Our last post, where we gave a high-level summary of the new Disciples in Mission” Pastoral Plan, generated a fair amount of feedback. Today, we will highlight some of that feedback, and some of our own as well.
As stated in the Pastoral Plan, its purpose is “to revitalize the Church in Boston by positioning our parishes more solidly for the task of evangelization, the work of reaching out to our brothers and sisters and drawing them more fully to Christ Jesus.”
We could certainly use a revitalization of Catholicism and the Catholic Church in Boston. BCI agrees that something different needs to be done. About 270,000 Catholics go to Mass every Sunday, down from a high of 2 million just several decades ago. This plan seeks a different approach to the problem of declining numbers of Mass-going Catholics and active clergy than has been taken in the past. Many people think it will lead to more church closings, while the Boston Archdiocese specifically intends for it to eliminate the need for widespread church closings again. Time will tell if this proposal is the right approach. Today we discuss some key concerns with the proposal.
BCI has long been concerned about the financial condition of the Boston Archdiocese, and with more than 50-60% of parishes now in the red, who will pay for this plan? Mostly lay Catholics, since it is their donations who support their parish and the Archdiocese. It would be nice if the Archdiocese was seen as a good steward of donor contributions, yet nearly 2 years after the Archdiocesan Finance Council created a Compensation Committee to review the millions of dollars in excessive six-figure salaries paid to lay Pastoral Center executives and recommend a better way to handle compensation, there is still no evidence of meaningful action taken to reduce them. All we know is that the committee has met and is still meeting, they hired a consultant to study the matter and issue a report, but the report has not been made public. There is some talk about adjusting salaries during the annual reviews, and/or asking certain high-paid executives to accept a lower salary commensurate with Catholic Church standards when their contracts are up for renewal. At the point when Catholics are asked to dig deeper into their pockets to help fund this plan, why should they do so when the Pastoral Center has not tightened their own belts?
How will lay formation be handled? Who exactly will handle it? Why is the plan coming before the formation, rather than formation coming first and laying the foundation, which then would then lead to better informed plans? Interestingly, the position description for the Director of the Office of Pastoral Planning still does not require that the person in the role even be Catholic or believe Catholic Church teachings according to the Magisterium of the Church. To be a judge on the Tribunal in Boston, thankfully, applicants should be a Catholic in good standing with “adherence and understanding of the Magisterial teachings of the Church.” But, to run Pastoral Planning, those attributes are somehow not necessary.
Some readers may not be aware that an extensive Lay Faith Formation study was done, with a report issued in 2010. The report is worth a read, as there are some good ideas. One of them is the following:
2. The Secretariat for Faith Formation and Evangelization should establish and maintain a page on its website (at BostonCatholic.org) that tht lists approved programs, resources and opportunities that exist in parishes, collaboratives, and at the Archdiocesan level for the faith formation of the laity.
a. This webpage should identify and describe the lay faith formation programs and activities of the Archdiocese and make available the archdiocesan guidelines for the formation of the laity. It should clearly indicate any fees for these programs and the level of competency necessary to enroll.
b. The existence of this webpage should itself be well advertised and brought regularly to the attention of the laity, religious and clergy of the Archdiocese.
Can anyone point to BCI to the location of 2a? Is that this page which lists all offices associated with Faith Formation and Evangelization?
Given the poor state of catechesis over the past 40 years for most Catholics, exactly what will be taught to Pastoral Center and parish staff (and by whom) to help them develop a stronger prayer and faith life and prepare them for evangelization?
Beyond those concerns, do we even have the right people and organizational structure in place in the Boston Archdiocese today to embark on this ambitious plan? As objectively observed by “Objective Observer“:
The plan assumes competent people in leadership for evangelization, and a sound financial footing for RCAB to pull it off. I am not convinced that RCAB can assure us of either at the moment.
Many dioceses have implemented this kind of plan, but they have done so only by beginning with extensive lay formation. To make the plans, announce them and implement them, and then announce a plan for formation assumes that the people, having learned of the plans, will be eager to support them by giving time and energy (not to mention money) to these formation efforts.
Has RCAB put the cart before the horse? Given the five-year plan, wouldn’t there have been time to provide the formation program to parish planning and finance council members, then let them help recommend the collaborative options?
When RCAB says it is paying for something, it means WE are paying for it. There isn’t some magical pot of money from which RCAB draws — it’s our donations that fund all the salaries and expenses of the central administration.
Is it time for one other adjustment to take place as part of this collaboration? Is it time for the civil body of Corporation Sole and its finance committee to be dissolved, and for a new civil structure to replace it? We wish for religious freedom from our government, and yet we do not expect fiscal accountability of the civil structure of the archdiocese. Corp Sole is one man, one vote. Period. And that man, for good or ill, is accountable for every act to which he affixes his signature.
Is it time the structure reflected a civil leadership body of bishops, priests and lay faithful who are personally liable and accountable for the civil undertakings of the Archdiocese? Has the 19th century fiction of Corporation Sole run its course? Archbishop Williams asked for the Corp Sole form from the legislature. He exhibited remarkable wisdom in his selection of those who advised him, and in the execution of diocesan fiscal affairs. HIs successor, Cardinal O’Connell’s, fiscal abuses are well documented. Every ordinary since has either overbuilt, overspent or at least been manipulated by those who sought personal gain from dealings with RCAB. Could it be time for the fiscal and civil reins to be held in more than one hand? And could it be that changing the way parishes are run is the ideal time to recommend a change in how the fiscal and civil structure of the diocese is run?
How many more base salaries over $160,000.00 (with benefits and employment tax contributions that’s actually right at $200,000.00) can WE afford to pay? And how many more conflicts of interest can the Archdiocese of Boston afford to pursue?
BCI believes comments like these and others on our last post should become a topic of discussion for Cardinal Sean and the Pastoral Planning Commission as soon as possible. During the next 3-4 months when the Cardinal reviews the plan, these are points that merit serious consideration.
Reader, Stephen, opined to another reader, in part:
Your comments represent the unauthorized use of common sense. This display of intellect has disqualified you from any decision making positions within the RCAB.
Please go back and review the 5-year plan to institute the new vision. Please pay close attention to the PPTT as well as the CLI and TINE. Note also well the EVNE and the PPO.
Much work must be done in Boston to either pave the way for some version of this plan or to modify it into another form so that the sacraments can be preserved for this generation and future generations. Every person in the Boston Archdiocese will be affected by this plan, so keep the plan and those responsible for decision-making in your daily prayers.