Boston Diocesean Deception on Survey

December 6, 2015

In our last post, we criticized the Boston Archdiocese for spending in excess of $100K to survey mostly non-church-going Catholics about their views on the Catholic Church and Catholic faith. By coincidence, the day after BCI posted our criticism, Terry Donilon, Secretary for Communications, sent out an email to all priests in the archdiocese explaining the background on the survey.  Here is his email, and then the BCI analysis of the deception follows:

From: “Donilon, Terry”
Date: 12/03/2015 11:37 AM (GMT-05:00)
To:
Subject: Background on Survey Effort

Dear Monsignor/Father,

During the course of the past year, the Archdiocese of Boston has been planning to gain a broader understanding of what is in the hearts and on the minds of Catholics. The reason for this effort is we believe that we should be in an ongoing conversation with our people. Recently we convened a series of focus groups and conducted a survey of 1,600 respondents from across the Archdiocese. This effort involves surveying practicing Catholics and those who have fallen away from the Church.

In 2012, the Archdiocese was a member of a coalition which defeated the physician assisted suicide ballot initiative in the Commonwealth. In conducting research at that time we gathered valuable information about the thoughts and concerns of Catholics on a wide range of issues statewide. The current effort has been focused specifically on the Archdiocese.

This type of research is a standard practice for other nonprofits, colleges and universities including many Catholic institutions. We have conducted similar surveys on a more informal level from time to time. In the spirit of evangelization our hope is to learn more about the people we serve as well as learn how we can help those who have fallen away from the church to consider rejoining us on their faith journey. The project is not quite completed and there will be an extensive analysis of the information gathered.

We are confident that this initiative will help us to be more engaged with our people, to be better communicators in spreading the beauty of our faith and in helping Catholics grow closer in their relationship with Christ.

Thank you for all you do each and every day in your priestly ministry.

Sincerely Yours,
​Terry Donilon

Where to start?

If the Boston Archdiocese truly wants to better understand what is in the hearts and minds of Catholics, help those who have fallen away from the church consider rejoining the Catholic Church and help Catholics grow closer in their relationship with Christ”, then how can Terry Donilon explain this feedback on the survey provided by “Iwassurveyed” about the design flaws of the survey?

 

First, there were direct questions with multiple choice answers such as strongly disagree, disagree, disagree somewhat, agree, somewhat agree, strongly agree etc. Many questions concerned Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s being chosen for the Pope’s circle of 8 and also as head of the new sex abuse unit at the Vatican. Not one question concerned Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s performance as head of RCAB.. Another question concerned the RCAB handling of sex abuse by clergy TODAY, not in the past. Another question was, “Do you intend to see SPOTLIGHT or have you seen it? “Some questions about contraception, abortion etc.

Not one question concerned RCAB finances; church closures and sales; the new and improved collaboratives; mergers and takeovers, school closings, EVANGELIZATION. WHERE IS IT ANYWAY?

Soooooo, I suggest that the questions were carefully formulated to minimize any real criticism of RCAB and Cardinal. Sean O’Malley. Not many people are going to criticize his participation in circle of 8 or the new sex abuse unit of the Vatican, no matter their feelings on what is happening locally.

There was no opportunity to control the interview. No open ended questions and no opening for you to reformulate the questions into something else. This was as programmed as possible.

We know from the Boston Globe article that questions included, Is your opinion of Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley very favorable, favorable, unfavorable, or very unfavorable? And, “Which best reflects your attitude about abortion? 1) It is morally wrong and should not be legal; 2) It is morally wrong but should be legal; or 3) It is morally acceptable and should be legal.”

So, clearly the Boston Archdiocese has some other motives in the survey besides bringing people back to the Catholic Church, and they are interested in finding out Catholic faithful feel the leadership of the Boston Archdiocese is doing at its main mission–carrying out the saving mission of Jesus Christ.

Not that BCI is supportive of such surveys, but similar surveys done elsewhere have typically reported the following reasons why people stop going to Mass:

  • Liturgies are uninspiring
  • Homilies are uninspiring
  • Parishes are not welcoming
  • Money concerns abound
  • No attention paid to youth and young people
  • Like priests, but they are overworked
  • Runs too much like a business
  • Disagree with one or another of Church’s teachings

So, there is reason to believe that the Boston Archdiocese could save between $100K and 250K by simply using the sort of feedback gotten already from similar surveys. These will likely be the results of the very expensive survey RCAB is taking in 2015 and reporting in 2016. What will be done with this ground-breaking feedback? NOTHING.

 

A reasonable person might also ask why–if a survey was really needed–was there not a comprehensive survey of RCAB done by a group like the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).  If a survey was called for, and we still do not think so, a group like CARA could design surveys for individual groups, and thus get a more specific view of the state of the diocese by separately surveying priests, religious, lay leadership, Mass attendees, fallen away, and youth.

We will repeat and paraphrase what we said in our last post.  Cardinal Sean O’Malley needs to teach with the authority and confidence of a man who knows he has been given the keys to eternal life. Those who reject the immutable truths of the Catholic Faith will put their souls in grave danger. What might we expect from the current survey? The likely answer of what will come: Instead of sound doctrine clearly stated with authority, we are likely to see the Archdiocese pander to those who no longer attend Mass with lukewarm statements, cleverly worded to remain as inoffensive as possible while stating the bare minimum in terms of doctrine. We have already had this over the past 50 years and seen nothing but declining Mass attendance. It certainly is not the way Christendom was built.

We have a flawed survey designed and executed by a consultant who works for political candidates who hate the Catholic Church and work in strident opposition to our teachings. The fact that such a survey is being employed by a prelate whose primary duty is to guard the deposit of Faith delivered to the Saints is capitulation to the spirit of the age.


Boston Archdiocese Spending $100K+ to Survey Apostates

December 2, 2015

According to an article just published in the Boston Globe, the Archdiocese of Boston “has hired a top Democratic consultant to poll Catholics in Eastern Massachusetts – most of whom no longer attend weekly Mass – to find out what they think about thapostatee church and its leaders.”  A random phone survey will be taken  of whomever of 1,600 people want to respond, plus there will be six focus groups of fallen away catholics.   Participants will be asked a series of 90 questions including their views on church teaching such as abortion and contraception as well as their opinion of Cardinal Sean. (Since when are the prelates of the Church of Christ up for a popularity contest?)

While Terry Donilon, the Archdiocesan spokesperson refused to share the cost of the poll, sources tell BCI that the cost was $100K or more. Not only does BCI question the morality of giving church funds to John Martilla, who has served as a strategist for the likes of John Kerry, Joe Biden and Deval Patrick, we also question the purpose for marketing the Bride of Christ. After all, She alone has the words of eternal life.

What exactly does the Archdiocese hope to find by polling baptized Catholics who are no longer attending weekly Mass? The ills that afflict them are the same ills that have caused every apostate since Jesus first began preaching the Gospel to leave the bosom of Holy Mother Church. They leave because they refuse to accept the teaching authority of Christ and His Church. The only remedy for the situation of these unfortunate people is repentance.

As Christ ascended to Heaven, when the Church consisted of only a handful of disciples, Christ commanded the apostles to “Teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them all things whatsoever I commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) “And that penance and remission of sins should be preached in His name.” (Luke 24:47). By Apostolic Succession, this is the mission also for the bishops of today.

Instead of teaching with the authority and confidence of men who know that they have been given the keys to eternal life and that those who reject the immutable truths of the Catholic Faith will put their souls in grave danger, the Archdiocese of Boston plans to invert Christ’s command and in the words of Terry Donilon “learn” from those who do not show respect or reverence for God and His Church.

What might we expect from this inversion? The likely answer is more of the same. Instead of sound doctrine clearly stated with authority, we are likely to see the Archdiocese pander to the godless multitude with lukewarm statements, cleverly worded to remain as inoffensive as possible while stating the bare minimum in terms of doctrine. Only a halfwit could imagine that this will fill the pews again. It certainly is not the way Christendom was built.

Pope Leo XIII clearly condemned this approach in his 1899 encyclical Testem Benevolentiae:

The underlying principle of these new opinions is that, in order the more easily to attract those who differ from her, the Church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity and make some concessions to new opinions. Many think that these concessions should be made not only in regard to ways of living, but even in regard to doctrines which belong to the deposit of the faith. They contend that it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, to omit certain points of her teaching which are of lesser importance, and to tone down the meaning which the Church has always attached to them. It does not need many words, beloved son, to prove the falsity of these ideas if the nature and origin of the doctrine which the Church proposes are recalled to mind. … Let it be far from anyone’s mind to suppress for any reason any doctrine that has been handed down. Such a policy would tend rather to separate Catholics from the Church than to bring in those who differ.”

The mere fact that such a survey is being employed by a prelate whose primary duty is to guard the deposit of Faith delivered to the Saints is capitulation to the spirit of the age.

That the Boston Archdiocese is spending even $1 on such a boneheaded initiative is a travesty and scandal, let alone donor funds at a time when most parishes are operating in the red.  Readers, please take this post, forward it to Terry Donilon (tdonilon@rcab.org), and ask him to cut the Archdiocese’s losses on the survey and stop this waste of time and money.

(This post was contributed by a local Catholic who wishes to remain anonymous)


Cardinal O’Malley: Please Correct Heresy and Discipline Your Priest

September 17, 2015

Msgr. Paul Garrity is at it once again–this time with perhaps his most egregiously heretical public comments ever–published in the official Archdiocesan newspaper, The Boston Pilot. And Cardinal O’Malley and the Boston Archdiocese have been silent about the scandal and done nothing to correct the heresy.

What Garrity wrote in his editorial column, “Synod Needs Your Prayers” is thoroughly BAD. It is so heretical that it needs to be removed from being accessed and he needs to be made to publicly retract and correct his words.  Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute expressed the problems very well in this Open Letter to Cardinal O’Malley.

In his article, Msgr. Garrity directly assaults the indissolubility of marriage.  He said:

“It is ludicrous to assert that divorced couples who have found love and fidelity with new spouses are still recognized by the Church as being married to their former spouses after the passage of many years. It is equally untenable (and disrespectful) to try to convince these happily married couples that, in fact, their relationships are sinful. Moreover, the Church’s current prohibition regarding the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried couples would seem to be at odds with the consistent teaching of the Gospel about love, forgiveness and mercy.

In this one paragraph, Msgr. Garrity heretically denies three teachings of the Catholic Church and then heretically asserts that there is a division between Holy Mother Church’s loving guidance of sinners and the Gospels.

As you know, the Catechism of the Catholic Churchparagraph 2089, defines heresy as “the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same.” Given this definition, it is clear that Msgr. Garrity is proclaiming heresy in the following circumstances:

  1. Monsignor Garrity said, “It is ludicrous to assert that divorced couples … are still recognized by the Church as being married to their former spouse after the passage of many years.” This claim is at complete odds with paragraph 1614 of the Catechism, which expressly states, “The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it ‘what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.'” Given this, divorce cannot actually dissolve a marriage bound by God Himself. Furthermore, when bride and groom take their wedding vows, they promise before God to be faithful to their spouses “until death,” so the caveat provided by Msgr. Garrity of “the passage of many years” likewise cannot dissolve a marriage. In light of the definition of heresy provided by Holy Mother Church, the only conclusion can be that Msgr. Garrity preached a heretical principle in your publication.
  2. Monsignor Garrity said, “It is equally untenable (and disrespectful) to try to convince these happily married couples that, in fact, their relationships are sinful.” Our Blessed Lord said, according to Mark, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11–12). In order for Msgr. Garrity to maintain this position, he must also blaspheme by claiming that what was said by Our Blessed Lord was “untenable and disrespectful.”
  3. Monsignor Garrity said, “The Church’s current prohibition regarding the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried couples would seem to be at odds with the consistent teaching of the Gospel about love, forgiveness and mercy.” In this statement are two grave errors.
    1. Monsignor Garrity implicitly denies the sacrilege committed by those who receive Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin. Saint Paul very clearly teaches, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” The Catechism of the Catholic Churchparagraph 2120, says, “Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist.” What Msgr. Garrity says in this article is extremely scandalous, as it will likely embolden divorced and re-married Catholics to commit sacrilege against the Eucharist, thereby placing their souls in extreme peril.
    2. In this one statement, Msgr. Garrity attacks the Holiness of the Church.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 824, “United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying. ‘All the activities of the Church are directed, as toward their end, to the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God.’ It is in the Church that ‘the fullness of the means of salvation’ has been deposited. It is in her that ‘by the grace of God we acquire holiness.'” In contrast to the teaching that “The Church … is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy” (para. 823), Msgr. Garrity suggests that the Church’s work to help poor sinners avoid sacrilege is somehow unloving, unforgiving and unmerciful. But even worse, Msgr. Garrity implies that Holy Mother Church is at sinful odds with Herself through a perceived inconsistency in Her teachings and in Her disciplines.

Your Eminence, this is not the first time Msgr. Garrity has openly preached views in direct opposition to Catholic Teaching. In 2013, Msgr. blasphemously compared homosexual “families” with the Holy Family in his parish bulletin.

[As BCI reported in 2013 in our post, “Boston pastor praised by Cardinal O’Malley puts Holy Family on par with homosexual couples“,] Garrity wrote:

 Taken all together, the first family of Christianity reminds us that there is no such thing as normal. Every family is different and this means that we need to broaden our understanding of family life beyond TV sitcoms and applaud the virtues of family living wherever we find them: two-parent families, single-parent families, blended families, families with two mommies or two daddies and adoptive families. What is most important is that we continually hold up the family as the instrument that God has chosen to communicate God’s unconditional love to the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society.

Your Eminence, countless souls are gravely imperiled by the outright heresy being preached by Msgr. Garrity. At this current time, where there is so much confusion and anxiety over the Church’s authentic and immutable teachings regarding the family, we beg you, for the sake of Msgr. Garritys soul and the souls of those led astray by him, to remove this article from your publication and publicly correct the error proclaimed by your priest.

Yesterday, the Catholic League of Masschusetts weighed in:

The Catholic Action League called Garrity’s column “a shocking disavowal of Catholic morality by a prominent pastor of the Archdiocese of Boston, in the Archbishop’s own newspaper.”

Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle made the following comment: “Garrity’s heretical assertions go far beyond the so-called concessions in pastoral practice envisaged by some synod fathers. Garrity unambiguously repudiates, and holds up to public ridicule, the constant, 2,000 year old doctrine of the Catholic Church on the indissolubility of a valid, sacramental marriage. Ordinary Catholics, reading Garrity in a diocesan newspaper published by Cardinal O’Malley, could be led to the erroneous belief that Catholic moral teaching is changeable.”

“Although Garrity invokes ‘love, forgiveness and mercy,’ he doesn’t practice it. Apparently, for him, the Spiritual Works of Mercy — counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, and admonishing the sinner — are obsolete. Warning the flock of the dangers of mortal sin is intrinsic to the priesthood. For Garrity, such priestly duty is ‘disrespectful.’”

“There are three scandals here: that a Catholic pastor would propound such heresy; that an official Catholic newspaper would publish it; and that a Catholic archdiocese, would, by its silence, acquiesce in it. Twice in recent years, lay columnists who wrote opinion pieces in The Pilot critical of homosexuality were forced to clarify their comments. We will see if a different standard applies to a chancery connected cleric who mocks Catholic morality.”

Everyone reading this should be outraged. Here is who you should both call and email:

Cardinal Sean O’Malley:  ArchbishopSean_O’Malley@rcab.org; 617-782-2544

Vicar General Bishop Peter Uglietto: vicar_general@rcab.org; 617-746-5619

Episcopal Vicar (West Region) over Msgr. Garrity: Very Reverend Brian R. Kiely: 508-647-0296

Interim Episcopal Vicar and Secretary for Parish Life: Fr. Bryan Parrish: ReverendBryan_Parrish@rcab.org; 617-746-5618

Editor of The Boston Pilot Antonio Enrique: aenrique@thebostonpilot.com


St. Pauls School Closing Saga Continues

August 12, 2015

The saga over the mismanagement by the Boston Archdiocese of the closing of St. Paul school in Wellesley continues. Here is an article in The Swellesley Report, “With faith shaken, St. Paul School parents try to set record straight on closing.” Below you’ll see the letter that parents sent to all St. Paul parishioners:

Dear Parishioners of St. Paul Parish,

On Sunday, July 26, a letter from Fr. Sepe appeared in the St. Paul Parish bulletin announcing the closing of St. Paul School. This letter implied that a lack of commitment on the part of school families was the cause of the school’s failure. This implication could not be further from the truth, and the parents of St. Paul School once again find themselves deeply disturbed by decisions and communications with regard to our school. We write to you now to set the record straight and make you aware of the following:

  • The school did not close due to a lack of commitment on the part of the parents, or because demand for the school did not exist. It was certainly not “clinging to only 32 students,” as you are being led to
  • The closing of Paul School was completely preventable. In fact, great strides had been made over the course of the year to turn it around and set it up for a bright future.

It is true that over the past several years the school has experienced a decline in enrollment. The cause of this decline is well­documented as due to the actions as well as inaction of our pastors under the advisement of the Boston Catholic Schools Office. However, the actions of the parents, under the leadership of their principal and the guidance of an independent consultant, were to engage in a series of initiatives to breathe new life into the school. To alleviate financial pressure on the parish, we undertook an ambitious Annual Fund campaign. The end result is the largest Annual Fund balance known to St. Paul School. Sixty thousand dollars of the reported $85,000 balance was raised only among the parents and teachers of St. Paul School. It is very likely that this fund would have exceeded $100,000 if the requests to speak at Masses were granted.

On two occasions ­­ in March from Fr. Rafferty and in June from Fr. Sepe ­­ parents received written commitments that the school would be open for the 2015­2016 year. These commitments had no other stipulations. The expectations were that our pastors’ written words would be their bond.

In the last week of April, school parents ­­ who had already submitted re­enrollment deposits in March ­­ received a letter from the Parish office raising the initial $200 non­refundable deposit to an unprecedented $1,500 due July 15th. This policy was described as coming directly from the Boston Catholic Schools Office. It was flawed, ill­conceived and poorly communicated, causing uncertainty relative to the commitment to St. Paul School’s continued mission. Countless requests to reconsider the deposit increase were ignored.

Adding to the fears and uncertainty of parents, on April 23rd our principal was terminated effective immediately, despite a clear upward trajectory and measurable achievements in fundraising and admissions. On the Thursday of Spring vacation, she was told to clean out her office by Saturday, and an interim principal was in her place the returning Monday with no explanation. The timing and manner of our principal’s forced exit demoralized our community, and in this mailing we share with you our collective communication responding to the event.

Following the termination of the principal, school parents pleaded with Fr. Sepe to reach out and engage the school community to assuage their fears and concerns. By ignoring these pleas, he cast further doubt about the long­term plan for St. Paul School, and previously­committed families started to pull their enrollment.

It wasn’t until the evening of the day he announced the school closing that Fr. Sepe finally afforded parents the opportunity to meet with him. It became clear at this meeting that more than 32 deposit increases had been paid; in fact, our polling after the meeting has shown that close to 50 deposit increases were paid. Additionally, there were a number of parents who did not pay for financial reasons or out of principle, but who indicated to the Parish office that their children would attend St. Paul School in the fall. At no point were parents notified that if they didn’t turn in this deposit increase, the school would close. The rushed nature of the closing and obvious disregard for due diligence regarding a decision with such resounding ramifications leaves us in utter disbelief.

Parishioners should be concerned about the closing of St. Paul School for many reasons. First and foremost, the manner and timing of the school’s closing has caused great distress and grief among children, families and dedicated teachers. Parents and teachers were told numerous times that the school would be available, and are now scrambling to find alternatives. For many, their faith is shaken. We believe that our parishioners and alumni would have risen to the occasion to prevent such a devastating event if they had only been given the opportunity to decide whether to come to the school’s aid.

Our children are the future of the Church and Catholic schools are the cornerstone of the church’s mission of evangelization. The children of St. Paul School have been the lifeblood of the parish for over 60 years. We ask you now to stand by St. Paul School by contacting the office of Cardinal Archbishop Sean O’Malley and voicing the following:

  • Your objections that the school was closed ­­ a consequential and far-­reaching decision for the parish ­­ with no consultation or outreach to you, and for the manner in which this closing was carried
  • Your support in the return of all Paul School Annual Fund monies raised under the “Believe in Our Future: 60th Anniversary Fund” campaign.
  • Your request for intercession on behalf of our principal, who was inexplicably terminated under conditions that leave us concerned for her
  • Your insistence that a thorough investigation into the role of the Boston Catholic Schools Office be undertaken, and that individuals are held responsible for failing to carry out the mission of strengthening Catholic

Please help us shine the light on St. Paul School so that what happened here will not happen to another Catholic school in this Archdiocese.

Yours sincerely,

# Parents of St. Paul School in Support of this Letter

To engage with the Parents of St Paul group on Facebook, click here.


Contact Your U.S. Senators: Defund Planned Parenthood

August 3, 2015

Mass Catholic Conference and a number of organizations have sent out email alerts urging us to contact our U.S. Senators today in support of Senate Bill 1881, a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.  Please act now and tell your friends and relatives to contact your U.S. Senators. Even in states like Massachusetts where the pro-abortion bias by our elected officials is well-established, they should still hear our voices.

Here is the message from Mass Catholic Conference:

Attached please find a letter from Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley in support of Senate Bill 1881, a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Knights of Columbus are asking citizens to contact their U.S. Senator(s) today and ask them to support S. 1881.

Senator Elizabeth Warren can be reached at (202) 224-4543 orwww.warren.senate.gov/?p=email_senator
Senator Edward Markey can be reached at (202) 224-2742 orwww.markey.senate.gov/contact

Letter from Cardinal O’Malley to U.S. Senate:

August 3, 2015

Dear Senator:

I am writing to ask your support for S. 1881, to withhold federal funds from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates.

It has long been troubling to many Americans that the nation’s largest abortion network, performing over a third of all abortions, receives over half a billion taxpayer dollars a year. This concern has rightly grown in recent years.

The most recent revelations about Planned Parenthood’s willingness to traffic in fetal tissue from abortions, and to alter abortion methods not for any reason related to women’s health but to obtain more “intact” organs, is the latest demonstration of a callousness toward women and their unborn children that is shocking to many Americans.

The Catholic Church comes to this issue from a perspective rooted in experience. Catholic charitable agencies and pregnancy help centers have helped countless pregnant women find life-affirming alternatives to abortion. Our hospitals and other health facilities are second to none in providing quality health care for women.

We support the legislative proposal to reallocate federal funding, so that women can obtain their health care from providers that do not promote abortion. It is my sincere hope that you will be able to help advance this goal by supporting S. 1881.

Sincerely,

Seán Cardinal O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston
Chairman Committee on Pro-Life Activities U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


The Inside Story of the Closing of St. Paul School in Wellesley, MA: Part 2

July 29, 2015

This post is a follow-up to our first post, The Inside Story of the Closing of St. Paul School in Wellesley, Part 1. The Boston Globe wrote an article about the closing today and got a statement from Terry Donilon at the Archdiocese of Boston.  The article repeats the generic statement from the school, “An attempt to secure solid commitments from parents for the upcoming school year was not sufficient.”   We think the reporters covering this story should ask a few more questions of Terry Donilon and the Boston Archdiocese.

Announcements blaming the closing on the parents or implying the blame rests with the parents do not sit well with the parents. The parents were asked to make a commitment of $1,500 by July 15th, and about 65% of the parents did. Fr. Sepe never specified just how many deposits would have to be turned in to make it “fiscally possible” to open in the fall.  Nor were parents informed of what the consequences would be if the parish didn’t receive a sufficient number of deposits. In addition, during the Annual fund raising drive (to celebrate 60 years of Catholic education with a $60K goal), the parents — who, according to the announcement did not commit to the school — raised about $67,000 to be used for the 2015 -2016 school year.  The latest tally of Annual Fund donations is $85,000, the lion’s share of which came from the parent community.  To BCI, parents, and others close to the school, this should be proof enough of commitment.

One might reasonably ask the question, “What will happen to those funds now that the school is closing?”  When asked about these monies in the parent meeting (which occurred on Thursday), BCI has heard several varying recountings of what Fr. Sepe told the assembled parents, neither of which is good. One source reported that Fr. Sepe told the assembled parents this was a donation and would not be subject to return.  Other sources recall Fr. Sepe equivocating and saying that if it was the “understanding and the stipulation” that Annual Fund monies were intended to benefit the school in the 2015-16 school year, then maybe the money would be returned. This answer did not set well with the donors or lawyers in the audience.

The full-time faculty were given contracts on July 9th. It is now known by those involved in the situation that they were at-will contracts, not the binding contracts that have been used in the past. Faculty were then called to the meeting on July 23rd and told there would not be an opening of the school due to lack of parent commitment to the school as noted above.  During this timeframe, positions which had been posted as open positions at St. John School were filled.  So good luck to the faculty!  In addition the school secretary who had to work at the rectory one day a week for the 2014-15 school year had been offered her regular full-time position at St. Paul school for the 2015-16 year, but was also then  terminated.  When she asked if she could work at the rectory in an open two day position, she was told the position had been offered and accepted and thus was no longer open.  A reasonable person might ask, if the future of the school was this uncertain in June and July, whey were these open positions filled by outsiders rather than kept open so those who would lose jobs could potentially fill them?

BCI is told that these are just some of the “shenanigans” that are surfacing in just the few days after the announcement.  In addition, Father Sepe is also on retreat for two weeks, leaving the school closing in the hands of a teacher at the school who has never handled any responsibilities such as this that would require administrative, legal or leadership expertise.

Here you have it. The downfall of a once great Catholic school largely because of missteps and bungled management by the Archdiocese of Boston, yet blamed on others. Meanwhile,here is a short video interview with new schools superintendent, Kathy Mears, telling Catholic TV how hard she works to help Catholic schools.

The St. Pauls situation and others similar to it suggest that Mrs. Mears has her work cut out for her. BCI is now hearing of other Boston-area Catholic schools in decline because of mismanagement by the RCAB. Drop us an email in confidence to pass along details if this is happening in your area.


The Inside Story of the Closing of St. Paul School in Wellesley, MA: Part 1

July 27, 2015

NOTE: This post was updated at 10:15pm ET on July 27.

BCI is sad to report to you that St. Paul Catholic School in Wellesley is closing effective this September.  The announcement is somewhat deceptive as to the reason for the closure:

For 60 years, St. Paul School faculty, staff and administrators have worked in partnership with parents to build a faith-filled Catholic school experience for students in PreK through Grade 8.

Over the past several years, St. Paul School has faced a steady decline in enrollment. An attempt to secure solid commitments from parents for the upcoming school year was not sufficient.

This suggests, erroneously, that the biggest problem was insufficient commitment from parents for the upcoming school year and reveals nothing of the mismanagement that led to this place. Several readers had recently reminded us about a question we raised about the future of St. Paul School in Wellesley in a response to a reader back in June of 2013, and we did not have the chance to blog about the latest problems. Because the Boston Archdiocese and local parish are telling only a little bit of the story, in this post and our next post tomorrow, we will give you the rest of the story.

As BCI noted in this June 2013 post and comments, previous pastor Fr. Richard Fitzgerald left with little advance notice and was transferred to another parish.  We were told in May by a source, “there has been nothing but turmoil within the school since Father Fitzgerald left” and that the pastor who replaced Fr. Fitzgerald, Fr. Thomas Rafferty had literally “decimated the school.” The enrollment went from approximately 165 in 2012 to about 97 in 2015 and it continued to plummet.  The story is sad and unbelievable but true.  Here is what we have been told:

“To take a parochial school that was consistently ranked among the 5 highest performing schools academically in the Archdiocese, artistically (for 3 years running a student from the school won the Cardinal’s Christmas card design contest) and nationally (as being the only parochial school in the nation to produce a MacArthur Scholar –the Genius Award) as well as many other social achievements for those in need, and destroy it might be worth a look see especially in light of the evangelization push in the diocese. Evangelization is the passing on the faith and SPS did that magnificently.”

“The story begins in the late winter of 2012, when the long serving principal (17 years) suddenly resigned to accept another principal position within the Archdiocese. The former principal was very well connected at the Pastoral Center in Braintree.  This resignation was a shock to the school community.  A search for a replacement was immediately undertaken under the auspices of the Catholic School office headed by Sheila Kukstis, who was then the Assistant Superintendent to the then-Superintendent Mary Grassa O’Neil.  There was a short list of candidates presented to the committee–a committee, composed of faculty, parent, parish member and pastor.  Among the list of “light weights” was the woman who was selected.  She did not have the required basic tickets for the position which the other candidates did.  She had only been a guidance counselor at her school,(St. Francis in Braintree with the pastor being Fr. Sepe) and headed up the after-school program.  She was not certified nor did she have the leadership courses required to be certified.  In addition, she was 7 months pregnant.  She was hired anyway and given a strong recommendation by Fr, Sepe who was a classmate of Fr. Fitzgerald (the then-pastor at St. Paul). She started July 1, and was in the building through July 17. She only took two weeks maternity leave.”  BCI conveyed the situation of the principal not being the most qualified for the job in this post and comment to the post.

“The first major crisis occurred when a same-sex couple applied for admission of their child to the school.  St. Paul School enrolled the child of the lesbian couple, and the “two mommies” were introduced to the school body at First Friday Mass and welcome coffee for prospective parents in February of 2013, where they happily presented themselves for, and received, Holy Communion.The couple was introduced as a same-sex couple to ensure that the family would be socially accepted. This caused a major issue among many of the “orthodox parents” (Note BCIs description of St. Paul vs. St. John’s  noted in post of June, 2013).  This resulted in a mass exodus of long time families from St. Paul.  At the end of the school year, as BCI  reported, Father Fitzgerald (who was a strong supporter of the school, as was his predecessor Mgsr. Lind, who was then in residence in the rector) was suddenly transferred to St. Colombkille in Brighton.

The school opened in September 2013 with an enrollment of approximately 125 students (Sept. 2012 enrollment was approximately 165) and the soon-to-be announced pregnancy of the principal.  The new pastor, Father Tom Rafferty, did not come to opening day prayer service (which was well noted by the parent community). The parent community was concerned that the school was on the downslide and they wanted to be assured that Fr. Rafferty would reaffirm the support of the school that had always been evident from the pastor.  A group of parents met with him and offered to work long and hard to increase enrollment by marketing the school, get his assurance that he would support their efforts, and also support the Pre-K to 8 configuration of the school (meaning that the middle school would continue as part of SPS). They received this assurance on more than one occasion. The group met over a 4 month period, did an incredible amount of marketing, website updating, holding open houses etc. to support the school.  This resulted in an increase in enrollment of six students during the school year.  However, as this was going on, Father Rafferty was meeting with Mary Moran (RCAB Interim Superintendent) and James Walsh (RCAB Assistant Superintendent for Finance).These meetings resulted in a serious study as to whether the school would continue, and Ms Moran and Mr. Walsh concluded that the school was a financial burden to the parish. If it continued, it should be a PreK 6 school (in the model of St. John the Evangelist School).

Parents attempted to meet with Fr. Rafferty to have him assure them that SPS would continue.  He refused to meet with them and would not give them assurances of the school’s continuing (unlike his previous statements).  The principal during this time was seen as ineffective and leadership was non-existent. (The parents had contacted the Catholic School Foundation to see if they could help.  A meeting occurred with a large group of parents and a representative of the Foundation to which the principal was invited.  The principal was only invited to the introduction of the meeting and had a prior commitment, but with the principal having left early, many of the parents were left dumbfounded and without guidance on how to proceed with the Foundation).  The school community was in turmoil.  In February 2014, a group of parents met at the Wellesley Library trying to save the school.  (BCI is told that faculty members, who were very concerned about the future, were instructed not to attend or to take any part in this under the unspoken threat of losing their positions).  This parent meeting was precipitated by the fact that the pastor’s confidential statement delivered to the newly constituted School Board (made up of 90% of parents), at their first meeting, that the middle school would be closed. This statement got out and there was revolt, since, in previous meetings with the parents, he had intimated that he would support the school. At the Board meeting, Fr. presented three options for consideration, one of which was closing the middle school. It was this option that he asked them to seriously consider to keep the school financially viable.

The school year continued.  Father Rafferty met with 5th and 6th grade parents and still did not give the assurances the parents needed—namely, a continuation of grades 7 and 8 at St. Paul. The result was that 14 out of 16 sixth grade families did not reenroll. (Other grades experienced similar decreases in enrollment for the 2014-2015 school year).  This resulted in an opening of the school with about 92 students.  The principal went out on maternity leave and was replaced by an interim principal.  The plan was then announced to decrease faculty, combine 7th and 8th grade, and eliminate the library. This was left to the interim principal to implement. As the part of decision to close the library the collection of resources were first made available for faculty to take what they wanted for their classrooms and the rest (about 70%) was taken to the Wellesley Town dump and disposed of in the dumpsters there at the Leave and Take.  No other schools (inner city or suburban) were contacted to take the remaining part of the extensive library collection.

The school opened in September 2014 with (as noted before) an enrollment of about 92 students.  The parents continued to be concerned about the destiny of the school.  A long time parent introduced an individual who had experience in school marketing to the principal, and the principal decided to enlist her help. The individual and the principal worked closely together on initiatives throughout the yearThis individual worked pro-bono on a major professional marketing plan and campaign which seemed to generate a interest in the school.  A survey was done to determine the needs and desires of the community.  During this time (former interim Superintendent) Mary Moran and Assistant Superintendent Martha McCook became involved.  They did a six week study of the feasibility of SPS and met, along with Superintendent Kathy Mears, twice with the parents of the school.  There was no commitment made at any of these meetings.

As all of this was occurring, the two parishes (St. Paul and St John) went into collaboration.  Father Rafferty was not appointed pastor.  The priest who was appointed was Father Sepe (above).  In addition, the school celebrated its 60th anniversary and the school community raised $60,000 for its annual fund as an indication of the community’s support of the school. (The amount currently stands at $85,000). Then, in the middle of spring vacation, the principal was terminated (effective immediately), and the former interim principal was brought on as acting principal, Father Rafferty refused to meet with parents, but parents who had reenrolled their children were been asked for a further $1,500 deposit to be paid by July 1st (an unprecedented demand). (The principal was terminated for stated reason “We do not have confidence in your ability to lead the school through its current crisis”. No option to finish the school year was given. Several times it was described that the BSCO was actively helping her find a job, but to date she has not heard from them. It should be noted that, under this principal, the Annual Fund reached $70,000 and enrollment was on pace to stay level and possibly increase for the 2015-2016 academic year.)  He also stated that he would leave the future of the school to Father Sepe, who is scheduled to assume his new position on June 1.  In addition, the former principal was told by Father Rafferty that there would not be a search made for a new principal at St. Paul (as an aside, St. John the Evangelist school was seeking a new principal based on a posting on the Archdiocese’s website at the time and hired Michael Dibbert, a former English teacher and coach at BC High who got a Masters in Education from BC).

So in a period of three years, a stellar, high performing Catholic school with a 60-year history was allowed to disintegrate.  A school that was the only Boston Archdiocese Catholic school that, in addition to innumerable doctors, lawyers, priest, religious, teachers, nurses and other professionals, had a MacArthur Fellow among its alumni and which had passed the faith to generations of the faithful was left to implode.

Next Post Part 2: The Closing and Keeping of $60K+ Raised for the School


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