Conclave Commentary: Did Cardinal Violate Oath of Secrecy?

March 16, 2013

The hot news is mostly still about the conclave from this past week. BCI will share several news highlights for you today, among them, the question of whether certain cardinals openly violated the conclave oath of secrecy. Then we will be back to local Boston Archdiocese fiscal governance issues in our next post.

Comments from Cardinal O’Malley and Others After the Election

This Boston Globe article has a photo of Cardinal O’Malley taking the oath of secrecy before the election.  The oath says:

“In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election of the new Pontiff.”

In view of that oath, what should we make of these post-conclave comments by Cardinal O’Malley and Cardinal Brady in the AP article, “So what really happened inside the papal conclave that selected Pope Francis? Here’s a cardinal’s-eye view“:

VATICAN CITY — Three rounds of ballots had been cast with no winner, but it was becoming clear which way this conclave was headed.

When the cardinals broke for lunch, Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston sat down next to his Argentine friend, Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio.

“He seemed very weighed down by what was happening,” O’Malley said.

Hours later, the Buenos Aires archbishop would step before the frenzied masses packed into St. Peter’s Square as Francis, the first pope from the Americas.

Cardinals take an oath of secrecy when they enter a conclave, promising never to reveal what goes on inside.

“The conclave is a very prayerful experience,” O’Malley said. “It’s like a retreat.”  Each man wrote a few words in Latin on a piece of paper: “I elect as supreme pontiff…” followed by a name.

One by one, they held the paper aloft, placed it on a gold-and-silver saucer at the front of the room, and tipped it into an urn.

“When you walk up with the ballot in your hand and stand before the image of the Last Judgment, that is a great responsibility,” O’Malley said.

And then the tallying began, with three cardinals — known as scrutineers — reading out the name on each slip.

When they finished counting, it was clear the field remained wide open, said Sean Cardinal Brady, leader of the church in Ireland. “There were a number of candidates,” he said.

A cardinal threaded the ballots together and put them in a stove.

Outside in St. Peter’s Square, as black smoke billowed from the chimney, the cheering crowd fell silent and began to thin.


On Wednesday morning, the cardinals filed in again and repeated the ritual of voting. There were two votes before lunch, and the field was narrowing. But the smoke was black again, and the crowd was again disappointed.


At lunch, O’Malley sat down besides Bergoglio.

“He is very approachable, very friendly,” he said. “He has a good sense of humor, he is very quick and a joy to be with.”

But with the vote going his way, Bergoglio was uncharacteristically somber.


The cardinals were getting close to a decision. They started over, and the scrutineers read out the names.

And it began to dawn on the men that their work was done.

In the Globe article, Cardinal O’Malley is quoted as saying that after the election, Francis seemed to be at peace.

Does it not occur to these Cardinals that they were sworn to secrecy regarding “everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff”?

Beyond this, we then see a comment from Cardinal O’Malley in the Globe about why he is glad he was not elected pope: “He’s a prisoner in a museum,’’ O’Malley said of the pope, drawing laughter from Boston area reporters. “It’s not a wonderful life.’’

This response feels like yet another lost teaching moment and opportunity for Cardinal O’Malley.  Last we checked, the role of the Holy Father was to be the Vicar of Christ on earth. He is the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church.  If you read Matthew 16:17-19, we see Jesus promised that He would build His Church on Peter and He gave the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter alone. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”

The immensely important role of the successor to Peter is to ensure that the benefits of the Kingdom of Heaven can be attained by the faithful, as exemplified by the instruction “feed my lambs”, “feed my sheep.”  The Holy Father continues the role St. Peter instituted after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who instructed Peter in establishing His Church on earth. Peter then handed down this authority from Pope to Pope until the present day.

To BCI, it seems that to publicly characterize the Vicar of Christ on earth as a “prisoner in a museum” who does not have a “wonderful life” is to misrepresent and diminish the nature of the role.

