Boston archdiocesan pay hits cathedral heights

The Boston Herald on Friday ran an article about the excessive pay for Boston Archdiocesan lay execs.  Coincidentally, on Saturday, Pope Francis said he wanted to see the church be poor, and for the poor. 

At the rate the Boston Archdiocese is paying salaries, giving pay increases to the already overpaid execs and running up debt, we are well on the path to being poor–but for reasons much different than Pope Francis apparently intends. The excessive salaries inhibit the ability of the Boston Archdiocese to carry out her mission–namely, salvation of souls and continuing the saving ministry of Jesus Christ.

Here is the Herald article.  The biggest thing to note after you read the article is the explanation for how the Boston Archdiocese is dealing with this situation. [Hint: to address a problem of excessive salaries, the solution should be to reduce them.]  Read on:

Archdiocesan execs pull in top salaries: Pay hits cathedral heights

Friday, March 15, 2013

Nearly one-third of the Archdiocese of Boston’s top execs ranked among the highest paid people in their field, according to a compensation study that prompted church officials to take a hard look at many of their six-figure salaries — and withhold some merit-based raises.

The study, performed by a third-party firm at the archdiocese’s request and released with its 2012 financial report, is the first in the archdiocese’s history, according to church officials, examining how their pay stacks up to nine comparable archdioceses, other Catholic organizations and a mixture of nonprofit and for-profit groups.

It found that five of the 16 lay executives making more than $150,000 are paid above the 75th percentile when compared to those in similar jobs, while six more make between the 50th and 75th percentiles.

The five remaining have “attributes that are unique to our archdiocese,” officials wrote in their financial report, adding that they are “paid comparably” to those with similar levels of responsibility.

The committee’s goal, officials said, is to have “most” of the top-earning executives be paid around the 50th percentile, though John Straub, the archdiocese’s chief financial officer and chancellor, acknowledged that can’t happen “overnight.” He declined to release additional details, including exactly where the executives fell in comparison or which ones outpaced their peers.

“I wouldn’t say anyone was surprised … about it,” Straub said. “It gave (the compensation committee) a clear path to make the recommendations they wanted to make.”

The findings, Straub said, have already prompted changes. No senior lay executive at or above median pay got a performance-based raise this fiscal year. Meanwhile, two new hires and one promoted employee — Straub — are being paid at the 50th percentile.

It still didn’t quiet critics, including Peter Borre, chairman of Boston-based Council of Parishes, who called the salaries “appalling, without getting into percentiles.” The archdiocese’s general counsel, for example, made more than $340,000 in 2011, its secretary of education more than $360,000 and eight others topped $200,000.

“In absolute terms, an institution that is downsizing itself with church attendances down … shouldn’t be lavishing money to this extent,” Borre said.

Readers probably know by now that it took years of public complaints in order for them to finally do this study. They then claim they are capping merit increases for people who are overpaid, meanwhile, they had just given a number of people salary increases before they decided to cap the excessive salaries.

Did they think that no one would notice how some of the bloated salaries have increased in the past year? Of the “senior lay executives,” some have salaries that have increased at a rapid pace. The committee writes about its “philosophy” in the annual report, and they claim the first step in dealing with excessive salaries is to withhold merit increases. But how does that explain the following?:

  • Mary Grassa O’Neill, schools superintendent, getting her pay increased from her $325,000 original salary now up to $343,705?
  • Beirne Lovely, general counsel, getting his pay raised from his original $300,000 now up to $311,219?
  • Carol Gustavson, exec director of benefits reported at $169.200, who was previously paid $149K, meaning her raise was at least 12.8%.
  • Terry Donilon, communications secretary. having his salary jump 13.4% from 2010 to 2011 ($162.5K to $184.4K)

As we wrote in “Fleecing the Flock,” Mass attendance continues to drop in Boston, Central Operations is running a $6M annual deficit, the diocese has almost a $140M debt, the financial situation in parishes continues to get worse with 40-50% unable to pay their bills, and Catholic schools are being closed. Yet, the salaries remain excessive and some are increasing.RCAB salaries 2012

Michael Voris explained the situation well in this recent video:

The right solution is to start reducing the salaries of the people. At 10% every three months, it will not take too long to get them all down to the right level. But that will not happen at the rate we are going.

