Ad Limina Ad Lib

October 23, 2011

As most BCI readers are no doubt aware, about every five years, the ordinary of a diocese needs to report to the Holy Father an account of the state of his diocese in what is called an “ad limina” visit.  That is taking place in early November for the Boston Archdiocese. This is one in what will be a series of posts offering ideas on what we hope will be discussed about Boston.

The “ad limina” practice started in 1911 during the pontificate of Pope Pius X.  These meetings take place in Rome with a variety of Vatican officials, and used to include one-on-one time with the Holy Father.  But maintaining the pace of these visits every 5 years slowed down considerably in recent years due to the declining health of the late Pope John Paul II, and the format has changed due to the increased number of bishops who would have to meet with the Holy Father. The new format is described in this Catholic News Service article:

In place of one-on-one meetings, the pope now usually holds more freewheeling sessions with groups of 7-10 bishops at a time, lasting about an hour. That is expected to be the format for U.S. bishops when they begin their “ad limina” visits in early November.

The ad limina visit for Cardinal Sean O’Malley and other Boston officials to review the state of the Boston Archdiocese is taking place in the timeframe of November 1-12.  In an ideal world, the Boston Archdiocese would be functioning so well that people (or blogs like BCI) would not feel a need to offer input and ideas at all.  But as we all know, this is not an ideal world in Boston.

It occurs to BCI that readers frustrated with the lack of responsiveness of the Boston Archdiocese to issues of importance to Catholic faithful  might wish to have some way of sending input to Cardinal O’Malley and various Vatican offices asking those officials to bring certain topics up with the Cardinal that are being neglected.  Those offices and officials include:

  • Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet
  • Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Archbishop Mauro Piacenza
  • Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada
  • Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Raymond Burke

There are ways to send a free fax overseas that we are investigating.  In the meantime, BCI thought we would start a running list of topics that we wish the Cardinal and Vicar General would address (for the benefit of the future of the Boston Archdiocese) and that the Vatican would address with the Cardinal, because frankly, we do not see much progress happening in these areas. Here are our first 3 topics:

  1. Teaching: The key responsibilities of the bishop are to teach, sanctify, and govern.  However he wishes to do it, the Archbishop of Boston should use the pulpit, The Pilot, Catholic TV, his blog, pastoral letters to the faithful and/or other mediums to teach on a regular basis.  This is not happening today.Maybe it is a written excerpt from the Cardinal’s homiletic preaching on the Sunday Mass readings, a message about the new liturgical texts, or clear statements about Catholic teachings and the intersection with the public square on faith and morals. It just should happen regularly and in an unambiguous, visible way.  

    As one reader said several months ago, “Give priority to teaching the fullness of the Catholic faith, even on the tough issues. I was so saddened to see you at Ted Kennedy’s funeral standing on the sidelines and not giving any witness at all to the Church’s teaching on life. Kennedy was an ardent supporter of abortion legislation throughout his Senate career. To me it was a terrible scandal that the impression was given that a politician can work with all his might to promote the “culture of death,” as Pope John Paul termed it, and then receive accolades as if he was some kind of saint.”   Those who complained about what happened were criticized by the Cardinal.

    The bungled PR and handling by the archdiocese of the recent situation at St. Cecilia in Boston is another example of confusing and muddled teaching from the office of the ordinary.Yet another example is the continued engagement in Church governance of Finance Council member, Jack Connors, who chairs the Partners hospital network (one of the leading abortion providers in Massachusetts) and who publicly fund-raises for pro-abortion political candidates.  As we all know, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, in a 2007 interview with the Boston Globe, acknowledged that Catholic voters in Massachusetts generally support Democratic candidates who are in favor of abortion rights, and said, “I think that, at times, it borders on scandal as far as I’m concerned.”  How is it that what bordered on scandal in 2007 is somehow not scandal in 2011?

    The failure of anyone from archdiocesan leadership to teach about the public sin by the “vigil” protesters in failing to fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation should be equally troubling. Has anyone heard the Archbishop of Boston or his spokesman, Terry Donilon, mention this concern and the state of mortal sin incurred by those who do not attend Sunday Mass?   A Catholic who (a) is able to attend Sunday Mass (i.e., who is not impeded by illness, lack of transportation, etc.), (b) knows the seriousness of this requirement, and (c) nonetheless freely chooses to miss Mass, thereby commits a mortal sin (cf. Catechism, no. 2181).  There is no indication that those attending “Communion services” in the closed parishes are also attending Mass elsewhere on Sundays.  Leaders of these protest vigils have urged other to do they same, which also creates the scandal of leading others to commit mortal sin. They have broken communion with their bishop and with the Vatican. Beyond the millions of dollars the protest vigils have cost Catholics across the archdiocese, after seven years, one would think that someone from the archdiocese would make a point of reminding all Catholics and teaching vigil leaders privately and publicly that they are harming their own souls and those of others by not attending Sunday Mass.  Nope.

  2. Excesive Six-Figure Salaries for Lay Executives: If we have said it once, we have said it a hundred times. It is costing the Catholic faithful in Boston nearly $1M in salary and benefits alone for 3 employees–all millionaires and late-career executives retired from their previous 25+ year careers. Mary Grassa O’Neill, superintendent of schools is paid a salary of $325K/year,  Jim McDonough, Chancellor, is paid $250K/year, and Beirne Lovely, general counsel is paid $300K/year.Add to this their benefits and the $180K-$280K+ paid in salaries and benefits to just 7 other lay executives–the Associate Superintendent of Schools, Communications Secretary, Secretary for Catholic Media, Secretary for Institutional Advancement, 2 VPs of Development, Executive Director of Finance and Administration–and you get about $2.7M or more in compensation and benefits for 10 employees. No other archdioceses pay at these levels, and their salaries cannot be justified under the premise of attracting the “best and brighest” because in many cases, independent searches free from conflicts of interest were never conducted, as previously documented at BCI.This blog has outlined many times how the archdiocese can cut $500K-$1 million or more in unnecessary expense from those salaries by capping lay compensation at $150K/year, so those funds can be freed for ministries and advancing the main mission of the Church in Boston.
    The only action taken to date to address these concerns has been formation of a Finance Council “Compensation Committee,” comprised mostly of wealthy multi-millionaire business executives. The committee is supposedly spending precious donor funds to do a study whose results will be released in 2012.

    Action this year should be a high priority for the Archbishop of Boston and the Vicar General, instead of what appears to be a back-burner effort by outside consultants and wealthy Finance Council members.

  3. Pastoral Leadership and Support for Priests: The Cardinal’s blog continues to chronicle an extensive amount of travel outside of Boston. If the Archbishop of Boston cuts his travel schedule outside of Boston and focuses instead on governance in Boston, some of that time savings could instead be put towards meeting one-on-one with 4 priests a week for 30 minutes each to listen to and respond to their needs and concerns. This is not the same as the group meetings we hear about with seminarians and recently-ordained priests, or group outings with senior priests at Regina Cleri to the circus or Fenway Park, but would apply to ALL priests. Via these one-on-one meetings, in a years’ time, he will have met with 200 priests and in two years, it will be 400 priests interacting with their bishop as pastor and shepherd of priests, not just a ceremonial figure traveling around the world participating in photo opps.
    Abiding by established diocesan guidelines for how pastors are appointed would also be an excellent idea to improve presbyteral morale, instead of allowing situations such as the recent circumventing of the normal process and direct appointment by the Cardinal of the pastor to St. Catherine’s in Norwood without the normal pastoral consultation. (By the way, the Vicar General should make his way down to Norwood some time to chat with the Parish Council members about all of the changes being made unilaterally by the new pastor without any consultation to the Parish Council, but that is a topic for another time. We digress…).

This is just one in our series to get started.  Yes, we know we need to also highlight issues such as:

  • Funding for the clergy retirement fund
  • Funding for lay employee pensions
  • The need for ongoing investment in evangelization and a higher priority placed on this area, including adult faith formation (not just RENEW), campus ministry, and other areas.
  • The mixing and mingling of funds from different archdiocesan entities to balance the budget
  • Parish pastoral planning
  • Catholic schools identity and mission
  • Selection of the right advisors and Cabinet leadership team, and need to move out other advisors
  • Fundraising, including the increasingly top-heavy and expensive fund-raising organization

Our intent with this is to help Cardinal O’Malley and Vicar General Msgr. Deeley better understand the seriousness of the concerns by Catholic faithful about the future of the Boston Archdiocese. Many people have raised these concerns privately for some time, and since there was no response, BCI has been raising them publicly for sixteen months. Still, there has been little reaction by the archdiocese except for criticism of this blog and attempts to determine who is writing, contributing to, or commenting on the blog, so the blog can be pressured to cease and desist.

Could someone from the archdiocese acknowledge the above concerns and let us know what you are doing about them? Or are the folks at 66 Brooks still in a sufficient state of denial that we should we ask Catholic faithful to start a letter-writing campaign to Rome?

What do you think?

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