Boston Catholic Media and PR/Communications at the Conclave

This article in the Boston Herald discusses the presence of the Boston Catholic Media team at the conclave:

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley’s moment in the papal sun in Rome this past week was beamed back to Boston thanks to a team of plugged-in assistants.

“My purpose in coming on this trip was to let Boston Catholics and other Catholics from the area experience the buildup for the announcement and the announcement itself,” said Scot Landry, secretary for Catholic Media.

Landry said cardinals from the U.S. tended to be much more open with the press than did their colleagues from the rest of the world.

“I would say there was a clash of cultures in terms of the way the church engages the media, particularly the secular media” he said. “When we first arrived, the American cardinals were going to press conferences and doing interviews every day. In a way, they felt honored that so many were there to cover them and through their coverage bring it home to Catholics around the world.”

Thanks for thinking of us back here, but for future reference, we were actually doing just fine by reading the hundreds of articles available to us in the regular news media.

As for the media briefings, it seemed to many people that the U.S. cardinals doing the briefings forgot that the main purpose of the pre-conclave meetings was for the cardinals to prayerfully consider the needs of the universal Catholic Church and the attributes for the next Supreme Pontiff, so they would each be prepared for the crucial vote. If we understand Landry correctly, the U.S. cardinals felt honored that the media was giving them attention?  In other words, their egos were stoked by the media attention, so they addressed that situation by engaging in the press briefings and interviews (which would have the effect of further stoking their egos) to “bring it home” for us?  Thanks again.

Even if it were the case that the cardinals arrived in Rome and suddenly discovered the media wanted stories, and the selfless cardinals could help us poor saps starving for news, how does that explain Terry Donilon and the Boston Archdiocesan PR team starting their media campaign weeks before Cardinal O’Malley travelled to Rome, and continuing with Terry live in Rome?

And how does that explain this shameless self-promotion of Terry Donilon in the Washington Post, suggesting that Terry Donilon could become a key aide to a new Holy Father if Cardinal O’Malley were elected pope, while Donilon’s brother was National Security Advisor to Obama?:

One Donilon brother “working for the most powerful man on the planet and the other one could work for the most powerful religious leader on the planet?” mused Terry.

We have one word for the above. Pathetic.

Another American Pope Candidate Embraces the Far Left

This article about Cardinal O’Malley and his senior aide/advisor, Fr. Bryan Hehir, made the rounds this past week. It opens by saying:

A top aide [Fr. Bryan Hehir] to a left-wing American Catholic Cardinal [Cardinal O’Malley], reportedly in the running for the job of pope, taught a course called “Matthew, Marx, Luke, and John” at a pro-Marxist think tank in Washington, D.C. The course included a discussion of “the future of the Christian alliance with Marxism” and the “theology of the oppressed.”

This last one will have to be the subject of a future blog post.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley: Fact and Fiction about his Papability

March 10, 2013

The international buzz about Cardinal Sean O’Malley has a few facts correct and a lot of them missing or wrong.

A lot of people are confusing style with substance. In this post, we try to lay out everything as best we can, so you, the reader, can separate fact from fiction. By the end of the post, you will have a summary of the experiences in Boston over the recent years of Cardinal O’Malley’s tenure.

We start with a discussion about what folks are reporting the Cardinals are looking for in the next Pope, then the positive references cited about Cardinal O’Malley, then the facts, results, and wrong or missing information about his track record in Boston in the areas of teaching and governing.