Furthermore, it is clear that the Boston Archdiocese is violating the Motu Proprio from Pope Benedict XVI that says salaries and operational expenses are to be in “due proportion” to the analogous expenses of the diocesan Curia. The Boston Archdiocese says they want to be responsible stewards of donor funds, but overpaying lay execs would directly contradict that ideal. It is also clear that no one at the Pastoral Center, including Cardinal O’Malley or Vicar General Bishop Deeley, is going to take meaningful action.

For today and generations to come in the future, it is important that the Catholic Church have the financial resources to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and continue the ministry of Jesus Christ to save souls and help people grow in holiness, become saints and get to heaven. What can faithful Catholics do? Take a moment to forward this blog post to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano <> and ask him to intervene to address this breach of fiduciary responsibility and squandering of precious donor funds.  Also, pray for Cardinal O’Malley and the diocesan leadership.

This is what BCI thinks. What do you think?

19 Responses to Boston archdiocesan pay hits cathedral heights

  1. Warren Memlib says:

    The late paleo-conservative Russell Kirk called such people “church mice,” not because they are poor (which they are definitely not), but because they feed from the church trough, filled with money collected primarily from parishoners in the pew.

  2. Angry Parish Catholic Member says:

    Let me get this straight. BCI, did they find that 16 of 16 people are overpaid?!

    5 of 16 making more than $150,000 are paid above the 75th percentile, 6 make between the 50th to 75th percentiles, and 5 have “attributes that are unique to our archdiocese,” so they are “paid comparably” to those with similar levels of responsibility who the report said were overpaid.

    So all 16 of 16 are overpaid?!?! Now they hired two more paid above $150K since the report, but we should feel good the new people are paid about right.

    This is really atrocious. I am sending a message to the Papal Nuncio right now.

    • The report is not explicit with how many people are overpaid. But it says their target is for the lay execs to be paid at the 50th percentile, and it suggests most of the 16 are paid over that, therefore are overpaid. Definitely do send a message to the Papal Nuncio.

  3. Disgruntled says:

    I agree these salaries are appalling…but hope that those examining the bloating will also look at other professional positions that are seriously underpaid and understaffed and the fact that some people who worked over 25 years in professional parish jobs are collecting under $450 per month in pension compensation…that is really appalling!

    • Michael says:

      Mary Grassa O’neill should be ashamed of herself. But she probably has “never heard of the concept of” shame.

      • Catholic Teacher Man says:

        She is too busy overseeing declining enrollment and doing next to nothing about it to feel shame.

  4. […] Eye of the Tiber Snakes Come Back to Ireland – Matthew Schmitz, First Things/First Thoughts Boston Archdiocesan Pay Hits Cathedral Heights – Boston Catholic Insider Roger Cardinal Mahony Tweets On Liturgy While I Retort – […]

  5. Al. D says:

    I forwarded what I think is a sincere and heartfelt email to the Papal Nuncio. My personal observation this past week was that Cardinal Sean revealed his extreme LACK of humility on a world stage. And as far as being “popular” with young people while there, I know of a large number of local students and seminarians who just happened to be in Rome studying at the time – if he commanded “rock star” audiences, I suspect it was because he was a familiar face to Catholic students and seminarians already in situ who saw a connection to Boston and gravitated towards that; I’m fairly certain it was not because he was wowing unfamiliar crowds with his magnetic personality.

    • Michael says:

      (deep voice) Do … you … think, … Al? Sounded just like him. Didn’t it.

    • Mack says:

      John Allen explained the “buzz” for O’Malley because he wears a brown habit, and Franciscans are all the rage in Italy. It was not because they knew anything about O’M. personally.

  6. Don LaCroix says:

    As with private business, do the high salaries get justified with the increased use of the product they’re selling?
    How many converts, empty pews filling up, success of the true faith being taught by objective measurements-the laity’s voting patterns for abortion and gay marriage candidates?

    • Lazarus' Table says:

      How does one measure a church’s ‘success’? Surely, new converts and filled pews are greatly to be desired but they can also be very misleading. Christ and His Gospel are not naturally appealing– they are the direct opposite of what most of the world considers the right thing to do, good and true. How many really do love their enemies, give away their coats as well as their shirts, and give up their lives for an other? Sometimes filled pews means the gospel has been watered down enough to make it unoffensive to a ‘sophisticated’ people. Sometimes it means the church has become just another ‘feel good’ institution, one big warm fuzzy.
      Would one look at any of the main players of the diocese of Boston and be moved to say: ‘He/she is Jesus in the flesh!”? I don’t think so.
      The salaries and lifestyles of diocesan leaders and employees simply highlight a poverty of justice, conscience and not only a lack of holiness but just basic humanity that believes “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
      The exorbitant salaries, the cronyism and the rest will all continue because most Catholics are apatheitc. And the leadership delights in their apathy.

      • Don LaCroix says:

        What you point out is quite true, but I still maintain that one can judge success (hence remuneration values) based upon certain numbers (assuming the faith is not watered down) because a mere 12 poor men began the conversion of many millions of people 2000 years ago. Goodness, with social media and big bucks flowing to the hierarchy, one would reasonably demand results far better than the morally corrupt masses presently being called Catholic.
        Again–how are they voting and for whom, and does their religious training reflect in that or is it in fact, the opposite.
        No business could survive with such poor results.

  7. Michael says:

    Lazarus: The salaries and lifestyles of diocesan leaders and employees simply highlight a poverty of justice, conscience and not only a lack of holiness but just basic humanity that believes “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
    The exorbitant salaries, the cronyism and the rest will all continue because most Catholics are apathetic. And the leadership delights in their apathy.

    OUTSTANDING – shame on them

    Don LaCroix: Again–how are they voting and for whom, and does their religious training reflect in that or is it in fact, the opposite.
    No business could survive with such poor results.

    OUTSTANDING – but you seem to miss the point. They are being paid to do EXACTLY what they are doing. They are probably outperforming their expectations. Your goals are just not their goals. But don’t for a moment think this is negligence. This is a well designed and well executed plan.

  8. Don Lond says:

    I hear you and sadly have to share your cynicism. Unfortunately the masses continue to fund watered down faith–or even anti-faith.

  9. Objective Observer says:

    More than anything, this comes down to what motivates the cardinal archbishop of Boston. Is he motivated by the Sermon on the Mount? Or by the tenets of his Franciscan formation? Or does his undisputed intelligence lend energy and clarity to what is asked of him?

    No on all counts.

    So what does motivate him? What is the overarching influence that has led to his abdication of accountability and authority since 2003? What motivation has made it better for Sean to enable grave breaches of fiduciary duty, rather than to insist upon significant ethical and moral foundations for Corporation Sole’s operation? What is the impetus for him to abandon his presbyterate?

    His continued tenure as archbishop drains the heart, soul and pocketbooks of the Catholics of the Archdiocese. Whatever motivates Sean, it’s dark progeny can be seen in the rapidly emptying pews and fading lights of the Catholic churches through these 144 cities and towns.

    • Justyn Tyme says:

      Since 2003 O’Malley has been extremely OVERWHELMED with the Archdiocese of Boston thus his “abdication of accountability and authority.” It’s time.

  10. “BettyDraper”,
    We have received your 2 most recent comments. As has been the case with many of your prior comments, they have nothing to do with the topic of this specific blog post. We have asked readers for nearly 3 years now to keep comments relevant to the topic of the blog post. If you are unable to do so, then we suggest you refrain from submitting comments.

  11. Carolyn says:

    “…nearly three years…”

    BCI, we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude for your work. Could you have imagined, when you undertook this work, that you would be informing, researching, mediating and revealing the truth about RCAB for three years?

    Given this is unpaid work, please know how much this reader appreciates your diligence and even handedness in telling the truth to the faithful.

    Thank you for your work so far. The least we, the readers, can do is cooperate with your policy for comments.

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