybe on vacation). Of course why he should be wearing a cassock in Park Street Station is a disciplinary quandary for the CDF to unravel.

    But he should be in Roman collar. And a black suit, not those piskie grey duds. Jeez. That’s worse than blue vestments. Which, incidentally, are non-liturgical. Pin on a maniple. Celebrate the novus ordo in Latin ad orientem. Maybe then a chord of Tradition will resound in the priest and he will realize he is part of something greater than a “presider” over the “community”.

    I’m afraid, though, I don’t understand your point about how a Roman collar makes a priest look like a lawyer or politician. (As long as he doesn’t dress like a younger Fr. Ratzinger!)

  12. Ombudsman says:

    Commenters need to drink a little bit more coffee and wake up. The Santa Claus story was both an attempt at a little humor (Cardinal O’Malley begins all his talks like that. If you don’t know that pattern, you’re not active enough in the Archdiocese yet) and MORE IMPORTANTLY a way to say that “Yes, we are still the Church of the martyrs. We will probably never suffer the same violence as our brothers and sisters in the faith in Central America but we are called to bear the cross. Discipleship and ministry are never pain free.” Isn’t that a beautiful line to put into context what the Cardinal is asking?

    Or do the commenters here just want to criticize EVERYTHING that the Apostle that the Holy Spirit sent to heal this Church does?

    Commenters should take a chill pill and do what BCI does and just pray about the words and stop trashing everything the Cardinal does.

    Criticize the plan if you want. But in a 3,000 work essay to criticize the Santa Claus reference when we’re talking about a huge initiative? Crazy.

    • Carol says:

      Ombudsmen, There are moments in life and messages where a joke is inappropriate. You don’t go to the scene of a fatal car accident and tell a joke.

      Perhaps you do not get the seriousness of what the Cardinal is saying and the ramifications to our deposit of faith and the Sacraments but I do and a Santa Claus story or a rubber nose on the end of his nose as he relates this train wreck, I do not appreciate.

      • Happy Catholic says:

        OK, as one who can find Cardinal O’Malley falling short of ordinary expectations (double entendre entendu), I’m with Ombudsman here. To characterize the announcement that parishes will be required to merge their efforts rather than their parishes, the word “tragedy” wandered into the commentary with no invitation.

        I live in a town with four different parishes holding First Communion classes, totaling 60 students, and two of the parishes have two different meeting times to accommodate sports schedules. That’s 60 kids in six class groups. This same town has about 10,000 college students, with a decent active Catholic population among them. The parishes do no outreach to the college students, nor do they support the college’s campus ministry. Hello?? Time to put the First Communion kids in one group with three class meeting times to choose from (20 children per), and allocate newfound hall space availability, heat,and formation resources to campus ministry!

        The plan announced by the cardinal will work well IF some time and effort is given to the formation of the laity on the staffs, parish council and finance councils, about what parishes CAN do canonically, what they SHOULD do pastorally, and why SACRAMENTS are the unique and most beneficial offering of a parish. If Braintree just gloms parishes together without that, they are asking for 125 circular firing squads, and priests taking the brunt of the trouble.

      • Carol says:

        Happy Catholic,

        I apologize. I was unaware that discussions here were by invitation. Who invited you?! LOL.

        If you’re the arbiter of telling people what conclusions to draw and what to say, please drop me an email. Chez McKinley has a couple of project I could put you on pronto!

        Look, this plan could work in a diocese with a Bishop who has spent years adequately training and forming priests and lay people with solid catechesis. Since we all know this has not transpired here in Boston under this Bishop, there are rational conclusions to be drawn.

        Permit me to use a parable. What if there were a Cardinal who was attracted to the theology of the Harvard Divinity School. He confuses the Kennedy School of Government with the Holy See. He desperately needs money and so he surrounds himself with high-raking rich people in the Democratic National Party that are recommended by the Kennedy School of Government folks. As time marches on and priests teach the faith, the people giving the Cardinal the money get mad and threaten to stop giving the Cardinal money. Conflicts start breaking out everywhere over the the deposit of faith and the people interested in the playing lots for Christ’s garments. One day the Cardinal gets up and realizes this place is high maintenance, lots of broken and mad people – and he doesn’t like it here. He decides he’ll switch up his gig and go on a pot luck supper tour all over the world and he’ll post pictures of himself on his blog and let us all sort it out on our own. He checks in when he reads about the donnybrooks and scandals in the newspapers whereupon he flies home and the luminaries all sit down and have a powwow about how to pull off a publicity stunt to do damage control. The faith and money dries up. He rushes home and comes up with a doozy. Let’s bust it all up and let all the decisions be worked out among the broken and mad people squabbling – we’ll call them post-traumatic stress teams. PSTs.