Attributes Cardinals Say We Need in Next Pope

The key attributes we keep hearing repeatedly quoted in the press as desirable for the next pope are the following:

  • Great governance, leadership and managerial skills: to shake-up and overhaul a Vatican curia tainted by internal political infighting and the “Vatileaks” scandal, restore financial transparency to the Catholic Church’s operations and assemble a solid team of people around him to support his teaching and apostolic ministry
  • Great teaching skills—someone who can proclaim the Gospel and truths of our faith to all people, in-season and out-of-season, and who teaches not just by his words but also by his actions.
  • Great communication and evangelization skills: somebody with the charisma and communication skills to attract new members to the flock, inspire young people, and communicate the truths of the faith and joy of living their faith.
  • Holiness—a man who has lived a life of holiness, and who has deep faith and a deep prayer life and who can lead others to holiness
  • Multi-lingual and multicultural skills: someone who can relate well to the universal church and is sensitive to the transition of Christianity from a primarily European and North American faith experience  to one that has spread across Africa, South America  (40% of the world’s Catholics now live in Latin America) and the Pacific rim
  • Track record of effectively dealing with the problem of clergy sexual abuse, and putting in-place strong policies to deal with the problem

Positives Cited About Cardinal O’Malley

  • Humility: member of Capuchin order, an offshoot of the Franciscans known for service to the poor; has calm, pastoral manner; wears brown Franciscan robe and sandals; sold Cardinal’s residence after arriving in Boston to pay off debts, seems uninterested in the trappings of high religious office
  • Reputation for being strong dealing with clergy sexual abuse: came into difficult situation in Boston; seen as good at fixing this problem in multiple dioceses, one of the first bishops to introduce a “zero tolerance” policy towards priests who sexually abused children
  • Technology-savvy with communications: regarded as representing a more modern face of the church, largely because he maintains his own blog ( and Tweets
  • Multi-lingual and multi-cultural: has a doctorate in Spanish and Portuguese literature, speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Creole; founded the Spanish Catholic Center in Washington, DC where he ministered to Latinos, an organization which helps immigrants to the United States.
  • Committed to the Pro-life cause: preaches against abortion, viewed by many as theologically orthodox

The Facts About Cardinal O’Malley’s Record in Boston

We focus in this blog post just on a few of the attributes that Cardinals are quoted as looking for in the next Pope—strong governance/management and teaching. We will reference specific examples as we go, and focus on the actual results of what has happened in Boston on the ground, rather than the PR spin and what the Boston Archdiocese spin-meisters would have people believe.

At the beginning of Archbishop Sean O’Malley’s tenure in Boston (starting July 30, 2003) and through the initial 2-3 years, most people were excited and optimistic. He inspired with his first homily and initial comments about how St. Francis was called to “rebuild my church.”  He decided to not live in the previous Cardinal’s residence, opting for smaller quarters at the Cathedral rectory.  The large number of sexual abuse claims were settled. Much needed reforms at St. Johns Seminary progressed under the leadership of then-Rector Fr. John Farren. He preached against abortion and publicly campaigned against “same-sex marriage.”

Then several things happened. A diocesan-wide parish reconfiguration effort was undertaken which resulted in 62 parishes closing or merging. And Cardinal O’Malley brought in a new team of advisors and lay senior exec cabinet secretaries. Most were paid on the order of tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars more annually than their predecessors (and than their peers earn in other dioceses), and many had records of publicly opposing Catholic Church teachings in various ways or not even being Catholic.  If anyone thinks Cardinal O’Malley is the right person to shake-up a corrupt and politicized Roman curia and get the Roman Catholic Church globally in better shape, they should think again and look more closely at the Boston results on the ground.

1) Mass Attendance is Down Dramatically

One of the errors propagated in the press is that Mass attendance is up in Boston under Cardinal O’Malley.  This article in Lastampa implied that by saying, “faithful are returning to Church.” That is false.   The reality is that Mass attendance dropped by 23% between 2000 to 2009.  Between 2000 and 2012, it dropped by 34%, from 376,000 to 245,000.

This 2011 article from Catholic News Agency gives stats through 2009.

“Statistics from the archdiocese indicate that 40 percent of its parishes are barely meeting their financial needs or operating at a loss, while the number of active diocesan priests is expected to diminish by nearly half – from around 400, to only 180 – by 2021. Mass attendance in Boston dropped by 23 percent between 2000 and 2009.”

