Holy Trinity Trickery

March 31, 2011

We leave the subject of pensions for now to return to a topic we covered about two weeks ago, the efforts by the archdiocese to sell Holy Trinity in Boston.  As you may recall, former parishioners at Holy Trinity Church in the South End asked the Vatican to stop any sale of the building after it was listed for sale  at $2.3 million on Sothebys, a residential real estate site. They argued that the archdiocese had not completed the required  relegation to profane use process to convert it to secular use, and the archdiocese responded by pulling the listing. The explanation given at the time raised eyebrows for its failure to make logical sense, as we discussed in More Diocesan Deception.

Below you will see a copy of the letter sent by Chancellor Jim McDonough to former parishioners of Holy Trinity explaining what the archdiocese was up to, and you will see all of the contradictions between actions and words once again exposed.  As with virtually everything you see on BCI these days, this came from outside of 66 Brooks Drive, despite what folks at the Pastoral Center in Braintree  still seem to believe about who writes BCI or helps BCI, and despite our multiple open disclosures that the primary sources of information for BCI are not at 66 Brooks Drive.

March 17, 2011

Former Parishioners of Holy Trinity Parish
c/o xxx

Dear XXX,

His Eminence Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap., has asked me to respond to you and to those on whose behalf you have written regarding your letters concerning Holy Trinity Church in the South End. Cardinal O’Malley has requested that I clarify an important matter in your recent correspondences. The Cardinal has not made a decision to relegate Holy Trinity Church to profane use, nor has he directed the Archdiocese of Boston to sell the church building.

Several weeks ago, at His Eminence’s request, several individuals of the Cardinal’s staff, including myself, began a consultation process to determine whether Holy Trinity Church should be relegated to profane use. As you are aware, when the Cardinal directs that the possible relegation of a church building be considered, an extensive consultation process is undertaken that enables us to make an informed and just decision. This process is already in progress for seven church buildings in the Archdiocese.

The first step in the relegation consultation process is to work with the pastor of the parish who received the Catholic faithful from the closed parish of the church under consideration. The pastor serves as a point of contact for the former parishioners of the closed parish and helps lead our discussions with them. During this initial stage, we gather information that will assist the pastor throughout the consultation. Our present actions regarding Holy Trinity Church have been taken for the purpose of gathering that information, including determining the possible market value of the property and whether there may be other Catholic groups who are interested in making use of it.

The second step in this process is the consultation of the Catholic faithful. At present, we are in the midst of this stage of the relegation consultation process for seven area churches. Holy Trinity was not included with this grouping because we had not yet obtained the needed information for the consultation. Cardinal O’Malley will be announcing a new series of consultations soon and this grouping will include Holy Trinity Church.

The final step in the relegation consultation process is the formal decision by His Eminence. If after consultation he decides that the best option for the church is that it continues to exist as a Catholic worship space, the Cardinal may designate that a Catholic group in good standing be sought as a buyer. If this is his decision, the Cardinal does not need to relegate the church building for profane use. If, on the other hand, the relegation consultation process leads the Cardinal to believe that relegation is appropriate, His Eminence will fulfill his canonical obligation to consult with the Presbyteral Council prior to relegating the building for profane but not sordid use.

I can assure you that Cardinal O’Malley is committed to following this process with regard to Holy Trinity Church. Admittedly, such a process requires substantial time, effort, and expense, but His Eminence willingly undertakes this process because it is an extension of his commitment to rebuild our Archdiocese and to foster a culture of collaboration and trust. It is my privilege to serve with him in doing so. I can confidently assure you and those who joined in your letter that the actions currently being undertaken are in service of the process I have outlined.

However, after having consulted with Cardinal O’Malley, I have recently asked our real estate broker to withdraw the listing of Holy Trinity Church. The listing was done in order to gather the necessary information to facilitate transparent conversation with the former members of Holy Trinity parish when the planned relegation consultation meetings occur. The information gathered through the listing is a valuable tool for both His Eminence and the pastor who assists in the relegation consultation process. Nevertheless, the broker has agreed to withdraw this listing in light of the apparent misunderstanding that has arisen.

Please be assured that during the planned consultation period, you and all who wish to be heard will have ample opportunity to give your input to Cardinal O’Malley and to Father O’Leary, the pastor of Cathedral Parish, which welcomed the former parishioners of Holy Trinity. I hope that you will take advantage of this opportunity and provide thoughtful comments so that the Cardinal may make an informed and just decision as to the ultimate use of the church building.

In addition to this letter, Cardinal O’Malley has asked his Assistant for Canonical Affairs, Reverend Robert Oliver, to be available to you by phone. Father Oliver is happy to discuss any questions you may have regarding the relegation consultation process and can be reached at (617) 746-5650.


James P. McDonough


cc: Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston
Rev. Robert Oliver, Assistant for Canonical Affairs
Very Rev. Richard M. Erikson, Ph.D., V.G.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
BCI commentary:

We just do not understand this archdiocese. Are we really being asked to believe that the archdiocese signed an agreement with Sotheby’s to have them  spend their resources marketing and selling this building so the archdiocese could merely gather information for the consultation process?  Why was the previous process of placing a listing in The Pilot not followed?  What about the Sotheby’s website ad was expected to more effectively identify a Catholic buyer vs listing it in Catholic newspapers across the country?  Are we to infer that if the archdiocese finds they can get a lot of money for a building, that will increase the likelihood of relegation to profane use and sale, but if there is not so much money to be realized, they might keep the site for Catholic worship? How come they were able to gather all of this same information for the other seven properties that were the subject of the Consultation 2011 survey process without listing them for sale with residential real estate brokers, but that was somehow not possible with Holy Trinity?

It has also not gone unnoticed by those who care about this situation how the language on the archdiocesan Real Estate website underwent a bit of a metamorphosis recently.   On its website,  the Archdiocese now makes the following statement about properties that it lists for sale.  Since this statement is backdated to March 8, it clearly would have applied to Holy Trinity when it was listed for sale:

“Offers, solicited over a 90-day period, will be evaluated at the conclusion of that process.   At the conclusion of the process the Archdiocesan Real Estate office and the Real Estate Advisory committee will review the offers.  They will make their recommendations to the Chancellor.  The Chancellor will review the financial terms and social considerations connected with the offers and forward his recommendations to the Archbishop through the Vicar General.  If the Archbishop is inclined to accept offers, permissions will be sought from the College of Consultors, the Finance Council and, where needed, from the Holy See. “

Unfortunately, the website statement now dated March 8 about the intended process for selling properties apears to conflict with the above statement of the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, James McDonough, in his letter to Holy Trinity parishioners dated 17 March 2011.

Given no such sale listings were done for the other seven properties, it is difficult to believe the explanation that the website listing of the property on Sotheby’s for a selling price of $2.3M was really an effort to gather information about the market value of the property and find a Catholic buyer.  Rather, it sure looks a lot more like the archdiocese was accepting offers from potential buyers, as it now states on its real estate web page.

Last Wednesday, March 23, a story about Holy Trinity’s listing for sale and emergency appeal appeared in the online edition of the South End News.At the end of the story, an anonymous reader using the handle “BRA_scandal” wrote the following comment.

“Developers want to declare those blocks as part of Chinatown, so that they can build huge characterless buildings unlike the neighboring South End. Big money wants to demolish Holy Trinity.”
We do not know if that is true or not, or what is really going on.  We simply share with you the facts and objective information. It would be nice if the archdiocese just told faithful Catholics the truth. Is that too much to ask?

Dishonest Diocese?

March 28, 2011

In Luke 16,  Jesus said the following to the disciples:

” The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? (Luke 16:10-11)

Only God can judge the state of each of our souls.  But anyone with access to factual information can tell when someone (or an organization) is being honest or dishonest.  Sadly, it does not take an awful lot of digging to reach a conclusion about whether the Archdiocese of Boston is being honest with Catholics lately.

What do Catholics do, hypothetically speaking, of course,  if they were to find a consistent pattern of their diocesan leadership not being honest with them?

This is particularly relevant because the Archdiocese just released a Code of Conduct policy on Friday that says, “Church Personnel will exhibit the highest Christian ethical standards and personal integrity” and “The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston…places the highest value on the integrity and high moral standards of each of the bishops, priests…pastoral ministers, administrators, lay employees, officers, directors, trustees, governors, members, and volunteers (collectively, “Church Personnel”) in our parishes, agencies, schools and organizations sponsored by the Archdiocese.”

The policy has some problems that we will address in a separate post.  At the same time, if these standards are to be believed and taken seriously, they may need to start preparing letters of dismissal for a few people with offices at 66 Brooks Drive soon.

In a moment, we will go through the announcement about the renewal of Chancellor Jim McDonough’s term, but first, let us just review some recent history and questions BCI has for the archdiocesan code of conduct enforcers:

  • Does the deception propagated to all Catholics and members of the presbyterate by Jack Connors and the Vicar General, with help from Chancellor Jim McDonough, about the “sham search” for a new secretary for institutional advancement last year qualify under “highest Christian ethical standards and personal integrity”?  If not, then what are the consequences for those who propagated the deception?  Or are violations of the code of conduct that occurred prior to its promulgation excused?
  • Does the deception propagated in the Catholic Schools Admission Policy to all Catholics by the Catholic Schools office also qualify for “highest Christian ethical standards and personal integrity”?  Long-time readers remember we pointed out in November how the policy says, “In creating this policy we are guided by the words of the Holy Father…”, but unfortunately, the words of the Holy Father were in a totally different context.  And besides that, Fr. Bryan Hehir had already told everyone what the direction was back on May 20 in his WBUR interview (listen at 10:00-10:15, “Are we doing it already?  Yes.   And we intend to do it as the Cardinal indicated, with formal policies”) well before anyone met to start drafting the policy. What are the consequences for everyone who propagated this deception, or is everyone also excused from practicing integrity up to now?
  • Does the deception used to explain the “for sale” listing on Sothebys of Holy Trinity Church also qualify for “highest Christian ethical standards and personal integrity”?

Now we get to the email communication from the Vicar General and the reappointment notice attributed to the Cardinal.  You can read the whole notice here.   We will comment on just selected parts of it.

Cardinal O’Malley said: “Among his many accomplishments, he has taken the lead in addressing clergy pension funding, insuring funding for clergy support, and implementing transparent financial reporting for the Archdiocese.”
BCI response: These are areas of responsibility, not accomplishments.  How can it be even suggested that the Chancellor has “accomplished” transparent financial reporting when for the first time in more than a decade, the results from the 2010 Catholic Appeal have not been publicly announced nearly two months after the campaign finished?  Nor have the results from the Campaign for Catholic Schools 2010 Initiative.

Cardinal O’Malley said: “In 2008 Jim oversaw the move of our central administration from the former Brighton campus to the Pastoral Center in Braintree.   Our parishes, schools and ministries have greatly benefited from the services provided at the new location.”
BCI response: Um, those were basically the same services provided at the previous location, weren’t they?

Cardinal O’Malley said: “Jim has also initiated an effort to overhaul our technology systems and institute efficiencies that benefit our parishes.”
BCI response: Would that include the $5.5 million spent over 5 years on the ill-suited Lawson system that everyone hates?

Cardinal O’Malley said: “During his first term, we have moved from systemic annual budget deficits to a plan for achieving a balanced budget.”
BCI response: This one is the real doozey.  Where is the “plan for achieving a balanced budget?”  If there is a plan for achieving a balanced budget, then that plan obviously needs to take account for paying back debts:

Maybe BCI is missing something, but where exactly is the plan for a balanced operational budget that shows how the Archdiocese plans to pay back about $183 million to these entities owed money? Is that plan going to be released shortly, along with the 2010 Annual Report?
Cardinal O’Malley said: “While we have experienced difficult reductions in work force in recent years, Jim led by example in making significant cuts in his secretariat to minimize the reductions in mission-based agencies and departments.”
BCI response: Does this include the hiring of John Straub (as essentially the “Chief Operating Officer” to complement the “CEO/Chancellor”), at more than $200K in salary + benefits, and lowering the Chancellor’s headcount by moving Carol Gustavson’s salary of about $149.9K into the benefits trust, so the former employees’ pension benefits get hit with the cost instead of Corporation Sole?  And if Jim “led by example,” why has he, a multi-millionaire who said 5 years ago he “didn’t need the job” not cut his own $250K/year salary to, say, $1/year, and cut his six-weeks paid vacation to the same level as the peons in the Pastoral Center?

Cardinal O’Malley said: “As Chancellor, Jim oversees the financial and material goods of the Archdiocese; he is also a dedicated and faithful Catholic who leads  by example in promoting a welcoming and evangelizing Church.
BCI response: The long-time Chancery employees pushed out in HR, finance, the Cardinal’s Office, and elsewhere would disagree that he has promoted a welcoming and evangelizing Church.  Does his rampant dropping of “F-bombs” in conversation also exemplify his welcoming attitude?

Cardinal O’Malley said: “Jim is first and foremost a man of God, a family man devoted to his wife and children and an experienced professional who has never lost sight of our mission to build a community of love in the image of Christ.”
BCI response: No comment on the “man of God” part.  As for the “family man devoted to his…children,” that part we can affirm.  In fact, he is so devoted to his children that he found a way for the “no nepotism” policy in Pastoral Center hiring which his department put in place to somehow apply to everyone else in the Pastoral center EXCEPT him and his children, so his son and daughter could be given jobs after they graduated from college.  We also struggle to understand how building a community in the image of Christ would allow for paying salaries in Boston that are unprecedented in other U.S. dioceses that also have built their communities in the image of Christ.  Did Christ imagine wasting the assets and temporal goods of the Church in Boston and taking scarce funds away from parishes, ministry to the needy, evangelization, and retirement needs of priests and former employees by paying three lay executives more than $1 million/year in combined salaries and benefits, and the top 10 archdiocesan employees  nearly $3 million in salaries and benefits?

BCI just does not understand how there can be such a disconnect between the words of the Cardinal and the actions of the Chancellor and diocese overall. If Cardinal O’Malley, Chancellor McDonough, Terry Donilon, or anyone else can explain this for the benefit of the Catholic faithful, please response via comments or just drop us a line.

What do you think faithful Catholics should do if they find a consistent pattern of their diocesan leadership not being honest with them?

More Diocesan Deception

March 19, 2011

For those who saw the official response yesterday by the official spokesman of the Boston Archdiocese, Terry Donilon, about the diocese now taking Holy Trinity off the real estate market, there is one image that comes to mind. The image is the cartoon character, Pinocchio, found to the right.

Coincidentally, a visit to Wikipedia reveals this explanation of the word “Pinocchio“: “Pinocchio is often a term used to describe an individual who is prone to telling lies, fabricating stories and exaggerating or creating tall tales for various reasons.”

As we know, former parishioners at Holy Trinity Church in the South End asked the Vatican on Monday to stop any sale of the building, after it was listed for sale  at $2.3 million on Sothebys, a residential real estate site. They argued that the archdiocese had not completed the relegation to profane use process to convert it to secular use, which is required before sale to a secular buyer.

According to an Associated Press news story, here is Terry’s explanation after the archdiocese pulled the listing:

Yesterday, spokesman Terry Donilon said the listing was meant to gauge the market or attract a buyer from a Catholic organization. He said the archdiocese never intended to prematurely sell the property to a secular buyer.

To paraphrase another commenter yesterday, they must be spiking the incense at the Bethany Chapel in the Pastoral Center with something these days, because that explanation just defies believability.  Our only question is whether Terry and the archdiocese truly believe it, or to what extent they are willfully and intentionally engaging in a Pinocchio-like behavior so as to deceive the Catholic faithful. Assuming it is the latter, then a strong case must be made that the Cardinal has to fire multiple people–and soon.

The last BCI and Catholic faithful heard a month ago, the Archdiocese had a process for soliciting input from Catholic faithful before selling properties. That was not followed here.

Terry obviously knew about the process when the archdiocese was quoted on Tuesday saying the following: “A spokesman said the archdiocese knows it can’t sell the property until that process is completed.”  Then how do you go and sign an agreement with Sothebys to sell a property when they know the process has not been completed?