        Oh wait. That’s not a parable, that’s us!

        The man does not want to accept his role and do what needs to be done and he is throwing it all into the mess his own abandonment and weak faith has created.

        Rational conclusions can be made from seeing what this mess will create down the road. I am not up for the joke about HoHo Claus as he delivers the ‘fix’.

  13. Jack O'Malley says:

    I’m not sure who “Carol” is but I agree with her. I hope she is who I think she is. An eloquent blogger for the Faith. Whose Faith I hope someday to emulate.

    Can we fill the pews? Yes. Restore the True Mass.

    Can we foster vocations? Yes. Eliminate altar girls and train boys to be priests.

    Can we restore the Body of Christ? Yes. Preach the Word of God that Christ alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And that no one comes to the Father but through Him.

    And that He is present in His Church which He built upon the Rock of Peter. And that the Keys of Heaven were given to him. He does not “subsist” in the Church which He founded. He is the Church.

    Until the pusillanimous “bishops” rise up for the Faith, and that includes Seán Patrick O’Malley, and proclaim the True Faith and the True Mass, the devastation will continue unabated. Seán Pádraig. Does he strive to attain to the merits of his eponymous Saints? Restore the Church, Seán Pádraig Francesco (the founder of your order) O’Malley. That is your only work. That is your only goal. For Christ’s sake, fulfill it.

    • Carol says:

      Jack, you have hit the nail on the head. Ombudsmen does not get it. The 3000 word essay describes an initiative that seeks to build without the foundation of sanctifying grace. It puts priests a football field away from it all. He has never given a flying fig who teaches the people and what they are taught. The 3000 words of gobblygook and silliness leaves the formation of the faith in the hands of the misguided and malformed faithful he has empowered. I wan to get on my knees and cry. Dressing up in a Santa Claus suit to deliver this message, or telling a Santa Claus story so you can have a good chuckle over it all is breathtaking naivete.

  14. James Christopher says:

    God knows I have truly tried to keep an open mind but here goes. A few initial points while I am still digesting the three videos and the two PDFs: “Strengthening our Parishes as Primary Communities of Faith” (a very poorly written document) and the Q&A . What the blazes does the document “Strengthening our Parishes…” really say? Please, someone, distill this for me in English. Can anyone of them actually write a clear and concise statement that will make sense to the laity? How much PC speak can they fit in a three page document? What I did get from my first reading is this: Make no mistake, parishes will be closed and it will be the PSTs which will be forced to drop the ax. That way the Cardinal, and the Irish Clerical Mafia around him, will be insulated: “Oh, it was the will of the people”. My first impression of the new system is that it this is not well thought out at all. They are trying to make a new system with old tools and when you get to the Fay video you will see that there is no real leadership, it seems to be “Well, guys, lets see how this works and go from there.” This, like the present hierarchy, will be with us till death (I am tempted to take the grave).

    One more thing, on the Cardinal’s video, and this only confirms what I have thought, heard and seen since he came here: this poor man is about as inspirational as mold. He would be far pressed to know a good time if it were a Kaytusha rocket fired up his habit. How do you inspire the 84% back to Mass with this Santa Claus?

  15. Carol says:

    Yes, indded – what does it all say? Look at this three thousand word message and enlighten me. What is the substance? Preach the Gospel. Everyone welcome. Justice. All the lonely people, where do they all come from. All the lonely people, where do they all belong.

    It’s Eleanor Rigby.

  16. WTH?? says:

    What actually is the impetus for this new plan?? Mass attendence down to 16%?? OK, I get that but that cannot be the reason since this plan is really aimed at closures, yet mandates the new imperative – evangalization. In other words, if evangelization works, then attendence rises and closure becomes nonsensical.

    40% of the parishes cannot meet their bills? What does that even mean??? How much are we talking about ?? Is the archdiocese not allowing some parishes to pay from their accounts in trust with the archdiocese?? Must all bills be paid from present income??? This figure is meaningless. As a member of this archdiocese, with this dramatic new plan imposed, having super pastors chosen by the Archdiocese with the power of merger and closure, we need to know more.

  17. Carol says:

    The impetus?

    I’ll crack the code.

    It’s John Unni.

    He’s turned the archdiocese into a fundraising machine. The ‘all welcome’ is the code word for do not teach sexual morality, contraception, abortion. He’s been officially training deacons and priests in the seminary not to preach it for the last four or five years. They are literally trained to avoid preaching on these subjects. Then, everyone feels ‘welcome’.

    Because Catholics don’t hear teachings of the Church, they lose remorse for sin. Without remorse for sin, they lose the urge to go to confession and hence, the sanctifying grace to resist sin and tools for good judgment. One never loses the interior disposition to know right from wrong. Never. Ergo, most people know they are unworthy to be in God’s presence. This manifests itself in various ways – rebellion, anger, etc., but mostly fleeing the pews.

    People whose faith and understanding about the Sacraments was already malformed from poor catechesis took their hike during the hysteria the Boston Globe teed up with legitimate disgust over pedophiles they ordained 50 years ago.

    What one can do, is try to extinguish the natural signals guilt sends from your soul to your brain with priests like John Unni. Sing and dance it away, laugh and be merry. People flock to throw the money in that basket in places like this. This has been the Cardinal’s plan to draw people back to the Church. In the execution of it, the numbers have gone DOWN because he’s extinguished the faith and the people who DID know what the Sacraments have lost their way. Therefore, the numbers keep going down.

    Because he sees the numbers going down and doesn’t know what the problem is, he is going back to his plan and seeing if he can implement John Unni across the archdiocese.

    He is going to clone John Unni, lump all the priests under those clones in three or four parishes and let the malformed laity run the parishes.

    He doesn’t have the spinal fortitude to make decisions about parish closings and he is insulating himself from the ramifications of his ‘faith formation. As the money dries up and decisions have to be made – he has put the fights at the level of the parishioners in each of these parishes.

    You know the people who hole up in every parish that needs to be closed? The rage, anger, dysfunction and arguments that the press just loves to capitalize upon? The Cardinal is bringing ‘unity’ by letting those fights happen all between the laity.

    How’s that for a genius plan?

    The worst of it all is, he is selling this disaster as his martyrdom and with a jolly old story about an Irish St. Nick.

    He’ll have a big fat hat upon his head and lots of goodies for you and for me. So leave a peppermint stick for ole saint nick, hanging on the Christmas Tree.

    • Boston Seminarian says:

      Carol, who is “he”? I’m a seminarian at St. Johns and can assure you that Fr. John Unni has not been involved in our formation or instruction. Nor have I been “trained” to avoid preaching on these subjects. I do agree with you that if Catholics don’t hear teachings of the Church, they lose remorse for sin and I agree that we’re suffering from a widespread void in genuine faith formation here in Boston and throughout the U.S.

    • Liam says:

      When has Fr Unni been a full time or adjunct faculty member of the seminary in recent years?

    • Carolyn says:


      Maybe you should get out more, and hear the homilies of some of the young priests in Marlborough and other towns. How many homilies have you heard in the past year from men ordained in the past five years for Boston? Anyone would be content with their content.

      • Carol says:

        LOL. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been traveling around to parishes for ten years – along with the multitude in Boston.

        The problem isn’t that I or any other orthodox Catholic faithful who have been traveling throughout the diocese trying to hear a Catholic homily that teaches the substance of the Catechism are recluses who don’t ‘get out’.

        It’s a dirty little secret but it must be said. When priests and deacons preach about contraception, abortion, sexual morality – complaints go in to the Chancery. The people running the Chancery make a phone call to the priest/deacon and they tell them not to discuss the tenets of our religion because it offends the people they are trying to keep in the pews. For the same reason, they teach deacons and priests in formation not to teach the tenets of our faith in a homily on ‘hot button issues’. The same thing happens in CCD and now in Catholic schools.

        This is the truth and the reason why the faithful are ignorant of their religion. Because people are ignorant of their religion, they cannot be entrusted with operating catechesis as they withdraw priests. This is why the plan isn’t going to work which is the topic of discussion.

        Casting aspersions that one is a recluse spreading false assertions and innuendo isn’t helpful to the discussion. Let’s just stick to the facts and speak the truth – no matter how hard it is to say it.

      • B. says:

        I’ve been thinking about your comment since I read it and have a few things to say in reply. Last night I happened to bump into a very orthodox priest I know who studied at SJS and was ordained by the Archbishop of Boston, Sean O’Malley. That tells you he attended SJS in relatively recent years.So I asked him about your comments about what seminarians are taught and told at SJS. He asked me why I was asking. I told him it was because I saw your comment at BCI. He’d seen your comment as well!! I’ve got a few things to share.

        I knew the previous SJS rector, Fr. John Farren. From personal knowledge and experience if you think for a second he would have allowed anyone to teach SJS seminarians they should not preach the truths of the Catholic faith you’ll have to think again. This priest I spoke to last night was at SJS during at least part of Fr. Farrens tenure. Whatever you may THINK happened in the SJS instruction to seminarians doesn’t match Fr. Farren and the standards he had for the classroom.

        Now its still possible that a spiritual director or a priest already ordained for some number of years might have advised a seminarian that they should avoid preaching on a “hot button” sexual morality issue like contraception, abortion, etc. when they initially arrive at a parish so as to not turn people off right away. The priest I spoke to said a priest gave him that advice on his ordination day. the advice was not to NEVER touch on those topics–the advice was to wait until he was established in the parish. Sometimes too a less orthodox pastor will also tell a parochial vicar to keep away from sexual morality topics. Still this priest told me of how he has indeed covered topics like abortion, embryonic stem cell research, etc. and gotten many appreciative comments from parishioners at the same time he knows he might upset some small number of others who disagree with the teachings.

        This priest usually preaches on the scriptural readings of the day. He’ll grab people on a scriptural theme like love, faith, hope, sin, etc, and often then work in a “hot button issue.” I’ve heard this priest preach. The details and examples he gave me leave no doubt in my mind that he is preaching the truths of our faith and doing this in a compelling very effective way. Maybe he’s a rare exception, but I know others like him.

        I’m sure that when priests and deacons preach about contraception, abortion, sexual morality – thereare times when complaints go in to the Chancery. It wouldn’t surprise me if people running the Chancery call the priest/deacon and tell them to back off but your comment that they teach deacons and priests in formation not to teach the tenets of our faith in a homily on ‘hot button issues’ is problemmatic for two reasons – one, thats not really happening as you said it is and two, you don’t take fully into account what the homily is for, and how its about worship, repentence, and instruction, o a community of believers gathered to celebrate the liturgy can do that more deeply and more fully and also be formed for Christian witness in the world.

        That last part–instruction and formation in the truths of the Catholic faith–is lacking all over the archdiocese of Boston. If that’s your main concern, I totally agree!! I never hear the “hot button” topics in my local parish. People in the pews don’t realize if they want to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, they need to abide by His word and respect the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and live their lives according to them. Priests need to have more courage to preach the truth and people need to support them in doing that.

        Personally I’m concerned with the current state in this diocese and I’ve got my concerns about this pastoral plan based on who’s going to be left sitting in which chairs after the musical chairs game is over. From what I heard last night, I just don’t think we can pin the blame on the formation at the seminary in recent years.

      • Carol says:


        The problems in the seminary relative to overtly teaching deacons and priests not to preach about hotbutton issues in a homily happened AFTER Fr. Farren’s departure. Fr. Farren was a gem. Are you aware that his orthodoxy was fought against? At first through the core of wayward priests the Cardinal has empowered and then eventually, the Cardinal himself?

        I should also say that I don’t see the current rector as the problem. He seems to be a man who is faithful to doctrine but he definitely is out of touch with what is happening where the rubber meets the road and with the overpowering regime in the Chancery calling the shots, the absence of his presence and fortitude in handling the problems – or even knowing about them, facilitates and enables the situation.

        As you rightly point out, there have always been incidents of pressuring priests and deacons and seminarians under the radar. I am not speaking about those incidents. Nor is it conjecture from conclusions because we don’t hear these things taught in homilies. We do not hear things taught in homilies as a result of the pressure that comes from the Chancery when the wallets in the pews complain which evolved over time.

        I am not speaking about the guidance on prudence when a new pastor comes into a parish which I understand and even agree with.

        What I am speaking about is an escalation of recent vintage in the seminary where professors now feel safe enough under Cardinal O’Malley’s regime to overtly teach that they are not to preach the teachings of the Church during a homily. I am sorry to say it, but it is very real and happening.

      • Carol says:

        I am absolutely fascinated that people who have read this blog for a year can still be in denial about the agenda of Cardinal O’Malley. He has appointed all of the players. All the plans the Cardinal is executing is chronicled on this and other blogs. Yet, there is the peculiar habit of wanting to synthesize applause for the plans he carries out right under your nose.


  18. Boston Catholic Insider says:

    As always, BCI asks readers to abide by a few basic guidelines in their comments. There are no issues this time with keeping the comments relevant to the topic at hand. But, we also ask readers to avoid personal attacks. That means, you should not label so-and-so as being a ___, which is your judgment call of them as a person. It is fine to discuss past actions or behaviors you have objectively observed as the basis for your opinion, but please do not just say, “___ is a ___.” In addition, we ask readers to state when something is their opinion vs stating their opinion as fact. If, based on past actions or behaviors observed, you believe that something similar might be expected in the future (unless something changes dramatically), then please express your opinion in that context rather than stating your personal opinion regarding the present or future plans as though it is objective fact.

  19. Carol says:

    Boston Seminarian,

    I guess I wasn’t clear. Thanks for pointing it out.

    When I speak above about “John Unni”, I am defining the Cardinal’s matrix, not the person or a person. John Unni is such a public example of the Cardinal’s plan, it is convenient to use his name. “John Unni” is the name of his game plan. Does that help the context?

    If you are telling me that in teaching homiletics up at St. John’s, you have never been instructed not to teach or preach on what they characterize as ‘hotbutton issues’ during the homily, God has evidently preserved you from it. I don’t draw conclusions on something somebody tells me once, or twice or even a half dozen times. If over the years I start to hear it more than a half dozen times, and from seminarians, priests and deacons who try to live their lives in a state of grace, I then can safely say this is what they are teaching up at St. John’s.

    Further, since we all know it is not being preached during a homily, it is not a coincidence. It is pressure coming from the luminaries in the Chancery who have taken over the control while the Bishop of the See has been hiding under his bed shivering.

    The Cardinal, God Bless him, has been a disaster. He has been in over his head since the day he arrived here and checked out shortly after his arrival. He has abandoned his See. There are an awful lot of people who surround him to make excuses for his incompetence, weakness, inertia and abandonment as people are bringing legitimate concerns forward. This is not servitude to Christ and His Church to do so.

    We have a duty to pass on the faith to the next generation and we simply have to have an honest discussion about what is happening so we can all look Christ in the Face on our day of judgment and say we laid it all down, did everything we could possibly do.

  20. Objective Observer says:

    “If you are telling me that in teaching homiletics up at St. John’s, you have never been instructed not to teach or preach on what they characterize as ‘hotbutton issues’ during the homily, God has evidently preserved you from it. I don’t draw conclusions on something somebody tells me once, or twice or even a half dozen times. If over the years I start to hear it more than a half dozen times, and from seminarians, priests and deacons who try to live their lives in a state of grace, I then can safely say this is what they are teaching up at St. John’s.”

    No you can’t, because you need actual knowledge as the basis for your assertion, not innuendo and hearsay to make this statement. When you make statements that cannot be verified about one thing, you degrade your credibility about others. And when you use hyperbole where succinct accuracy would do better, you degrade your entire comment.

    Somewhere in there you seem to believe that the Church needs strong leadership from its ordinary and you seem to believe that we cannot fill pews by pandering to whatever point of view makes people feel “welcome.” If that’s what you believe, say it, and steer clear of content in your posting that repels the reader.

  21. Carol says:

    If a dozen children in your neighborhood came home and told their parents that the science teacher in the school was teaching the world was flat, that isn’t ‘innuendo’ or ‘assertion’ – it is testimony to the facts and reasonable and righteous people take action upon it.

    When close to a dozen good priests/deacons tell you facts about their education on homiletics, the time comes for rational people to stop treating it as assertion.

    If my telling you, and the fruit of the absence of hearing these things in homiletics, doesn’t turn the lights on in the hatrack, I can’t help it. It is only my duty to speak the truth.

    To suggest one should would my credibility when we’ve had ten years of not hearing the teachings of the Church in homiletics, I find astounding – but you are free to do whatever you wish with the information. I’ve used my name in public and everyone knows who I am and I have over ten years of standing on principle and truth. Frankly, posting pot shots anonymously at people who have the fortitude to stand up and speak the truth and put their name on it, repeals readers.

