New Head for Mass Catholic Conference

April 7, 2011

On Wednesday the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC) Board of Governors announced the appointment of James F. Driscoll as the new MCC Executive Director.  Mr. Driscoll succeeds Interim Executive Director Gerry D’Avolio who filled in after the death of Ed Saunders in August 2010. The biggest question people have been asking us over the past 24 hours is “Who is James F. Driscoll?”

BCI has never heard of him, nor has anyone else we asked.  Maybe he is a good fit for the job, but we just do not learn anything from the press release that suggests he has done something like this successfully before. We actually learn nothing in the press release about anything he has done successfully–all we learned is what titles he has held and what positions he has occupied:

Mr. Driscoll has served in the Office of General Counsel in the Office of the State Auditor as Associate General Counsel since 2007 and as General Counsel since 2009.  His previous public service was as General Counsel and Assistant Executive Director for the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission beginning there in 1984.  He began his career as legal counsel in the Office of the State Treasurer in 1983.

So, the announcement tells us he has worked for the state on the taxpayer dole, apparently for most of the past 27+ years, but what did he actually accomplish during that time to advance the quality of life for “Joe Average” citizen of the Commonwealth?  We do not know.

According to MCC, this job function advises the four Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts on issues of public policy and acts as the legislative agent for the Archdiocese of Boston and the Dioceses of Fall River, Springfield and Worcester.”  Maybe BCI is missing something. Does anyone else understand how working for the state lottery for 19 years and then the state auditors office gives him the depth of insights to advise the four Roman Catholic bishops in Massachusetts on public policy?  Seems like he is actually much more qualified and well-suited to be General Counsel of the Archdiocese, but that job is taken already by Beirne Lovely.

Anyway, this Associated Press report in the Boston Herald quoted him essentially as saying that despite his entire career spent working on Beacon Hill, he does not really know much about the  Catholic Church’s influence, or lack thereof, on lawmakers these days:

Massachusetts is a heavily Catholic state whose lawmakers have shown a consistent willingness to defy the church on issues such as abortion and gay marriage…He rejected the notion that the church has a diminished voice among lawmakers, but he added, “The best way I can answer that is by saying, ’I’ll find out.'”

Since this role is charged with lobbying legislators to impact public policy consistent with positions of the Catholic Church, it is particularly striking how nothing is said in the announcement about him having successfully advocated for anything. Hopefully, he has more expertise and for some reason, they just forgot to include it in the press release amidst all of the language they recycle from every other press release about how the person is a “gifted blah,” “a dedicated blah blah,” and “an experienced blah blah blah.”

The Herald quoted Driscoll as saying that gambling will be a big issue from the start of his new job, since lawmakers are considering legislation that would legalize casinos and slot machines in Massachusetts, a move the church opposes.  His new role lobbying against gambling should be interesting after he spent 19 years as the general counsel responsible for defending the lottery.

We assumed for MCC to spend all this time with an “extensive search process” and come up with Mr. Driscoll as the public voice of the four Massachusetts bishops, there had to be more about him and his qualifications that was just not in the press release.   So, we did what most people would do–we just checked the Boston Globe.  Anybody can do this, and you all probably have already seen these clips where James F. Driscoll was in the news. By the way, we did not pick-and-choose–these are basically all of the news items with his name mentioned:

  • August 3, 1993: Winchendon man taking his bid for lottery prize to state panel: “After disputing his allegations for weeks, the Massachusetts Lottery Commission has agreed to hear an appeal by a Winchendon man who contends he lost a lottery ticket that was found by a 8-year-old girl and turned in for a $10,000 prize. In an Aug. 4 letter, a lawyer for the commission, James F. Driscoll, rejected Dudley P. Haney’s claim that he lost a pair of Twin Spin tickets at a Winchendon video store July 19.”
  • April 30, 2003:  “O’Brien, Cahill Said to be Immersed in Feud: “They shared the same Democratic Party ticket last fall, but now former state treasurer Shannon O’Brien and current Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill are in an apparent grudge match that is turning increasingly ugly: He has fired former O’Brien aides in recent weeks and her allies are charging that Cahill is trashing her handling of the office….The tension has become more acute over the last several weeks when each side believed the other was planting negative stories in the Boston newspapers. O’Brien allies are convinced that that’s what triggered Cahill to fire O’Brien supporters in the office. One was the general counsel of the state Lottery, James Driscoll. O’Brien had kept him from past regimes, but removed him from union protection and gave him a raise.”
  • October 20, 2005:  Treasury Officials Say Lawyer Got $78K: State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill’s office made a $78,000 payment to the top lawyer in the Lottery Commission in 2003 as part of a confidential settlement shortly after Cahill took office, Treasury officials with knowledge of the deal said yesterday.The settlement with former lottery general counsel James F. Driscoll appears to contradict comments made by Cahill to the Globe on Tuesday, when he said, “To the best of my knowledge, there are no severance packages at all” involved with a series of seven confidentiality agreements that his office has executed since he became treasurer…The Driscoll settlement was the first of the confidential agreements struck by Cahill, who has insisted that such deals are necessary to protect proprietary information in the Treasury as well as the privacy rights of employees departing under less-than-ideal circumstances.Treasury officials yesterday insisted that the $78,000 payout was the result of settlement discussions with Driscoll, who was threatening to sue because he had signed a lucrative contract with the administration of former treasurer Shannon P. O’Brien on May 13, 1999. That contract called for him to receive two years’ pay, up to three years of vacation pay, and pay for the remainder of the calendar year if he were fired without cause.At the time of his ouster, Driscoll was making $105,000 annually, which means he may have been entitled to more than $300,000 under the terms of his contract.The sources in the Treasury yesterday said Cahill offered Driscoll nothing after asking him to resign. The demand prompted Driscoll’s Boston lawyer, Thomas Kiley, to draft a breach-of- contract suit, which he threatened to file but never did.In the end, Driscoll received $78,000 before federal taxes, the Treasury sources said.O’Brien, the former Democratic candidate for governor in 2002, said last night that she executed the earlier contract with Driscoll to remove him from a conflict of interest; he was a member of a union that he would negotiate with on behalf of management.  “We might have spent as much money being sued by Jim to save his union protection…”

(NOTE: Last time BCI checked, Massachusetts was an employee-at-will state. That means employers in Massachusetts, or in any other employee-at-will state, can fire any employee at any time for any reason — or even for no reason at all. An employer can terminate any employee, with or without notice).

So, readers, this is what we know about James Driscoll, the new executive director of the Mass Catholic Conference.  We feel badly if the press release did him an injustice by skipping a lot of his important accomplishments to help citizens of the commonwealth during his career in state government.  And for the sake of faithful Catholics, we hope and pray this “gifted public servant” from the South Shore brings a lot more to this position than the press release credits him with.

Peter Meade Named New Director of Boston Redevelopment Authority

April 6, 2011

Boston Mayor Tom Menino announced on Tuesday that he has named Peter Meade as the new director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.  Several Catholic church properties in Boston are likely up for sale soon, and Meade also has deep ties to Jack Connors, so this appointment will be an interesting one to follow in the future.

The Boston Globe reported:

Peter Meade was introduced this morning at City Hall as the new director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.  Meade is a long-time Democratic operative and a former executive for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Meade’s appointment comes as the city struggles to recover from a sharp real estate downturn that has delayed many large development projects, including several on the South Boston Waterfront and the redevelopment of the former Filene’s property in Downtown Crossing.

Meade does not have deep experience as a real estate professional, but is a well-known civic leader in Boston and has worked in and around city and state politics for decades.

He also worked for 12 years as executive vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield and as managing director of Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, a Boston public relations firm.

A long-time associate of the Kennedy family, Meade recently served as chairman of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy and as head of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

The Boston Herald had a similar report, saying:

 “Though Meade has little planning or development experience, he is well-respected in business and political circles and considered a bridge-builder and a high-level problem-solver.”

Not having real estate or development experience seems to be good for the resume around Boston lately if you want to get a job in real estate development.  Long-time readers will recall how the current Director of Real Estate for the Boston Archdiocese was a loan officer at the Abington Savings Bank with then-CEO Jim McDonough and also had no prior experience with real estate or property management.

Peter Meade is in the news alot.  This December 31, 2006 Boston Globe magazine article, “The Influential,” cites him as a “Bostononian of the Year.”  Here are some additional details on Meade’s civic leadership and involvement in the Archdiocese of Boston and related entities, some of which we discussed in Caritas Coincidences last August:

So, Peter has quite a resume.  Most recently, within the scope of about 3 years, Meade has worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA, Rasky Baerlein, and the Ted Kennedy Institute.  Now he is going to start at the Boston Redevelopment Authority. 

BCI readers have been asking questions already.  How will this affect closed churches in Boston that the archdiocese is looking to sell, such as Holy Trinity? Is Jack looking for something in this from the BRA?  Does Mayor Menino need something from Jack or from Peter?  Good questions. We will have to wait and see what the answers are down the road.

Campaign Ending; Message Delivered

March 24, 2011


We have gotten feedback from a number of priests that our message has come through loud and clear!  At the same time, the volume of emails from our campaign is starting to clog their email in-boxes and make life difficult.  For some, the emails have already gotten to the point of being annoying and feeling like spam.

Our intention was to ensure that Catholic faithful could communicate with the Cardinal, clergy and Holy See on this matter of importance to the future of the archdiocese.  All too often, we are told that when faithful Catholics do not speak up, it gives the impression they are OK with the status quo or current direction.  However, we did not intend to annoy our outstanding priests who are dedicated to serving the Lord and the Church, and we apologize if that has  resulted.

Some number of readers and faithful Catholics have had a chance to voice their views on this important matter to our pastors, and we believe the message about needing a change has been communicated, at least for now.  Since the goal of communicating the message has been accomplished, in view of the aforementioned feedback, we are going to conclude the campaign at this time. The red buttons on the previous posts will be deactivated.

Thanks to all who took the time to participate. We hope and pray that the input will be considered.

Change the Chancellor

March 24, 2011

For 9 months we have been chronicling the deception, cronyism, conflicts of interest, excessive 6-figure salaries, mismanagement, and breaches of fiduciary responsibility in the Archdiocese of Boston. The Archdiocese is still basically trying to ignore issues raised on behalf of priests and religious, church employees, and other laity, so  today it is very important for you to let the archdiocese know it is time for a change.

March 24: 1pm UPDATE: Based on feedback that the message has been communicated and gotten through, we are ending the campaign.

Many readers asked U.S. bishops to not vote for Bishop Kicanas for USCCB President last November. Now it is very important for you to tell Cardinal O’Malley to not renew the term of the current Chancellor.

The Daughters of St. Paul experienced an “incredible lack of responsiveness, non-answers to very specific questions, and just endless, fruitless negotiations’’ over 5 years by people under the responsibility of Chancellor James McDonough. This is but one in a consistent pattern of actions over the past 5 years (detailed in our last post, Time for a Change) that have caused Boston Catholics to lose trust in the financial and administrative management of the Archdiocese of Boston:

A variety of people and factors may be to blame for this situation.  But the Chancellor is the lay executive responsible for managing these areas, and he has  failed to uphold his responsibility to be a good steward of assets, temporal goods, and donor funds. Something has to change to rebuild trust. With his contract up for renewal, now is the time for the change.

Therefore, Catholics need to ask Cardinal O’Malley to NOT renew the Chancellor’s 5-year term.

