Boston Diocesean Deception on Survey

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

Dear Monsignor/Father,

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.

Sincerely Yours,
​Terry Donilon

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.

19 Responses to Boston Diocesean Deception on Survey

  1. This type of survey is a PR move used by failed leaders in the secular/political realm. Cardinal Sean and his merry band of Democratic party cast offs are unable to address real problems facing the Archdiocese so they look to cook a survey that can be used to curry favor with their media overlords. The results will reflect a cooked survey responded to by a group of secularists who have rejected the Catholic Faith. The media will provide plenty of favorable coverage reflecting the secularist view that the Church must become a reflection of the editorial board of the NY Times. Cardinal Sean will be all smiles.

    • Joyful Noise says:

      Point of clarification: I think most people would consider me a practicing Catholic. The only basis for ASSUMING I am not would be that I stopped donating fornally via envelopes in church and reneged on pledge to Cardinal’s Appeal.

      Another question posed was did I believe that there is a shortage of priests IN THE UNITED STATES? To be sure there is a shortage of priests in USA as far as i know and I have seen data that certainly supports that. However, I have heard over and over that there is a surplus of priests in Slavic countries, especially Poland, who would be ready, willing and able to step up. So my agreeing that there is a shortage of priests in USA, is an attempt at distortion both of the data worldwide but also my perception.

      • AD1965 says:

        thanks for sharing this information about the survey…Why would they ask about a shortage of priests in the US – how is that even a survey-able matter? It’s fact-driven! Seems like a waste of a question!

      • Thanks for this additional information. By the way, BCI did not mean to offend you or other practicing Catholics who were surveyed In the original Boston Globe article, the opening paragraph said, the Archdiocese of Boston had hired a top Democratic consultant to poll Catholics in Eastern Massachusetts–most of whom no longer attend Mass–to find out what they think about the church and its leaders. That was the basis for our assumption.

        On Mon, Dec 7, 2015 at 9:41 AM, Boston Catholic Insider wrote:


  2. Ferde Rombola says:

    I’ve always been under the impression that a bishop is supposed to he the leader of his diocese. Unfortunately I see little to no leadership from Cardinal O’Malley. Why is he asking what people think of him? Is he planning to run for political office? Why does he want opinions about what the laity think of abortion and other secular jewels which are diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Church? Why does he want the opinion of heretics about the Doctrines of the Church? Shouldn’t the Cardinal be preaching those doctrines to the laity? Shouldn’t he be reminding fallen away ‘Catholics’ that by deliberately failing in the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday, they commit a grave sin CCC 2181 and that those who desire to receive Holy Communion must be in a state of grace and anyone aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Communion without having received absolution? CCC 1415. I have never heard or read anything from the Cardinal about either of these bedrock doctrines of the Catholic Church. Does he believe them? Isn’t he the principle teacher of the Faith to the people of his Archdiocese? The only time I hear the Cardinal’s voice in my church he’s asking for money, which is why he doesn’t get any from me.

    What do I think of the Cardinal? Not much.

  3. Joyful Noise says:

    I do realize it was not the position of BCI that those surveyed were lapsed Catholics. That was the position of the Boston Globe. I really asked around in my parish. No one else got the call.

    The only thing that really sets me apart is the church envelopes and reneging on the pledge to Cardinal’s appeal.

    I would love to know how they selected their “random” subjects.

  4. Sheila Flanagan says:

    Thanks you for your incite on RCAB and acknowledgement that “there is an elephant in the living room” .

    As a participant in this questionable survey, I am confident that my responses will NOT be considered. As a parent who is trying to raise faithful Catholics, RCAB seems bent on leading Catholic parents who actually know Church doctrine to despair and/or eternal damnation.

    Is it any wonder that vocations to this kind of priesthood are declining?

    Is it possible priestly vocations are flocking to orders outside the archdiocese?

    Please pray for all who have been complicit in creating or just going along with the current generational decline in the Catholic faith, the human family, educational systems, and culture throughout RCAB and this country.

  5. Lance Adrean says:

    or how about these questions:
    – Do you think the Neocatecuminal ‘experiment’ should come to your Parish?
    – Do you think the NCW is a cult?
    – Are you aware of what the NCW is doing in Guam w/the help of Cardinal Sean?
    – What was Cardinal Sean thinking when he pulled the correctly formed Priest from your Parish & replaced him w/ a poorly formed NeoCat Priest devoted to Kiko??!

  6. Joyful Noise says:

    Ditto, and what about Shalom, who call themselves “consecrated lays” and conduct services speaking in tongues while a traditional parish is housing them in a communal setting?

  7. JesusWept says:

    “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.”

    What is he trying to do – find out how effective the Jesuit education program has been in the U.S. (and all over the western world)?

    P.S. No wonder 60 million babies have been murdered in the womb in the U.S. over the last 50 years and another 3,000+ today.

  8. Michael says:

    Proposed question for upcoming surveys:
    1. What do you fallen away Boston Catholics feel about Ted Kennedy’s Funeral and Obama’s attendance?

    2. How did you (as the Pope calls them) fundamentalists (I’m sorry …I mean Catholic parents trying to bring up their children in the Catholic faith) feel about:
    a. the Archdiocese jamming Common Core down your throats and
    b. O’Malley appointing a “conservative” Catholic lawyer to look into Common Core LONG AFTER it had already been ordered to be implemented in the Archdiocese (in order to rubber stamp its implementation)?

    • Sheila Flanagan says:

      2 a) & b) Seton Home Study School
      The Catholic, Accredited Pre-K to Grade 12 Homeschool Curriculum

      Under the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Common Core is NOT an issue:
      4. Does accreditation influence the content of your curriculum?

      No, accrediting agencies do not tell schools what to teach. They merely try to ensure that schools do teach what they say they teach, and that they provide a high quality program. If an accrediting agency ever tried to change Seton’s proudly Catholic curriculum, we would immediately surrender our accreditation.
      – See more at:

      • AD1965 says:

        Seton is a wonderful, wonderful school experience. So glad that we ended up pulling our child out of parochial school where the education was more secularized than that in our public school system. The kids sang Kwanzaa and Chanukah songs at the Christmas show, and NO religious Christmas songs (e.g., “We Wish you a Swinging New Year”)

  9. AD1965 says:

    So while we banter about their real motives with a survey that makes no sense, maybe we ought to take a look at what the “other hand” is doing

  10. Mike says:

    I have looked for a copy of this survey without luck: where can I actually read it, is there a link? TY

    • Joyful Noise says:

      Some were interviewed by telephone and what you see posted here is from our recollection. Even after being interviewed I thought it was probably a hoax.

      • Mike says:

        Thanks so much, Joyful Noise, in a larger sense it IS a hoax. I just wanted to see it before I put my two cents in. My only thought here is that if the powers-that-be already had a pulse on Christ’s Faithful this would not be necessary. But I guess that comes from actually speaking with and understanding ones parishioners during the week, not just accepting vain praise on the ‘My Last Trip to Ireland Homily’ after Mass on the way out the door. Or perhaps walking the streets of your parish, or taking an interest in something we do in our normal lives. Far cry from the Church that looked after and nurtured me when I was younger. But those days are long gone.

  11. Sonny's Mom says:

    The stated reasons…
    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

    The REAL reason:
    “You see, our problem is one of perception. You and I operate with finite minds in a material world. This is fine for [daily activities]. But the finite mind is somewhat of a drawback in perceiving an infinite being in the world of the supernatural. God doesn’t breathe down our necks, either; He is devoted to allowing us to exercise our own free wills, but a lot of us take that as proof positive that He doesn’t exist!”
    (from Mother Angelica’s Answers, not Promises, chapter 1)

    And the Catholic church (and that means all of us) have done little to evangelize those who have drifted away– often, we even fail to pray for them.

    • Sheila Flanagan says:

      I call it “dropping the ball.”
      Let us pray for all who have drifted away from the faith and for those who have failed to reach out at the right time!

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