If you want to gauge the market for a property, you get a professional appraisal, and you can solicit proposals via an open request for proposal (RFP) process that does not immediately bind you to sell the building, but simply solicits proposals.

If you want to find a Catholic buyer, what in the world makes Terry Donilon, as spokesperson for Cardinal O’Malley, think anyone would believe that you would list the property for sale with Sothebys, a residential real estate broker, who has no reach whatsoever with a Catholic audience?  Where is the listing in a Catholic newspaper, like, say our own Pilot, “America’s oldest Catholic newspaper”?  Did anyone place listings to find a Catholic buyer in Our Sunday Visitor or the National Catholic Register, or other publications that reach Catholic audiences like Commonweal, America and the National Catholic Reporter.

And what ever happened to the “process” announced in 2007 after the St. Mary Star of the Sea fiasco?:

Before selling properties closed in reconfiguration, the archdiocese announced a process that would be followed when marketing those properties. Offers would be solicited over a 90-day period and evaluated based on many factors including financial terms, contingencies, proposed property use and social considerations connected with the offers. The archdiocese also said that it sought to maximize the financial consideration consistent with the needs of the communities served.

Lastly, lest new readers think the controversy over Holy Trinity is just a matter of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s in the canonical process to sell the building, you should know that long-standing questions remain over the original decision to close Holy Trinity back in 2004.   A 2005 archdiocesan audit found that the former administrator of Holy Trinity had illicitly transferred $176,000 in Holy Trinity parish funds to St. James the Greater, the other parish he was administering at the same time as Holy Trinity. Those this is water that has long-since flowed over the dam, persistent questions have remained for years that the decision to shutter HT rather than St. James was based on flawed information about the financial health of HT vs St. James.

anyway, this whole thing smells of corruption and deception at high levels in the archdiocese.  As a reminder from what we reported last July in “Cronyism”, the head of real estate for RCAB, Deb Dillon, worked for Jim McDonough at the Abington Bank. A commenter yesterday asked:

Do you really think Deb Dillon listed a $2.3M property with Sotheby’s in bad faith?  “Just kiddin’ guys!”  Do you really think Sotheby’s is in the habit of signing contracts and spending money on marketing for Deb Dillon because she’s a nice person?  Or is it because they sell real estate for a living?

Do you really think Deb Dillon thought this up on her own?  That Jim McDonough broke with the prior RCAB stated practice of listing all churches for sale in the Pilot and on the RCAB website, as a coincidence? And that Trinity slipped off the radar when the great survey went out on the re-use of closed church properties?

“This starts to smell worse than Saturday’s trash after Friday’s fish dinner.”

Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson said when the “great survey” went out

“To those skeptical” that their input will be considered, Erikson said, “I ask them to put their confidence in this process, which may be unprecedented, which is designed to be thorough, thoughtful and efficient, and which was developed with sincere intent.”

Objectively, the words of this archdiocese do not match actions and it is getting worse, not better.

  • Multiple promises on the process for selling church properties have been broken. It is difficult to not conclude that the archdiocese, through Terry Donilon, just lied to the Catholic faithful about what has been happening with the sale of Holy Trinity.
  • The canonical responsibility that the archdiocese be a good steward of assets and donor funds  has been not been upheld by the ongoing practice of paying excessive 6-figure salaries.
  • The entire archdiocese was deceived by Jack Connors and Jim McDonough regarding the process for finding a new head of development.
  • A promise by the Cardinal to fund employee pension obligations from closed parishes was broken.

The list goes on and on.  Why does our Cardinal Archbishop go along with this deception and violations of trust?  How much lower must the donations to the Catholic Appeal drop before he gets the message that a dramatic change is required?

A wholesale changing of the guard in the area of financial and administrative leadership is needed sooner rather than later.

What do you think?

Assessment of Catholic Schools Admission Policy: Part 1

January 14, 2011

In response to emails asking when we will weigh-in on the new Catholic Schools admission policy, we have been collecting our thoughts and are going to do so in two parts.

Warning #1: if you approve of the policy itself or the manner in which this policy has come about, you will probably not like either Part 1 or Part 2 of our assessment, so you might want to just skip this post. Warning #2: if you want to see BCI go into the doctrinal issues or whether there should or should not be such a policy, you will also be disappointed. There are plenty of other blogs already going there.  Frankly, we are so troubled by the deception that underlies the policy, the process behind its creation, and the fast-tracking of this initiative while other archdiocesan priorities languish unattended, that it will take us two posts just to cover that.

We already pointed out some of the deceptive aspects of the draft policy in our November 10, 2010 post, Diocesan Deception in Catholic Schools Admission Policy? If you did not read that post, do check it out.  We were hoping maybe the archdiocese would fix the problems with deception once we published them, but instead, they have gotten even worse since then. If a policy or initiative like this clearly relies on deception out the gate, then one cannot help but question the whole thing.

We expressed our initial reaction to the policy in an email that we sent Thursday morning to Cardinal O’Malley, members of the Presbyteral Council, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.  This was in response to an email we received from a BCI reader. We checked our regular email and spam filter a few times Thursday looking for the response, and for some reason, whatever substantive response we are sure they have written did not make it to us yet.  Must be an Internet delay due to the residual effects of the Boston snowstorm. Below is the main substance of our email, with a few edits and additions.

Cardinal O’Malley, Presbyteral Council, and Archbishop Sambi,

As you know, the Boston Catholic Insider blog exists to promote integrity, good governance, and transparency.  When the archdiocese starts operating that way, the purpose for the blog and content for the blog will simply go away.

Can someone explain to Catholics why they should accept this policy when it opens with a deception?  Why does the policy open by saying, “In creating the Catholic Schools Admission Policy, we are guided by the words of the Holy Father,” when the words used were actually expressed by the Holy Father in the context of his request that ON A FINANCIAL BASIS, all children would have access to Catholic education?  How can you expect anyone to trust this archdiocese when the opening line of the policy is deceptive and misleading?  Did anyone actually ask the Holy Father and the Vatican for their guidance on this specific issue? See here for more details, where we give you the exact quote by the Holy Father:

“This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.”
How is the principle of subsidiarity maintained when the policy says pastors, principals, advisory and/or governing boards may develop specific admission policies for their school, but only provided they conform with the Archdiocesan policy? Are pastors not trusted to create their own policies to suit their local needs, as subsidiarity would actually call for?  Why is the spin explaining the policy in the Globe and The Pilot different than the actual wording in the policy? If the spin in the newspapers was really intended to be a part of the policy, why is the wording not in the policy? This is deceptive and disingenuous.


How can Mary Grassa O’Neill feel OK making the disingenuous statement, “We sought a process that would allow us to reach consensus on a policy” when she knows such a process was not attained, nor was consensus on a policy?  Sources familiar with the process say no consensus was reached, and that a great deal of input received from people who felt strongly about their positions was ignored.  Making this statement when in fact no such process was used or consensus reached is misleading and deceptive.  It is like saying, “We hoped to operate with integrity” when in fact they did not.  How much of the input from clergy and laity that you received in the “consultation” process was summarily ignored?  Why not at least try to be even a little more honest and say, “Initially we thought it might be nice to  have a process that would let us reach consensus, but could not in the end come up with such a process or reach consensus.”


Why was the policy announced to the Boston Globe before being announced to Catholic faithful via The Pilot and other archdiocesan communications? Was the intent of the policy to please the Globe rather than to preserve and enhance Catholic education for Catholics?


Why was this rushed through in about six months, when you are letting efforts to cut $2 million in wasteful spending of donor funds languish with no attention, setting the Church up for more layoffs of dedicated employees, cutting of important ministries–again–as well as possible state or federal sanctions? Why has this policy gotten significantly more attention by the Cardinal, his cabinet, the Presbyteral Council, and Archdiocesan Pastoral Council than cutting $1M+ in excessive six-figure salaries that could otherwise be used to fund the lay pension or clergy retirement funds?   The archdiocese continues to breach its fiduciary responsibility to faithful Catholics with no public statements or actions to address this grave problem.  Is appeasing Jack Connors a higher priority for the Cardinal and archdiocesan leadership team than sound governance of the archdiocese, prudent use of donor funds, and satisfying legal commitments to the pension and retirement funds?