This 2011 Boston Globe article gives more stats:

“In the Boston Archdiocese, weekly Mass attendance has plunged from 376,383 in 2000 to 286,951 in 2009, according to the church’s annual count.”

Today fewer than 16 percent of Boston’s 1.8 million Catholics attend Mass weekly.According to other statistics published by the Boston Archdiocese in the Boston Catholic Directory, between 2006 and 2012, Mass attendance dropped from 280,000 to 245,000–a 12.5% drop in just the past 5-6 years.

2) Fiscal Management: Debt

The Boston Archdiocese is nearly $140M in debt, with no way in sight or in the plans of repaying the debts to St. Johns Seminary and the Clergy Funds. They ran an $11M operating deficit over the past 2 years.

3) Fiscal Management: Deception over “Balanced Budget” vs Operational Deficit

Some publications opining favorably on Cardinal O’Malley’s track record in Boston think that Boston has had a balanced budget in recent years.  It is true that the Boston Archdiocese announced they had a “balanced budget” in 2011 and 2012, but unfortunately, that was a flat out lie.

Here are press pickups of the announcements  for the 2010 and 2011 years. We hear Cardinal O’Malley said, “The Archdiocese of Boston has greatly benefited by the financial management of recent years that has achieved and sustained a balanced budget.”

The problem is, that statement was false. Look at the financial reports by following the links referenced here for the 2012 fiscal year, and here for the 2011 fiscal year:

Despite a “balanced budget” announced for the 2011 fiscal year, the recently released 2012 financial statements show (page 24, and page 73–Column 2) that the Central Operations of the archdiocese had an operating loss of $6.8 million in 2012 and $6.3M in 2011 (page 24). BCI pointed out the deception last year, and at least this year, they did not say they achieved a balanced budget–they just said they had a goal of having one.

4) Fiscal Management: Excessive Compensation and Poor Stewardship of Donor Funds

The top 16 lay executives are paid an outrageous $3.7M in salaries and benefits in the past year. This was covered in the mainstream media last year in “Up in Alms Over  Salaries.” Just two late-career executives are paid a combined $700K in salary and benefits a year. The Superintendent of Schools is paid $341K alone in salary and benefits. The number of lay executives paid more than $150K/year today (16) is more than 5X the number in 2006, when just 3 execs were paid more than $150K. The amount paid to folks making $150K+ a year ballooned by 6X from 2006 to 2012. The Archdiocese acknowledges many are overpaid, and to add insult to injury, they even gave raises to many overpaid execs last year. The diocese is in clear violation of the Motu Proprio signed on November 11, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI and officially in effect December 10, 2012, that says salaries need to be in due proportion to analogous expenses of the diocesan curia.

5) Financial Health of Boston parishes

40-50% of parishes are in the red and cannot pay their bills.

6) Financial Management: Capital Reserves

How are capital reserves? They have been drained in the past six years. Parish Reconfiguration funds have been tapped out by spending $12.3M in recent years to subsidize Pastoral Center departments normally funded by the Central Fund. And during the past six years, insurance reserves that were $15M in 2006 have been depleted to zero or near zero (see this 2010 BCI blog post and p. 16 of the 2012 Annual Report).  If the model of over-paying lay executives and deficit spending were to carry over to the Vatican and global Catholic Church, what would the impact be?

7) Deception over Catholic Schools Policy to Admit Children of Homosexual Parents

The basis for a 2011 Boston Catholic Schools policy to formally admit children of homosexual parents was a massive deception.

As many people know, in May 2010, a Hingham, MA pastor rejected admission to his parish Catholic school for the child of two lesbians. It created a national uproar at the same time Cardinal O’Malley was away in Portugal. His Catholic Schools office declared that the pastor was wrong and not acting consistent with archdiocesan policy:

“The archdiocese does not prohibit children of same-sex parents from attending Catholic schools,” said Mary Grassa O’Neill, the archdiocese’s secretary for education and superintendent of Catholic schools. “We will work in the coming weeks to develop a policy to eliminate any misunderstandings in the future.”

The Archdiocese of Denver, then under Archbishop Chaput, had a policy which, for the good of the child, did NOT allow children of homosexual parents in Catholic schools, and Boston was supposed to have studied the Denver policy as part of forming their new policy. That never happened. Months later, the archdiocese released their policy with the first words being a blatant lie.

“In creating this policy we are guided by the words of the Holy Father, by Canon Law and by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops”

The problem is they were guided by their OWN INTERNAL decision to admit children of homosexual parents, not at all by the words of the Holy Father.  At the September 2010 Presbyteral Council meeting with Cardinal O’Malley, Schools Superintendent Mary Grassa O’Neill told clergy that her committee had looked at the choices–either they “would discriminate” in admission policy for Catholic Schools against children of homosexual parents or they “would not discriminate”–and they simply chose “we would not discriminate.”  Then they went and found citations that would give the appearance of supporting their conclusion. In reality, the words they cited –and were supposedly inspired by–were wildly out of context and could not possibly have provided inspiration if read in context. The policy cited this:

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

The context by the Holy Father was an exhortation to get people to contribute generously to the financial needs of Catholic schools so Catholic school education would available to students of all financial means. He had spoken about the sacrifices of so many that set the foundation for a network of Catholic Schools. He said:

“Countless dedicated Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society. This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.”

This deception undermines the ability for faithful Catholics to trust both the Cardinal and his Superintendent of Schools.

8) The People Cardinal O’Malley Surrounds Himself With

In his most recent Boston Globe interview, Cardinal O’Malley said that governance of the Vatican, is also an ­issue. “We want the Holy Father to have a good team of people around him in a way that will support his ministry and allow him to focus on his teaching office, which we see as so important,” he said.

How has he, himself done in this area?  Not well at all. He has created a bureaucratic diocesan hierarchy and organization where internal politics rule far above anything having to do with the saving mission of the Catholic Church. He has surrounded himself by people he has brought in himself whose actions in many cases show they have distanced themselves from the faith or care little about the Catholic faith.  When people have complained about the bad eggs in the cabinet and problems with some of his senior cabinet officials, in all but one case, he has ignored them and kept supporting the problematic officials.  To his credit, he brought in a new Vicar General, who moved out the former Chancellor. That is the only one of many needed changes he has allowed.

Consider just two of his many appointees:

Fr. Bryan Hehir, Secretary for Social Services
This piece, The Eminence Grise, explains many of the problems. Fr. Hehir has had his fingers in nearly every public scandal or fiasco since he returned to Boston to work for Cardinal O’Malley in 2004:

  • Commending the “intelligent and courageous leadership” of the Catholic Health Association in 2010 for their role in passing the abortion-funding Obamacare and undermining the authority and voice of the U.S. bishops  at the same time the U.S. bishops were criticizing the CHA for their actions that were a “wound to Catholic unity”
  • Honoring the pro-abortion Mayor Thomas Menino at a 2005 Catholic Charities fundraiser
  • Inserting himself into decisions on parish reconfiguration of 2004 and mucking-up that process, including keeping some parishes open slated to be closed and insisting that parish vigils not be broken up–thus costing millions of dollars to maintain and heat the occupied properties
  • Hiring a lobbyist to head the Mass Catholic Conference who had given donations to pro-abortion politicians
  • Advising Cardinal O’Malley to attend the Ted Kennedy coronation funeral
  • Engaging and keeping as an advisor, Jack Connors, despite his involvement raising tens of millions of dollars for pro-abortion Democratic politicians
  • Being involved in the initial Caritas/Centene deal that would have had Caritas profiting from referrals to abortion services
  • and the list goes on.

As written in The Eminence Grise, “At a moment when the Church is striving to launch a “new evangelization” in this Year of Faith, the Archdiocese of Boston under Fr. Hehir’s leadership is more concerned with conforming to the secular culture, appeasing a hostile liberal media, and protecting renegade pro-abortion Catholic politicians and their apologists in the Catholic community. Hehir calls this “rebuilding trust” with civil society, but that is a ruse for enabling dissent, as Fr. Hehir’s record over 40 years illustrates. Here are other examples:

This piece, Matthew, MARX, Luke and John: Marxism in the Catholic Church, gives just a piece of the picture:

Father J. Bryan Hehir, who in 1983 delivered a series of lectures at the far-left Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) entitled, “Matthew, Marx, Luke, and John” illustrates the continuing left-wing drift of the Catholic Church…The Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive-socialist-Marxist think tank based in Washington, D.C…spawned or established alliances with other Marxist groups. When assembled together in a vast Left-wing network, these progressive-socialist-Marxist “shining stars,” as the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) calls them, present an all-encompassing solar system of radical organizations. With ties to communist regimes in Havana and Hanoi, the IPS has been at the center of this network for many years…

This presentation from Religious Left Exposed gives more details, as does this blog post.  Hehir’s course on “Matthew, Marx, Luke, and John: Theology of the Oppressed” taught attendees about liberation theologies and discussed “ancient and medieval precedents of peasant insurgency and rebellion, along with topics such as “the future of the Christian alliance with Marxism.” Another speaker in the 1983 series was the radical lesbian feminist theologian, Mary Hunt.  Hehir also spoke with her on a panel in a 2002 program at Regis College, where he said, “in 20th century Catholicism, teachings on sexuality have been “a chronically afflicted area.”  You can read more about that program and Mary Hunt here.

Yet despite many people telling Cardinal O’Malley he should remove Hehir, he remains, with more power and influence than the Vicar General, Bishop Deeley.  Hehir helps consolidate power in the Terry Donilon/Rasky Baerlein/Jack Connors coalition, does his best to thwart efforts around spreading the truths of the Catholic faith, and ensures the continued inefficacy of the Mass Catholic Conference and or any efforts to communicate Catholic moral views in the public square and political process.

Jack Connors

Cardinal O’Malley is closely allied with this multi-millionaire businessman who, while sitting on the Archdiocesan Finance Council responsible for fund-raising, is working against the Catholic Church by raising tens of millions of dollars for anti-Catholic pro-abortion politicians like Obama and by actively supporting medical centers that perform abortions (Partners Healthcare, where he was chairman) or training medical personnel to perform abortions.  To read all of our pieces that mention the scandalous association with Jack Connors, click here.  Meanwhile, the Boston Archdiocese has a “Code of Conduct” that says, “Church Personnel will continually and objectively examine and evaluate their own actions and intentions to ensure that their behavior promotes the welfare of the Archdiocese and each applicable Archdiocesan Affiliated Organization and exemplifies the moral traditions of the Church.”How does raising money for Obama and giving personal funds to support abortion-on-demand promote the welfare of the Archdiocese and exemplify the moral traditions of the Church. If Cardinal O’Malley feels OK keeping him around as a key advisor despite the scandal, then who would he bring in to advise him in the Vatican?

Add to the above, the sham searches and hiring of people like Terry Donilon, former Chancellor Jim McDonough, overpaid Exec. Director of Benefits and ex-Catholic Carol Gustavson ($166K), overpaid Schools Superintendent Mary Grassa O’Neill ($341K/year), overpaid General Counsel Beirne Lovely ($300K+/year), Obama and Joe-Biden supporting PR firm Rasky Baerlein and it is no surprise we have the mess we do.  It is said in Latin, qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent. (“He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas”).

9) Scandalous Ted Kennedy Funeral, Failure to Teach through Actions and Words

The participation of Cardinal O’Malley in the Kennedy coronation-style funeral with its celebrity eulogies and politicized prayers of the faithful created grave scandal and gave pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians massive air-cover and justification to believe they can oppose Church teachings and still be a considered a “good Catholic.” His subsequent blog post where he gushed over the funeral ceremony, praised Kennedy, criticized pro-life Catholics, failed to acknowledge the problems with the funeral liturgy he presided over and failed to teach the truth about Kennedy’s sinful support for abortion created additional scandal. It showed Cardinal O’Malley clearly failing to teach through both actions and words.  Read the comments on this January 2013 National Catholic Register article or watch this Vortex.

Is this sort of failed and confused teaching what we can afford in the next Pontiff?

10) Deception Around Maintaining Catholic Identity at Caritas Christi Healthcare after Sale to Cerberus

When Caritas Christi was sold to Cerberus, the premise and promise in the stewardship agreement that set out conditions of the sale was to preserve the Catholic identity of the hospitals forever.

Christopher Murphy, a spokesman for the network, said the stewardship agreement would be designed to permanently maintain the hospital’s Catholic identity….“The main point is that it’s designed to last forever,” he said. “That’s the prevailing hope of everyone involved, that . . . the Catholic tradition of Caritas Christi stays in place forever.”  (Boston Globe, April 28, 2010)

“The Stewardship Agreement memorializes Steward’s commitment to maintain the Catholic identity of the Caritas Christi Healthcare system and its fidelity to the mission of the Church’s healthcare ministry.” (Fr. Richard Erikson, Vicar General, The Boston Pilot, May 14, 2010)

“We announced yesterday that an agreement has been reached with Cerberus that ensures the Catholic identity of the Caritas Christi hospitals… this stewardship agreement was a key component for us because it will preserve the Catholic identity of Caritas.” (Cardinal Seans blog, May 7, 2010)

That was before we learned–late in the game–about the buyout clause that allowed the new owner to drop the Catholic identity after just three years for $25 million. See “In Hospital Deal, How Much Is a Catholic Identity Worth? Just 3%“.

This is yet another example of the spin and style communicated one thing, while the substance behind it was not there.

11) Deception over Lay Pension Plans and Failure to Follow Through on Promise

Between 2010-2011, a huge controversy erupted when the Boston Archdiocese decided to cut lay pension plan benefits to current and former employees. The unfunded pension liability was in the range of $70-75 million. We covered this extensively in this series. Pension Plan trustees were accused of breach of fiduciary responsibility with a request by the former Chancellor that they be removed. You can also read more in this National Catholic Register article. The archdiocese was sued over the pension matter by the Daughters of St. Paul, and the Cardinal retaliated in a move that resulted in a change in provincial leadership for the religious sisters. To mitigate the firestorm of controversy, Cardinal O’Malley issued a statement where he reaffirmed his commitment to the pension plan.

“As long as I have breath in me, I will do everything in my power to care for the thousands of people who have given their lives in the service of the Church,” the cardinal said in a March 30 statement to The Pilot.

The problem is, in the 2 years since then, the Cardinal still has breath in him for his press briefings and Vatican media campaign, yet his team have done nothing to follow through on his promise. Nothing has been done to re-fund the 70-some million-dollar pension plan obligation they backed out of, and the amount owed to the beneficiaries is nowhere even on the books as a debt to be repaid.

12) Energy, Motivation and Intestinal Fortitude for the Job

How does Cardinal O’Malley handle the load of his existing role?  Not well. When Parish Reconfiguration was underway in 2004-2005–an initiative where he had a committee doing everything and never met with closing parishes or even celebrated Masses at closing parishes–we all know how he wrote this  2004 letter to Boston Catholics in which he said, “At times I ask God to call me home and let someone else finish this job, but I keep waking up in the morning to face another day of reconfiguration.”  If he was sufficiently depressed and uninspired to handle the challenges of his job in Boston, is he really up to the job of being Pope?

