In our last post, we criticized the Boston Archdiocese for spending in excess of $100K to survey mostly non-church-going Catholics about their views on the Catholic Church and Catholic faith. By coincidence, the day after BCI posted our criticism, Terry Donilon, Secretary for Communications, sent out an email to all priests in the archdiocese explaining the background on the survey. Here is his email, and then the BCI analysis of the deception follows:
From: “Donilon, Terry”
Date: 12/03/2015 11:37 AM (GMT-05:00)
Subject: Background on Survey Effort
During the course of the past year, the Archdiocese of Boston has been planning to gain a broader understanding of what is in the hearts and on the minds of Catholics. The reason for this effort is we believe that we should be in an ongoing conversation with our people. Recently we convened a series of focus groups and conducted a survey of 1,600 respondents from across the Archdiocese. This effort involves surveying practicing Catholics and those who have fallen away from the Church.
In 2012, the Archdiocese was a member of a coalition which defeated the physician assisted suicide ballot initiative in the Commonwealth. In conducting research at that time we gathered valuable information about the thoughts and concerns of Catholics on a wide range of issues statewide. The current effort has been focused specifically on the Archdiocese.
This type of research is a standard practice for other nonprofits, colleges and universities including many Catholic institutions. We have conducted similar surveys on a more informal level from time to time. In the spirit of evangelization our hope is to learn more about the people we serve as well as learn how we can help those who have fallen away from the church to consider rejoining us on their faith journey. The project is not quite completed and there will be an extensive analysis of the information gathered.
We are confident that this initiative will help us to be more engaged with our people, to be better communicators in spreading the beauty of our faith and in helping Catholics grow closer in their relationship with Christ.
Thank you for all you do each and every day in your priestly ministry.
Where to start?
If the Boston Archdiocese truly wants to better understand what is in the hearts and minds of Catholics, help those who have fallen away from the church consider rejoining the Catholic Church and help Catholics grow closer in their relationship with Christ”, then how can Terry Donilon explain this feedback on the survey provided by “Iwassurveyed” about the design flaws of the survey?
First, there were direct questions with multiple choice answers such as strongly disagree, disagree, disagree somewhat, agree, somewhat agree, strongly agree etc. Many questions concerned Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s being chosen for the Pope’s circle of 8 and also as head of the new sex abuse unit at the Vatican. Not one question concerned Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s performance as head of RCAB.. Another question concerned the RCAB handling of sex abuse by clergy TODAY, not in the past. Another question was, “Do you intend to see SPOTLIGHT or have you seen it? “Some questions about contraception, abortion etc.
Not one question concerned RCAB finances; church closures and sales; the new and improved collaboratives; mergers and takeovers, school closings, EVANGELIZATION. WHERE IS IT ANYWAY?
Soooooo, I suggest that the questions were carefully formulated to minimize any real criticism of RCAB and Cardinal. Sean O’Malley. Not many people are going to criticize his participation in circle of 8 or the new sex abuse unit of the Vatican, no matter their feelings on what is happening locally.
There was no opportunity to control the interview. No open ended questions and no opening for you to reformulate the questions into something else. This was as programmed as possible.
We know from the Boston Globe article that questions included, Is your opinion of Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley very favorable, favorable, unfavorable, or very unfavorable? And, “Which best reflects your attitude about abortion? 1) It is morally wrong and should not be legal; 2) It is morally wrong but should be legal; or 3) It is morally acceptable and should be legal.”
So, clearly the Boston Archdiocese has some other motives in the survey besides bringing people back to the Catholic Church, and they are interested in finding out Catholic faithful feel the leadership of the Boston Archdiocese is doing at its main mission–carrying out the saving mission of Jesus Christ.
Not that BCI is supportive of such surveys, but similar surveys done elsewhere have typically reported the following reasons why people stop going to Mass:
- Liturgies are uninspiring
- Homilies are uninspiring
- Parishes are not welcoming
- Money concerns abound
- No attention paid to youth and young people
- Like priests, but they are overworked
- Runs too much like a business
- Disagree with one or another of Church’s teachings
So, there is reason to believe that the Boston Archdiocese could save between $100K and 250K by simply using the sort of feedback gotten already from similar surveys. These will likely be the results of the very expensive survey RCAB is taking in 2015 and reporting in 2016. What will be done with this ground-breaking feedback? NOTHING.
A reasonable person might also ask why–if a survey was really needed–was there not a comprehensive survey of RCAB done by a group like the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). If a survey was called for, and we still do not think so, a group like CARA could design surveys for individual groups, and thus get a more specific view of the state of the diocese by separately surveying priests, religious, lay leadership, Mass attendees, fallen away, and youth.
We will repeat and paraphrase what we said in our last post. Cardinal Sean O’Malley needs to teach with the authority and confidence of a man who knows he has been given the keys to eternal life. Those who reject the immutable truths of the Catholic Faith will put their souls in grave danger. What might we expect from the current survey? The likely answer of what will come: Instead of sound doctrine clearly stated with authority, we are likely to see the Archdiocese pander to those who no longer attend Mass with lukewarm statements, cleverly worded to remain as inoffensive as possible while stating the bare minimum in terms of doctrine. We have already had this over the past 50 years and seen nothing but declining Mass attendance. It certainly is not the way Christendom was built.
We have a flawed survey designed and executed by a consultant who works for political candidates who hate the Catholic Church and work in strident opposition to our teachings. The fact that such a survey is being employed by a prelate whose primary duty is to guard the deposit of Faith delivered to the Saints is capitulation to the spirit of the age.