Why did work on this schools admission policy evidently take higher priority for the Cardinal, Vicar General, and archdiocesan leadership than fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility to fund the estimated $200M+ shortfall in the lay pension and clergy retirement funds, which represent ethical and legal commitments to thousands of lay employees and priests?  Aside from the once/year priest appreciation dinner to raise $1M for the clergy funds, what is being done to raise $100-200M or more to fully fund the plan?  What is Fr. Bryan Hehir doing from his tony residence in Wellesley, 4th floor office in the Pastoral Center, office in Harvard yard, and with his six-figure salary and guaranteed cushy Harvard pension to solve this problem?  What is Jack Connors doing about the underfunding in pension and retirement funds?  Who decided, and why was it decided that this policy was a higher priority for the time and energies of our archdiocesan leadership, at the expense of time spent working on the retirement security of thousands of priests and lay employees? 

 Why did work on this schools admission policy apparently take priority for the Cardinal, Vicar General, and archdiocesan leadership rather than ending vigils at 5 closed parishes and saving $850,000 per year in wasted money?  The final canonical appeals for the vigil parishes were denied on July 15, 2010, nearly six months ago. As we wrote about in our last post, the vigils at these closed parishes are costing the archdiocese and donors approximately $850,000/year.   When will the archdiocese take the decisive action to end the protest vigils at these 5 parishes that have been going on for the past 6 years?  On what exact date will the archdiocese block access to the buildings, with no people allowed to enter those closed churches so as to end the vigils?


Why did the archdiocesan leadership have time to work on this policy, but no time to publish the budget of how you are spending $15M+ in donations by the people and another $16M+ in fees from parishes and other Corporation Sole entities? As part of the archdiocesan-touted Improved Financial Relationship Model, a 2010 Central Ministries budget was published, but we are now more than half-way through the 2010-2011 fiscal year, and no budget for the current fiscal year has been published. When will the 2010-2011 budget be published publicly?


In 2005, the Cardinal said that a policy to deal with banning Catholic speakers who publicly dissented from Church teaching from archdiocesan events should be developed, shortly after Fr. Bryan Hehir created a public scandal for his plans to honor Mayor Tom Menino at a Catholic Charities fundraiser.  More than five years have passed since then, but no policy is done yet.  Why has the policy to ensure that Catholics who publicly dissent from the faith not lead Catholic faithful astray by speaking at archdiocesan events been slow-tracked since 2005, yet this policy was fast-tracked?


Why was this policy a higher priority for the Cardinal, the Vicar General, and the archdiocesan leadership team, than writing letters to dozens or hundreds of pastors in the archdiocese who are still waiting to receive an official reappointment to their pastoral assignment.  When will the Cardinal and Vicar General stop treating pastors like itinerants or employees at will and leaving them hanging in limbo, and issue a letter that canonically renews their term?


Why was this policy a high priority for the Cardinal, the Vicar General, and the archdiocesan leadership team, when Cardinal O’Malley does not take time to respond to confidential letters he receives from priests and laity?  Will he ever take the time to respond to letters?


Why was this policy a higher priority for the Cardinal, the Vicar General, and the archdiocesan leadership team than communicating the goals for the Catholic Appeal, which needs to raise at least $15M to keep the lights on in the Pastoral Center and fund critical ministries.  When will those goals be shared–before or after the Appeal year ends in two weeks?


Why was this policy a higher priority for the Cardinal, the Vicar General, and the archdiocesan leadership team than implementing the anonymous whistleblower policy, recommended 4-5 years ago by archdiocesan auditors to help save money and avoid corruption. Why has the whistleblower policy languished for 4-5 years?  Why does the whistleblower policy finally now being implemented send claims of questionable behavior or ethical breaches right back to the same person, Chancellor Jim McDonough, under whom many of the infractions may have occurred?  Why has more time been spent on this Catholic Schools policy than has been spent on protecting the integrity of fiscal operations?


Why has this particular schools policy been fast-tracked with a lot of attention in the press, Presbyteral Coucil and Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, when teaching, sanctifying, and governance for the archdiocese is being so clearly neglected by the Archbishop of Boston?


That is what we have to say for Part 1, but there is more coming in Part 2.  Comments are welcome, but please do us a favor and do not comment on the doctrinal issues concerning the policy, as we will be moderating such comments.  There are other forums already deep into the debate over whether children of gay parents should or should not be admitted to Catholic schools.


ps. You may have heard that the director of the Catholics Come Home initiative, David Thorp, died on Sunday.  The wake will be held at St Edward the Confessor Church, 133 Spring Street (Rt 27) in Medfield from 3–8 pm on Friday, January 14. The funeral Mass will be held at St Edward’s on Saturday, January 15 at 11:00 am. The obituary can be found here.  We pray for the repose of his soul and that he rest in peace.

2010 Year in Review

January 2, 2011

With it still being New Years weekend, we would like to take this final opportunity to look back on the year that just closed.  Our frame of reference is mostly through the lens of the blog, mostly from after the blog started (AB), though we will share a few things from before the blog (BB).

The main events and themes revealed this past year were deception by the highest levels in the archdiocesan leadership, a reorganization of the Cardinal’s cabinet, continued  dismantling of the archdiocese (exemplified by the selloff of Caritas Christi), more Pastoral Center layoffs, major financial difficulties for 40% of parishes that are running a deficit, increased spending by the Pastoral Center on six-figure salaries, fiscal mismanagement, and a continued decline in weekly Mass attendance.  In the face of these problems, we saw an even more visible display of the episcopal leadership vacuum filled by powerbroker Jack Connors, Fr. Bryan Hehir, and Chancellor Jim McDonough, some attempts at evangelization, and the emergence of this blog, Boston Catholic Insider, dedicated to sharing the goings-on and exposing corruption in the archdiocese.

Below is a list of our top events of 2010. (If we missed any big ones, please let us know).  There is no priority order—they are just events we think are reflective of the past year and suggestive of what is to come in the future.

  • Boston Archdiocese sells off the Caritas Christi hospital system to Cerberus, a private equity firm whose name is the same name as the 3-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades.  (click on picture to zoom/enlarge). External spin was that the sale was necessary to maintain long-term financial health of the hospitals, even though Caritas had announced a financial turn-around months before the deal was  brokered which supposedly marked a foundation for long-term fiscal health with no acquisition.  Cardinal O’Malley, Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson, and Fr. Bryan Hehir all publicly deceive the archdiocese with statements that the Catholic identity of the hospitals would be maintained forever, when in fact, the agreement allows Cerberus to drop  the Catholic identity for a $25 million payment after 3 years if deemed “burdensome” by them.  (Themes: deception, influence by Jack Connors and Fr. Bryan Hehir, conflicts of interest, dismantling the diocese, episcopal leadership vacuum).
  • Archdiocese reduces staff by 10% in June 2010, mostly by laying off low-level, long-time dedicated employees.  No people making six-figure salaries were affected.  Six-figure salaried employees who had previously taken a 5-10% pay cut to help balance the budget had their salaries increased back to previous levels. (Themes: fiscal mismanagement, poor get poorer while rich get richer, leadership vacuum)
  • Pastor of St. Pauls in Hingham (Fr. James Rafferty) rejects admission to the parish school for a child of lesbian parents. He is thrown under the bus for his decision by Jack Connors, the Catholic Schools Foundation, and schools superintendent Mary Grassa O’Neill (click on picture to enlarge). An admissions policy is drafted and advanced in approval processes amongst school principals and clergy which deceptively uses words of Pope Benedict XVI out of context as basis for the policy and rejects canonical principles of subsidiarity that would allow pastors/parishes to make such decisions themselves. (Theme: deception, influence by Jack Connors and Fr. Bryan Hehir, episcopal leadership vacuum)
  • 40% of Boston archdiocesan parishes are in the red and cannot pay their bills. Publicly disclosed figures put weekly Mass attendance at about 17%, and we hear the number has actually dropped to more like around 12%.  Pastoral planning process advances to combine multiple church buildings into parishes.   (Theme: continued decline of the diocese)
  • 5 closed parishes maintain protest vigils, after final canonical appeals were exhausted in 2010, and in some cases more than six years after they were ordered closed.  For vigil parishes, no one has the guts to simply block people from entering the churches and thereby end the vigils. Cost to the archdiocese to maintain all closed parishes is more than $1.5 million per year.  (Themes: fiscal mismanagement, episcopal leadership vacuum)
  • Powerbroker Jack Connors and Chancellor Jim McDonough reorganized the Cardinal’s cabinet (starting in the winter of 2010 through summer and fall) pushing out the previous Secretary for Institutional Advancement, Scot Landry, from that role. Their vision was, and is, to forsake the “widows mite” in fund-raising and instead go after primarily deep-pocketed donors.  (Themes: influence and consolidation of power by Jack Connors and Jim McDonough, episcopal leadership vacuum)
  • New Development Chief, Kathleen Driscoll, was named after a “sham search” where the Cardinal, Jack Connors, and Vicar General  Fr. Richard Erikson formed a search committee and told everyone in the archdiocese a real search was underway, when in reality, Ms. Driscoll had been identified as the choice before the search was ever announced.  The new fund-raising entity puts all fund-raising under the control of Jack Connors’ former Hill Holliday exec,  Driscoll, leaving the Cardinal and archdiocese further beholden to Connors’ agenda.  In sports, one might call the sham search analagous to a “head fake”—namely where a player moves their head one way to fake a change in direction. Outside of sports, one might call the explanation given internally by the Vicar General—that there were two parallel tracks to the search, one a public search that never took place and the other an internal search—either a “deception” or an outright “lie.”  (Themes: deception, influence and consolidation of power by Jack Connors, conflict of interest, cronyism, dismantling the diocese, episcopal leadership vacuum)
  • Boston Catholic Insider blog launches June 23, 2010. Chancellor’s decision to block archdiocesan access to the blog resulted in greatly increased public visibility for the blog, including articles in the Boston Globe and by the Associated Press. Communications chief, Terry Donilon, complained about “unfounded claims” on the blog, but never identified even one such claim.  By the end of 2010, the blog had 100 posts, 1,330 comments, and 150,000 pages viewed by 91,000 unique visitors from around the world.  With 80+% of traffic coming from the greater Boston area,  we estimate that about 3X more Boston-area people have read the Boston Catholic Insider blog than regularly read the archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot.  The blog publishes an Open Letter to Cardinal O’Malley and archdicoesan leaders on August 23 (and updated September 15) asking for action on a number of issues.  Perhaps coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, the following have happened in follow-up of that open letter regarding issues in the letter.
  • Excessive Compensation in Six-Figure Salaries: Compensation Committee formed by Archdiocesan Finance Council
  • Whistleblower Policy:  About 4 years after auditors recommended the archdiocese create an anonymous whistleblower policy, the Chancellor finally did something.  He has hired Ethicspoint to host the system and the policy is nearing implementation, albeit with flawed processes around it that would make the policy ineffective if implemented as planned. (Stay tuned for more on that).
  • Names of Finance Council and Committee Members: Were anonymous for past 2 years, but now posted publicly.
  • Names of Trustees for Clergy Retirement Fund: Were finally disclosed to the clergy.  We are still awaiting the names of the trustees for the lay retirement fund six months after we asked.
  • Search for New Development Chief:  No change in direction was made after the blog started reporting on the “sham search.”  After we reported for months on the sham search, the Archdiocese confirmed it with the announcement of Kathleen Driscoll, further hurting their own credibility
  • Search for Mass Catholic Conference executive director: at least a head of the search committee, Bishop Coleman, of Fall River, was beyond criticism when the search was announced.  However, other members of the search committee have raised concerns about ties to Fr. Bryan Hehir, Jack Connors, and an agenda other than the advancement of Catholic teachings in public policy, thus the search is considered tainted.
  • Priest Appreciation: In conjunction with the Priest Appreciation Dinner, the blog launched a priest “shout out” where writers thanked more than 75 archdiocesan and religious order priests for their ministry.
  • U.S.C.C.B President Election: On a national level, Boston Catholic Insider took a short-lived detour from matters of Boston governance and corruption and contributed in at least some way to the public dialogue and derailing of the candidacy of Tucson bishop Gerald Kicanas for USCCB President.  Our “Red Alert” campaign enabled Catholics to voice objections to his candidacy directly to bishops based on past handling of allegations of sexual improprieties .  The AP, USA Today, America Magazine, Commonweal, and other national publications all reported on how Catholic bloggers had urged readers to send protest faxes and leave messages for bishops at the hotel where they are meeting.  America Magazine said, “e-mails and faxes to the bishops were apparently piling up in the bishop’s Baltimore hotel rooms.”  We cannot claim anything about BCI’s impact on the election beyond merely saying we contributed to the dialogue and played some role in enabling people to communicate their concerns with their bishops.   This last point being said, the Kicanas effort does show the demand on the part of Catholics for some vehicle to communicate with their bishops, and the impact which is possible when such vehicles exist.   This is not the last campaign you will see from BCI!
  • Cardinal O’Malley went to Dublin to serve on an apostolic visitation to Ireland in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in that country.  He told people “I am here to listen.”  (We hope we hear the same words expressed from him in Boston soon). Cardinal Seans’ blog, by the “first blogging Cardinal” evolves almost entirely into a photojournal of the Cardinal’s travels and meetings with friends and family members, portraying a bishop increasingly removed from teaching, sanctifying, and governing in Boston. (Theme: episcopal leadership vacuum)
  • Lay pension plan frozen: for about 10,000 church secretaries, parochial school teachers, and other lay employees.  Chancellor tells Boston Globe that archdiocesan employees had not had pay raises for 4 years, a statement contradicted by the reality of diocesan annual reports and many employees who indeed received cost of living increases as recently as the 2007-2008 fiscal year. (Themes: deception, fiscal mismanagement)
  • On the evangelistic  front, the archdiocese launched “The Light is On For You” to make confession available to Catholics on Wednesday evenings in Lent and most recently in Advent.  Feedback has been positive.  In addition, a new effort to reach out to fallen-away Catholics, “Catholics Come Home” will be coming to Boston in 2011. (Theme: evangelization)
  • On the vocations front, St. Johns Seminary is prospering despite the other problems in the archdiocese.  In fact, they are reaching capacity to accommodate full-time students and need more space—space the seminary once owned and which a Vatican visitation committee had recommended not be sold or given away, but which was sold anyway by the Cardinal and Chancellor James McDonough to raise money for the archdiocese.  (theme: episcopal leadership vacuum)

The Boston Catholic Insider blog has enjoyed some very proud moments and also weathered our share of criticism.  Amidst ups and downs, we are told that we have finally given a voice to those whose complaints were going unheard and who viewed there as being little hope of recovering the Catholic Church that many people have known and loved in Boston.  One person recently wrote and said the following:

“The blog has brought to reality my longtime desire to enable this particular Church to know the truth…without being traumatized into still another heartache.  The blog has pulled back the curtain with good will, good humor and, most importantly, superb documentation.  No hearts were broken to produce this blog!  (OK, maybe a couple of frowns cracked around #66, but that was to be expected.)

The abuse crisis, and to a lesser extent the parish closings and the pension mess (both lay and clergy) have resulted in some people punishing themselves by separation from their sacraments.  They wanted to slam the door on the people who broke their hearts, but instead they slammed themselves out.  The blog is allowing a difficult truth to be understood, and most importantly, allowing people to think how to go about addressing it. They aren’t storming out of the Church — they are storming into the conversation.

Congratulations on six remarkably strong months, with few hiccups!

We feel very good about what the blog has accomplished in the past six months.  Now, onward and upwards to the challenges and opportunities of 2011!

More Deception from Chancellor Jim McDonough

December 30, 2010

Our email has been pretty well over-flowing regarding the news of Tuesday, so we apologize for the slow response.  Frankly, we have so many more things to say about it, we could go on for days.  For now, just a few words about the deception by the Chancellor in his announcement message.

Canon. 494 §1. says that “In every diocese, after having heard the college of consultors and the Finance council, the bishop is to appoint a Finance officer who is truly expert in Financial affairs and absolutely distinguished for honesty.”

What happens if the Finance Officer does not distinguish himself for honesty, or, hypothetically speaking, distinguishes themself for deception?

We already have the “sham search” that hired Kathleen Driscoll, orchestrated by Jack Connors and Jim McDonough, with McDonough having been already planning to bring Driscoll over to the Pastoral Center as early as the summer of 2009.  Most recently, we have the deceptive comments to the Boston Globe by the Chancellor that no one in the Pastoral Center had gotten raises for the past 4 years–when in reality, a lot of people got cost of living or other increases in 2007-2008 and the proof is not only public information but we also have dozens of examples we cannot share publicly. Now there is his latest message about the hiring of his new Executive Director of everything the Chancellor does not want to manage himself or does not trust his existing 6-figure-salaried staff to manage.

Here are some highlights of his message, and our responses below it:

Jim McDonough wrote: “In this position, John will provide Central Ministries with a valuable skill set that will enable stronger internal project management and help improve communication and coordination among our various staffs. John brings to this position a breadth of experience that will be of significant assistance to the Archdiocese as we continue the effort to rebuild and strengthen our local Church for the benefit of our 1.8 million Catholics. A graduate of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., John has served as Chief Financial Officer of the White House during the Administration of President George W. Bush and as Chief Financial Officer of the US House of Representatives.

BCI: We know he had those job titles, but what were the results?  The George W. Bush administration was not exactly known for reduced spending and balanced budgets at a congressional level.  (No partisanship here–the Obama administration is also not known for reduced spending and balanced budgets).So, besides holding a fancy title, what did he actually do and accomplish in those jobs?

Jim McDonough wrote: He previously served as an Associate Dean at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The addition of John as Executive Director of Finance and Operations is intended to provide improved management and oversight in these critical areas.  It also acknowledges the wide scope of the Administration and Finance Secretariat and provides the necessary management depth to effectively meet the diverse and complex needs of our parishes, schools and ministries.”

BCI: Why do we need to hire someone else for around $200K/year to “acknowledge the wide scope of the Administration and Finance Secretariat?”  Have we not sufficiently acknowledged that by paying the Chancellor $250K/year and him and his combined staff more than $1M a year?  What does it say about the current Chancellor that in his nearly 5 years on the job, he has not brought himself, developed, or hired the “necessary management depth” to manage basically the same needs of our (more poorly attended) parishes, (fewer) schools, and (underfunded, pared-back) ministries we had when he arrived in 2006?

Why was this position never posted or advertised? Since it was never posted or advertised, how did Stroub find out about it (e.g. which insider did he know who brought him in)?

What did Mr. Stroub major in at Catholic University?  Why was some prior leadership or service to the Catholic Church not required for such a senior role? (Was he not even a lector or usher somewhere in Scranton, PA or DC?)

Why were Mr. Stroub’s most recent 4 years as Vice President of Human Resources (not finance and not operations) for a company that ships and warehouses beverages, candy, and other consumer products conveniently not even mentioned in the announcement?  To his credit, at his previous employer, Kane is Able, he talked in an article about how he dramatically reduced employee turnover amongst the truck-drivers who operate the company’s “fleet of 200 tractors and 800 trailers.”  (And the relevance of that experience with truck-drivers to the archdiocese would be…??)  His hiring philosophy was described in this article as, “attitude first and aptitude second. “Instead of focusing on the number of years they have spent operating a particular piece of machinery,” he explains, “[we look] for candidates who [demonstrate] a passion for customer service. Essentially, we hire for attitude and train for skill.”

Looking for a positive attitude for machinery operators is fine, but last time we checked, aptitude–namely, a talent, capability, readiness or quickness in learning; intelligence–was generally an innate personal characteristic that does not change much after someone shows up at the office.  Great–so does this mean we will hire more people like we already have hired in the past 5 years who know nothing about the Catholic Church or about their area of expertise?  Then after people who know nothing about the Church but are enthusiastic about a high-paid job are put on the dole using donor funds, we will just teach them about the Church and their functional area?  And over time, they will develop aptitude?

BCI critics will say we are attacking the guy before he has even started and should give him a chance.  Nothing personal against John–maybe he will be good and will put in-place a discipline for goal-setting–and the fact that we can find almost nothing about him via research online is a non-issue, he has no demonstrated service to the Catholic Church in the announcement, and the manner in which he has been hired and introduced is just terrible.  Maybe that hiring perspective just applies to blue-collar workers in the shipping and warehousing space, and it will be different here in the archdiocese.  We do not know. But when the hiring process is flawed or suspicious and the announcement withholds basic information, it is grounds for concern.

Jim McDonough wrote: “The Cardinal, Fr. Erikson and I are keenly aware of the need to do more with less. We recognize that everyone has taken on more and we are gratified by your tremendous work ethic and devotion to serving Christ and the Church. As Chancellor, I have endeavored to lead by reducing the most staff so that other ministries would be spared. Since I arrived at the Archdiocese, the staff headcount of my Secretariat has been reduced by 23%, declining from 91 to 70 persons.

BCI: This is where the real deception occurs.  What is the actual reduction in cost?  As “Priests for Transparency” asked, “How much have total salaries INCREASED in his Secretariat over the same time period?  Before and after consultants?”  How many of those “reductions” came about not because the position was eliminated, but rather because the position was simply moved from the Chancellor’s headcount to another departmental headcount?  Does the archivist count, who now reports into the Vicar General?  Does Carol Gustavson count, because her salary is paid by Benefits Trust?  What about the minor detail he did not mention about how the administration secretariat was spared in the previous 2 rounds of cuts before he joined, so some of his cuts are “just playing catch up”, as PFT noted yesterday?

How are some of the Chancellor’s ill-conceived and ill-thought-through reductions hurting the bottom line for every parishioner and pastor in the Archdiocese and resulting in hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in excessive costs?  How is the “reduced staff” doing managing the $5.5M+ spent over recent years on Lawson Software, consulting services, and hosting along?  How did getting rid a couple of the property management people work out?  How does saving money from those salaries–and now having a person responsible for real estate and properties who was a former loan officer and knows nothing about property management–help the archdiocese, when the current less qualified crew participated in the mismanagement of the St. Cecilia (Boston) renovation project?  What was the starting vs final price-tag–was it $14M (which the parish had in the bank) and is now ballooning to more like $20M by the time all work is done?  Why does the parish now need to take out a loan from the archdiocese and figure out how to mount a capital campaign to pay for some $6M of the renovation cost AFTER the majority of the project work has been completed?  Usually, the parish raises money BEFORE the project is launched, not after.  Whose oversight led to that situation?  And, um, how is that $50K new roof doing at St. Mary’s in Plymouth–you know, the one that should have been good for at least 15+ years but is now leaking? Has anyone been able to find the paperwork for the job, or the contractor yet?

Beyond that, in this time of huge heating bills for parishes and schools, exactly who on the Chancellor’s team is competent and qualified to help parishes and schools figure out the efficiency of their decades-old heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems, and whether there is an ROI benefit to upgrading those systems?  How much money is being poured down the proverbial “heating oil drain”?

How many hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in donor funds are being wasted because of mismanagement by the Chancellor and his team due to him letting qualified people go (so he can either claim he reduced head-count or bring-in his own cronies), hiring  people not qualified to preside over critical functions, and not finding a way to replace critical functions with competent in-house or outsourced resources?

And as PFT commented said, “Why does only McDonough get to reorganize by INCREASING staff/headcount? The Schools Office continually said that the 3 new associate superintendent positions came from 5 positions that were eliminated. Of course he’ll say that Gustavson is now on a different payroll – but that’s garbage.”

Jim McDonough wrote: Throughout this time we have directed available resources to serve our parishes. John’s position, and the experience and love for Christ and the Catholic Faith he brings to us, is intended to continue to build on that goal as a commitment to our culture of support to parishes, schools and ministries.”

BCI: Yeah, whatever resources were available after the Chancellor and the administration spent $4+M on six-figure salaries and the legal department.  Sorry, which goal is that John coming on-board is building on?  Is that the goal of doing more with less?  Wording about “love of Christ” sounds vaguely familiar as well.  Hmm, where did we hear that before?  Seems that when Terry Donilon was hired, we were told, “Terry Donilon is an experienced communicator who loves the church.”  If John Stroub loves Christ and the Catholic Faith, how come service to the Church is nowhere in his biography up to now?

How do we justify yet another six-figure salary in finance and administration, while the lay pension plan has been frozen and both the lay and clergy retirement funds remain underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars?  What exactly is being done to re-fund those and fulfill the legal, moral, and canonical responsibilities and commitments to 10,000+ people?  The $1M raised at the Priest Appreciation Dinner was nice, but where will the couple hundred million dollars come from needed to shore up both funds?

Lastly, unstated in the communication was anything about what the $250K/year Chancellor will be doing, now that he has fewer direct reports.  Commenter “Carolyn” asked: “So with only three employees reporting directly to McDonough, and with no direct responsibilities of his own, what does he do?  How does he while away the time?  Besides sitting in meetings spinning the wheel on his Blackberry, what does he do?  Maybe he could take up knitting.”

When the Chancellor joined the archdiocese in June of 2006, he said in the Boston Business Journal, he was “very blessed and didn ‘t need a job.”

That is good to hear, since under Canon Law, some might say it appears that the behaviors demonstrated by James McDonough disqualify him from holding the job of chief Finance Officer.

What do you think?  If Jim McDonough doesn’t need a job, should he take up knitting?  Or better still, maybe work on his golf game?

Diocesan Deception and Coverup? The response.

November 17, 2010

Before we  get back to Boston, just another quick acknowledgement of what one blogger just described as “The Earthquake in Baltimore.”

The AP and most other publications are describing the defeat of sitting USCCB VP Bishop Kicanas of Tuscon and the election of Archbishop Timothy Dolan as an “upset“.  Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia described the result as a “seismic shift” and offers other interesting narrative about the climate in Baltimore before the “Timquake” vote.  The vote to elect the sitting USCCB vice president is usually close to unanimous, and this time around it was a whole ‘nother story.

Archbishop Dolan won by a vote of 128-111.  What impact the “Catholic blogosphere”  had on this election is impossible to measure.  But we can tell you that so many emails and faxes were being sent to bishops from our hastily set-up server that it got overloaded and shut down twice between Friday and Sunday–and we can tell you that your messages reached a lot more than 17 bishops.  (By the way, the technical Web guy from RealCatholicTV who worked nights and over the weekend to help us with the campaign on basically zero advance notice refuses to even accept the gift of a dinner out for him and his wife in appreciation for his work.  If you would like to support their ministry, you can make a tax-deductible donation to St. Michael’s Media here).

OK, now back to Boston, where we are seeing a number of small signs of progress.

Back on November 5 in our post “Diocesan Deception from Donilon?” we reported on the latest regarding the “sham search” for the new head of development.  A Catholic reporter on deadline had contacted Communications Secretary, Terry Donilon, to ask a few straightforward questions about the sham search and new “independent” development organization.  Terry responded to the reporter saying he would not answer “unfounded claims and attacks posted in Boston Catholic Insider,” while, coincidentally, not acknowledging that our reports of the sham search were indeed accurate and it was his repeated claim of “unfounded claims” that was unfounded instead.  A number of readers let us know that they wrote to Terry and the Vicar General, Fr. Richard Erikson.  We did too.   On November 15, we got a response.

Here is the email we sent to Terry and the Vicar General, and then the response back.  Let us count how many questions posed were actually answered by the archdiocese.

From: James Franklin
Date: Fri, Nov 5, 2010 at 5:21 PM
Subject: Terry Donilon’s response to reporter about blog
To: Vicar_General@rcab.org, Terrence_donilon@rcab.org
Cc: ReverendBryan_Parrish@rcab.org

To Fr. Erikson and Terry,

As both of you know, the Boston Catholic Insider blog was 100% accurate in saying that the search for the new head of institutional advancement was a “sham search” and there never was an open search.  Spin it as you wish to try and now claim there are two flavors of searches and you reserve the right to pretend there is a real search and just place whomever you want. With your June press release/announcement, the archdiocesan leadership knowingly deceived the public into believing there was an open search for this position when there really was not. That is fact.  Do you disagree?

For Terry to respond to a reporter with the line about “unfounded claims” is troubling. In case you did not realize it, the blog is not suffering from credibility problems–it is the leadership of the archdiocese.

We need not be “enemies.”  If you guys will operate with integrity, then the blog will have nothing to write about and it goes away. Why is it so difficult for the archdiocesan leadership to operate with integrity?

As a faithful Catholic in the Archdiocese of Boston whose donations to my local church partially fund your salaries, I and thousands of other Catholics would like to know the answers to several questions regarding the changes just announced in the area of fund-raising.

–How does the newly established 501(c) (3) organization for fund-raising ensure donors of “independence” and “accountability”?
–What exactly was the problem with accountability to the Archdiocese of Boston before which this now solves?
–Who–by name of individual and canonically recognized body–will this be accountable to going forward?
–What is the new entity independent of?
–Who is on the “newly established Board of Trustees”?
–What is the “respective board” representing the Archdiocese” referred to in the press release?   Who is on it?  What is the canonical basis for that board’s existence?

These are not questions for the Boston Catholic Insider blog. These are not questions for an anonymous blogger.  These are questions that Catholics of the Boston Archdiocese deserve legitimate answers to.

Do you plan to answer these questions for the Catholic faithful of Boston?



OK, so we got a bit emotional in the wording of the email.  In hindsight, we could have been a little more even-keeled.  Here is Terry’s response, of November 15.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Donilon, Terrence <Terrence_Donilon@rcab.org>
Date: Mon, Nov 15, 2010 at 4:15 PM
Subject: RE: Terry Donilon’s response to reporter about blog
To: James Franklin
Cc: Vicar General <Vicar_General@rcab.org>, “Parrish, Reverend Bryan” ReverendBryan_Parrish@rcab.org

Dear “Jim”,

Thank you for your inquiry of November 5th.

As announced on November 1, 2010, Boston Catholic Development Services, Inc. (BCDS) is being formed to streamline the fundraising strategies of the Archdiocese.  It will serve as the development office for the Archdiocese, the Clergy Funds and the Campaign for Catholic Schools (CCS).  Catholic Charities has also been invited to join and benefit from the new development services and the final determination to participate will be made by their management and board of trustees.

We are in the early stages of identifying the Board of Trustees of BCDS and bringing together the various staff personnel that will conduct the important work ahead.

Cardinal Seán will name the trustees at the time BCDS is formally incorporated. It is anticipated that the new board of BCDS, which will oversee its operations, will include member(s) from the Archdiocese, the Clergy Funds, CCS and other participating entities. BCDS will also collaborate closely with the management and respective boards of the entities it serves. BCDS will not hold donated funds in its own name, but will provide strategic vision, planning and development programs for the funding of the primary Archdiocesan missions.  As is now the case with the ministries and related agencies of the Archdiocese, BCDS will be responsible to the Archbishop, who will have final oversight authority.

Consistent with the Cardinal’s commitment to financial transparency, each year BCDS will account for its financial activities from the previous fiscal year.

I hope this answers some of your questions.  Please continue to check www.bostoncatholic.org in the days and weeks ahead for additional information.

Thank you,

First off, we view it as a big sign of progress that at least we and other readers got a response!  Terry, if you are reading this post, we do appreciate you taking the time to write back and we appreciate the archdiocesen leadership having taken the time and effort to formulate the response.

Did it answer all of our questions?  Not really, but it is a start.  Here is what we still do not know the answers to:

  • With your June press release/announcement, the archdiocesan leadership knowingly deceived the public into believing there was an open search for this position when there really was not. Do you disagree?
  • Why is it so difficult for the archdiocesan leadership to operate with integrity?
  • What exactly was the problem with accountability to the Archdiocese of Boston before which this now solves?
  • Who–by name of individual–will this be accountable to going forward?
  • What is the new entity independent of?
  • Who is on the “newly established Board of Trustees”?

Another reader copied us on their message, where they asked the following to members of the Archdiocesan cabinet and Cardinal O’Malley:

  • Is the archdiocese denying that there was deception?
  • Who exactly on the Cabinet knew this was a fake search?  When exactly did they know?
  • Who would be in charge of appointing an independent ethics commission to investigate this further?
  • What will the consequences be to the people who knowingly engaged in this deception?
  • How can the archdiocese claim that “transparency and accountability” are important steps in healing the Church of Boston and “rebuilding the trust of the people of this Archdiocese” and then destroy trust by engaging in deception?

