Perspectives on the Synod on the Family

October 31, 2015

BCI was on a plane a few days ago when someone seated nearby brought up the Catholic Church. By and by, the discussion turned to what we thought about what is going on in the Catholic Church today with the “Synod on the Family.”   The short answer is that BCI is very concerned about the future of the Catholic Church right now and we believe all should be concerned and be praying for the Church.  So much excellent commentary is out there on this issue that BCI will highlight a few we think are worth reading or listening to by all:

Cardinal Burke: Synod’s final report ‘misleading,’ lacks ‘clarity’ on indissolubility of marriage (Lifesite News): 

He focuses on paragraphs 84-86 on divorce and remarriage, saying this section is of “immediate concern because of its lack of clarity in a fundamental matter of the faith: the indissolubility of the marriage bond which both reason and faith teach all men.” He also says the way the quotation from Familaris Consortio is used is “misleading.”  Read more

The Synod explained via new media (Rorate Caeli)
“The Synod of Sin has concluded. For some perspective to understand the traditional position — from a non-traditional medium — we bring you two helpful tools. First up, a sermon from a traditional mission priest, looking at the present-day Church through the lens of Fyodor Dostoevsky. Click here to listen to this eye-opening sermon.

Second, see below for a video from The Remnant, featuring Dr. John Rao. Give it a few minutes, then buckle up:

“The failed Synod: everyone defeated; and Catholic morality in particular” (by Roberto  de Mattei, at Rorate Caeli)

The day after the XIV Synod on the Family, everyone seems to have won. Pope Francis has won, since he was able to find a compromising text among the opposing positions; the progressives have won since the approved text admits the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist; the conservatives have won, since the document doesn’t contain an explicit reference to Communion for the divorced [and remarried] and rejects “homosexual marriage” and the gender theory.

The morality of inculturation, that of “case by case”, relativizes and dissolves the moral law, which by definition is absolute and universal. There are no good intentions, nor extenuating circumstances which can transform a good act into a bad one or vice versa. Catholic morality does not admit exceptions: it is absolute and universal or it isn’t a moral law. The newspapers then are not wrong when they presented the final Relatio with this title: “The absolute prohibition for Communion to the divorced and remarried falls”.

In the end we find ourselves faced with an ambiguous and contradictory document, which permits everyone to shout victory; even if nobody has won anything. All have been defeated, starting with Catholic morality which emerges profoundly humiliated by the Synod on the Family concluded on October 24th.

Yes, some commentators say that the language in the final document does not expressly contradict Catholic Church moral teachings. However, the door has been cracked ajar with a tremendous amount of wiggle room. As Roberto de Mattei wrote, “The Relatio, doesn’t affirm the right for the divorced and remarried to receive Communion (and thus the right to adultery), but it denies the Church, de facto, the right to publically define as adulterous, the condition of the divorced and remarried, leaving the responsibility for evaluation [of this] to the conscience of the pastors and the divorced and remarried themselves.”

The absurdity of this notion is made impeccably clear by Cardinal Arinze, who said, people in objectively sinful situations can’t receive Holy Communion “in good conscience….There is such a thing as objective evil and objective good. Christ said he who [divorces his wife] and marries another, Christ has one word for that action, ‘adultery.’ That’s not my word. It is Christ’s word himself, who is humble and meek in heart, who is eternal truth. So, he knows what he’s saying.”

That such matters are now up for grabs is cause for grave concern. BCI believes all should be fasting and praying for Holy Mother Church.

AP Report on Catholic Bloggers, Boston Catholic Insider

October 25, 2010

First, for those who have not yet read our Sunday post,  St. John Seminary Squeezola, we suggest you make that your first stop today. Boston College has just taken back small rooms (a music room and faculty dining room) they had “graciously” let the seminary use, which means little to BC space-wise and is more about their symbolically flexing their muscles, while the loss of that needed space means a lot to the seminary. Pay special attention to the passionate comments by readers about the future of St. Johns Seminary. Anyone from the archdiocese reading this, we suggest you forward a copy of the post and comments on up to Cardinal O’Malley. We will post more on the seminary situation tomorrow, and are glad to also post any response from the archdiocese here as well if anyone would like to offer one.

For today, we wanted to call your attention to an excellent article by AP religion reporter, Rachel Zoll on the phenomenon of Catholic bloggers.  The article prominently features Boston Catholic blogs.  It is entitled “Catholic Bloggers Aim To Purge Dissenters” and has been picked up by papers and other media outlets across the country and in Europe (See Washington Post, San Diego Union-Tribune, San Francisco Examiner, UK Guardian)    For those at 66 Brooks Drive who still have their heads in the sand about this and are hoping if you keep ignoring us we will just quietly go away, perhaps you might want to come up for air, look around, and realize that you are rapidly becoming the laughing stock of the country and may just want to pay closer attention to the concerns we have been raising. Here is the version posted at CBS News, which we liked for the sub-headline, “Catholic and FedUp.”

Here are a few excerpts:

Pressure is on to change the Roman Catholic Church in America, but it’s not coming from the usual liberal suspects. A new breed of theological conservatives has taken to blogs and YouTube to say the church isn’t Catholic enough.

Enraged by dissent that they believe has gone unchecked for decades, and unafraid to say so in the starkest language, these activists are naming names and unsettling the church.

— In the Archdiocese of Boston, parishioners are dissecting the work of a top adviser to the cardinal for any hint of Marxist influence., working from studios in suburban Detroit, is hunting for “traitorous” nuns, priests or bishops throughout the American church.

“We’re no more engaged in a witch hunt than a doctor excising a cancer is engaged in a witch hunt,” said Michael Voris of and St. Michael’s Media. “We’re just shining a spotlight on people who are Catholics who do not live the faith.”

Among Voris’ many media ventures is the CIA — the Catholic Investigative Agency — a program from RealCatholicTV to “bring to light the dark deeds of evil Catholics-in-name-only, who are hijacking the Church for their own ends, not the ends of Christ.”

In an episode called “Catholic Tea Party,” Voris said: “Catholics need to be aware and studied and knowledgeable enough about the faith to recognize a heretical nun or a traitorous priest or bishop when they see one — not so they can vote them out of office, but so they can pray for them, one, and alert as many other Catholics as possible to their treachery, two.”

The blog “Bryan Hehir Exposed” is aimed at a top adviser to Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, who is the former head of national Catholic Charities and a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Among the bloggers’ claims is that Hehir is a Marxist sympathizer who undermines Catholic teaching on abortion and marriage.

Hehir, who has advised church leaders for four decades, hasn’t responded to any accusations and neither has O’Malley, a Capuchin Franciscan friar known for his humility. However, O’Malley said in April on his own blog that Hehir “inspires us with his compassion, vision and fidelity to the work of the Church.” In August, O’Malley blocked access from archdiocesan headquarters to one of the critical blogs, the anonymously penned Boston Catholic Insider.

“The lack of civility is very disturbing,” said Terrence C. Donilon, the archdiocesan spokesman.

Catholic officials are struggling to come to terms with the bloggers and have organized several recent media conferences on the topic, the latest at the Vatican this month. The U.S. bishops’ conference issued social media guidelines in July calling for Christian charity online.

Still, no one expects the Catholic blogosphere to change tone anytime soon. Many of the conservatives most active online had spent years raising the alarm about dissent on their own in their local dioceses without much effect. Now, they feel they are finally being heard online.

Voris said. “I think enough Catholics are saying, ‘That’s it. I’ve had it.'”

Terry, is the deceit and corruption at 66 Brooks Drive not “very disturbing”?  We are hearing from more and more donors that they find it “disturbing” how their money is being squandered, including $300K+ salaries for some people who never earned those amounts in comparable private sector jobs.  We are hearing from pastors who find it “disturbing” that their parishes are being taxed by the archdiocese at 18% of their donations to pay for six-figure salaries in Braintree while 1/3 of parishes are in the red.  Is the $5M+ in donor funds spent on Lawson financial and accounting software when it was a mismatch for our needs not “very disturbing”? Is it not “disturbing”  that sham searches block good people from being considered for open positions?  How about the conflicts of interest—are they not ‘disturbing”?  Is knowingly deceiving lay people, priests and pastors, church employees, donors, and even members of key advisory committees like the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council and Pastoral Council not “very disturbing”? Is the leadership vacuum at 66 Brooks Drive that threatens the ability of the Church to continue doing her good works not “disturbing”?

To Cardinal O’Malley, Vicar General Fr. Erikson, Chancellor Jim McDonough, Fr. Bryan Hehir, and Terry Donilon, we do not speak for other bloggers, but in case it was unclear up to now, allow this blog to clarify ourselves. With all due respect,  it is your actions or lack of actions and unresponsiveness to long-standing concerns by faithful Catholics that have led to the sort of criticism by the local Catholic blogs that Mr. Donilon apparently now finds “very disturbing.” 

Let’s make a deal.  You publicly, or at least internally acknowledge the problems we have highlighted on the blog and clean up your acts.  Stop justifying the current situation by saying that you offered to meet with us and we declined, and instead implement a credible whistleblower policy that gives all people who care about the Church a way to alert an independent ethics team to problems and ensures a process for addressing the problems  while protecting the person who complains from retaliation.  Operate with integrity like the Catholic Church should operate.  Pastors and laity, we invite you to contact Cardinal O’Malley and urge him to get rid of the corruption, deceit, and cronyism–along with cabinet secretaries and/or advisors who have brought that into the standard operating procedures of this archdiocese. In exchange, we will work on using more civil language. Better still, we might even eventually go away completely. A blog like this one would not be considered necessary in the Archdiocese of Denver, which is under the leadership of Cardinal Sean’s classmate and fellow Capuchin Archbishop Chaput.  We hope some day we will be unnecessary in Boston as well, but that seems a long ways off based on how 66 Brooks Drive is operating today.

In the meantime, sorry guys, we are here to stay along with the thousands of readers  who are all saying, “That’s it. I’ve had enough.”

Whistleblower Policy Part 2

September 13, 2010

If you have not seen our Sunday post about shouting out your appreciation for a Boston-area priest, please see “Priest Appreciation” and post a compliment today!  Also, anonymous attendees at the Daughters of St. Paul event yesterday say it was a fantastic program!

We feel our post today is a very important one.  Since our posts on the Letter from the Vicar General and the need for a Whistleblower Policy have drawn out a range of passionate comments, today we highlight what may be the greatest obstacle to implementing a meaningful whistleblower policy in the Boston Archdiocese.  We do so in the hopes that our post will help speed progress. The sooner the archdiocese can effectively tackle this challenge, the sooner they might weed out corruption, and see more fruits of the Lord growing!  (and see this blog become irrelevant and go away too). However today the archdiocese does not appear to have tackled this, so tears of blog-withdrawal grief and grief counseling from the cabinet official highly skilled in that area from his military service would be premature. Also, given how the archdiocese actually operates today, the functioning of the administrative cabinet seems like it may conflict with Canon Law in a few ways—coincidentally, for the same reason that a whistleblower policy is challenging to implement. The upcoming meeting of the Presbyteral Council might want to take up this issue among others raised on this blog—we think it is that important.

We think most people would agree that to have an effective whistleblower policy in Boston–and make it unnecessary for people to come to this blog as their outlet–means a person (or ethics panel) of impeccable integrity along with a process must exist to investigate and report on claims without being obstructed.  They need to protect anonymity, ensure there is no retaliation, and drive changes–including if necessary, having the authority to recommend that people be terminated.  That person or panel would be independent of the Chancellor, Vicar General, and even certain members of the Finance Council who bring their own well-documented conflicts of interest and agendas.

Comments on the Whistleblower Policy post highlight this issue very well. One person with insider knowledge said,

“In my opinion, who is to say that you submit the claim, and those in high leadership positions will continue to squash the claim. The problem really relies on top leadership and how they continue to deal with complaints that have facts to support it. Let’s wake up for once and see what is really going on in the Archdiocese of Boston. Let’s pray together and hopefully the Cardinal can get the Archdiocese back on track. This will require his own separate investigation away from the fluff that he is surrounded by every day, and that reflect off the Truth about what continues to go on in the Archdiocese of Boston.”

We responded in agreement saying the archdiocese needs an independent individual with high integrity and no conflicts of interest themselves, who is authorized, empowered, and personally motivated to drive this program. Those programs implemented in other dioceses appear to presume that the person in the role of the Vicar General or the Chancellor has the combination of high integrity, values consistent with those in their whistleblower policies, a non-retaliatory nature that encourages openness and wants to root out corruption, and the authority level over all administration and operations to “own” and drive such a program and effect the needed changes.  From what we have documented here and personally experienced in the response to the blog, we do not see either person in those roles in Boston as having that combination of traits.

Why not the Vicar General in Boston?  Because in practical terms, Fr. Richard Erikson does not have authority over many of the people whose actions might be the subject of whistleblower claims.  Why not the Chancellor?  Read past posts on this blog about cronyism and conflicts of interest. Why not certain members of the Finance Council?  Read this blog.  That is where we now get into the questions about possible canon law conflicts. Our in-house canon lawyer was unavailable as of press time so we consulted the Code of Canon Law on the Vatican’s website as well as SaintWiki.

1)   Role of the Vicar General/Moderator of the Curia

Canon 473 §1 and §2 make clear that the diocesan Bishop must ensure everything concerning administration of the whole diocese is properly coordinated and directed to best achieve the good of God’s people of under his care, and the Bishop may appoint a Moderator of the curia, who under the Bishop’s authority, coordinates administrative matters and ensures that the others in the curia properly fulfill the offices.  Canon 475 §1 says the diocesan Bishop is to appoint a Vicar general to assist him in the governance of the whole diocese, and Canon 479 §1  grants the Vicar general the same executive power over the whole diocese as that of the diocesan Bishop.  It is typical that someone in the role of Fr. Richard Erikson has both of these titles.  But not typical is that the reality of governance in Boston is in major conflict with the official org chart.

Official Org Chart
(from Boston Catholic Directory and 2010 Budget Plan, modified to reflect latest org changes.  Click on picture to enlarge).

Notice in the above, all administrative cabinet officials are shown as reporting to the Vicar General

Reality of Governance in Boston Archdiocese

In reality, the Boston Archdiocese works more like the org chart below (click on picture to enlarge).

A number of key decisions are made by the group in the pink box in the upper right of the chart above without involvement by the Vicar General and without him being in a position to overrule them or otherwise keep the people accountable for those decisions.  If you disagree with this assessment or want an example, just look at the recent reorganization of the cabinet, or look at the Caritas sale or the formation of search committees and hiring of key staff, but let us know if you think we have anything wrong and we will gladly adjust it.  The pink box, which has been updated since our last version, includes those people we are repeatedly told–and publicly available information validates–comprise the primary base of power and decision-making influence in the archdiocese today.  So the Vicar General in Boston does not actually have “executive power over the whole diocese” or for that matter over even the whole cabinet or over highly influential advisors like Jack Connors or John Kaneb. By coincidence, Jim McDonough, Fr. Hehir, and those who take direction from them and support their efforts  (Terry Donilon and Carol Gustavson) have their offices in the central area of the 4th floor in the Pastoral Center, segregated from the Vicar General and the rest of the staff. (If anyone has a photo of Carol G, please email it to us and we will gladly add it to the chart).

This blog has already documented what can objectively be seen as ethical concerns, cronyism, and conflicts of interest associated with those in the pink box.  A credible whistleblower policy would need to give someone with impeccable ethical credentials or some independent panel substantial investigative and corrective authority over all of the people whose pictures appear in the pink box, their subordinates, the Vicar General, and over the administrative cabinet that for practical purposes does report into the Vicar General.

2) Term and Character Attributes of the Finance Officer/Chancellor

Beyond the role of the Vicar General and structure of the administrative cabinet, here is a little bit from the Code of Canon Law regarding the role of chancellor and chief finance officer.

Canon 482 §2 says the chancellor and notaries must be of “unimpaired reputation and above all suspicion.”

Canon 494 §1 and §2 say “ in every diocese, after having heard the college of consultors and the Finance council, the bishop is to appoint a Finance officer who is truly expert in Financial affairs and absolutely distinguished for honesty. The Finance officer is to be appointed for a Five year term but can be appointed for other Five year terms at the end of this period.  The finance officer is not to be removed while in this function except for a grave cause to be assessed by the bishop after he has heard the college of consultors and the Finance council.

This blog is not in a position to publish individual character judgments—we are primarily focused on reporting facts about situations that can be objectively verified.   In view of what we have presented you may of course reach your own conclusions.  Does anything of what is covered in this post and in this blog appear to you to conflict with something Canon Law prescribes? Might the Presbyteral Council wish to review the documented instances of conflicts of interest, cronyism, and lack of transparency on this blog and perhaps consider if the character attributes prescribed by Canon Law are being maintained today?  If they are maintained today, that is good.  If they are not, then should the Council take the step of advising the Cardinal on appropriate actions to remedy that situation in the short-term or prior to renewal of anyone’s employment term?  Setting aside Canon Law entirely and the values and practices it espouses, do you agree with the need for an independent authority or ethics panel as described above to drive and execute the whistleblower policy?  If that does not exist, is it even possible to have a credible policy in Boston?

Once again, please take a moment to join dozens of other readers and shout out your appreciation for an outstanding Boston-area priest by visiting our “Priest Appreciation” page and posting a compliment today!  We have had a few problems with comments over the weekend, so if you cannot post, just drop us an email and we will post the comment.

Vicar General Letter to Bloggers

September 9, 2010

Readers, today we are sharing with you a short letter from Vicar General, Fr. Richard Erikson we received Tuesday, Sept 7 via email from his aide, Fr. Bryan Parrish. The text immediately follows, and our proposed response is found below for your review and input.

TO: The “Boston Catholic Insider” team

RE: “Open Letter”

In response to your “Open Letter” posted on your blog on August 23, and the specific questions you detail, I restate that Cardinal O’Malley and his staff are dedicated to building unity in Christ and Christian community within the Archdiocese. To that end, I reach out to you and your team, with the hope that you will accept my invitation to engage in respectful, fruitful and face-to face dialogue. I am not willing to engage in conversation or correspondence with emails or blog postings from anonymous individuals. If you would like to discuss your concerns in person, please contact my assistant, Mary Jo Kriz, at 617-746-5619 to schedule an appointment.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Very Rev. Richard Erikson, Ph.D. V.G.

We appreciate the amount of thought and consideration that must have been invested by the archdiocese over the past two weeks reviewing all of the points outlined in our Open Letter and determining this was the appropriate response.  We have prayed over this offer of a meeting with the Vicar General since Tuesday (which is why we haven’t posted since Monday) and have decided to decline at this time.  Below is a draft of our planned response.  If anyone feels we have missed something important, please let us know via comments relevant to this topic, or via the Contact Us form.

To: Very Rev. Richard Erikson, Ph.d. V.G.

From: Boston Catholic Insider team

We are in receipt of your letter of September 7 and appreciate your offer to meet for a face-to-face dialogue.  We share in the aspiration of building unity in Christ and Christian community in the Archdiocese–which is undermined and contaminated by the presence of deceit, ethical corruption, and what Pope Benedict XVI described in his June 29 homily as “negative attitudes that belong to the world” including “selfishness, vanity, pride, and the attachment to money.”  Unfortunately, for reasons we have stated previously on this blog and will restate in this response, we are respectfully declining the meeting at this time. The reasons are as follows:

1) Lack of transparency. A private meeting would be contrary to the archdiocese’s own goals of transparency and to the purpose of this blog.   The issues we have documented are important enough to tens of thousands of Boston Catholics and to the future of the Catholic Church in Boston that we feel they are best addressed in an open, broadly-participatory forum such as the Web and a blog provide.  How would a closed-door session advance transparency?

2) Minimized disruption of valuable archdiocesan staff time. As we stated in our August 22 post, Catholic Bloggers Respond to Archdiocese “since we have now heard the archdiocese is concerned that the blog has distracted Pastoral Center employees from their jobs, we would not want to consume the valuable time of archdiocesan cabinet members in a meeting.”  We also realize that since the blog is not viewable in the Pastoral Center, perhaps you were restricted from seeing this post.  If the Vicar General has even one hour to spend in a meeting with us, we feel that time would be better spent addressing some of the issues we have raised for the good of the future of the Catholic Church in Boston.   We would be glad to then publicize that progress on the blog.

3) Fear of retaliation. As we have stated from day one, we write anonymously in order to protect ourselves against possible retaliation and threats to our livelihoods.  We know of many instances–and some Catholic bloggers have experienced them personally–where those who speak out or have spoken the Truth have been the victims of retaliation, and this continues today for priests, lay employees, and laity.  Because senior cabinet officials have met with outside attorneys to discuss possible legal action against the bloggers and because of the retaliatory nature of the current Boston archdiocesan administration, we simply cannot risk our livelihoods by identifying ourselves and meeting with you.

4) Archdiocese’s public deception and avoidance of the core issues. The public statements by the archdiocese issued during the week of August 23 in response to the blocking of the Boston Catholic Insider blog that “we have reached out to bloggers on numerous occasions” falsely implied that the archdiocese had reached out to this blog, when the archdiocese knew full well they had never done so, and in fact had ignored 4 emails to archdiocesean officials with simple questions about matters of good governance.  The statement “We are concerned about the harm caused to individuals and to the community by anonymous and unfounded claims on blogs” neglected to mention that no unfounded claims had been documented on this blog or ever shared with us. More importantly, the archdiocese has expressed no concern whatsoever over the harm done to the individuals or the Christian community by the well-documented climate and instances of deceit, cronyism, ethical and financial conflicts of interest, excessive spending, and unanswered questions over management of donor funds. These are the sorts of “negative attitudes of the world” that the Holy Father describes as the “greatest danger” to the Church. Why meet if the archdiocese is unconcerned about the core issues and is only concerned about our publicly documenting them?

5) Double-standard with respect to anonymity. With all due respect, we find your statement about not wanting to engage in communications with anonymous individuals to be disingenuous for two reasons. First, the failure of the archdiocese to implement a whistleblower policy as recommended for several years by your own auditors makes anonymity necessary to avoid fear of reprisals. (We will publish the recommendation passed on to us by anonymous archdiocesan auditors who fear reprisal in a separate post).  Secondly, in view of the degree of anonymity the archdiocese maintains day-to-day and expects priests, employees, and laity to accept–for decisions that are very significant towards the future of the Catholic Church in Boston and the Church’s stakeholders–the concerns about interacting with anonymous bloggers are difficult to take seriously.  How can an archdiocese that touts “transparency” be unwilling to engage in a public discourse over issues important to Catholics because the conduit for airing those issues is an anonymously written blog when the archdiocese maintains anonymity or a lack of disclosure of the following?:

  • Current Archdiocese Finance Council members (publicly-accessible via Web) : anonymous
  • Names of people who nominated new Finance Council members in the past 1-2 years: anonymous
  • Sub-committee membership of the Finance Council including Real Estate, Investment, Institutional Advancement, Legal, Steering Committees: anonymous
  • Trustees of the Clergy Retirement Fund: anonymous
  • Compensation for people managing the Clergy Retirement Fund: undisclosed
  • Trustees of the Employee Benefits Fund: anonymous
  • Current voting Board members at Caritas Christi: anonymous
  • Selection criteria and selection process for vendors servicing the Clergy Retirement Fund and Employee Benefits Fund: undisclosed
  • Members of the search committee that selected Cabinet Secretary for Communications: anonymous
  • Person who overruled staff members and approved the conflict of interest of allowing PR firm of Rasky Baerlein to lead the search for the person who would manage them and decide on their compensation and continued engagement: anonymous
  • Person who approved the conflict of interest of allowing Ann Carter of Rasky Baerlein on search committee to select Chancellor, who would ultimately approve all expenses paid to the firm: anonymous.  (This conflict of interest was maintained and allowed even considering that the final candidate  for the job, Jim McDonough, was the former CEO of Abington Bank where Carter profited from having served on the Board with McDonough)
  • Membership of search committee that selected Secretary for Education, Mary Grassa O’Neill and names of people who approved $325,000 salary: anonymous
  • Total cost over multiple years (in millions of $) of  deploying Lawson Software for financial management; listing of important pastoral programs cut as a result of decision to buy overly complex software that is a mismatch for archdiocesan needs: undisclosed
  • Person who approved using as audit firm,  Parent, McLaughlin & Nagle for mandated triennial parish audits, costing parishes in aggregate about $500K/year, and nature of relationship/friendship with  someone in the Finance department that led to their exclusive engagement mandated on parishes: anonymous/undisclosed
  • Name of person who may have already been selected as new Secretary of Development before search committee was convened to give the appearance of a open “worldwide search”: undisclosed
  • Person who has failed to implement a credible whistleblower policy in the archdiocese despite years of recommendations for such a policy by archdiocesan auditors and related entities, hereby necessitating anonymous blog: anonymous

We reiterate, since the archdiocese seems perfectly comfortable practicing and maintaining anonymity on these areas and others that relate to fiduciary responsibility over hundreds of millions of dollars in donor funds and that affect the ability to execute the mission of the Catholic Church for decades into the future, it seems hypocritical to dismiss people blogging anonymously about ethical concerns and mismanagement in these same areas just because the bloggers legitimately fear reprisals and threats to their livelihoods.

If the archdiocese is looking for a model for addressing most of the above, the approach used on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council website for disclosing this information seems like it would be simple to adapt and deploy on the various archdiocesan websites. (But it should have a means of contacting members that  actually works, instead of just pretending to be functional).

5) Apparent reversal from public commitments to transparency. This archdiocese has made public commitments to unprecedented levels of financial transparency which seem to have been largely abandoned at the highest levels:

October 21, 2005 – Financial Transparency Letter From Archbishop O’Malley

This commitment [to financial transparency] was motivated out of respect for people of the Archdiocese as donors and members of our Church and to demonstrate to the general public that the Archdiocese is fulfilling its fiduciary responsibilities.

April 19, 2006 – Archdiocese of Boston Launches Financial Transparency Initiative

“Our commitment to financial transparency and accountability is an important step in the process of healing the Church of Boston and rebuilding the trust of the people of this Archdiocese” said Cardinal Sean “In releasing this financial information, we hope to achieve a shared understanding of both the challenges and the opportunities we share as a faith community. Together, we can work together to solve our problems and strengthen the Archdiocese’s ability to continue the good works it performs each and every day of the year.”

As we have said before, we are just trying to help the Archdiocese achieve those same admirable goals.  The archdiocese’s criticism of this blog and ignoring of the  issues raised on the blog–which existed well before this blog started publicly documenting them—suggests the transparency initiative has been largely abandoned and make a closed-door meeting pointless.

6) Leadership voids and lack of accountability. On an operational basis, we are well aware that the main power-base of influence and decision-making at the Cabinet level is comprised of Chancellor Jim McDonough, Secretary for Healthcare and Social Services Fr. Bryan Hehir, and Communications Secretary Terry Donilon (whose offices are all in a sequestered area), but it also includes HR Exec Director Carol Gustavson (same office area), powerbroker Jack Connors, and John Kaneb. Though the formal org chart shows lines with those employed full-time by the archdiocese reporting to the Vicar General, is it well known that none of these individuals see themselves as accountable to the Vicar General, and many key decisions are made by them without the involvement of the Vicar General. Though we appreciate the Vicar General’s outreach to us, it seems that to practically address the concerns we have raised would require the active involvement of someone in a role operationally above these individuals–and in position to either require changes in behavior or to affect changes in the organization.

Once again, we reiterate our purpose with the blog in putting certain topics out in the light of day is simply to expose verifiable facts and matters that should be addressed or corrected so we can build a stronger Catholic Church in Boston and continue the good works of the Church today and for the future.  We hope this will make the difficult job and vocation of a Boston priest easier and more satisfying, we hope this will make things better for loyal hard-working Pastoral Center employees who love the Church and are committed to the mission of the Church, and we hope this will give donors more confidence and trust that the archdiocese is upholding its fiduciary responsibilities and using their contributions most efficiently and effectively.

We close by citing the words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI on the Feast of the Solemnity of Peter and Paul, June 29 2010:

Indeed if we think of the two millenniums of the Church’s history, we may note as the Lord Jesus had foretold (cf. Mt 10:16-33) that trials for Christians have never been lacking and in certain periods and places have assumed the character of true and proper persecution. Yet, despite the suffering they cause, they do not constitute the gravest danger for the Church. Indeed she is subjected to the greatest danger by what pollutes the faith and Christian life of her members and communities, corroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening her capacity for prophecy and witness, and marring the beauty of her face. The Pauline Letters already testified to this reality. The First Letter to the Corinthians, for example, responds precisely to certain problems of division, inconsistence and infidelity to the Gospel that seriously threaten the Church. However, the Second Letter to Timothy a passage to which we listened also speaks of the perils of the “last days”, identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to the world and can contaminate the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride, the attachment to money, etc. (cf. 3:1-5). The Apostle’s conclusion is reassuring: men who do evil, he writes, “will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all” (3:9). Therefore a guarantee exists of the freedom that God assures the Church, freedom both from material ties that seek to prevent or to coerce her mission and from spiritual and moral evils that can tarnish her authenticity and credibility.

We would ask that this response be shared with the members of the Archdiocesan Finance Council, the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council, and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, and we continue to welcome a response to the specific points in our August 23 Open Letter.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Boston Catholic Insider blog, on behalf of faithful Catholics in Boston

[To our readers, feel free to offer your feedback on this proposed response through Friday, September 10]

Video: Undercover Diocese vs Catholic Bloggers

August 21, 2010

If you have not yet read it, please check out our most recent post, Boston Archdiocese Blocks Catholic Blog.  We appreciated the headline coverage of the story by Deal Hudson at  (“Boston Archdiocese Blocks Access to Web Site“) and by Pewsitter, the Catholic online news portal.  Visits to the blog hit a record high this week and we have received a lot of feedback over this situation.  By coincidence, one reader just emailed us a link to a new 2-minute YouTube video that seems to depict a Church official discussing an apparent undercover strategy to investigate, stop or silence a Catholic blog publishing information about improprieties.  Here it is–we hope you enjoy it.

(Credit: LastCatholicinBoston)

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