Pastoral Planning Pitfalls

March 28, 2012

As most people in Boston know, an extensive pastoral planning process is underway to determine how a model of Pastoral Service Teams (PST) would be implemented in Boston. The idea is that parishes will be grouped, with one pastor (and perhaps a parochial vicar and deacon) serving anywhere from one parish to 3 or 4 parishes, along with a shared service team to include roles such as business manager, religious education and faith formation director, youth ministry, music ministry, secretary, and maintenance.  Regional meetings and consultations have been underway for the past 1-2 months.  BCI is sharing some of the published results from those meetings and consultations.

The results and materials associated with the consultation and planning process are all published publicly here.  This 24-page report gives the raw data from polling devices and discussions at the regional meetings.   The first thing BCI noticed is that for all of the time and resources put into these consultations and the compilation of the lengthy report, no one even mentioned in the report how many people were in the sample polled. Secondly, there is no executive summary to distill all of the information, and in the section with comments, we get no sense for the frequency of comments–just a listing of all of them.  Many regions are not yet included in the report. BCI could spend hours just trying to distill this into something meaningful.

We share just a few data points today, and more coming in future posts. Here are some polling questions

Does this proposal of a PST Model take us in the direction you believe we need for the Archdiocese?

Right Direction Close to the right direction Neutral Wrong Direction
Pastoral Associates 40% 38% 14% 8%
Religious Ed/Youth 15% 44% 19% 22%
Principals 18% 43% 18% 21%
Deacons 38% 37% 13% 12%
Average 27.75% 40% 16% 15.75%

Q. In which mode has the Archdiocese been in since 2008? (question posed to parish staff/employees):

Mission Maintenance Crisis Survival Not sure
Pastoral Associates 6% 12% 60% 22% 0%
Religious Ed/Youth 4% 12% 55% 23% 6%
Principals 5% 14% 46% 29% 6%
Deacons 5% 22% 49% 20% 4%
Average 5% 15% 52.5% 23.5% 4%

Same question posed to Parish Council and Parish Finance Council members:

Mission Maintenance Survival Crisis Not sure
Average 3.2% 11.8% 46% 31.4% 8.2%

Q. What is your level of agreement with the Cardinal’s exhortation that evangelization be the present and long term task of the Archdiocese? (Parish Council and Finance Council members)

Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
Average 38% 33% 14.4% 8.2% 6.4%

What is your level of agreement with the goal that we must grow the Church of Boston by bringing Catholics back to the practice of the faith?


  Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
Average 62.3% 32.3% 3.3% 1.3% 1.3%

What is the level of agreement with the following statement: “The strengthening of parishes should NOT be achieved by another round of closing 100 or more parishes and churches.”

  Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
Average 64.6% 18.6% 7% 6.3% 3.6%

These next three questions to Parish Council and Finance Council members are interesting:

How open are you to having a pastor from outside your proposed collaborative become your pastor?

Very Open Open Not sure Not open Strongly not open
Average 23.3% 28% 15.3% 15.3% 18.6%


How open are you to having the pastor of another parish in your proposed collaborative become your pastor?

Very Open Open Not sure Not open Strongly not open
Average 13% 27.3% 16.3% 17.3% 26.3%


How open are you to having your pastor become the pastor of the parishes in your proposed collaborative?

Very Open Open Not sure Not open Strongly not open
Average 49% 23.6% 8.3% 5.3% 13.6%

In other words, most people polled want THEIR pastor to be the pastor of the collaborative, they are not thrilled to have another pastor from within the collaborative become the pastor of the collaborative, and apparently, if their own pastor was not to be the pastor of the collaborative, would rather have a pastor from outside the collaborative take over than one from within the collaborative.

Here are some comments in the report from the meetings. We republish them verbatim from the report:

Round Three Consultations with Parish Pastoral and Finance Council Members

The comments from the first five consultations can be grouped generally around eight different areas of concern:

  1. General Concerns about the Proposal.
  2. Specific concerns about the Groupings or Pastoral Collaboratives.
  3. Financial Aspects of the Proposal.
  4. The Implications for Priests and Pastors.
  5. Training.
  6. The Criteria Used.
  7. Effectiveness and Accountability
  8. Research.

General Concerns about the Proposal

  • This may cause more people to leave the Church.
  • Where are the success stories?
  • Don’t see the point of evangelization in this proposal.
  • Was “Catholics Come Home” successful? What does this mean for this plan?
  • Feels like we’re being punished again.
  • The Church must come into the 21st century and deal with the real issues facing Catholics.
  • We need to ask why people are leaving the Church.
  • I see how this plan is working in other places around the country (i.e. Ohio).
  • (Various stories of how this model is working already in the Archdiocese, i.e. Beverly.)
  • What is the connection between consolidation and evangelization?
  • Nobody took the time to come and talk to the Churches before this.
  • Grateful to the Archdiocese for being proactive.
  • Goal may not be how many people we have in the seats, but how we use our hearts for Jesus.
  • Is there a conflict between efficiencies and evangelization?
  • Is this plan really addressing the root causes, i.e. why decline in Mass attendance.
  • What mistakes have other dioceses made? Can we learn from them?
  • I have lots of doubts. At a level four of doubts (scale of one to ten).
  • If we work as a team, this can work.
  • It’s hard to be enthusiastic and supportive after Reconfiguration.
  • I don’t think you’ve taken into account the “culture of the parishes.”
  • Planning documents don’t show how we’re going to do evangelization and why.
  • We’ve spent more time on the what and not enough on the why.
  • Need more emphasis on cultural diversity.
  • I like the emphasis on parishes working together. I grew up in a culture of competition.
  • I hope you will really listen to what the people are saying here tonight.

The Groupings

  • Things are working well, why disrupt it?
  • 500,000 will be a difficult threshold; few parishes will meet this criterion.
  • (Specific concerns about some of the pairings- ie. Manchester-Essex, Saugus).
  • Focus needs to be on evangelization.
  • Fear of compromising the viability of smaller parishes.
  • Can we really make a case for the realignment of parish groupings?


  • Any consideration given for selling underutilized properties?
  • This is geared financially more than evangelization.
  • I feel this will lead to closing churches, unless we listen to people and find out what the issues are.
  • The numbers don’t add up. We’re going to consolidate the staff but raise their salaries. Same number of people are going to contribute the same amount of money.
  • How are resources going to be found at the local level to achieve these goals? This will cost 30-50k out of local budgets, without support from the Archdiocese.
  • How many rectories will we have?
  • What happens when money from a strong parish goes to a weak parish?
  • If we have to consolidate parishes and pay for a business manager, I don’t see how we will afford it.

Priests and Pastors

  • Are we expecting too much from priests?
  • It feels like a team saying “Our objective is to win” but we are not talking about how to pick the players.
  • Has there been any study about how to solve the priest shortage?
  • Will vocation work be part of the plan of action?
  • Priests are older; we’re asking them to take on a larger job. I am not convinced this will work.
  • How are we going to take care of priests in the short run?
  • I’m concerned that priests will become more transactional, like a bank teller in this model.


  • The success of this plan is in the execution.
  • When does training begin? Gradual implementation?
  • Why has there not been training before? This should have been addressed sooner.


  • How new is this information. It doesn’t seem as if the criteria were fulfilled.
  • Worried about the criteria, especially for smaller churches.
  • Are there any criteria in place for choosing who will be pastors and who will not?
  • I want to understand better the decision to stop parish closures. Was the decision to stop parish closures because of the failure in 2004.
  • Does the existence of a parochial school enter into the criteria?

Effectiveness and Accountability

  • How will we measure the revitalization of the Archdiocese?
  • What is the practical effect of pooling resources? Will we be consolidating CCD programs?
  • What happens if a PST is unsuccessful? What is the next step?
  • How successful was “Catholics Come Home??
  • Have you seen this approach be successful in other dioceses? If this is not working well, will there be a hard stop?
  • What is the timeline for this plan, hiring decisions, etc.?
  • Has there been an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of current parishes and will that information be used to determine the final structure?
  • Are there any plans to bring youth back?
  • Clarify how this will help evangelization.


  • Has there been any study undertaken to understand why there’s been a decrease in attendance?
  • What’s the projected loss in attendance when Mass schedules are changed?

The Boston Archdiocese clearly has much work to do to adjust this proposal and make it an effective plan that can be implemented and can succeed–especially with the major  changing of the guard in the Planning Office. (We hope rumors of the South Shore pastor taking over are not founded, but we have several indicators it is the likely direction).  BCI has heard frustration from many people who attended the regional meetings.  Feel free to share those frustrations and concerns in comments. The future of the archdiocese is very important, so they need to listen and make sure they get this right.


Report on Religious Freedom Rally in Boston

March 25, 2012

In follow-up of our most recent post, BCI has received several reports that the Boston “Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally” was a success, with about 300 people attending.  Rallies were held at 140 different locations across the country, including Philadelphia, where about 2,000 people attended, and New York, where an estimated 1,000 people attended.

At noon on Friday, March 23, the rally was held at the Boston Common directly across from the Massachusetts State House. The speakers included:

  • Massachusetts State Representative Jim Lyons
  • Fr Jeremy Paulin OMV; Director of Vocations
  • Clarivel Marin de Dragas, Mother, Wife and American Citizen
  • Edwin J. Shanahan, Executive Director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life
  • C.J. Doyle, Executive Director Catholic Action League of Massachusetts
  • Scot Landry, WQOM (1060 AM) and Boston Archdiocese Secretary for Catholic Media

The event had been previously planned, canceled earlier this week, and then rescheduled with only about 24-48 hours advance notice, so getting about 300 people or more with literally zero advance publicity was pretty good. BCI was asked for speaker suggestions and we were pleased to see that a few made it to the event. No reports about the rally have been published in the mainstream media, so we are pleased to share with you several photos below.

State Rep. Jim Lyons with wife, Bernadette

Here is a report from the National Catholic Register on the rallies across the country, including Boston:

At Scores of Rallies, Thousands Hear Calls to Restore Constitutional Right to Religious Liberty
Stand Up for Religious Freedom marks second anniversary of Obamacare with peaceful, impassioned demonstrations against HHS contraceptive mandate.


– Matthew A. Rarey

From the halls of government in the nation’s capital to the hills of San Francisco, thousands of Americans turned out today across the country to voice their opposition to what they perceive as serious encroachments on religious liberty.

Sponsored by an organization called Stand Up for Religious Freedom, the rallies were held in 140 locations, including the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington.

That is the office that issued a regulation earlier this year requiring most private employers to provide co-pay-free contraceptive and sterilization coverage in health-care plans. The mandate provides only a narrow religious exemption, leading the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other organizations to protest it as an infringement on religious liberty.

Philadelphia and Boston

In cities closely related to the fight for independence in 1776, protesters like Philadelphia Catholic radio talk-show host Dom Giordano recalled that the rallies were taking place on the anniversary of Patrick Henry stating, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

About 2,000 people gathered outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, waving American flags and holding signs saying things like “Obama persecutes the Church” and “The First Amendment Rules.”

Steven Bozza of the Respect Life Ministry of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said, “The Catholic Church in the U.S. is not going to back down. The bishops are not going to back down. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is not going to back down.”

“In my heart I believe we’re going to prevail,” Bozza said. “This rally is just the beginning.”

Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council said, “I’m an American. I’m a Roman Catholic. And today I stand before you as a conscientious objector. I refuse to play the victim of a phony war on women.”

In Boston, it had been announced early this week that the rally was “canceled” because the proper permits had not been obtained. But organizers mobilized to hold the rally on Boston Common, in the area of the park that is directly across the street from the Massachusetts Statehouse.

Several hundred people gathered with many signs, including “HHS: HANDS OFF.” There were half a dozen speakers who stood on the steps and used a bullhorn to address the crowd, including Scot Landry, the Boston Archdiocese’s secretary for Catholic media. Landry noted that contraception is “ubiquitous and inexpensive.” Rather, he said, the issue is about the Obama administration putting free contraception before first freedoms.

Here is a link to the HHS Mandate Fact Sheet [PDF].

So, that about summarizes things on the rally to Stand Up for Religious Freedom.

Meanwhile, a Boston College priest who publicly endorsed Kathleen Sebelius  for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services–the department pushing the mandate that violates our religious freedoms–is still speaking at a Boston parish on Monday evening on the topic of Catholics, Politics, and Conscience: the 2012 Election.

As we reported previously, Fr. Thomas Massaro was one of 26 Catholics who signed a statement endorsing the pro-abortion politician Kathleen Sebelius for HHS Secretary in 2009.  She had been admonished by more than one bishop to not receive Communion for her “30-year history of advocating and acting in support of legalized abortion.” is publicly calling for Fr. Massaro and his colleagues to either disown Sebelius or disown Catholicism.

We are aware that people have complained to Cardinal O’Malley about the talk, and apparently both the Cardinal and Msgr. Garrity, pastor at St. Catherine of Siena which is sponsoring the talk, are both comfortable having this speaker deliver an ambiguous message to faithful Catholics about what it means to vote consistent with Catholic beliefs and moral teachings. You can assume he will neither disown Sebelius or Catholicism on Monday evening. Most likely, the message will be that opposition to abortion is one of many moral teachings in the infamous “seamless garment” of Catholic social teaching, and Catholic voters should form their own consciences by considering the full range of issues, including  immigration, war and peace, economic welfare, blah blah blah.

Stand Up For Religious Freedom

March 23, 2012

There are two parts to this post.

Part 1: Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally, Friday March 23 at 12pm in Boston (intersection of Park St and Beacon Street)

The Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom is being held Friday, March 23 at noon in 140 locations across the country– outside federal buildings, Congressional offices and historic sites across the country. The theme for the Rally is “Stand Up for Religious Freedom—Stop the HHS Mandate!”

It is expected that thousands of Americans of all faiths will be participating in these peaceful rallies across the country, organized by the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society to oppose the new mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that requires all employers provide free contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs through their health plans, even in violation of their consciences.

Cardinal O’Malley has criticized the Obama administration ruling, saying:

In its ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.

In Boston, the rally is taking place just outside the State House on Boston Common, at the intersection of Park Street and Beacon Street, from 12pm-2pm.  We do not know who the speakers will be, but wanted to pass along word of the event to those who might be able to swing by during their lunch hour. People of all faiths should oppose the Obama administation ruling for this unconscionable mandate.

Part 2: Priest who Endorsed HHS Secretary Speaking at St. Catherine of Siena in Norwood

Given that the Boston Archdiocese feels comfortable offering yoga in the Pastoral Center to employees despite Vatican warnings of the dangers of the practice, it should come as no surprise that they also feel comfortable that a priest who publicly endorsed Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services is speaking at a Boston parish on the topic of Catholics, Politics, and Conscience: the 2012 Election.

Fr. Thomas Massaro, of Boston College, was one of 26 Catholics who signed a statement endorsing the pro-abortion politician Kathleen Sebelius for HHS Secretary in 2009.  She had been admonished by more than one bishop to not receive Communion for her “30-year history of advocating and acting in support of legalized abortion.” is publicly calling for Fr. Massaro and his colleagues to either disown Sebelius or Catholicism:

Nearly 3 years ago, 26 liberal Catholics still crowing over their successful campaign to elect Obama actually felt the urgent need to form a group “Catholics for Sebelius”to support the nomination of that rabidly pro-abortion woman for HHS Secretary. They not only supported her, they called her a model pro-lifer who “lived and acted according to” her agreement with Church teaching against abortion.

It was a false claim even then. Now that Sebelius has finalized her rule forcing religious organizations to fund abortifacient drugs, contraception and sterilization, including drugs that kill embryos, it is a shameless lie. And their letter openly advocated that Sebelius pass and implement Obamacare, which is the instrument of her attack on religious freedom.

But these 26 “Catholics for Sebelius,” to this day, remain prominently listed on their open letter supporting the anti-Catholic HHS Secretary.

So the honorable choice for these persons is simple.

Take your names off that letter, or take Catholic off your names.

It will be interesting to hear on Monday night how Fr. Massaro feels about his endorsement of Sebelius and the public call for him to renounce his endorsement for her.

His recent piece in America magazine,Time to Cool Down”  suggests the sort of approach he will discuss on Monday evening in Norwood:

I have no novel opinion or particular expertise to share on the divisive topic of whether Catholic institutions should accept the Obama administration’s compromise on conscience clause provisions. I wish simply to relate my fear that we as a religious community are choosing to walk the wrong path. I am addressing not the outcome of the policy debate, but the regrettable style of our recent engagement of this issue.

A superior option would be to trade the culture warrior agenda for one of diplomacy…De-escalate the overblown rhetoric that paints opponents with the brush of idiocy, poor judgment or willful deception….Invite others into civil conversations that emphasize mutual respect and a willingness to listen, even when that proves uncomfortable.

Whatever policy outcomes unfold this year or next or further down the line, those of us lucky enough to be given a longer span of life by our Creator will find ourselves sharing the Eucharist (and much else) with thousands of those with whom we are not currently seeing eye to eye. Should our future sharing of the bread of salvation be compromised by our current failure to share a modicum of civility?

The problem with his arguments is that moral teachings such as abortion and contraception are “non-negotiable.”  That he has “no opinion” on whether the Catholic Church should accept the Obama administration contraception mandate says it all. As one commenter to his column wrote:

“The “polarization” in the Church is due to the view that it’s OK for Catholics to decide for themselves what is right and wrong and ignore the dictates of Conscience-which is exactly the power that the Devil tempted Adam and Eve with, the power to decide for themselves what is good and evil.”

With writings and opinions like Fr. Massaro has expressed, BCI would suggest that he does not appear to be an appropriate speaker about Catholics, Conscience, Politics and the 2012 electionnor is he likely to advise people to stand up for our constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom, as the U.S. Catholic bishops and Pope Benedict XVI have rightly urged us to do.

Boston Herald: Up in alms over salaries

March 21, 2012

The Boston Herald has an article today reporting on the high executive salaries in the Pastoral Center that is worth reading.  We excerpt from it below, and offer brief BCI commentary after the article.

Up in alms over salaries
Church asks for more as top Catholic administrators see pay spike

By Erin Smith
Wednesday, March 21, 2012

With the Archdiocese of Boston in the middle of its 2012 Catholic Appeal fundraiser, the number of church employees earning upward of $150,000 has skyrocketed by more than threefold even as the church has been shuttering parishes, a Herald review found.

In 2006, the archdiocese listed only five employees earning more than $150,000, but its latest annual report shows 17 “senior lay executives” topped $150,000 last year. Among the latest eye-popping salaries and fiscal details the review found:

•     Total compensation for Mary Grassa O’Neill, superintendent of the archdiocese’s Catholic schools, last year topped $351,000, surpassing the $323,222 earnings of Boston Superintendent of Schools Carol R. Johnson. 

•    The top archdiocesan lawyer totaled $326,169.

•    The recently departed chancellor, the archdiocese’s top financial officer, grossed $276,486.

•    Since 2006, the archdiocese has cut 50 staff members but payroll costs increased by nearly $1 million.

“To focus on salaries and not look at the broader picture is vastly unfair,” archdiocesan spokesman Terrence Donilon said about the high-priced laymen. “These folks are immensely talented people who are helping one of the largest archdioceses in the country repair itself. The church is in a much better position than it was 10 years ago and that’s in no small part due to the talented people the cardinal has brought around him.”

Donilon, whose compensation topped $193,000 last year, said that even though the payroll went from $8.3 million in 2006 to $9.2 million this year despite dramatic job cuts, the church has actually saved $250,000 in payroll costs over the past five years when taking into account inflation.

Council of Parishes chairman Peter Borre, whose group fights church closures, said the hefty payroll runs counter to “the basic spiritual mission of the Catholic Church.”

“The crushing overhead weight at headquarters is becoming an intolerable burden for many parishes, and if the archdiocese wants to cut costs, it should start with Braintree, not in the churches,” Borre said.

Donilon credited school superintendent O’Neill with increasing Catholic school enrollment in Boston and Lowell while slowing an overall decline.

“Mary had a great job at Harvard,” he said. “She didn’t need to take on this assignment, which is one of the toughest Catholic school assignments in the country.”

Just weeks ago, the archdiocese launched its annual Catholic Appeal — which raised about $13.7 million last year — only months after proposing a parish reorganization plan. Donilon said it’s too soon to say whether it will result in more church closures.

“The Catholics throughout Boston are expecting a major round of church closings regardless of what the archdiocese says and that’s going to make people hang onto their wallets,” Borre said. “What’s the point of throwing good money after bad if the overhead of the archdiocese is eating up the cash of the diocese?”

The Herald got most of the story correct, but there are a few details they missed.

  • The Herald’s look at the number of $150K+ employees in the 2006 fiscal year incorrectly assumed there were 5 employees making $150K+, when in fact, two of those employees left that year (David Smith and Ken Hokensen) and were replaced (by Jim McDonough and Scot Landry), so the positions were double-counted by the Herald .(See 2006 Annual Report).  In reality, the number of people making $150K or more per year increased from 3 in 2006 to 17 in 2011, for an increase of almost six-fold.
  • If you add up the salaries for the 3 people (Smith, Hokensen, and Donilon) making more than $150K in 2005, the year before the former Chancellor arrived, they total $553K. Add up the $150K+ salaries from 17 people for the 2011 fiscal year and you get nearly $3.5M, also a more than six-fold increase.
  • The compensation for Barbara Johnson, Boston Schools Superintendent may have been misreported in the Herald article.   See this April 2011 press release announcing the renewal of the contract for Barbara Johnson, which puts her salary at $266,750.: “At Superintendent Johnson’s request, her annual salary will hold steady at $266,750 – a voluntary decrease from the original salary of $275,000 when she first arrived in 2007. Dr. Johnson has also requested the removal of a provision in the contract that entitles her to a $600 per month car allowance.  Superintendent Johnson has never accepted the stipend since beginning her tenure with BPS. She uses her own private vehicle for all work purposes. Superintendent Johnson has also never elected to accept a performance-based compensation of up to $20,000 annually that the contract entitles her to receive.”  [Update: in a private email exchange with the Herald, they maintain from this source, that her compensation is $323,222)

    By the way, Johnson has direct operational responsibility and authority over hiring, budgets, teacher contract negotiation, busing, curriculum, etc for all Boston Public Schools, while Mary Grassa O’Neill, does not have similar operational responsibility and authority over Boston Catholic schools–they are managed locally. New York and Los Angeles pay their school superintendents $250K/year to directly manage school systems that are 15-20X bigger.

  • Not mentioned in the Herald Report about compensation for Terry Donilon is the fact that he is paid about $50K more per year than the previous lay Communications Secretary–an increase of nearly 45%, for no apparent reason. The former Chancellor, Jim McDonough was paid 30% more than his precedessor. Mary Grassa O’Neill is paid 12X more than her predecessor, a religious sister.  Three fund-raising VPs today are paid in aggregate about 3X what one fund-raising secretary was paid in 2005.
  • The comment by Terry Donilon that the church has saved $250,000 in payroll costs over the past five years when taking inflation into account merits more scrutiny.  First, we know that some salary expenses have been shifted off Central Operations to other related entities (e.g. sexual abuse victim counseling, clergy funds).  It is impossible from publicly disclosed reports to determine how much of the claimed “savings” is real, or how much has simply been shifted to other entities. Second, to whatever extent the total payroll-related expenses might have remained flat, it is largely due to the headcount reductions of lower-level people and freezing of lower-level salaries, while the $150K+ salaries grew.  Long-time BCI readers will recall how former Chancellor McDonough said in December 2010, “employees have not had a raise in four years,” which really meant that lower-level employees were not getting raises, while certain higher-paid employees did get raises.
  • If everything is just fine with the $150K+ salaries, then why did the Finance Council form a “Compensation Committee” to review executive compensation, and why did the Compensation Committee hire an expensive consultant to work on the problem? (see “Boston Archdiocese Bloated Payroll Inaction).
  • Administrative expenses have apparently grown from 26% of the total budget in 2005 to 36% in 2011. Many of these expenses are indeed loaded onto the backs of parishes who are struggling to pay their bills.  As we reported in “How Your Money is Spent, ” in the 2012 fiscal year, 36% of the budget ($9.95M out of $27.8M) is consumed by Administrative Services. By means of comparison, in 2010, Administrative Services expenses were 30% of the total budget (see “Easy Come, Easy Go“).  As a further comparison, if you look at the 2005 operating results in the annual report here, you will see that Management and General expenses (equivalent to Administrative Services, as best as we can tell) in 2005 were $10.1M out of total expenses of $37.9M, or 26% of the total.

BCI is also aware of the spin in the Terry Donilon email sent around last night. It will require a separate post to go into that.

For the ability of the archdiocese to continue her saving mission in the future and not be encumbered by high executive salaries and administrative expenses, we hope and pray that Vicar General Msgr. Deeley makes it a high priority to address the $150K+ salary and administrative expense problems in the very near future.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day (one day late)

March 18, 2012

One day late, but still in time for the South Boston parade, we offer you two prayerful remembrances of St. Patrick’s Day.MQueenIreland

First, from Cardinal Sean’s blog, he recently visited the Mary Queen of Ireland chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and shared a beautiful inscription from the wall of the chapel–a medieval Irish prayer to our Lady:

Holy Mary, if thou wilt, hear thy supplicant;

I put myself under the shelter of thy shield.

When falling in the slippery path,

thou art my smooth supporting hand staff.

There is no hound in fleetness or in chase,

north wind or rapid river,

as quick as the Mother of Christ to the bed of death,

to those who are entitled to her kindly protection.


Prayer of St. Patrick (aka “St. Patrick’s Breast-plate”)

This is supposed to have been composed by St. Patrick in preparation for his victory over Paganism.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holyVirgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of falseprophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the falselaws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

In a special way, pray to St. Patrick for the future of our archdiocese.

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Boston Archdiocese Continuing with Yoga Class

March 16, 2012

In follow-up of our post several days ago, Boston Archdiocese Offers Yoga, we learned yesterday that the Boston Archdiocese is proceeding with the yoga class, despite concerns and complaints raised.

Below is the email message sent out by Vicar General, Msgr. Deeley:

Message: Dear Friends:

After listening to many of you after our Staff meeting on Tuesday, I thought I would follow up with this note so that we are all clear about what we are doing, and what is involved with the health and wellness program, including the yoga stretching technique.  First of all, I want to thank all of you for your feedback regarding this initiative. I continue to encourage you to share your opinions and ask the questions you think are important, so that we can strengthen our ability to collaborate with each other.

I also want to acknowledge that there are definitely potential problems involved when Catholics engage in spiritual exercises involving the practice of yoga.  The Holy See has articulated those concerns in two important documents which caution against using these Eastern Spirituality methods for prayer. As noted in the documents, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith* and Jesus Christ The Bearer of the Water of Life, issued by the Pontifical Council for Culture and The Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialogue**, the primary concern is the proliferation of various types of new age spirituality and erroneous forms of prayer.

While recognizing the dangers inherent in some spiritual practices of yoga, particularly those that incorporate eastern philosophy, we are in no way promoting a false religion, pagan worship, or narcissistic spirituality. What we are offering here at the Pastoral Center, quite simply, is a stretching and fitness routine for those who would find it helpful. This is one activity within a health and wellness program that we have developed for the Pastoral Center community. I am told that many good and faithful Catholics incorporate this simple and useful form of physical exercise into their workouts. This type of yoga is apparently also a common part of many physical therapy routines and can offer positive physical results.

This program is a voluntary one which will be held outside of work hours.  Those who suggested it thought it would be a good way of gathering some people together for a common exercise as another means of building relationships within the Pastoral Center.  It is a health and wellness program.  Those who have chosen to do this do so in good faith and with good intentions.  I hope they find it helpful.

I thank you again for your feedback.  At the same time I encourage us all to be supportive of each other as we work together to serve the people of our Archdiocese.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Msgr. Robert P. Deeley



That is what the Vicar General has said.  BCI respectfully disagrees and takes issue with what he has written in more ways than time permits us to express today. Here are a few:

  • If the archdiocese wanted to offer a ” stretching and fitness routine” then they should simply offer a “Stretching and Fitness” class that does not have any roots or connection to Eastern spirituality.  There are hundreds of such classes offered in gyms, corporations, and non-profits across the country which are not “yoga.”
  • That “many good and faithful Catholics incorporate this…exercise into their workouts” is not a reason to consider it right, appropriate and justified for the Pastoral Center to promote and encourage it.  BCI is aware than many solid Catholics do yoga for fitness purpose, and each person has their individual reasons–rehabilitation from injury, arthritis, pain, etc.  Several have written to BCI, and posted comments, and we know some Catholics on a personal basis who do yoga.  One person who does yoga for health reasons commented on the health benefits but also said, I “have always found that on my lunch hour, daily Adoration and Mass — which the Pastoral Center offers IN HOUSE — to be by *far* more beneficial than the exercises.”

    Each person, including good and faithful Catholics, has free will to make their own individual decisions. If you want to stretch doing yoga routines in your personal life, BCI is hardly in a position to stop you. But that does not mean that every single thing good and faithful Catholics do–BCI included–is consistent with the will of God or praising and glorifying God–or more important, necessarily appropriate for the Pastoral Center to be sponsoring and endorsing. Furthermore, we are aware that one of the two Pastoral Center employees who took their own lives in 2011 was a part-time yoga professional, so yoga, even in the Pastoral Center, is not without some controversy–justified or not.

  • Beyond the spiritual concerns we raised in our last post and which many readers raised in comments, the NY Times reported a few weeks ago about a sexual scandal associated with yoga: “Yoga fans sexual flames scandal” (Feb 28, 2012)
  • Beyond that, the NY Times  also reported in January on some of the possible negative physical effects of yoga: “How yoga can wreck your body” (Jan. 8, 2012)

Regardless of all of the above, critics of BCI will say, “See, the Vicar General says it is just stretching and fitness–BCI has over-reacted. The Vicar General says yoga is fine.”

Before you comment and say that, consider doing a quick Google search on “stretching routine,” “stretching class,” or “stretching exercises” and see how many millions of results you get that do not have yoga as a part of them.  And before you comment, do us a favor and answer this one question:

If the goal is just offering a “stretching and fitness routine,” why in the world would the Catholic archdiocese not just offer a “Stretching and Fitness” class such as those offered in gyms across the country that is free from any controversial connections to paganism or non-Catholic spirituality. Why not just offer an exercise class totally free from any spirituality, modernism, and the legitimate concerns raised in the Vatican documents referenced and by dozens of people who have written about their personal experience with yoga? 

Regardless of the health and wellness benefits touted by the archdiocese as the basis for the yoga program, BCI maintains our position that the Eastern spiritual roots of yoga make it inappropriate for the Pastoral Center to offer.

Boston Archdiocese Offers Yoga

March 13, 2012

The Boston Archdiocese is offering a yoga class at the Pastoral Center.

As most people know, yoga  (Sanskrit, Pāli: योग, yoga) is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India.We reference the definition in wikipedia:

The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on the Hindu concept of divinity or Brahman. The word is associated with meditative practices in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.

Here is the email notice sent by Carol Gustavson, benefits administrator, to Pastoral Center employees promoting the program:

Subject: yoga sessions at the Pastoral Center

Good morning – following up on the wellness theme presented at this month’s staff meeting, and in honor of Richard Ely, who was a dedicated student of yoga, we hope to have a series of yoga sessions starting at the Pastoral Center in the near future.  The proposed structure is as follows:

*4-6 sessions (approximately one hour each) on Tuesday evenings at 5:00 pm

*instruction provided by a local yoga instructor

*fees to be paid directly to the instructor in advance to cover all sessions; approximate amount $10/session

*bring your own mat and other optional equipment

No prior yoga experience is required, just an interest in increasing the fitness level of your body and mind.  If you have an interest in joining us for this series, please let me know by Friday, March 2.  Once we have a headcount, we will determine the actual cost and the start date for the sessions.

It should be noted that the current pope, Benedict XVI, previously issued a document in 1999, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation,” published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1999) stating that “Eastern” practices such as yoga, Zen, and transcendental meditation posed a danger, in that they could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that edged out “the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit.”  Yoga poses could create a feeling of well-being in the body but it was erroneous to confuse that with “the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit,” the document said.

This article, by the late Fr. John Hardon entitled, “Why is yoga incompatible with Catholicism” says:

Yoga is incompatible with Catholicism because the best known practice of Hindu spirituality is Yoga. “Inner” Hinduism professes pantheism, which denies that there is only one infinite Being who created the world out of nothing.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth, who for years was the Vatican’s chief exorcist has said yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation.”  “Practising yoga is Satanic,” he said.

This article at Catholic Culture, “Yoga — Health or Stealth?” by a former advanced yoga practitioner merits reading:

At its best, yoga is a very beautiful and intricate system devised thousands of years ago to mimic the states and powers of saints in order to attain their virtue. At its worst, it is a tool of hidden and dangerous power that destroys minds and lives. At its heart, it is nothing more than a flawed shadow of the truth in comparison to the power of the Paschal Mystery and the sacraments. In any light, it is now incontrovertibly incompatible with and antithetical to the Christian walk.

In closing, yoga and all New Age practices have filled the void that exists because we abandoned the greatest source of bliss and comfort, the Eucharist. A return to the Eucharist and a renewed program of instruction on contemplative prayer will bring many Catholics back from these deceptively beautiful practices and philosophies.

BCI could go on and on about why offering yoga at the Pastoral Center is a bad idea.  Defenders and sponsors will say they have a “Catholic” yoga instructor, they have removed any poses or references to Buddhism, and are doing this for health and wellness purposes.

Bull.  That is merely perfuming the pig, as it were. If they want relaxation for all of the stressed-out Pastoral Center employees making $150K+/year or the dozens who are underpaid, then offer something other than yoga.

BCI consulted a prominent Catholic exorcist regarding the situation and got a response that relaxation is not bad, but, “The trouble is if invoked beings, energies, and especially if we put our heart, our trust in anything, as more effective than God, there the devil can infiltrate and mislead, pushing people away from God, and bringing them to sin. I do not see it, personally, that the Catholic Church should be used for other purposes outside of prayer, meditation of the word, etc.”

As an aside, we are troubled by the U.S. Government imposing a requirement to pay for contraception on Catholic organizations against our consciences, but it is somehow OK to voluntarily bring yoga into the Pastoral Center, which the CDF warned, could “degenerate into a cult of the body”?

This yoga class is apparently happening under the noses of, and with the approval of Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Vicar General Msgr. Deeley. Call the Vicar General at 617-746-5619 or email to complain about this.

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