UPDATE: March 24: 1pm. Enough people have responded to this campaign, that the volume of emails sent has become annoying to some of our dedicated priests serving the Lord.

The message has been communicated.  We are ending the campaign.  Thanks to all who participated. Now we ask all to pray that some change occurs.


The Connors Conundrum (and Facts about Jack)

February 26, 2011

The article in Wednesday’s Boston Globe about Peter Meade leaving his job leading the Sen. Edward M. Kennedy Institute had a detail we did not get to mention in our last post—namely, how Jack Connors, Jr. is raising $125 million to fund the new Kennedy Institute.

That brings us back to the conundrum over powerbroker, Jack Connors, and his ongoing involvement in the Archdiocese of Boston.  At the end of this Opinion piece, you will find an interactive poll for audience participation, so you may want to keep reading, or just jump to the end of the post for the poll.

In the interest of balance, you can see from articles in the Boston Globe and Boston Magazine that Jack Connors does much good around Boston.  But those civic good works are different from the nature of his involvement in the Archdiocese of Boston and Catholic Church, where different questions need to be asked.

In the context of the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Boston, the more one looks at the actions by Connors, the more one cannot help but ask if he has objectively disqualified himself from serving on a key archdiocesan body like the Finance Council. We ask the question. You will have a chance to weigh-in on the answer in a few moments.

Anyway, according to the Globe article about the Kennedy Institute, Jack has almost hit the $125 million fundraising goal. This is the same Jack Connors who is supposed to have raised $70 million for the Campaign for Catholic Schools “2010 Initiative”—which was supposed to have ended December 31, 2010. Yet here we sit two months later, and the new archdiocesan fundraising group announced under the pretense of enabling more “accountability and transparency” has yet to account for what they raised by their deadline. One can only assume that they missed the goal and are still scrambling to raise the money.

A number of BCI readers have asked how Jack can be raising $70 million for the Catholic schools—a part of the Catholic Church, which we all know opposes abortion–while at the same time he is raising even more money, and apparently more prodigiously, to fund an institute commemorating a man who publicly supported abortion on demand. If we knew how to reach Jack via email, we would invite his reaction, but we just cannot seem to find his email address anywhere.

Beyond this matter of his conflicting fund-raising priorities, an even more important question to ask is the following:

Based on the guidelines for membership on the Archdiocese of Boston Finance Council, has Jack Connors, Jr.–by virtue of his public actions and public advocacy for certain politicians–objectively disqualified himself from membership on the Finance Council?

We are not commenting on Jack as a person or his values.  We are simply sharing objectively verifiable facts and public actions and asking the question.  Below we share the requirements for membership, definitions of key terms, and the “Facts about Jack” that call into question whether he has made himself ineligible for membership.


Beyond business/financial expertise, there are two requirements to serve on the Archdiocesan Finance Council we would like to highlight:

  1. The Code of Canon Law (Can. 492 §1.) says that Finance Council members must “outstanding in integrity.”
  2. The Archdiocese of Boston’s Finance Council Charter also says that members should be “Catholics in good standing.”


  1. Integrity: Here is the definition of “integrity” from “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”
  2. Catholic in good standing: There is no dictionary definition for “Catholic in good standing,” or even one in the Catechism, so we turned to Google instead and grabbed what several Church leaders have said on the topic:

Archbishop of Milwaukee, Jerome Listeki, speaking about a group that promoted use of contraception and abortion among Catholic youth said the following: using media advertising the group is, says the Archbishop-Designate, “attempting to convey the message that Catholics can disregard Church teaching regarding contraception, abortion and human sexuality in general and remain Catholics in good standing.” However, “Nothing could be further from the truth.'”

Archbishop of St. Louis, Robert Carlson wrote the following in the St. Louis Review:  it is “clear and unambiguous” that Catholics who want to remain in good standing with the Church can’t support abortion….Since the first century, the Church has addressed the moral evil of abortion and the killing of a defenseless baby in the womb…”You cannot be ‘pro-choice’ (pro-abortion) and remain a Catholic in good standing.”

Fr. Roger Landry of Fall River after the funeral of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy wrote in The Anchor about how the bishops’ “educating” policy has not converted any politician or made any politician less pro-abortion: “Jesus spoke of a different way in the Gospel (Mt 18:15-18). It involves not merely general educational statements that we hope offenders will apply to themselves in conscience, but the type of one-on-one instruction traditionally called fraternal correction. If that fails, and fails repeatedly, Jesus enjoined us to regard the offender as someone who no longer belongs to the community, who is no longer a member in good standing.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, in a 2007 interview with the Boston Globe: acknowledging that Catholic voters in Massachusetts generally support Democratic candidates who are in favor of abortion rights, O’Malley said, “I think that, at times, it borders on scandal as far as I’m concerned.”


Now, here are some objective facts which are not in dispute. In other words, regardless of ideology, we believe that no one can disagree with these pieces of information:

  1. Jack was chair of the “sham search” to select a new Secretary of Development for the Archdiocese of Boston–announced to every Catholic in the archdiocese with great fanfare in June of 2010–while Jack, Chancellor Jim McDonough and others closely involved knew knew before the committee was formed that Kathleen Driscoll was slotted for the job.  There was never the intention to conduct an open search. Committee members were told they were selecting a new person, but the committee never met to interview candidates, no ads were ever placed in philanthropic journals to try and find the best candidate, and the committee was told in October of 2010 that their services were no longer needed since Kathleen had been chosen independent of them. BCI detailed the situation in multiple posts, including “Diocesan Deception and Coverup?” and “Diocesan Deception and Coverup: The Archdiocesan Response.” We repeatedly asked the archdiocese to respond to the issue of the sham search and they never did. [Issue: Integrity]
  2. Jack is Chairman of Partners Healthcare, whose Brigham and Women’s Hospital profits from performing 4,300 abortions every year (3,600 first-trimester and 570 second-trimester).  The only data we can readily find on number of abortions per state  annually (which is likely incomplete), suggests Brigham and Women’s handles about 18% of the 24,128 abortions performed annually in Massachusetts. [Issue: Catholic in good standing]
  3. Jack was the Co-Chair of the 2004 Democratic National Convention that nominated Sen. John Kerry for president. Sen. Kerry is pro-abortion in his voting record. [Issue: Catholic in good standing]
  4. Jack publicly endorsed Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate. Martha Coakely is pro-abortion in her political record. In a January 2010 radio interview, when asked about conscience rights and religious freedom for Catholic healthcare workers who believe what the Pope teaches, Coakley responded, “You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.” [Issue: Catholic in good standing]


So now we return to the Connors Conundrum.

To be a member of the Finance Council, someone must be “outstanding in integrity” and a “Catholic in good standing.”  We make no judgment calls on Jack Connors’ character, motivations, political views or the state of his heart and soul.  We simply look at the factual information–words and actions that can be objectively observed, and pose a question.

Based on the guidelines for membership on the Archdiocese of Boston Finance Council, has Jack Connors, Jr.–by virtue of his public actions and advocacy for certain politicians–objectively disqualified himself from membership on the Finance Council?

Since the archdiocese is doing a survey to get input on the “relegation to profane status” of closed church buildings, we thought it would be timely for us to do a survey on the Jack Connors Conundrum.  Here is the one question:

We will keep the poll open through the weekend until Monday, so let other friends and family members know.  Only one vote per person.

What do you think?  Please keep any comments to just the topic of this post and free from personal attacks.

Changing of the Guard

February 23, 2011

The story in the Boston Globe on Tuesday about how the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute is losing its leader, Peter Meade, brought to mind a number of questions.  The most important of them concerns leadership transitions here in the Boston archdiocese.

First, and foremost, what IS happening with the status of Chancellor Jim McDonough? He is just a few months away from the expiration of his 5-year term.  Morale on his team is low and turnover has been high. When the previous chancellor, David Smith was going to retire effective July 2006, the archdiocese announced his retirement January 10, 2006, six months in advance (“Chancellor David Smith to retire“).  A search committee had been formed in December 2005–seven months before he was going to leave.  It took about five months for the search committee to select Jim McDonough, who was announced as the new chancellor on June 5, 2006. (“New chancellor appointed.”).  With the current chancellor’s 5-year term up in June, if they are going to search for a new chancellor, that search needs to be underway already.  What exactly are they waiting for?

We brought up the issue of the Chancellor search more than a month ago, in our January 18 post, “New Vicar General? New Chancellor?” In that post, we said the following about the search process, which still holds true today:

Can Boston construct a truly competent search committee for any key job, free of blatant conflicts of interest? Sufficient concerns about the current Chancellor lead us to offer guidance towards what we believe should be an open, independent search for a successor to him. Assuming such a search is undertaken, who should lead it?  Is there anyone within the Archdiocese who can articulate what the Chancellor’s job really is, and also guide the search?  Are the halls, offices, and cubicles of 66 Brooks Drive devoid of good minds with clear thought and a moral compass?  Who might have a reputation for independence and integrity?  Who has not been called-out for deception, excessive compensation, or conflicts of interest on this blog?  BCI challenges Cardinal O’Malley to think of just one person who is wise and above reproach.  We invite the Cardinal to think of one person who could direct a conversation and search process to yield a truly independent chancellor–one who seeks only the long-term best interest of the Catholic Church in Boston–and no other individual or institution.  Who can help put Boston on the straight and narrow path canonically, ethically and legally, and keep us there?

We outlined our suggestion for how to conduct the search, and by means of contrast, let us look back five years ago to April 2006 at the last time they filled this position and see what Cardinal O’Malley told the Boston Globe he was looking for in a chancellor at that time:

Ann Carter, who’s here, is on the search committee for chancellor. I told them my preference for chancellor would be a religious woman. I don’t know whether they’ve been able to come up with someone. When I was a bishop before I had a religious woman as a chancellor. It was a wonderful fit, it was a way of holding up this vocation in the church, which, unfortunately is being greatly diminished. But we are a church of great diversity and we’d like to see that…

Well the first question I ask is, “Do you smoke?” (Laughter). It’s a whole range of things, certainly. Certainly their experience, their ability to work with people, their outlook, their energy, their capacity to work, their capacity to work with people, their love for the church. I don’t want people who see this simply as a job. I’m looking for people who have a sense of mission, that they really want to do this because they love the church and they want to further Christ’s mission.

Notwithstanding the inherent conflict of interest of having Ann Carter, CEO of the PR vendor paid by the archdiocese on the search committee, and  notwithstanding the fact that Ms. Carter was a Board member at Abington Bank when Jim McDonough was CEO of the bank and Ms. Carter made more than $400K in profit from her Abington Bank stock, and notwithstanding the “coincidence” that McDonough just so happened to have been chosen from among all other candidates, it is not clear to BCI and a lot of other people whether the current Chancellor even fits the bill of doing this job for the reason given by the Cardinal in the last sentence above.  Beyond the deception, corruption, ethical breaches, propagation of excessive six-figure salaries, sham searches, brain-drain, and conflicts of interest we have documented (which, coincidentally, have occurred over much of the past 5 years), objectively, McDonough is also a multi-millionaire who “didn’t need the job” or money, working for a church in desperate financial condition where every dollar matters.  So, if he really wanted to further Christ’s mission, why has he insisted on collecting $1.25M in salary over the past 5 years that could have better been used to advance the mission of the Church?

With even more long-time Pastoral Center staff dusting off their resumes and seeking jobs outside of the archdiocese because of the current regime , why are they waiting so long to let people know the status of the Chancellor?  Are they waiting for the 2010 annual report to be released some time in the next few weeks (Terry and Ann, how is the press release coming along?), and then, with a supposedly balanced budget they will share if he is staying or going?  Has the Presbyteral Council been consulted about whether his term should be renewed? Is the Cardinal first waiting to figure out who the new Vicar General will be? Or, are they hoping John Straub, the new Executive Director of Finance–who, coincidentally, came into his six-figure-salaried job without an open search–will take over?

We were in a similar place in 2006, when Cardinal O’Malley replaced a big chunk of his leadership team, bringing in a new Vicar General (replacing Bishop Lennon with Fr. Erikson), Chancellor (replacing David Smith with Jim McDonough), Secretary for Institutional Advancement (replacing Kenneth Hokenson with Scot Landry, and subsequently with Kathleen Driscoll),  and Secretary of Education (replacing Sr. Clare Bertero with Mary Grassa O’Neill). Readers of this blog know that the current occupants of these 4 roles have all been the subject of criticism by BCI.

We are already off to a controversial start with a “sham search” bringing in Ms. Driscoll as the new secretary for institutional advancement last November.  Mr. Straub did not arrive via an open search led by someone with a reputation for independence and integrity, who is wise and above reproach.  Will the Cardinal do a better job bringing in a new Vicar General and Chancellor this time around?  For once, can we get someone in the Chancellor role–or separated Chancellor and CFO roles–who came via a truly open, independent search and who seeks only the long-term best interest of the Catholic Church in Boston–and no other individual or institution?  Or are we going to hop out of the frying pan and into the fire–or worse yet, stay in the current frying pan?

Braintree Brain Drain

February 16, 2011

We have told you a lot already about all of the new people with no prior Catholic Church experience hired at excessive six-figure salaries in recent years. At the same time, people who loyally served the archdiocese for a number of years making less than these newcomers continue to head out the door, and the past few weeks are no exception, with key departures in finance, IT, and elsewhere.

Chancellor Jim McDonough already has as part of his legacy, the dubious distinction of driving out experienced employee benefits people with early retirement packages, leaving us with a current team of newcomers who are sufficiently unable to answer basic pension plan benefit questions that employees and retirees come to BCI to ask us if we know the answer to their question.   He also drove out experienced facilities and property management people, replacing them with a person who was a former loan officer at his Abington Bank and who, objectively, knows nothing about property or facilities management. This means projects like the $20 million debacle at St. Cecilia in Boston happen with no qualified archdiocesan oversight, because there simply is no one qualified left on the staff.

It gets worse though. Take a look at the current Pastoral Center job openings, and you will see the evidence of the departures. 

Recently, the highly respected Director of Finance resigned to pursue an opportunity at a private-sector company.  He was well-liked and respected inside the Pastoral Center, was considered bright and capable, had a solid understanding of archdiocesan finance/accounting/reporting, and a decent amount of institutional knowledge that now walks out the door.  He was also an independent thinker (a good thing) and not one of “Jim’s loyalists,” vs, say, Carol Gustavson, who is so loyal to Jim that it does not matter if she neglects serving employees or builds distrust by doing things like monitoring their emails.  (We digress). 

Anyway, back on topic–the departure of the Director of Finance will be a tremendous loss.  You can find the job listing for his position, posted Feb. 14, here.

Then there was the recent resignation of the guy in IT who supervised the data center.  His position is also posted here.  The resignation of this IT manager follows the resignation last summer of the previous Director of IT, whose open position is also posted here.

Why all the departures?  Could it have something to do with the overall management and leadership problems, ethical issues, deception, sham searches, six-figure salaries, and breaches of fiduciary responsibility BCI has been chronicling?  Or are there other factors contributing to the low morale at 66 Brooks Drive lately?  The arrival in January of the new Executive Director of Finance, John Straub, an outsider and Jim McDonough’s apparent #2 in command, apparently did not help morale in that department.  We do know that  the very courteous Mr. Straub is attending lots of meetings these days that Jim McDonough used to attend but is no longer attending.  Is Jim spreading his wings and taking on new things, or is he preparing for a graceful exit soon?

Looks like the administrative assistant in the Vicar General’s office has also left her position, since that job is posted here too.  She was a sharp, responsive person from when she was working with the Catholic Appeal/Catholic Foundation, then transferred to the office of the Vicar General, and has now taken a different position at the Pastoral Center.  (The expression “out of the frying pan and into the fire” comes immediately to mind).  Seems to be yet another sign that the current Vicar General is on his way out the door soon.

These open job listings do not count people like priests who serve as aides to the Cardinal and Vicar General who we hear, coincidentally, have also expressed interest in getting out of the Pastoral Center and back to parishes.

Of course, the 15-person team over at Boston Catholic Development Services–you know, the ones who have not yet announced how they did on the Catholic Schools Campaign that ended in 2010 or how they did with the Catholic Appeal–is hiring.  Yes folks, the department that offers good jobs at good wages is looking for an events manager (a responsibility that used to be handled by the smaller team that the Chancellor pushed out) and a temporary gift processor to help process all the donations they are unable to yet announce to the rest of us.

It remains unclear to us if Mr. Straub is the heir-apparent to the Chancellor, and BCI feels it would be yet another terrible mistake to not undertake a full open search for a new Chancellor. Here is how reader “Clem” recently described to us a view of Chancellor McDonough’s legacy:

“Chancellor McDonough’s legacy will be one of  lame-brained and unnecessary housecleaning of experienced staff,  ill-conceived construction cost controls, and a “hack-a-rama”  nest of under-qualified and overpaid cronies….

“Insanity” means doing the same thing over and over again, somehow expecting a different result.  How much longer must the Braintree “brain drain” continue before someone wakes up and realizes they need to do things differently–and takes decisive action to turn the ship?

New Vicar General? New Chancellor?

January 18, 2011

In follow-up of our most recent post, Musings on the Future of the Archdicoese of Boston: Episcopal Leadership, while we are on the topic of leadership, we thought we would take the discussion a step further today.

First, if you have not yet read the episcopal leadership post, that would be a good foundation before reading this post.

As mentioned previously, rumors have been making the rounds for a while that the Vicar General plans to go back to full-time service in the Air Force this spring.  And if the current Chancellor does not continue on after his 5-year term expires expires in June, that key position will also be filled with someone new. The combination of two open positions in such key roles presents an opportunity to either fix some significant problems and “right the ship” by filling the positions with outstanding Catholic leaders well-suited to these roles, or to send the proverbial archdiocesan cruise ship at an even faster speed ahead into an iceberg quicker than you can say the word, “Titanic.”

There is much to say about the topic of how to fill these key roles and how to fix the current dysfunctional management.  Apparently unique in large archdioceses as best as we can tell, Cardinal O’Malley allowed what has been in Boston a combined Chancellor/CFO role (most are separate roles) to also maneuver a reporting relationship direct to the Cardinal and become more like a COO or CEO.  That, combined with a Vicar General today whose expertise is in grief counseling and who is better suited to pastoral ministry than strong-willed leadership amidst the Boston political hornets-net, leaves us with a leadership vacuum where the Vicar General who should be the #2 in command is largely a figurehead–or even worse, at times more like puppet manipulated by other power-hungry cabinet members and advisors.

How should the Cardinal go about fixing the broken and dysfunctional organizational structure he has allowed to exist in Boston that plays to his own weaknesses and is contributing to our current problems and trajectory?   We offer brief thoughts on both the structural issues and the key issue of how to conduct the searches.

Organizational Structure Issues

This merits a post or two alone, so this is just dipping a toe in the water.  As one example, should the Chancellor be a priest or a lay-person?  In the Code of Canon Law, here is the high-level overview of the job:

Can. 482 §1. In every curia a chancellor is to be appointed whose principal function, unless particular law establishes otherwise, is to take care that acts of the curia are gathered, arranged, and safeguarded in the archive of the curia.

The Chancellor role is often filled by a priest or religious with knowledge and expertise in both Canon Law and in organizational management.  But it is also often filled by a layperson.  Should the position of “Chancellor” be combined with the equivalent of a “Chief Financial Officer” role as has been the case here in Boston, with broad responsibilities over budget, financial reporting, cash management, investments, risk management, MIS, benefits, human resources, cemeteries, real estate and facilities?  Or should they be separate roles, as is the organizational model in other large archdioceses (e.g. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit) where there is a Chancellor with organizational management responsibilities reporting to the Vicar General, and often a separate CFO or Director of Finance who also reports to the Vicar General?  This is just food for thought.

But, before anyone even attempts to tackle those questions, we think the question of how to conduct a search needs to be asked.

How to Conduct a Search

BCI has covered, perhaps ad nauseum, the “sham searches” that have become literally an art and science here in the Boston archdiocese–starting with the Secretary for Communications, through the Chancellor, Superintendent of Schools, Cardinal’s office manager, and the new Secretary for Institutional Advancement–the “mother of all sham searches.”  There are even more, but we will leave it with these for now.

Can Boston construct a truly competent search committee for any key job, free of blatant conflicts of interest? Sufficient concerns about the current Chancellor lead us to offer guidance towards what we believe should be an open, independent search for a successor to him. Assuming such a search is undertaken, who should lead it?  Is there anyone within the Archdiocese who can articulate what the Chancellor’s job really is, and also guide the search?  Are the halls, offices, and cubicles of 66 Brooks Drive devoid of good minds with clear thought and a moral compass?  Who might have a reputation for independence and integrity?  Who has not been called-out for deception, excessive compensation, or conflicts of interest on this blog?  BCI challenges Cardinal O’Malley to think of just one person who is wise and above reproach.  We invite the Cardinal to think of one person who could direct a conversation and search process to yield a truly independent chancellor…one who seeks only the long-term best interest of the Catholic Church in Boston–and no other individual or institution.  Who can help put Boston on the straight and narrow path canonically, ethically and legally, and keep us there?

Besides the possible search for a new chancellor, what will the profile of the next Vicar General look like? Will the Cardinal appoint a strong Vicar General with backbone, like Bishop Lennon, who would simply not tolerate the nonsense, corruption, political scheming and breaches of fiduciary responsibility that have transpired under the reign of certain people in the Chancellor’s Suite on the 4th floor, as well as those who advise and influence them? Given that neither the Cardinal nor the current Vicar General had any experience as a pastor or had substantial training or experience in financial or business management, will previous experience as a pastor or experience in a significant leadership/management role be important to look for in a new Vicar General?

Those expert in studying and understanding traits of outstanding leaders say the common attributes include Integrity, Dedication, Magnanimity, Humility, Openness, and Creativity.  How will Cardinal O’Malley find these attributes in the right combination–and others such as skill in dealing with confrontation and conflict to make up for his weaknesses–for what could be the two most critical roles he fills in the next few months?  Getting the right person(s) on the ship–and the wrong people off the ship–could make a huge difference in the next stage of the voyage and the future of the Archdiocese of Boston.

The Archdiocese of Boston is in desperate need of strong leadership. Priests and laity of this archdiocese need the Cardinal to aim for a better fit with Boston’s current requirements  in filling these crucial roles than the individuals we have today in those positions.  We pray that when the Cardinal enlists assistance in the search(es), he turns to someone to lead either or both searches who is smart, a clear thinker, is known for integrity, is free from conflicts of interest, is faithful to the teachings of the Church, and who seeks only the long-term best interest of the Catholic Church in Boston.

This is the time to think “outside the box.”  Can Cardinal O’Malley do this?  Will he at long last right the ship with at least the filling of these key leadership roles, or will we keep heading towards an iceberg with more of the same for the next five years?

Boston Globe Gets it Wrong…Again

January 15, 2011

NOTE: The blog post originally published at 9:30am has been updated as of 12pm today.

We will have more for you on the new Catholic Schools policy in a separate post.  But in case you saw the headline in today’s Boston Globe about the appointment of Fr. Christopher Coyne to an episcopal position in Indianapolis, we wanted to let you know the Globe got the news wrong, yet again.  That is, they got it wrong until BCI corrected them.

First, let it be said that the blog thinks Fr. Chris Coyne is a fine priest, and we congratulate him on his appointment as auxiliary bishop of Indianapolis. He will also be Vicar General, which is effectively the #2 leadership/administrative position–at least it is in basically every other diocese in the country (except Boston today).  That he was appointed to be auxiliary bishop of Indianapolis seems rather clear from the Vatican announcement and the article in The Pilot, whose headline reads, Pope names Father Christopher Coyne auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”  It also is extremely clear from this article published yesterday afternoon in the Indianapolis Star whose headline reads, Indianapolis archbishop introduces new second-in-command and says,

“Coyne’s main mission will simply be to help Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein carry out his duties. He will carry the load of the sacramental duties — like priest ordinations and confirmations — the archbishop typically performs in the large archdiocese that covers 14,000 square miles in 39 counties. Coyne also assumes the role of vicar general, which essentially is the No. 2 administrative post.  Buechlein, who turns 73 in April, has been on a reduced schedule since 2008, when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes. That cancer is now in remission, church spokesman Greg Otolski said Thursday.

Today’s appointment came with no guarantee that Coyne could become archbishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis…Buechlein said he asked the pope for a co-adjutor, or assistant, but he chose to designate an auxiliary bishop.”

Yet despite that clarity, the headline of today’s Boston Globe article in the print edition reads, “Coyne to lead Indianapolis Archdiocese.”  It read the same way online as of 9:30am when we put out our post criticizing their mistake.  Keep reading to see the before and after.

That is simply inaccurate.  The photo caption says, “The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne listened yesterday as Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis announced his retirement.”  That is wrong–Archbishop Buechlein did not announce his retirement at all.  The title tag on the page (in the blue bar at the very top of the browser) says, “Spokesman for Cardinal Law to lead Indianapolis Catholics.”  That is wrong too.

Note the Indy Star headline for comparison:

Might auxiliary bishop-designate Coyne be well-positioned to become the bishop of Indianapolis in the future when the current archbishop of Indianapolis retires?  Sure.  But that is not assured, and he was simply appointed auxiliary bishop at this time.  Often times, the people who write the articles (e.g. Lisa Wangsness at the Globe, in this case) are not the same people who write the headlines, so we do not fault the reporter.  But we felt we should let you know about the error, because if we or our readers tell the Globe about the error, they are not likely to listen to us.

12pm UPDATE: Well, the Globe did listen to us in this case!  The headline of the article and photo caption are now changed as you can see below.

This shows that at least in this case, when the Globe sees something is objectively wrong, they are able to report the truth.

This brings us to three other related points.

First about the Boston Globe.  For some reason, the Globe seems to be totally ignoring the Boston Catholic Insider blog these past few months (except this morning!) and the breaches of fiscal responsibility and corruption we keep reporting on. In previous years and in other metropolitan areas, if there were serious allegations of corruption or breaches of fiscal responsibility like this, it would merit an investigation and probably be headline news, like the cronyism and misconduct in the Massachusetts Probation Department have been here lately.  Not the case with the corruption in the Archdiocese of Boston.  Seems as though the Globe must get exclusive rights or first access to the pablum handed out by Terry Donilon and Jack Connors–about the Catholic schools (fund-raising, increasing appeal to non-Catholics, the new Catholic Schools non-discrimination policy) or the personal good works of the Cardinal (e.g. visit to Pine Street Inn, visit to a prison), or the “dialogue” with the vigil parishes–and in exchange, the Globe simply will keep their heads in the sand and not write about the fiscal mismanagement, breaches of fiduciary responsibility, conflicts of interest, and other corruption that squander millions of dollars in donor contributions and could result in government sanctions some day.  If it makes Terry, Jack or the current leadership of the archdiocese look bad, the Globe is simply not likely to report on it today.

Secondly, this news about Fr. Chris Coyne being appointed auxiliary bishop/Vicar General/#2 in Indianapolis should cause everyone to ask about what is happening with the leadership in Boston.  Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson is rumored to be heading back to full-time duty with the Air Force within a few months.  What attributes should the Cardinal look for in his next Vicar General?  What is happening with the future of the Chancellor? That will be the topic for a different post.

Thirdly, it is noteworthy that when the Archbishop of Indianapolis felt that he could not lead effectively, he asked the pope for help.  And the pope responded.  Food for thought..

We will have more about the Catholic Schools policy in our next post.

In the meantime, we extend our heartiest congratulations to Fr. Chris Coyne on his elevation to auxiliary bishop.  Here is a 2-minute video clip of the introduction of Fr. Coyne in Indianapolis we thought you would find of interest. The loss for Boston is a gain for Indianapolis.  We hear he has been an outstanding pastor at St. Margaret Mary in Westwood and we wish him well in his new assignment.

Tone-Deaf Cardinal?

January 4, 2011

We have no other way to start this post than with that title.

The following email was sent out yesterday by Catholic Schools superintendent, Mary Grassa O’Neill, inviting pastors, school principals, and heads of schools to their annual Catholic Schools convocation.  For the single annual convocation of the leaders of the Catholic Schools in the archdiocese, Cardinal O’Malley chose as the speaker none other than Fr. Bryan Hehir.  His topic: ““Catholic Identity: Its Roots and Realization in our Schools.”  The Cardinal might just as well have chosen Jack Connors.  Maybe Jack was invited and was busy, so they went with Fr. Hehir instead.

High-order message to you–we suggest priests stay away, we suggest school principals stay away, and we suggest parents of school children ask their pastors and school principals to stay away.

The archdiocese has thousands of experienced school leaders (whose retirement pensions are frozen), auxiliary bishops, seminary rectors, hundreds of priests, and an archbishop.  Most of these people know a fair amount if not a huge amount about Catholic elementary school and high school education.  Yet the one person Cardinal O’Malley wants to lecture the leaders of Catholic schools is Fr. Bryan Hehir–who has no experience with elementary school or high school Catholic education and whose record of clarity with respect to “Catholic identities” is extremely murky.

Last we checked, Fr. Hehir was the one behind the fiasco back on 2005 of honoring the pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage Mayor Menino of Boston at a Catholic Charities fund-raiser, in violation of USCCB guidelines that said very clearly that Catholic politicians who oppose the church were not to be honored publicly. How does this qualify him to talk about “Catholic identity”?  If anything, it should DIS-QUALIFY him.  Fr. Hehir’s far-fetched explanation was that despite dozens and dozens of articles in the mainstream media that made it clear that Menino opposed the Church on these key matters (including his leading the Gay Pride parade and welcoming 99 gay couples to City Hall on the first day when they could “marry”), Hehir and the Catholic Charities staff were somehow obliviously unaware Menino opposed the Church on abortion and gay marriage. Here is what the Bryan Hehir Exposed blog had to say about the matter last year:

Was Fr. Bryan Hehir really asking the Archbishop and Catholics of Boston to believe that he was not aware of the statements against Church policy from the mayor?  Is this the same Fr. Bryan Hehir, who received a “genius” MacArthur fellowship?  Is this the same Fr. Bryan Hehir who was called “a brilliant, brilliant student of politics–especially the geopolitical scene” by the former general secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference ?  Is this the same Fr. Hehir who Cardinal Sean recently recognized as highly trusted “strategic advisor” who brings “fidelity to the work of the Church” and ”clarity to our message and mission”?  Fr. Hehir’s claim that he and his staff were unaware of Menino’s history is troubling and difficult to believe.  If Bryan Hehir was somehow naively unaware of Mayor Menino’s opposition to the Catholic Church on a host of issues, then Fr. Hehir bears responsibility for his own negligence and has no business being Cabinet Secretary of anything in this archdiocese.  And if he was aware but lied to the archbishop and presbyterate of Boston, then he should have been fired then and should still be fired now because this strongly suggests that what he says and does simply cannot be trusted–let alone trusted to align with Church teachings.

This is not just a one-off. Fr. Hehir was also right up there keynoting the Catholic Healthcare Association’s annual conference praising their leadership after the CHA opposed the USCCB and Catholic bishops on Obamacare.  Fr. Hehir is now the person to speak about Catholic identity in Catholic Schools?  Puleeze!

One can only surmise one of two things about this situation:

  1. Cardinal O’Malley genuinely wants to take the archdicoese in a direction aligned with the ideologies of Jack Connors (who chairs Partners Healthcare, a large abortion provider in the state) and Fr. Bryan Hehir (who has no problem honoring people who publicly work against Church teachings), or
  2. Cardinal O’Malley is remarkably tone-deaf to the concerns of the laity and priests of the archdiocese

Either scenario is not encouraging.

Below is the letter from the schools superintendent:

From the Desk of Mary Grassa O’Neill

January 3, 2010

Dear Principals, Pastors, and Heads of Schools:

Cardinal Seán O’Malley and I look forward to seeing you at our Convocation and Celebration of Education.  The event will take place at the Pastoral Center on Thursday, January 6th, 2011 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. This annual celebration always has drawn together nearly all our school leaders. We hope that you will take the opportunity to join your fellow Catholic school leaders on Thursday.

We will open with a prayer and remarks from Cardinal Seán.   Our featured speaker will be Fr. J. Bryan Hehir, who will discuss “Catholic Identity: Its Roots and Realization in our Schools.”  Lastly, I will provide a multi-media overview of our shared achievements and challenges this past year and our priorities for the future.  We will close with a reception and refreshment.

We would like to continue our tradition of honoring those schools that are celebrating landmark anniversaries. If you would like your school to be recognized, please share your information with Christina Sorgi (617-779-3614 or  so that we can recognize you on Thursday.

We look forward to this celebration of our school community and your unflagging spirit, strength, and leadership that make it all possible.  If you have not yet RSVP’d for Thursday, please let Christina Sorgi know as soon as possible (617-779-3614 or

Happy New Year!

Mary Grassa O’Neill

Time: Tuesday January 4, 2011 at 10:10 am

If you are the parent of Catholic school children, please tell your pastor and school principal you want them to at minimum intentionally miss Fr. Hehir’s talk. If you are a priest, we suggest reading your breviary or making phone calls during this time.

We do not want to open a debate on doctrine here.  Objectively, Fr. Hehir has no experience with Catholic elementary and high school education while other vastly more qualified have been passed over for the speaking slot, and his track record when it comes to Catholic identity is sufficiently controversial that he clearly is not the model speaker on the topic.

Many signs of modest encouragement we saw about potential progress in this archdiocese have now gone out the window. So has our patience.

ps. Mary, while you’ve got everyone together, will you, Fr. Hehir, or the Cardinal specifically be talking about your efforts to restore Catholic identity at Sacred Heart High School in Kingston, in the face of the articles about atheism and gay students “coming out” in the school newspaper?  Concerned parents down there have been waiting 4 months for action.

%d bloggers like this: