Around the Boston Archdiocese

April 28, 2012

BCI has a bit of a backlog of topics we want to cover and we apologize that other responsibilities by the team are limiting us right now to blogging about once a week.

As BCI approaches two years with the blog, we have also begun to think about where we want to go with the blog so as to continue our ministry of helping the Boston Archdiocese get on the straight and narrow—and remain there.

The topics on our radar screen or on our list to cover fall into these general categories:

  • Fiscal management (including excessive six-figure salaries, breaches of fiduciary responsibility, expenses and allocation of donor funds, pension deception, and an inexplicable $8M Caritas pension plan write-off)
  • Leadership vacuum at the top: ongoing problem which often manifests itself via diocesan statements; diocesan actions or lack thereof in the face of problems;  and people/organizations of questionable background who Cardinal O’Malley closely associates with, supports or endorses.
  • Pastoral planning: the gift that will keep on giving for years into the future. Hand-in hand with this is the generally battered state of the Boston presbyterate
  • Moral condition of the Boston archdiocese.  Several readers have asked us to comment on how, in this a national election year, we continue to see a diminished voice of Cardinal O’Malley and the local Catholic Church in public policy and with voting Catholics.

That is a tall order to keep up.  Here are a few quick highlights of things you may want to know ahead of our blogging about them in more depth:

  •  The diocesan public relations firm, Rasky Baerlein, has been paid $130,000 by the Committee for Compassionate Medicine, to run PR around legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes and getting a ballot question before Massachusetts voters in November.  Perhaps Ann Carter, a Catholic and CEO of Rasky Barelein,  along with the principals of the firm are unfamiliar with the 2001  Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry pastoral handbook “Church, Drugs, and Drug Addiction” which instructed that cannabis use is “incompatible with Christian morality” because it is an intoxicant that dims reason and potentially is damaging to the integrity of one’s body and soul. We hope they see this post and abandon their work on the campaign immediately, or the archdiocese determines that ongoing Rasky work on this campaign is sufficiently incompatible with Catholic values that the archdiocese must find a new PR firm.
  • Friend of Cardinal O’Malley and diocesan advisor/Finance Council member/Catholic schools fund-raiser, Jack Connors,  is apparently still on board with trying to help anti-Catholic, pro-abortion President Obama win in November, saying, “we have a fight on our hands” to defeat Mitt Romney:

Jack Connors, a major Boston-based Obama fund-raiser who made his fortune in advertising, said overconfidence may be hurting the president’s fund-raising.

“Some people don’t see Romney as a threat,’’ he said. “They say, ‘Look how far behind Romney is with women; the president is going to be reelected easily.’ But I think folks will come to their senses and realize we have a fight on our hands. You can’t let one party or one special interest fight with F-16s and you only have BB guns.’’

After praising Women & Spirit (a museum exhibit devoted to the contributions of women religious to American life), the cardinal added:

Allow me also, both personally and on behalf of Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, to thank you for having responded to the call to religious life. The Church is grateful for all that your communities have done, and continue to do, to advance the mission of the Church, especially in the areas of health care, education, social services and pastoral ministry, as are highlighted in the exhibit.

…The Church needs your gifts of perseverance, commitment and fidelity, and your unique charism, as guided by the Holy Spirit. Please know that your ministry is greatly valued. …

Fast forward to 2012.   The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently reported, “The current doctrinal and pastoral situation of the LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern.”

“issues of crucial importance in the life of the Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.”

The CDF said, “The Assessment reveals serious doctrinal problems which affect many in Consecrated life,” calling it a crisis “characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration.”

These are just a few highlights of upcoming posts.  Feel free to comment on the issues and topics raised above.  We will get to these and other topics as quickly as we can.


Archdiocese Closes Boston church, Ends Vigil After 7 Years

April 21, 2012

The Boston Archdiocese is in the news for ending a seven-year vigil at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in East Boston  The archdiocese apparently changed the locks on the building.

Here is a link to one of the articles:

Parishioners fuming over lockout from Eastie church (Boston Herald)

After holding vigil inside their closed church for the past seven years, about 30 angry parishioners protested outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Boston yesterday — one day after they discovered the Archdiocese of Boston apparently changed the locks to the building.

“We thought it was vandalism,” said Steve Ashcraft, pointing out a broken key jammed in the front door’s key hole, adding that a side door was glued shut…. “We were put on notice that if we go into the church we’d be arrested.”

A group of about 70 people regularly attended services at the church since the archdiocese closed it about seven years ago. The archdiocese allowed them use of the building even though it was officially closed — until now.

 “It’s like losing a part of your body,” said Phyllis LaPlaca, 75. “It’s close to your heart.”…

The archdiocese released a statement yesterday through spokeswoman Kellyanne Dignan, who refused to elaborate on what the organization intends to do with the property, which includes a rectory and convent.

“For the better part of seven years, we have permitted the vigil while the petitioners pursued various appeals,” the statement said. “The time for this vigil to end has come.”

Ashcraft said the protesters, who lost a recent church ruling, have 60 days to appeal to the Vatican supreme court.

Meanwhile, in Scituate at St. Frances Cabrini, the 24 x 7 vigil continues:

SCITUATE – On Day 2,731 of the unbroken vigil at St. Frances X. Cabrini, parishioners vowed to continue their occupation of the shuttered church, despite a move this week by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston that shut down a protest vigil in East Boston.

“We’re optimistic; we’re prayerful; we’re still here 24-seven,’’ said Maryellen Rogers, a leader of the St. Frances vigil, which has maintained at least one person at the church around the clock since it closed in 2004.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley moved last year to deconsecrate the church and several others, so the buildings can be marketed and sold. Parishioners have appealed that decision to Vatican courts….

“The vigil at Mount Carmel is over, and it was the longest-running vigil,’’ said Peter Borre, head of the Council of Parishes, a group that fights church closings.

But Borre said Mount Carmel parishioners will appeal to the Vatican’s highest court to stop the church from being sold…

The Archdiocese has told parishioners at Mount Carmel that they can contact the property manager to retrieve any personal items left in the church, but they will not be permitted to hold services there anymore, said Kellyanne Dignan, an archdiocesan spokeswoman.

“We understand that those who have opposed the closing of Our Lady of Mount Carmel desired a different outcome,’’ the archdiocese said in a statement. “For the better part of seven years we have permitted the vigil while the petitioners pursued various appeals. The time for this vigil to end has come. We pray that they will choose to join an open and welcoming parish to experience the fullness of their faith through parish life.’’

The notion that the archdiocese could lock them out is one reason that the protesters at St. Frances X. Cabrini never leave the church empty.

On Friday, parishioner Pat McCarthy kept vigil on the afternoon shift, camped out in an easy chair in the church vestibule. She could not get the DVD player to work, and an unwatched episode of the television series Downton Abbey was on the table, near a half-made jigsaw puzzle….

The St. Frances protesters are still waiting for a decision on a Vatican appeal, they say, and could fight on to a higher canonical court even if they lose.

BCI knows that the matter of church closings and vigils is wrought with controversy.  BCI hates to see even a single church close. Parishioners are fully justified in opposing the closing of their church and appealing to the Vatican through every channel available.  The recent appeals in the Diocese of Cleveland were successful and resulted in the reopening of 12 parishes previously ordered closed.  If you read the decrees from the Vatican, it is clear why the Congregation for the Clergy reversed the closing decisions and ordered the parishes reopened.

That said, while the appeals are underway, BCI is not a supporter of people occupying churches in vigils. The occupancies have cost the archdiocese millions of dollars because in many cases, the buildings have been maintained to residential standards. BCI on a number of occasions has suggested that the archdiocese simply change the locks on the doors and not let people enter the church buildings. The appeals should still run their canonical course–just without people living in the empty church buildings. So, in the specific case of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, BCI is not criticizing the archdiocese–we believe it was the right move to change the locks. While appeals continue, BCI thinks it would be better for the spiritual life of the former parishioners to move on to a welcoming parish where they can receive the sacraments and participate in the spiritual life of that parish.  What do you think?

Boston Pastoral Planning Head Sponsors Parish VOTF

April 14, 2012

There have been a few changes in the Office of Pastoral Planning lately that all Boston Catholics should be aware of.  In particular, the newly named Interim Director of this important office, Fr. Paul Soper, is pastor of  St. Albert in Weymouth, which, coincidentally, is one of the few parishes in the Boston Archdiocese that still hosts a chapter of Voice of the Faithful.

Just as a reminder, an extensive pastoral planning process is underway to determine how a new model of Pastoral Service Teams (PST) will 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.

The office coordinating all of this is seeing the departure of two key staff members, and Fr. Soper has been named Interim Director for an indeterminate period while they search for a replacement full-time director.

This post is not making any judgments about Fr. Soper. We are not acquainted with him and are not giving any personal commentary about him.  He may be a great person and pastoral leader in his parish. We are reporting that Fr. Soper has a chapter of VOTF in his parish. And that gives the perception that he would likely be supportive of their agenda. We will give you the basic information and you will have to decide what you think of this change.

Bulletin Notice about Pastoral Planning Change (3/18/3012)

Friends –

Many of you heard my announcement of last weekend regarding my new assignment as Interim Director of the Office of Pastoral Planning for the Archdiocese. I apologize to those who were at the six o’clock Mass, when I was at one of the consultation meetings, and failed to make arrangements for that announcement to be made. Sorry.

Just to lay out for you the details in writing, such as I now know them. The Office of Pastoral Planning has in recent years been staffed by Father David Couturier, OFM Cap., and Joshua Phelps, a layman. Joshua got a new job offer last month, and has left the office. Fr. David is being reassigned by his religious community, and will be leaving the office in May. This leaves this office unstaffed during a time when we are taking big steps in finishing our consultations, preparing a proposal to give to the Cardinal, and, if he approves it, beginning the process of implementation in a gradual and organic way. A successor for Fr. David will be sought, but this will likely take a fair amount of time. It seemed to make sense to have someone familiar with the process step in on an interim basis to staff that office. The Cardinal, through Monsignor Deeley (the Vicar General), has asked me to step in to that position. And because of my decision 22 years ago that I would put into the hands of the Archbishop of Boston the decisions about where I would minister, I have, of course, agreed to accept this interim position.

I want to emphasize that I do not know yet any details about how this will impact my ministry at St. Albert’s….

I love you and care deeply about you, and I know that you love me as well. I assure you that that love has sustained me through these recent months and am certain
that it will continue to do so.

Thanks. Paul

Voice of the Faithful bulletin notice at St. Albert the Great, Weymouth

Commentary on 2012 Voice of the Faithful National Conference by Cardinal Newman Society (March 20, 2012)

Voice of the Faithful Holds Conference on Catholic Campus

Last week, the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University hosted the 10th Annual Voice of the Faithful Conference called “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church.” The lead speaker of the event was the controversial Bishop Geoffrey Robinson.

Bishop Robinson has been on a tour across America and it was reported last week in the National Catholic Reporter that he “urges change in Church teaching concerning all sexual relationships.”

The Center allowed this conference on campus despite Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport banning Voice of the Faithful from meeting in parishes in the Connecticut diocese. Of course, Bishop Lori cannot force Fairfield, a Jesuit university, to comply but many Catholics would hope that such a strong statement by the bishop would encourage a Catholic college to comply of their own volition.

In fact, just four days before the conference the VOTF issued a statement expressing their “disappointment” that Bishop Lori was appointed Archbishop of Baltimore. They accused him of having “fallen short” in his duties to protect children from clergy abuse.

But VOTF’s invitation to the Jesuit campus should hardly come as a surprise as the Center is directed by the holder of the Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. Chair in Catholic Studies, Dr. Paul Lakeland, Professor of Religious Studies who also serves on the advisory board of the VOTF.

In 2009, Lakeland opposed the Connecticut bishops by backing a state bill that sought to transfer control of Roman Catholic parishes to lay-run boards.

Although its unclear what the advisory board does, it was formed last year as the clergy sex abuse scandal moved off the front pages of newspapers and necessary improvements were made in how the Church deals with these issues. VOTF was reportedly suffering an identity crisis.

Where to go now? What to do?

Already seen by many as the dissident Catholic group that arose in protest of the burgeoning sex abuse scandal but since then has morphed into what some bishops have called “anti-Church and, ultimately, anti-Catholic “ and a group that “has used the current crisis in the Church as a springboard for presenting an agenda that is anti-Church and ultimately anti-Catholic,” VOTF formed its first theological advisory council, according to a news release at the time.

Unsurprisingly, Lakeland was named to the board. A former Jesuit priest, his book Can Women Be Priests? reportedly sought to refute theological objections to a female priesthood and called for it to be introduced.

In his book The Liberation of the Laity, he wrote: “What we have is an episcopate of men selected more for their commitment to the party line on outmoded ideas about contraception, ordination, and homosexuality, more for their administrative capabilities than for their stature as spiritual leaders.”

Other council members include Francine Cardman, associate professor of historical theology and Church history at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

Cardman has been listed on the website as a supporter of the ordination of women.  She has written extensively on the subject including her piece “Non-Conclusive Arguments: Therefore Non-Conclusion?” in which she wrote, “The rereading of central Christian dogmas in light of the present hermeneutical situation could, on the other hand, even come to require that women be allowed the possibility of ordination.”

She was quoted in USA Today concerning the apostolic visitation on nuns, arguing that the inquiry should be seen “as part of a much older tradition of misogyny in the (C)hurch and especially distrust of women who are not directly and submissively under male, ecclesiastical control.”

William D’Antonio, fellow of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, was a signatory of the letter in support of the nomination of the pro-abortion rights Kathleen Sebelius. That letter was the brainchild of a group called Catholics United which was described by Archbishop Charles Chaput as having “done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.’”

D’Antonio is also the co-author of eight books on the sociology of religion, including Voices of the Faithful, the subhead of which is “Loyal Catholics striving for change.”

Also on the board is Christine Schenk, CSJ, the executive director of FutureChurch, a national organization committed to female ordination and ending priestly celibacy.

The advisory council, according to a VOTF press release, is there to “advise VOTF’s board of trustees on issues relating to its mission and goals, offering analysis and recommendations solicited by the board, and will counsel the board on issues it feels are pertinent to VOTF’s success.”

Bishop Robinson Banned from Speaking in Los Angeles by Cardinal Mahony

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has barred a controversial Australian bishop from speaking in his California archdiocese.

In a May 9 letter to Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary of the Sydney, Australia archdiocese, Cardinal Mahony invoked the Code of Canon Law to explain that he had decided to “deny you permission to speak in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”

Cardinal Mahony took action just as the Australian bishops’ conference issued a public statement warning of “doctrinal difficulties” in Bishop Robinson’s new book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church. The Australian bishops noted problems with Bishop Robinson’s treatment of “the nature of Tradition, the inspiration of the Holy Scripture, the infallibility of the Councils and the Pope, the authority of the Creeds, the nature of the ministerial priesthood and central elements of the Church’s moral teaching.”

This article further details the Mahony communication to Bishop Robinson:

In his letter, Cardinal Mahony said he had recently learned of the Australian bishops’ statement about the bishop’s book.  He also said he had learned that Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, has urged Bishop Robinson to cancel his U.S. visit.

Cardinal Mahony requested Bishop Robinson to cancel his visit, citing Canon 763 of Canon Law.  The canon pertains to a bishop’s duty to safeguard the teachings of the Church in his diocese.

“Under the provisions of Canon 763, I hereby deny you permission to speak in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” the cardinal wrote.  He also urged Bishop Robinson to cancel his entire speaking tour and to work with the Australian bishops’ conference, saying he would expect him to “follow exactly” their recommendations.

For Cardinal Mahony to have banned a speaker in his diocese, you know something must have been problemmatic. This suggests a bit of a problem with VOTF.  Yet Bishop Robinson spoke at the Paulist Center in Boston that year (where the current VOTF President was the local VOTF chapter lead), and Robinson also spoke at the VOTF conference in 2012..

To present a more complete perspective, here are some articles that give more information about Fr. Paul Soper and his background:

Interview on The Good Catholic Life: May 27, 2011

New Pastor at St. Albert comes Home to Weymouth: Patriot Ledger Feb. 2009

Meet our Priests: Fr. Paul Soper: The Boston Pilot: Dec. 5, 2008

The position of Director of Pastoral Planning–interim in nature or permanent–is a very important one, with responsibility for how parishes are grouped, what the plan looks like to be implemented, implementation and perhaps even some input on pastoral assignments for the new PSTs.  The person in the position should enthusiastically support everything the Catholic Church believes and teaches.  Hopefully, that is the case for Fr. Soper.   That Fr. Soper has a chapter of VOTF in his parish is objectively factual information.  It gives the perception that he would be supportive of the VOTF agenda.  BCI believes that presents a source of concern which the Boston Archdiocese should address.  What do you think?

Can you help this Catholic religious community win?

April 11, 2012

BCI is inviting you to help improve the chances for a great Catholic organization, the Brotherhood of Hope, to get an award of $25,000 to support their outreach to Catholic young adults on campus. The Catholic campus ministry program they run at Florida State University has seen 27 students go on to pursue vocations in the priesthood and religious life!  If you want the 10-second summary of what to do to help them, here it is:

1) “Like” this Facebook page

2) Vote for the Brotherhood of Hope

Brother Jason Zink and The Brotherhood of Hope
Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee

Now, here is the 3-minute version. As we mentioned in this post last December, the Brotherhood of Hope, established in 1980 and based on Somerville, MA, is a canonically recognized Catholic community of brothers and priests consecrated to Christ, dedicated to evangelization, and committed to a life together as a spiritual family. This post, “The Brotherhood of Hope,” describes their Catholic outreach to college students in Boston at Northeastern and a new effort in the Fenway area of Boston.

Their campus ministry program at Florida State University has produced 36 graduates who are now lay leaders in the Church. Additionally, 27 students have gone on to pursue vocations in priesthood and religious life. Of the three men ordained to the priesthood this past year in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, two are former FSU Catholic Student Union participants. Today, the Catholic Student Union  is the second-largest student group on the university’s 40,000-student campus, a testimony to the power of campus ministry. An average of 70 students attend daily Mass.

To support their consideration for the $25K award that supports their amazing ministry, all you have to do is “Like” a Facebook page (you must have a Facebook account) and then vote for the Brotherhood of Hope/Br. Jason Zink. Directions are below. Voting ends Friday April 13, so vote today!

1) “Like” this Facebook page

2) Vote for the Brotherhood of Hope

Brother Jason Zink and The Brotherhood of Hope
Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee

(NOTE: The Brotherhood of Hope did not ask BCI to post this notice, nor are they aware we are posting).  Below is the rest of the info.  All yours from here!

Dear family and friends,

Can you please do me and the Brotherhood of Hope a HUGE but easy favor? Your help definitely will improve our chances of getting $25,000 donated to our outreach at Florida State Univ., as well as another $25,000 donated to that same mission Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

Here’s the scoop. The Extension Society is making this offer, and the missionary who gets the most e-votes is likely to get the prize given to their mission and diocese. (As of recently, my confrere, Brother Jason Zink, is a bit ahead in the race.). The Society has been impressed with and supported our Brotherhood’s mission at FSU over the years, and your vote could help us win this special award. Please click the link below (“voting on our FB page”), or follow the simple instructions below — it takes 2 minutes to do. Also kindly consider passing this email onto some of your friends, especially if they know the Brotherhood.

Thanks for your assistance!

Br. Rahl

PS I’m attaching a short-but-sweet article on the FSU outreach that the Extension Society printed in their spring 2011 magazine as part of their cover story.

CES-NewLogo_No tag_300px

Vote Now For Your Lumen Christi Award Nominees!

Fr. Peter Zalewski and Br. Jason Zink (and The Brotherhood of Hope) from The Diocese of Pensacola have been nominated for Catholic Extension’s 2012 Lumen Christi Award!Help support your nominees by voting on our Facebook page, and sharing this email with other supporters encouraging them to do the same!This year, we received more than 50 nominations for individuals and groups who have dedicated their lives to sharing the light of Christ with others. Each nominee is truly building faith, inspiring hope and igniting change in the communities they serve.

It’s easy to show your support for your own “light of Christ.” Here’s how:

  1. Simply “Like” our Facebook page to view all entries.
  2. Click on your nominee’s name to be taken to their specific voting page.
  3. Click on the blue “Vote” button to cast your vote.
  4. Share it with your friends and family on your own Facebook wall so that they vote, too!*

Extend your support even further by forwarding this email throughout your diocese and encouraging others to do the same. Good luck, and thanks for voting!

Click here to vote for your nominees!

Forward this message to a friend

*Facebook support is not the comprehensive factor in choosing the 2012 Lumen Christi Award finalists. Your vote will be one of several factors considered in determining this year’s finalists.

Catholic Extension uniquely contributes to the growth and vibrancy of the Church in the US by strategically investing in under-resourced Catholic communities to unleash the power of faith that transforms hearts and lives and society.

Happy Easter

April 8, 2012

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Here is Pope Benedict XVI’s Easter Sunday Urbi et Orbi message.

Have a blessed Easter!


Easter, 8 April 2012


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world!

“Surrexit Christus, spes mea” – “Christ, my hope, has risen” (Easter Sequence).

May the jubilant voice of the Church reach all of you with the words which the ancient hymn puts on the lips of Mary Magdalene, the first to encounter the risen Jesus on Easter morning. She ran to the other disciples and breathlessly announced: “I have seen the Lord!” (Jn 20:18). We too, who have journeyed through the desert of Lent and the sorrowful days of the Passion, today raise the cry of victory: “He has risen! He has truly risen!”

Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, who frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity. This is why Mary Magdalene calls Jesus “my hope”: he was the one who allowed her to be reborn, who gave her a new future, a life of goodness and freedom from evil. “Christ my hope” means that all my yearnings for goodness find in him a real possibility of fulfilment: with him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal, for God himself has drawn near to us, even sharing our humanity.

But Mary Magdalene, like the other disciples, was to see Jesus rejected by the leaders of the people, arrested, scourged, condemned to death and crucified. It must have been unbearable to see Goodness in person subjected to human malice, truth derided by falsehood, mercy abused by vengeance. With Jesus’ death, the hope of all those who had put their trust in him seemed doomed. But that faith never completely failed: especially in the heart of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ Mother, its flame burned even in the dark of night. In this world, hope can not avoid confronting the harshness of evil. It is not thwarted by the wall of death alone, but even more by the barbs of envy and pride, falsehood and violence. Jesus passed through this mortal mesh in order to open a path to the kingdom of life. For a moment Jesus seemed vanquished: darkness had invaded the land, the silence of God was complete, hope a seemingly empty word.

And lo, on the dawn of the day after the Sabbath, the tomb is found empty. Jesus then shows himself to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to his disciples. Faith is born anew, more alive and strong than ever, now invincible since it is based on a decisive experience: “Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life’s own champion, slain, now lives to reign”. The signs of the resurrection testify to the victory of life over death, love over hatred, mercy over vengeance: “The tomb the living did enclose, I saw Christ’s glory as he rose! The angels there attesting, shroud with grave-clothes resting”.

Dear brothers and sisters! If Jesus is risen, then – and only then – has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world. Then he, Jesus, is someone in whom we can put absolute trust; we can put our trust not only in his message but in Jesus himself, for the Risen One does not belong to the past, but is present today, alive. Christ is hope and comfort in a particular way for those Christian communities suffering most for their faith on account of discrimination and persecution. And he is present as a force of hope through his Church, which is close to all human situations of suffering and injustice.

May the risen Christ grant hope to the Middle East and enable all the ethnic, cultural and religious groups in that region to work together to advance the common good and respect for human rights. Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community. May the many refugees from that country who are in need of humanitarian assistance find the acceptance and solidarity capable of relieving their dreadful sufferings. May the paschal victory encourage the Iraqi people to spare no effort in pursuing the path of stability and development. In the Holy Land, may Israelis and Palestinians courageously take up anew the peace process.

May the Lord, the victor over evil and death, sustain the Christian communities of the African continent; may he grant them hope in facing their difficulties, and make them peacemakers and agents of development in the societies to which they belong.

May the risen Jesus comfort the suffering populations of the Horn of Africa and favour their reconciliation; may he help the Great Lakes Region, Sudan and South Sudan, and grant their inhabitants the power of forgiveness. In Mali, now experiencing delicate political developments, may the glorious Christ grant peace and stability. To Nigeria, which in recent times has experienced savage terrorist attacks, may the joy of Easter grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of all its citizens.

Happy Easter to all!

Boston Catechetical Congress, BCI Criticism

April 3, 2012
It looks like a few people have issues already with our post yesterday about the fitness program.  This comment from “tryingtofigurethisout” was thoughtful and insightful, and we felt bears reprinting to stand on its own.

tryingtofigurethisout says:
April 3, 2012 at 4:11 a

Hi BCI… been following the blog for a while now trying to figure out if I support the idea or not….I believe Sean O’Malley is a good man at heart and a true Vicar of Christ…Sadly, I think he has been surrounded by some people who are not serving him well and are often times giving him bad advice. This has unfortunately led me to conclude that , in spite of reading some dubious postings from BCI and more so from some posters, that the blog does indeed ” make solid contact with the ball ” quite often. The fitness story I’m not sure warrants a posting…but again , despite some reservations , you are providing a valid service . I understand that one of the main focuses of the blog is the financial / fiduciary issue(s) of the Boston Catholic Archdiocese….As you point out objectively in the post, there in all likelihood was some sort of financial gain for the Boston Catholic Archdiocese from their insurance provider for the program so that also contributes to my lack of support for the post. The financial / fiduciary issue is a very important one for sure. But I , as I know you are also, am also concerned with issues of Faith as well . The space for the fitness posting would have been better served , in my opinion exploring a discussion on something i noticed in this week’s pilot.

I’ll be brief as I know this is a long posting.

Page 1 into page 2 shows the following

“Sister Christina Wegendt, FSP, and Sister Hosea Rupprecht, FSP, gave a workshop called “Faith Formation for a Media Generation” in a classroom at the school. The sisters recommended that catechists see television shows and movies like “Glee” and “The Hunger Games” to provide an opportunity to connect with younger students.
Sister Christina stayed after the presentation to discuss the themes of some of the media addressed in the workshop, including the dystopian reality presented in the book and movie “The Hunger Games.”

I don’t know who these Nuns are or what their daily jobs entail but it strikes me as nothing less than an outrage that advocating a television show like ” Glee ” , which is at best an active Hollywood tool of propaganda which promotes things as good that our faith tells us are in fact dangerous and objectively evil and at the worst , a despicable bigoted anti Catholic broadcast. And it gets better. in the same issue of the pilot, the movie review section actually reviews the movie ” The Hunger Games ” . Here are a few quotes from the review..

“But sensibilities are not spared as the grim contest unfolds: painful injuries brought about by swords, arrows, hatchets and even the creative use of a hornets’ nest are all portrayed unblinkingly. On the upside, foul language is entirely absent, as too is any sensual activity beyond kissing. So, despite the elements listed below, “The Hunger Games” may possibly prove acceptable for mature adolescents.

The film contains considerable, sometimes gory, hand-to-hand and weapons violence and graphic images of bloody wounds. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.”

This is the kind of stuff that really gets me going… as the parent of a young child who is trying to educate and raise the child to love the church and to appreciate the teachings of the church as being divinely inspired by our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, to see this sort of hypocrisy is really disheartening… This is the kind of stuff that needs to brought to the attention of the Cardinal, Msgr Deeley , Father Parrish et al.

Another interesting aspect of this is that in the print edition of The Pilot there was a picture of someone named Father Ricardo Gonzalez . The photo shows what appears to be a Hispanic looking man wearing a suit and tie. Why would a catholic priest be wearing a suit and tie at a ” Catechetical Congress”?

Another interesting note is that Father J. Bryan Hehir served as the main Homilist for the event.

Again BCI I think what you do can serve our archdiocese well. I will continue to point out things that in my opinion need attention.

BCI must be brief in our response, but first wants to thank the “tryingtofigurethisout” for taking the time to write.  Adherence to the faith and teaching the core teachings of the Catholic Church are extremely important–certainly even moreso than sound finances.

BCI did not have time to review the Catechetical Congress (program found here), but has a few things to say in response.

  • Sister Christina Wegendt, FSP is Acquisitions Editor for the Daughters of St. Paul, and Sister Hosea Rupprecht, FSP is also with the Daughters. Without knowing everything they said, it is difficult to know the full context for their comments about “Glee. ”  Still, if they were discussing “Glee,” what they should have said and what The Pilot should be saying is along the lines of what this review conveys: “the show’s portrayal of human sexuality and the normative sexual behavior of American teens leaves much to be desired, to put it mildly. The show’s understanding of sexuality is generally morally ambiguous and often simply wrong….Also problematic from a Catholic and Christian perspective is the fact that a traditionally-Christian perspective on sexuality is more often than not mocked. In one recent episode of the show, the notion that teens might embrace chastity was derided as naïve and frigid…Finally, the show strongly seeks to normalize homosexuality, with several characters either explicitly gay or lesbian or struggling with same sex attraction…it is nonetheless disappointing to see such a strong effort to portray same sex relationships as good and moral during the “family hour” of primetime tv.”  If this was not communicated to the catechists, BCI agrees it would be grounds for outrage.
  • Regarding the movie, “Hunger Games,” we are not familiar with the book or movie at all. Based on your comment, we read the review in The Pilot, this review/report, “Priest calls ‘Hunger Games’ movie dangerously prophetic” by Fr. Robert Barron, a solid priest and host of the PBS-aired “Catholicism” series, and this one  The Hunger Games: A Catholic Parent’s Guide to Themes and Issues from a Catholic author. If the purpose of these reviews is in part to educate parents about what is or is not acceptable for their children to see and to let them know what their children might be exposed to, then clearly the reviews accomplish that purpose. (The one in The Pilot says up-front, “Though presumably targeted — at least in part — at teens, the dystopian adventure involves enough problematic content to give parents pause. Responsible oldsters will want to weigh the matter carefully before giving permission for clamoring kids to attend.”
  • Regarding Fr. Bryan Hehir as homilist for the Catechetical Congress, long-time readers may recall that we objected to him keynoting a session at the convocation for leaders of Catholic Schools last year (see Tone-Deaf Cardinal). Besides him being the one behind the fiasco back on 2005 of honoring the pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage Mayor Menino of Boston at a Catholic Charities fund-raiser, in violation of USCCB guidelines that said Catholic politicians who oppose the church were not to be honored publicly, Fr. Hehir was also right up there keynoting the Catholic Healthcare Association’s annual conference where he praised the “intelligent, courageous leadership” after the CHA opposed the USCCB and Catholic bishops on Obamacare. The CHA is now at odds with the U.S. bishops on the outrageous contraception mandate.During his talk on “Catholic Identity” at the 2011 Catholic Schools leader convocation, Fr. Hehir made the following comment  “I always say that you learn to be a Catholic through the second collection, because if you listen to what we take up the second campaign for, it’s the Campaign for Human Development, Catholic Relief Services, Propagation of the Faith. We concern for the world as a whole, local, national, local and global.” (fast forward to 24:15):

Unfortunately, the Campaign for Human Development has its own controversies, so if Fr. Hehir feels you “you learn to be Catholic” by contributing to the CHD, that says something.  Crisis Magazine reported in  “Catholic Campaign for Human Development–Reform or Bust“, “In its 40-plus year history, the CCHD has funded many organizations and activities that are at best questionable and at worst downright reprehensible. Indeed, through the CCHD annual November collection, American Catholics have funded efforts promoting “reproductive justice”, (i.e., abortion) and “marriage equality” (gay “marriage”), among other causes.”  A review of their grants from the 2010-2011 year published here found that of the 218 organizations funded by CCHD, 14 are directly involved in activities contrary to Church teaching and 40 are actively involved in coalitions with such activities. Thus, 54 groups (24%) funded by CCHD are involved in anti-Catholic work. These 54 organizations received a total of $1,863,000 of the $7,608,000 distributed in CCHD grants in 2010-2011.

Cardinal Sean commended Fr. Hehir on his blog shortly after that talk last year, saying, “He gave an outstanding reflection on Catholic education and its role in shaping Catholic identity.”

Our last response to your comment concerns something you said early on. “Sadly, I think he [Cardinal O’Malley] has been surrounded by some people who are not serving him well and are often times giving him bad advice.”  Cardinal O’Malley is the one who has picked all of his senior leadership and continues to keep them in their roles. Many people have written letters, made phone calls, and sent emails complaining about some of these people. If the Cardinal has picked people who are not serving him well and giving bad advice and he hears the complaints but does not make changes, then is it really the advisers who are at fault? We continue to suggest changes and hope and pray for changes–but if there are none (or they are few and far between), then what does that tell us?

With this being Holy Week and the Triduum upon us shortly, this will be our last post for the week. Best wishes for a blessed Triduum and Easter from the BCI team.

Archdiocese Promotes Fitness on Donors’ Dimes

April 2, 2012

In the wake of mainstream media coverage of how the Pastoral Center is paying 17 people more than $150K per year each (up six-fold since 2006) and how the payroll went from $8.3 million in 2006 to $9.2 million this year despite dramatic job cuts, we now learn that the Boston Archdiocese is encouraging their employees to exercise during work hours, apparently instead of working.  We are not making this up!

(First to Msgr. Deeley, BCI had nothing whatsoever to do with that Herald coverage about the excessive six-figure salaries, so we would appreciate if you would stop telling people that when you have no basis whatsoever for that claim. But we digress–more on that another time…)

Here is the email sent to all Pastoral Center employees on March 28 from Carol Gustavson:

Good morning – as part of our ongoing commitment to health and wellness initiatives that also build our sense of community, all staff members are invited to join the Spring 2012 Pastoral Center Fitness Challenge.   The Challenge, piloted on the 1st Floor in the Parish Finance Department last year, was deemed a success, so we now invite all staff to join in this opportunity to improve their overall health and wellness while at work.

Every participant will be paired with another staff member to help keep motivation and morale high.  Below is a chart showing “points” each participant can earn towards a goal set by each team of two staff members.   The top five pairs in terms of overall points will be recognized at the June 2012 All Staff Meeting.  Pedometers will be provided to each participant to help track total steps taken throughout the day.  Additional ideas for earning points while at work are welcome.

To indicate your interest in the Challenge, please let me know by Monday, April 2.  You will be sent your partner’s name by the end of the week so that you can start the Challenge the week after Easter.  A tracking spreadsheet will be made available to all participants so they can enter their daily totals.

We look forward to your participation in this unique initiative.

Carol Gustavson
Director – Benefit Trusts/Plan Administrator
Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Boston
66 Brooks Drive
Braintree, MA 02184

BCI supports physical fitness, and could stand to lose a few pounds ourselves. This program no doubt earns some sort of insurance discount from Tufts Health Plan. But given that Pastoral Center salaries are paid largely from donor funds or service fees levied to entities supported by donor funds, one might reasonably ask, why does the fitness challenge have to be done only during work hours?

Should Terry Donilon, who makes total compensation of $193K/year, be encouraged to take 30-45 minutes away from his job–“during the work day only”–to go running outside every other  day  so he earns more points?

Can you imagine Mary Grassa O’Neill, paid $325K per year, doing pushups, sit-ups and squats before she meets with her $185K/year assoc. superintendent and her high-paid regional superintendents to discuss the next parish school to be ordered closed?

Can you picture Msgr. Deeley in a meeting with Fr. Bryan Parrish and a bunch of pastors discussing alignment of parishes for the PST initiative standing up to keep the meeting quick and earn 5 points.

Can you picture Carol Gustavson running up and down the stairwells and then arriving late for a meeting with all sorts of papers in hand, attributing the lateness to her fitness routine?

And who did the math on the points schedule for doing the stairs?  The first to fourth floor distance has 64 steps in total, so doing the round-trip is 128 steps.  If I can get 5 points for doing 128 steps, why would I do 2,500 steps–almost 20X greater distance–to get just 10 points?  Is the person who did the math on the points system the same person doing pension calculations for lay employees and clergy? Beyond the math, BCI is getting short of breath just thinking about the prospect of doing 20 round-trips from the first to the fourth floors.

So there you have it–another day, another dollar at the Pastoral Center.  Donors, your contributions that pay Pastoral Center salaries are not only going towards almost $3.5M for 17 people paid $150K+/year, but now they are also paying so people can exercise “during the work day only” to earn points, instead of working during the work day and exercising after hours.

The Mission of the Archdiocese of Boston is, “To carry on the saving ministry of Jesus Christ,” and BCI is OK with the concept of employees attending daily Mass or Eucharistic Adoration during the work day. Those activities rather clearly provide spiritual nourishment and strength that helps employees advance the mission and give glory and honor to God, but hopefully they are also making up for that time by working later.

Exercising during the work day feels different. OK, on a moral and spiritual basis, this approach to physical fitness is less dangerous than yoga (which is still underway). Still, out of fiduciary responsibility to be a good steward of donor funds, is it not better for the Boston Archdiocese to simply encourage people to exercise on their own time?

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