    Blessed Advent

  22. Boston Catholic Insider says:

    The temperature seems to be getting a bit hot in here. BCI is offline this afternoon and does not have the time or capacity to moderate. BCI would like to suggest we all take a little breather for the afternoon. When the discussion resumes, could we try to keep comments focused on the plan itself? The comments back-and-forth amongst readers are starting to get personal and BCI would prefer we focus on the plan.

    • Carol says:

      If a discussion is to take place about the plan, the discussion has to include discussing the talents, treasure and credentials of those to whom the tasks will fall. This discussion is not ‘personal’ in nature but are critical to understanding how the plan will roll out on the ground.

      The same matrix applies when we discuss politics. When Obama architects a plan for faith-based initiatives it would be silly to accept it on it’s face, wouldn’t it. We look at who the key players are, what their philosophies are – and we warn those who would otherwise naively remain ignorant of the dangers inherent.

      In the same way, we discuss the threat to the culture and families when comparing show about family values starring the Kadashians and a family show about the Waltons.

      A discussion about the plan without discussing the key players in place here in Boston is an empty exercise.

      There is no need to get the vapors.

      You better watch out. You better not pout. You better not cry, I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town.


  23. Mack says:

    The cardinal said that he wants to hear what the priests have to say about this proposal. He also promised, “I want to go on record today as saying to you that I and the staff of the Archdiocese will do whatever it takes to make this work.” I certainly hope that he will do all of that. To listen to the feedback of the priests is very important. I hope that those aren’t just empty words, since other concerns that BCI has been bringing up all along have gone unanswered.
    But I would like to stay positive about this and to pray for him and all the priests and people of the archdiocese.

  24. Michael says:

    Mack says:
    [The Cardinal] also promised, “I want to go on record today as saying to you that I and the staff of the Archdiocese will do whatever it takes to make this work.”

    But his words and actions never match up. He always has great words with what appear to be strong promises. His actions, however, are never in harmony with his rhetoric.

  25. Fred says:

    I just read through this and am saddened but the want of charity. Some of you are quite eloquent and shout loudly what YOU believe the Church should be like. This Sunday, if we listen to the Gospel, we will hear of a young virgin accept the will of God unknowingly, only with faith. Are we smarter than she?
    When I read something like the chatter here I hear the Spirit speaking through James (4 10-12)…

    Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.
    Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
    There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?

    Are we following this voice the cries out in the wilderness .. or do I just like to see how clever I am … not.


  26. Carol says:


    The citation from scripture is speaking about the mortal condemnation of the soul of a person. The citation is not a manifesto that dissolves doing what is just in the face of corruption and evil when our brothers are harming and injuring others. When our brothers are harming and injuring others, it’s our duty to speak out. Our intentions are not only to bring freedom to victims and potential victims, it is an act of charity to the people doing the harming and injuring. Ultimately, we are concerned with their salvation. We are our brothers keeper is the entire premise of evangelization.

    Every so often as we evangelize, free captives from the slavery of sin and injustice, we run into Mr or Mrs Grinch who does not receive or understand our acts of charity. Their reaction is to flock to the perpetrator of injustice and lash out against the just and truth. As anyone who has read a newspaper in the last decade or two knows, Catholics are entrenched in this ethical and spiritual flaw. It manifests itself in various ways. You see some that respond with hostility here, but another exhibition of the flaw is to cover up the corruption and evil by implying justice and truth is a lack of charity.

    What we are discussing in this forum is Cardinal O’Malley’s regime which is imprisoning Catechesis, withholding salvation from the faithful. We must make a judgment upon his actions, and the actions of those he is empowering to carry out turning the archdiocese from the institution of salvation into a fundraising operation – because we have a duty to pass on the inheritance to the next generation of children.

    Disclosing what he is doing, is not making a judgment upon his soul. When someone cries out for justice for the imprisoned, the actions are of course troubling and incriminating for wrongdoing. The objective is not hostile. The objective is first and foremost to serve God, his people and moreover, to get the corrupt to stop doing what they are doing for their own sake.

  27. Fred says:

    Quite eloquent. Quite. Not sure your interpretation of scripture is correct. I’ve often heard your argument … just damning him to help him save his immortal soul and the souls of the faithful. Others have made the same argument and some would go so far as to remove James from their canon.

    May God bless you and please keep me in your prayers.

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