So, we do not think the Driscoll affair is yet over.  At the same time, we are not holding our breath waiting for answers to these questions.

It is not Terry Donilon’s job at this point to justify and explain the “sham search” and deception which was carried out by others (though we hope he will stop sending up smokescreens any more by referring to “unfounded claims” on the blog).

Just as a reminder, the people mainly behind this whole development change were the Chancellor (Jim McDonough) and Jack Connors.  Those who knew about and/or were actively involved in the deception on the cabinet included the Chancellor and the Vicar General.  In our post “Diocesan Deception and Coverup?” we gave more details about how Cardinal O’Malley and others knew, and how this deception was propagated to clergy and everyone in the archdiocese.

The Code of Canon Law (Can 482 §2) says “The chancellor and notaries must be of unimpaired reputation and above all suspicion.” Can. 494 §1 says, “In every diocese, after having heard the college of consultors and the Finance council, the bishop is to appoint a Finance officer who is truly expert in Financial affairs and absolutely distinguished for honesty.”

Has the current Finance officer of the Archdiocese of Boston, who, coincidentally, is approaching the end of his 5-year team, “distinguished himself” for the attributes mentioned in Canon Law”?  If not, what do you think should be done about that?

Diocesan Deception in Catholic Schools Admission Policy?

November 10, 2010

We are getting mixed requests from our readers in the past few days—some want us to keep digging in on the fracas over the new direction for fund-raising and development, while some want us to address what they view as time-critical situations.

After prayerful consideration, today we take a big chance by dipping our toe in the water in an area we have stayed away from up to now.  That is the Catholic Schools Admission Policy whose draft is undergoing final review.  We are focusing not on the policy itself but rather on whether the general pattern of diocesan deception we have been reporting on previously might, coincidentally, happen to apply in the setting of this policy as well. If so, perhaps a better policy will emerge if any content in the policy that is even perceived as misleading is modified.

Some readers who appreciate that we have stayed away from such topics might have issues with today’s post.  We provide you with the facts and two points where it appears that people reading this draft policy might be misled or deceived.  You will need to decide.

Background and Facts

As many readers may recall, almost six months ago to the day, St. Paul School in Hingham made national news for deciding to deny admission at their Catholic elementary school to the son of a lesbian couple.  Choose your media venue if you need a recap—here is the story from the Boston Globe, USA Today, AOL News, and The Boston Pilot. While Cardinal O’Malley was away in Portugal with the real Holy Father, Jack Connors (dubbed the “pope of Boston’s Catholic power-brokers” by the Globe) jumped into the fracas declaring this was a bad move, as can be seen by Connors’ photo and quotes that highlight these pieces in the Globe and Herald (coincidentally entitled, “Church’s balance of power shifting”). After Cardinal O’Malley returned to the U.S, he said on his May 19 blog post that the matter would be studied further and a policy developed.  That policy is close to being finalized and seeing the light of day via public promulgation, and is the subject of today’s post.

The Draft Policy

As anonymous bloggers who promise confidentiality to our readers, it should not surprise anyone that we often get anonymous emails, and several readers sent along this Draft Catholic Schools Admission Policy as of September 16, 2010.  You will note that it is marked “confidential,” which we assume means “for Catholics only.”  And, since the archdiocese has shared this fairly broadly with clergy, schools staff and lay advisory boards already and has promised transparency as being important towards rebuilding trust with the people of this Archdiocese, we assume it is OK to share, in confidence, with just the limited group of Catholics who read this blog.  Just do not share it broadly.  If anyone from the archdiocese objects to this draft being posted in the interest of helping make a better policy for Catholics in this generation and generations to come, please let us know.

The crux of the policy is the following:

Our schools welcome as qualified students whose parent(s)/guardian(s) accept and understand that the teachings of the Catholic Church are an essential and required part of the curriculum. We count on our parents to partner with our principals and faculty in the student’s educational experience. We do not discriminate against or exclude any categories of students.

The purpose of this post (and hopefully any comments you offer) is not to discuss the pros and cons of that draft policy position, but rather to highlight two things in the draft that are potentially misleading or deceptive.

Two Misleading or Deceptive Aspects of the Policy Draft

1) Holy Father’s quote. The document opens by saying, “In creating this policy we are guided by the words of the Holy Father, by Canon Law and by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops”

“No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.”  Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to Catholic Educators in Washington DC. April 17, 2008.

There is one concern with that quote–it is missing the context of the entire paragraph or two immediately preceding it. Here is a link to Holy Father’s actual address to Catholic University of America, and the quote in-context:

The Catholic community here has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice. Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight, laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of parochial schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation….Countless dedicated Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.

This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.

It seems to this writer that the context in which the Holy Father spoke was very different from the context in which that one selective phrase has been used, absent all context, in this draft document.  We are giving you the factual information.  You should decide for yourself how you feel.

Without debating the underlying position or principles of the policy, are we the only ones who find the absence of context for the Holy Father’s words a tad misleading?

2. Principle of subsidiarity. Is it maintained by this draft policy, or is it negated?

In Catholic teaching, this means the Church usually assumes that problems are best defined and resolved by those most closely affected by them. Here are excerpts from an interesting piece from the Phoenix Diocesan Newspaper on the topic of subsidiarity.

The principle of subsidiarity is a basic tenet of Church law. Under this principle, authorities at higher levels of the organization discern what responsibilities and tasks lower level authorities are capable of fulfilling, based on Church law and the particular definition of the given role of those lower level authorities.

This allocation of responsibilities can be seen at every level of the Church. The pope appoints a bishop to lead a particular diocese, just as a bishop appoints a certain priest to lead a particular parish, just as pastors appoint parishioners to lead particular ministries, according to each individual’s gifts and ability to fulfill their defined role.

By entrusting a pastor to care for the people of his parish, and by empowering a pastor to make certain decisions on behalf of his parish, the bishop is exercising the principle of subsidiarity.

“A parish has the freedom to meet the local needs of their area according to the gifts of the parish,” said Fr. Chris Fraser, judicial vicar and canon law expert.

“The diocesan bishop isn’t going to determine that one parish will have an outreach for the poor while another has a ministry for immigrants,” he said. “Each parish must evaluate its gifts and resources and reach out to the local community in ways it feels called.”

If you look at the draft policy for the Archdiocese of Boston, it says the following:

Pastors, principals, advisory and/or governing boards may develop specific admission policies for their school provided they are in conformity with the Archdiocesan Admission Policy.

In other words, the archdiocese wrote in the words that they still endorse the concept of subsidiarity–but only as long as you, the pastors and parishes, do what the Archdiocese  directs you to do from the top-down.  We asked a canon lawyer friend about this one, and were told the archdiocese is treading on canonical “thin ice” with this provision as worded.

We know some people will pounce on us for this post.  The archdiocese will claim a confidential draft document has been “leaked” and will claim it is still undergoing revisions. Some people will inaccurately believe we are opining on the policy.  In reality, we had enough emails from parents and clergy asking us to cover this that we decided to put this out in the open.

A friend of the blog commented this morning that regardless of the end good which may be intended by a particular effort or initiative, it is always best to ensure that honesty and integrity are maintained through all of the means of attaining that end. That is the reason behind our posts about possible deception, and indeed, it is a motivator behind this blog.

Once again, readers, this post is not about the position articulated in the policy draft. There are no doubt better venues for that to be discussed.  If you want to tell the Archdiocese what you think of the policy, we suggest you contact the Vicar General (Vicar_General@rcab.org), his assistant Fr. Bryan Parrish, and superintendent of schools, Mary Grassa O’Neill.  (We can give emails for them separately if you want them).

We are simply raising questions about how the policy is being “sold” to key constituencies and whether there are aspects of this draft document that are seen as misleading.  We have just been deceived about an open search for the head of development.  Is this a pattern of behavior?  Do the means justify the ends?  Please keep comments focused in those areas so we do not need to moderate.

%d bloggers like this: