Boston Archdiocese Promoting Cause of Religious Freedom

May 31, 2012

In follow-up of our post last week where we called out the Boston Archdiocese for not joining the religious freedom lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services, today we are pleased to share with you the ways in which the Boston Archdiocese is promoting the cause of religious freedom.

As expressed by “Capt Crunch” in a comment, Cardinal Sean has mentioned the Fortnight to Freedom in his most recent blog post.

This week we were pleased to express our support for the 43 dioceses and Catholic institutions that filed suit in federal court to prevent the implementation of the federal mandate that would require most health plans offered by Catholic employers to cover drugs and procedures they find morally objectionable.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continues in its efforts to counteract the nefarious effects of the mandate, which is an intrusion into the practice of religion in our country. There is an ongoing dialogue with the White House (which has not been terribly fruitful) and there continue to be efforts in Congress, but it was thought that the courts must be also part of the strategy. So, a number of dioceses and institutions were identified in different areas of the country to join in a lawsuit.

Those suits are going forward and we are also waiting to hear what the Supreme Court will decide in their review of the Affordable Care Act.

In light of these events, we can see that the observance of the Fortnight for Freedom will serve as an important tool for Catholics to understand the issues that are at stake.

Information about the Fortnight of Freedom can be found on the USCCB website here. As part of the effort, Cardinal O’Malley will be hosting a virtual “Town Hall Meeting” on CatholicTV and WQOM (AM 1060) on June 25 at 8pm.

The archdiocesan website discusses the issue here:

Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day, both here at home and overseas.

What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it. Religious believers are part of American civil society, which includes neighbors helping each other, community associations, fraternal service clubs, sports leagues, and youth groups. All these Americans make their contribution to our common life, and they do not need the permission of the government to do so. Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.

This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.

What we ask is nothing more than that our God-given right to religious liberty be respected. We ask nothing less than that the Constitution and laws of the United States, which recognize that right, be respected.

We suggest that the fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, be dedicated to a “fortnight for freedom“—a great hymn of prayer for our country.

This all looks pretty good to BCI, and we commend the Boston Archdiocese for this initial effort to get behind the Fortnight of Freedom initiative.

Oddly, not mentioned at all by the Archdiocese is the Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally, taking place in Boston on Friday, June 8 at 12 noon. It takes place on Boston Common, across from the State House.

In March, over 60,000 Americans rallied against the HHS Mandate in 145 cities coast to coast.

Now, with the Supreme Court set to rule on the constitutionality of the Obamacare law, the Stand Up Rally is hitting the streets again on June 8.

More on that next week.

One person not likely to be at the rally or participating in the Fortnight of Freedom initiative that opposes the Obama administration mandate is Boston Catholic Schools fundraiser and Finance Council member, Jack Connors, Jr.  This Boston Globe article last week reported that Jack is busy organizing another multi-million-dollar fundraiser for the reelection campaign of President Obama. BCI finds it hard to understand how one can claim to be supporting the Catholic Church, yet at the same time be working to reelect a political figure whose “nefarious” policies intrude into the practice of the Catholic faith and also support the killing of the unborn, but we digress, and that is a topic for another post.

In the meantime, if your schedule permits, do plan to attend the rally on Boston Common and the virtual Town Hall Meeting on June 25, and do plan to pray during the Fortnight of Freedom. BCI thinks these are all worthwhile initiatives and hopes to see more information about them in parish bulletins, The Pilot, and elsewhere.


Memorial Day Tribute to Boston’s Military Chaplains

May 28, 2012

Today, Memorial Day, we share with you the video tribute presented by the Boston Archdiocese to the military chaplains from Boston.

Here is an excerpt from the article in the Boston Pilot:

BRAINTREE — This Memorial Day, as our nation salutes the courageous men and women of our armed forces, the Archdiocese of Boston celebrates and offers thanksgiving for the priests from the archdiocese who serve alongside American troops as military Chaplains.

“Recognizing the great need for Chaplains, the Archdiocese of Boston is proud to be able to provide priests for this important ministry,” said Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley. “In times of war and peace, the military relies on the pastoral care and supportive presence of our priest Chaplains. This Memorial Day we pray for all those serving in the armed forces and in particular remember those who have given their lives for our country and our freedom. May God grant them eternal rest and peace.”

The Archdiocese of Boston is one of two leading U.S. dioceses providing priests for military service. Since WWII, more than 300 of Boston’s priests have served as military Chaplains, with twelve Boston priests currently in active service, including seven fulltime.

“Our nation is blessed to have priest Chaplains continuing the long-standing tradition of serving the men and women of our military,” the cardinal said

The Catholic Appeal team for the Archdiocese produced a video tribute to honor our military Chaplains and spread awareness of this special ministry. The video is narrated by two priests of the Archdiocese of Boston, Reverend Richard M. Erikson, Ph.D., Brigadier General, USAFR, and Reverend Michael B. Medas, Chaplain, Major, Air National Guard.

The video is well done. Praying for our military chaplains and supporting our chaplains who put themselves in the path of danger are very good things.  We think the production of the video and publicity about the work of military chaplains is a worthwhile effort.

We could stop there and say nothing more, and BCI thought about doing so.

However, unfortunately, part of the video is a bit misleading, and BCI struggled to not at least share this for the benefit of our readers.

Besides the fact that both of the priests interviewed, Fr. Richard Erikson and Fr. Medas are reservists, not active duty chaplains, at the end of the video, one of the last frames says, “The people of the archdiocese support our military chaplains through the Office of Clergy Personnel and the Office of Vocations.”  These ministries are funded through the Catholic Appeal.  To make a donation, please visit…”

This implies that your donation to the Catholic Appeal directly supports military chaplains.  Is that true?  Here are the facts:

Yes, the Office of Clergy Personnel supports all of our priests, including chaplains, emotionally and spiritually. But the salaries and benefits for the chaplains while they are serving in the military are paid by the military, not by the diocese.  Reserve duty military chaplains are actually part-time chaplains whose primary job is either in a diocesan office or in a parish.  In their primary job, their salary is paid by either the office or parish; and while on reserve duty as a chaplain, they are paid per diem by the military. Full-time chaplains in all branches are paid, monitored, and ranked by their respective branches and not by the home diocese or the Archdiocese for the Military Services. In other words, your contribution to the Annual Appeal which helps fund the Office of Clergy Personnel really does nothing more to support a diocesan priest serving as a military chaplain (reserve or active duty) than is already done by that office to support that diocesan priest serving in a parish or diocesan office.

In the same way, BCI is also not sure how exactly the Office of Vocations (with funding support by the Catholic Appeal) supports military chaplains, except perhaps very remotely as a feeder for seminarians who later get ordained and might decide to pursue a military chaplaincy. The U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) has its own vocation director (Msgr. John McLaughlin, now at Boston University, was once in this role and did a superb job), and each branch also has its own recruiting office for chaplains. If a seminarian wants to pursue a vocation to the priesthood as a military chaplain, the seminarian is co-sponsored by the military archdiocese, and the military archdiocese splits tuition and related costs evenly with each diocese where the seminarian is formed, educated and ordained.  Given that background, regardless of whether our seminaries are or are not forming future military chaplains, it is unclear how the people of the archdiocese support military chaplains through the diocesan Office of Vocations.

As best as BCI can tell, only in the most remote way does the Catholic Appeal support military chaplains, and thus the claim at the end of the video to that effect feels misleading. If someone has proof otherwise, please let us know. We continue to maintain the view that people who want to support the good works of the Catholic Church should skip the Catholic Appeal and instead help pay a local parish bill (maintenance, repair, utilities, etc.).

Still, BCI thinks the ministry over time of 300 military chaplains from Boston and the current ministry of 12 chaplains merits our heartiest appreciation and accolades on Memorial Day, and we commend the archdiocese for the effort to recognize their work.

Boston Archdiocese Punts on Religious Freedom Lawsuit

May 22, 2012

On Monday, May 21, Cardinal Dolan, President of the USCCB, applauded 43 dioceses, hospitals, schools and church agencies for filing 12 lawsuits around the nation saying the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contraception coverage mandate violates religious freedom.

The Boston Archdiocese was not one of those dioceses.

St. Anthony of Padua said, “Actions speak louder than words” and the actions of Cardinal O’Malley make it  increasingly obvious that our Cardinal is lacking in courage.

Here is an excerpt from the AP report on the news:

NEW YORK – Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, and other groups sued the Obama administration Monday in eight states and the District of Columbia over a federal mandate that most employers provide workers free birth control as part of their health insurance.

The 12 federal lawsuits represent the largest push against the mandate since President Obama announced the policy in January. Among the 43 groups suing are the University of Notre Dame, the Archdioceses of Washington and New York, the Michigan Catholic Conference, and the Catholic University of America.

“We have tried negotiation with the administration and legislation with the Congress, and we’ll keep at it, but there’s still no fix,’’ said New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.’’

The suits bring the total number of cases now pending over the mandate to more than 30.

The Archdiocese of Boston did not join the effort, although it supports the legal challenges. “There is no need for every single diocese or other Catholic organization to sue,’’ Terrence Donilon, archdiocese spokesman, said in a statement. “The various plaintiffs reflect a broad cross-section of Catholic institutions, and together they represent the wide variety of issues, impacts, economic consequences, and divergent facts that exist among Catholic organizations nationwide.’’

In other words, while the Archdioceses of New York, Washington and St. Louis; the Dioceses of Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Rockville Centre, Springfield, Ill., Erie (PA), Jackson and Biloxi (Miss.) and others, along with the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America; and Our Sunday Visitor dig in and fight the battle (see here for list), the Boston Archdiocese will sit back and do nothing.  All the plaintiffs are being represented pro bono by the law firm Jones Day, so the out-of-pocket cost to Boston would be zero.

BCI literally is almost speechless upon hearing that Boston is bailing. Several times in recent months Cardinal O’Malley has called publicly for courage. Now he fails to demonstrate it via his actions.

September 2011 at diocesan Red Mass for lawyers and jurists: “We are called upon to defend the gospel of life with courage and resolve…Your very profession invests in all of you a great responsibility to ensure that all laws are just.”

November 2011 at the “ad limina” visit to Rome: Here is most of the CNS story reporting on this:

Bishops from northeastern US begin ‘ad limina’ visits with prayer

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Praying together at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and meeting Pope Benedict XVI should be a moment for bishops to reconfirm and strengthen their faith, said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

In his homily, the cardinal told his fellow bishops that after Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, “Peter flees. He’s trying to follow the Lord at a safe distance, something we all try to do at one time or another. But Peter discovers it’s impossible; you can only follow the Lord up close.”

“Jesus doesn’t ask Peter if he’s excelled in his intellectual prowess or his organization skills or his fundraising capacity or his Myers-Briggs score. Jesus only asks, ‘Do you love me?’” he said.

Peter’s love for the Lord brought him to Rome, the cardinal said, but — according to legend — as persecution grew Peter decided to flee again. Leaving the city, he saw the risen Lord and asked him, “Quo vadis?” (“Where are you going?”), and Jesus replied he was going to Rome to be crucified again. Peter renewed his faith and returned to the city where he met a martyr’s death.

“Each of us has gone through a ‘quo vadis’ moment or two in our vocation as bishops,” the cardinal said. “Hopefully, our being together at the tomb of Peter and close to Benedict will renew us in our generosity, courage and faith in following Jesus up close so that we can say with all our hearts what Peter said, ‘Lord you know all things. You know that I love you.’”

The comment by Terry Donilon suggests that Cardinal O’Malley and the Boston Archdiocese are, like Peter, fleeing and trying to keep a safe distance from this crucial issue. Apparently, the hope for renewal of courage nearby the tomb of Peter from last November has already worn off.  More and more, when the Cardinal calls upon the Catholic faithful to have courage, the words ring hollow because he fails to match his actions with his words.

We close today with a quote sent by a reader from Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  That is what is happening in Boston on this issue. We hope and pray that those who have the courage to fight will prevail, and those currently lacking the courage to fight will realize they are allowing evil to triumph and will change their ways.

Neocatechumenate Questions

May 19, 2012

The recent news that Cardinal O’Malley presided over a May 6 “symphonic homage and prayer”at Symphony Hall composed by Neocatechumenal Way founder, Kiko Arguello, made BCI think that it is about time we posted something about the Neocatechumenal Way

In view of the tremendous support Cardinal O’Malley has given the Neocatechumenate Way here in Boston, BCI has been trying to figure out the Neocatechumenates for a little while now. A year ago, we thought their fund-raiser was a good cause, but the deeper we look, the more we emerge with many more questions than answers.

In principle, the Neocatechumenate Way, founded in 1964, sounds good. Candidates for the priesthood from other countries who have a missionary zeal prepare for the priesthood here in Boston (studying at St. Johns Seminary and in their own Redemptoris Mater Seminary), are ordained diocesan priests, and then would serve as parish priests here in Boston.  In practice, a few things are not quite so clear.

Here is what the archdiocesan website says:

Redemptoris Mater Seminaries seek to prepare priests for the New Evangelization.  The first Redemptoris Mater Seminary was opened in the Diocese of Rome in 1987.  Today there are 87 Redemptoris Mater Seminaries in the world, on five continents.   To date, more than 2,000 men formed in these seminaries have already been ordained to the priesthood.

Currently in the United States there are Redemptoris Mater Seminaries in Boston, Dallas, Denver, Newark, Washington D.C. and Agana (Guam).

Cardinal Seán O’Malley officially opened the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Boston (RMSB) in 2005.  In 2009, he ordained the first priest formed in this Seminary, Fr. Israel Rodriguez.   Redemptoris Mater seminarians are ordained for the priesthood of the Archdiocese of Boston and are assigned by Cardinal O’Malley.  Fr. Rodriguez  was assigned to serve as Parochial Vicar at Immaculate Conception parish in Marlborough.

Like all Archdiocesan priests, priests formed at RMSB receive their priestly assignments from the Archbishop of Boston.  Because they are formed as priests with a missionary heart, they hope to be assigned by the Archbishop to the missions for part of their priestly lives.

RMSB seminarians receive their academic formation at St. John’s Seminary and their spiritual, human and pastoral formation primarily at or through RMSB.  At St. John’s, they study alongside many seminarians who, God willing, will become their brothers in the presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Boston.

RMSB assigns seminarians to serve in parishes throughout the Archdiocese.  Additionally, as part of their missionary formation, RMSB seminarians go for at least two years of itinerant evangelization, typically after they complete second theology. They are sent two-by-two, living in poverty and leaning daily on the providence of God.

Seminarians and priests from the Neocatechumenal community assist the Archdiocese greatly with our outreach to ethnic communities and in continuing the great tradition of assisting the Catholic Church in various parts of the world where there is a great need.

Sounds great in principle.  About 26 Neocatechumenal seminarians have studied here since their seminary was founded in 2007, and today, according to the Neocatechumenal Way newsletters, there are 20 seminarians at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary. But here are a few questions:

  • Who pays for the tuition of the Neocatechumenal Way seminarians here in Boston–at both St. Johns Seminary and at Boston College, Boston University and other colleges where they study?
  • Who pays for their vehicles, gas, maintenance and insurance?
  • Who pays for their food, utilities, and building expenses at the location of their seminary in Brookline (former St. Lawrence rectory)
  • Who pays for their medical and dental insurance?
  • Who pays for their airfares for travel around the U.S. and foreign countries for their itinerant evangelization (or “itinerancy” )
  • How much have these expenses totaled: $2M?  $3M? $4M?
  • Are these expenses paid by the Neocatechumenate Way?  Or have they been paid by the Boston Archdiocese and by St. Johns Seminary?

BCI is in the process of confirming that a substantial amount of these expenses have been paid by Boston (either the Boston Archdiocese or St. Johns Seminary operating funds or endowment).  One might argue for a moment it would be a worthwhile investment if it gets us more priests.  But then, one must ask, if Boston pays for those expenses for the Neocatechumenal Way seminarians, does Boston do the same for all Boston seminarians?

One might also ask, what do the Neocatechumenates do with the money they raise?  Are they using those funds to contribute to St. Johns Seminary for some of the tuition expenses there?  Or are they using those funds for other Neo-Cat related expenses?

How many of the Neocatechumenal Way seminarians will stay in Boston after they are ordained vs be called off to another part of the country or world? When Cardinal O’Malley was asked this question in 2008 by the Boston Globe, he hedged a bit in his response:

Q: The Neocatechumenal Way folks — some of them, or all of them, will stay here?
A: They will be ordained in Boston and some may be sent to the missions, but some of them will work here, obviously with the different ethnic groups that we have. The advantage of their community is that they have many Spanish and Portuguese speaking, and in the future we see that that’s going to be a big need of the diocese.

Q: And they become ordained priests of the Archdiocese of Boston?
A: They’re diocesan priests.

BCI believes 2 Neocatechumenal priests have been ordained from the Neocatechumenal Way in Boston, and one, Fr. Israel Rodriguez, is assigned here. Apparently, they can be excardinated (formally freed from jurisdiction in this diocese and transferred to another) after 5 years, or on-demand at any time by Kiko, the NeoCat founder.

Then there are the other controversies about the Neocatechumenal Way. Those would take quite a while to detail.  This post gives a few examples.

Just one of the controversies involves their liturgies. In January of this year, Pope Benedict XVI approved their non-liturgical celebrations, but affirmed that their Masses must conform to official liturgical norms. In the past, they inserted various novel practices into Masses such as standing during the Consecration, baking their own loaves of unleavened bread and receiving the consecrated bread and wine while seated around a decorated table in the center of the church and passing the Precious Blood from person to person. The Vatican also had concerns about them skipping certain Eucharistic prayer.  In 2005, they were directed by the Vatican to discontinue those practices and conform to Vatican liturgical norms.

In April of this year, the Holy Father ordered the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate whether the Neocatechumenal Masses are or are not in keeping with the liturgical teaching and practice of the Catholic Church. This is a “problem,” in the pope’s judgment, that is “of great urgency” for the whole Church

Besides the unusual aspects of their Masses, NeoCats also want to celebrate their Sunday Mass on Saturday evenings apart from the parish community where they are supposed to be tightly integrated. In some cases, there could be several different NeoCat communities within a single parish with their own Mass. This can have the effect of causing confusion or division within parishes as cited by the Japan bishops here .

The language used in their statutes is also a bit unusual and concerning.  They refer to the parish pastor or priest as a “priest” but to the NeoCat priests as “presbyters.”  Instead of referring to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the NeoCat statutes refer to Mass as a “celebration of the Eucharist.”

Here is an example of their liturgical music:

Cardinal O’Malley described a 2009 gathering of NeoCat seminarians in this blog post, including these photos of the chapel where they met and celebrated Mass:





In the 46 years since its inception, the Neocatechumenal Way has given fruits to the Church in the form of inspiring many vocations to priesthood and religious life, and that is to be commended. It is understandable for Cardinal O’Malley to be enthusiastic about the potential for Boston to have more priests, whether they were natives of Boston or coming from other countries with an evangelistic zeal. At the same time, he should also understand the total cost, net gain, and legitimate concerns.

BCI is not criticizing the Neocatechumenates–we have met many of them, and they appear to be fine men.  Rather, we are saying that, with the enthusiasm about their potential, there are also important questions which should be answered.  For the good of the archdiocese, Cardinal O’Malley, Msgr. Deeley, the outgoing and incoming rector osf St. Johns Seminary, and parish pastors may want to prayerfully consider these questions (and the answers to these questions) as they continue to invest in the Redemptoris Mater seminary here.  What do you think?

Happy Mothers Day

May 13, 2012

A special thanks to all mothers today for their selfless love, care and sacrifice. We also offer prayers to God to thank Him for creating mothers.  We came across this video last year and a separate Mothers Day prayer that we thought we would share once again with you today. We also add a note below about the importance of both a mother and a father in raising children.

Originally posted at:

A Mothers Day Prayer
Loving God, we thank you for the love of the mothers you have given us,
whose love is so precious that it can never be measured,
whose patience seems to have no end.
May we see your loving hand behind them and guiding them.
We pray for those mothers who fear they will run out of love
or time, or patience.
We ask you to bless them with your own special love.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord.

Role of Mother and Father in Raising Children

In a week where the topic of traditional marriage vs “same-sex marriage” was in the news, on Mothers Day BCI felt it relevant to comment on the role of the biological mother in raising children along with the role of the biological father.   A reader who asked to remain anonymous sent us this piece, “Marriage and the Common Good: Ten Principles“, and we thought the following was worth sharing:

Studies suggest that men and women bring different strengths to the parenting enterprise, and that the biological relatedness of parents to their children has important consequences for the young, especially girls. Although there is a good deal of overlap in the talents that mothers and fathers bring to parenting, the evidence also suggests that there are crucial sex differences in parenting. Mothers are more sensitive to the cries, words, and gestures of infants, toddlers, and adolescents, and, partly as a consequence, they are better at providing physical and emotional nurture to their children.(31) These special capacities of mothers seem to have deep biological underpinnings: during pregnancy and breastfeeding women experience high levels of the hormone peptide oxytocin, which fosters affiliative behaviors. (32)

Fathers excel when it comes to providing discipline, ensuring safety, and challenging their children to embrace life’s opportunities and confront life’s difficulties. The greater physical size and strength of most fathers, along with the pitch and inflection of their voice and the directive character of their speaking, give them an advantage when it comes to discipline, an advantage that is particularly evident with boys, who are more likely to comply with their fathers’ than their mothers’ discipline. (33) Likewise, fathers are more likely than mothers to encourage their children to tackle difficult tasks, endure hardship without yielding, and seek out novel experiences. (34) These paternal strengths also have deep biological underpinnings: Fathers typically have higher levels of testosterone—a hormone associated with dominance and assertiveness—than do mothers.(35)  Although the link between nature, nurture, and sex-specific parenting talents is undoubtedly complex, one cannot ignore the overwhelming evidence of sex differences in parenting —differences that marriage builds on to the advantage of children.

31 Eleanor Maccoby. 1998. The Two Sexes: Growing Up Apart, Coming Together. Cambridge: Harvard University.

32 David Geary. 1998. Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex Differences. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. P. 104.

33 Wade Horn and Tom Sylvester. 2002. Father Facts. Gaithersburg, MD: National Fatherhood Initiative. P. 153. Popenoe. 1996. P. 145. Thomas G. Powers et al.1994. “Compliance and Self-Assertion: Young Children’s Responses to Mothers Versus Fathers.” Developmental Psychology 30: 980–989.

34 Kyle Pruett. 2000. Fatherneed. New York: Broadway. Pp. 30–31. David Popenoe. 1988. Disturbing the Nest: Family Change and Decline in Modern Societies  1996. Pp. 144–145.

35 Geary. 1998. P. 142.

On that note, to all moms, our very best for a very Happy Mothers Day!

Does Boston Archbishop Fulfill the Role of Diocesan Bishop?

May 8, 2012

The changing of the guard in the office responsible for clergy life and parish life–along with comments from our most recent post–make it timely for us to look at whether what Canon Law describes as the responsibilities of our diocesan bishop are indeed being fulfilled today. If not, how can that situation best be improved for the sake of the diocese?

The Boston Pilot reported last month that Fr. Kevin M. Sepe was named to succeed Fr. Thomas S. Foley as Episcopal Vicar and Secretary for Parish Life and Leadership effective July 1. The Secretary for Parish Life and Leadership oversees matters dealing with clergy life and parish life including the offices of Clergy Funds, Pastoral Planning, Clergy Formation, Clergy Personnel, Clergy Outreach, Pastoral Care of Priests, Priest Recovery Program, Senior Priests and Regina Cleri. Taking care of priests is a big part of the job, and with the 2011 departure of Fr. James Flavin (which we reported last year) and Fr. Foley now, the seniority in that office is dropping considerably. (This is not a criticism of Fr. Sepe, merely an observation of fact).

This raises the question: what is Cardinal O’Malley himself doing to help enhance life for the clergy in the Boston Archdiocese and to have regular contact with the presbyterate?

Here are a few excerpts from the Code of Canon Law about the role of the diocesan bishop to inspire the discussion:


Can. 381 §1 In the diocese entrusted to his care, the diocesan Bishop has all the ordinary, proper and immediate power required for the exercise of his pastoral office, except in those matters which the law or a decree of the Supreme Pontiff reserves to the supreme or to some other ecclesiastical authority.

Can. 383 §1 In exercising his pastoral office, the diocesan Bishop is to be solicitous for all Christ’s faithful entrusted to his care, whatever their age, condition or nationality, whether they live in the territory or are visiting there. He is to show an apostolic spirit also to those who, because of their condition of life, are not sufficiently able to benefit from ordinary pastoral care, and to those who have lapsed from religious practice.

Can. 384 He is to have a special concern for the priests, to whom he is to listen as his helpers and counsellors. He is to defend their rights and ensure that they fulfill the obligations proper to their state. He is to see that they have the means and the institutions needed for the development of their spiritual and intellectual life. He is to ensure that they are provided with adequate means of livelihood and social welfare, in accordance with the law.

Can. 385 He must in a very special way foster vocations to the various ministries and to consecrated life, having a special care for priestly and missionary vocations.

Can. 386 §1 The diocesan Bishop is bound to teach and illustrate to the faithful the truths of faith which are to be believed and applied to behaviour. He is himself to preach frequently. He is also to ensure that the provisions of the canons on the ministry of the word, especially on the homily and catechetical instruction, are faithfully observed, so that the whole of christian teaching is transmitted to all.

§2 By whatever means seem most appropriate, he is firmly to defend the integrity and unity of the faith to be believed. However, he is to acknowledge a just freedom in the further investigation of truths.

Can. 387 Mindful that he is bound to give an example of holiness, charity, humility and simplicity of life, the diocesan Bishop is to seek in every way to promote the holiness of Christ’s faithful according to the special vocation of each. Since he is the principal dispenser of the mysteries of God, he is to strive constantly that Christ’s faithful entrusted to his care may grow in grace through the celebration of the sacraments, and may know and live the paschal mystery.

§2 He is to ensure that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially concerning the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramental, the worship of God and the veneration of the saints, and the administration of goods.

§2 Apart from the visit ‘ad limina’, attendance at councils or at the synod of Bishops or at the Episcopal Conference, at which he must be present, or by reason of another office lawfully entrusted to him, he may be absent from the diocese, for a just reason, for not longer than one month, continuously or otherwise, provided he ensures that the diocese is not harmed by this absence.

Can. 396 §1 The Bishop is bound to visit his diocese in whole or in part each year, so that at least every five years he will have visited the whole diocese, either personally or, if he is lawfully impeded, through the coadjutor or auxiliary Bishop, the Vicar general, an episcopal Vicar or some other priest.

Are these responsibilities all being fulfilled?

Does the Cardinal have special concern for Boston priests and listen to them as his helpers and counsellors? Does he defend their rights, and make sure their needs are fulfilled for development of their spiritual and intellectual lives?  Blessed John Paul II  in Pastores Dabo Vobis (I Will Give You Shepherds (1992) said priests should have “regular contact with the Bishop.”  Is that happening today?  Based on what we read on Cardinal Sean’s blog and see and hear from priests, it appears that there is considerable room for improvement in this area.

Here are some comments from our last post:

Objective Observer said:

The primary responsibility that comes to mind that literally requires his personal, direct contact is care of the presbyterate. The ordinary needs to know each priest and call him by name. He needs to KNOW the men, not merely know about them. He needs to hear them. He needs to see them. He needs to ponder what is best for them. The vows taken at transitional and presbyteral ordination are not a one-way street. The duty of the ordinary to the presbyterate is the foundation of those vows. It’s a quid pro quo of stark simplicity.

Sean O’Malley does not seem to do a lot of anything. With all the PR people and handlers around him, either he manages to not do much except travel, or the people around him manage to make it look like he doesn’t do anything. Please do not tell me that a photo opp with children in plaid uniforms counts as working. Ditto having dinner with the Neo-Cats. If I never see either of those items again in his blog, I’ll be grateful.

How many priests have stepped away from active ministry in the past three years? Of those how many died or were retired? How many were accused of abuse? Those numbers are not as high as they were in 2002-2004. Since 2008, very few of those in active ministry went the way of retirement, the DA’s office or their final rest.

What happened to the others who left ministry? Could any of this remainder group, with the right leadership and guidance from their ordinary since 2003, have remained in ministry and been effective? Could the circumstances that led to their leaving been mitigated or prevented if their ordinary had made a point of being their shepherd?

Nine years is plenty of time to get to know 650 people who are critical to the mission. Remember, “In persona Christi” is their job description. Have dinner with 15 of them one night per week. Put out the calendar of nights and let them sign up. Don’t expect them to settle for tomato soup and crackers.
Whatever you do give your handler/lieutenants the night off.

Listen to the priests, yes. But then for the Lord’s sake, once you have heard them ACT! If a priest needs to go to Guest House, YOU tell him that, then call him each week he’s there. If a priest has buried one or both of his parents after helping care for them while running two parishes, give him six weeks off, and use your frequent flier miles to send him to visit his friends or family. If a priest is depressed, yes offer him therapy and/or meds, but also ask him what YOU need to do to help HIM. What changes does HE need? And if a guy needs to hear that he has to change his ways, YOU tell him that, and tell him that you will have his back so long as he makes good on the changes.

And don’t get your news of priests through filters — even other priests. Your loyal lieutenants have as their job description to protect you. From what, I’m not sure, but they err if they “protect” you from the 650 men who have given their lives and their vows to you.

But am I asking the impossible? Is this ordinary capable of this primary duty? If he is not, the answer cannot be to substitute others to do this duty for him, no matter how well-intentioned they are. The answer is for the present ordinary to go to work in a multi-lingual dicastery, and let the head of the bishop’s conference, who seems to grasp the job of ordinary exceptionally well, find someone who can do the job in Boston.

ACS says:

April 30, 2012 at 3:53 p

This is the BEST post I’ve seen in all the time I’ve been reading BCI! Thanks to Objective Observer. And, let’s continue to pray for our priests who need our support and that of the Cardinal.

April 30, 2012 at 5:38

Agreed. Probably the best are reserved and understated versus individuals more adept at “self-aggrandizing

DBP says:

April 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Objective Observer – you have described the situation with the Cardinal vis-a-vis his priests extremely well. Many of us have been left with the distinct impression that we can be thrown under the bus at any time to forestall any possibility of bad publicity or complaint. How can the covenantal relationship between us and our spiritual father, the bishop, survive the repeated reminders that we are merely ballast, to be thrown overboard at the first sign of trouble for the ship?

Just today an announcement was released by Terry Donilon about a priest who was “exonerated” after being charged with something. The announcement went on to say that (regardless of his innocence) he now will be assigned to only “restricted ministry” with his own family.

How many men are there in the diaspora who have been falsely accused, or who have done something careless but not illegal, or who have fallen afoul of the Cardinal’s “filters” and who are now in a similar situation with only “restricted ministry” available to them while the Archdiocese (and other dioceses) struggle without enough priests to serve the people of God?

No wonder I sign myself “Disgusted Boston Priest.”


May 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm

DBP “JUST WONDERING” weeps with you. ‘JUST WONDERING’ shares your views and “Objective Observer.” Putting it “out there, unfortunately, will not resolve the problems.”

So far to my knowledge two priests were “exonerated” but given limited “faculties with their families.” With the shortage of Priests this resolution is an absolute disgrace. And the two Priests are still “left in limbo”. When will Mother Church start being a “Loving Mother,..A guiding Mother…A trusting Mother? We desperately need one!

Interesting food for thought.  In this post last October, we proposed something along the same lines as the suggestion by “Objective Observer”:

The Cardinal’s blog continues to chronicle an extensive amount of travel outside of Boston. If the Archbishop of Boston cuts his travel schedule outside of Boston and focuses instead on governance in Boston, some of that time savings could instead be put towards meeting one-on-one with 4 priests a week for 30 minutes each to listen to and respond to their needs and concerns. This is not the same as the group meetings we hear about with seminarians and recently-ordained priests, or group outings with senior priests at Regina Cleri to the circus or Fenway Park, but would apply to ALL priests. Via these one-on-one meetings, in a years’ time, he will have met with 200 priests and in two years, it will be 400 priests interacting with their bishop as pastor and shepherd of priests, not just a ceremonial figure traveling around the world participating in photo opps.

We hope and pray this post helps Cardinal O’Malley, Vicar General Msgr. Deeley, Fr. Foley, and Fr. Sepe better understand the seriousness of the concerns by Catholic faithful about the Boston presbyterate and future of the Boston Archdiocese so that they can take meaningful action.  What do you think?

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