There is much more we could cover but we will pause for now.  The bottom line is that a lot of journalists and pundits are opining on the papability of Cardinal O’Malley without all of the facts. Cardinal O’Malley and his team and colleagues may actually believe he would make a good pope.  We hope and pray that all involved consider both the good about Cardinal O’Malley and the shortcomings.

If the biggest tasks at hand for the new Holy Father require great skills in governance/leadership/management to shake-up and overhaul the Vatican curia, and great teaching skills to clearly proclaim the Gospel and truths of our faith to all people, in-season and out-of-season with both words and actions, it should be clear that Cardinal Sean O’Malley is not the right man for the job.

We pray that the Holy Spirit guide the Cardinal electors to choose a next Pope who is truly a Vicar of Christ who will lead and guide the Church to achieve her mission of salvation.

More on Cardinal O’Malley’s Vatican PR Campaign, gay network of priests in Boston

March 7, 2013

In our last post we talked about Cardinal O’Malley’s Vatican PR campaign, and how his communications secretary was looking for stories so he could feed the press.  Cardinal O’Malley also said he was reading the National Catholic Reporter as an “interesting” source of information in preparation for the upcoming conclave. Today we update you with several new developments.

First, we ask the question, why is there a big international media campaign around Cardinal O’Malley? Cardinal O’Malley has apparently brought a few members of his media and communications team to Rome.We know the editor of the Pilot was on the plane to Rome with the Cardinal, and Communications Secretary, Terry Donilon, is in Rome to coordinate the campaign. We called his office to volunteer BCI to brief reporters looking for Boston-related stories on our ministry and got his voicemail saying he is in Rome. No return date is indicated on the voicemail.  Why the big international media campaign, with no apparent bound on how long Donilon will stay?  Beyond that, why are thousands of dollars in Catholic Appeal donor funds being squandered to pay travel and expenses for the Boston media guys to be in Rome?

Secondly, couldn’t the Cardinal’s time be used better to prepare for the critical vote than in press briefings? In an interview with the Boston Globe, published Wednesday, we heard the following:

O’Malley also seemed to ache for a little down time. He had just finished a long press conference and had more report­ers to speak with before a dinner with cardinals. He said he had not been able to spend much time going out to dinner or otherwise enjoying the city. “If I didn’t have all these interviews,” he said with a laugh, “I could be in a bookstore right now.”

In a briefing Tuesday, Cardinal O’Malley said they should not rush to schedule the start of the conclave, and then joked, “And it is hard to get a bad meal in Rome.”

At a time when Cardinals are to be prayerfully considering the needs of the universal Catholic Church, along with the qualities needed in the next Pope, two things seem odd and raise further questions. Why does Cardinal O’Malley “have all these interviews” and have to spend so much time in interviews and briefings? Also, if he was not spending the time in interviews, are we to understand that he would instead be in a bookstore, going out to nice dinners or otherwise enjoying the city?  Dinners with other cardinals are a way to assess the field of candidates, but are interviews, bookstore browsing and enjoying the city the best use of his time in advance of electing the next Pope?

As of late yesterday, the kibosh has been put on press briefings.  “”The College (of Cardinals) as a whole has decided to maintain a line of an increasing degree of reserve,” said Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi. Some say it was because of the daily briefings by the American cardinals and some say it was leaks to the Italian publication, La Stampa.

But one other interesting comment by Cardinal O’Malley merits additional discussion.  In “O’Malley: Church must discipline bishops,” he said the Catholic Church needs global standards for disciplining bishops–referring to the need for a uniform policy to deal with bishops who failed to move against abusive priests. We agree.  But we wonder if this same principle should extend to bishops who fail to move against priests who are openly gay, are part of a gay network of priests, or who commit a form of spiritual abuse by publicly blessing “gay marriages” and lead souls away from salvation.

In response to our post last week, “Does Boston Archdiocese have a “gay network” of clergy too?“, a number of readers pointed us to a book by a writer of gay pornography that helps answer the question which was the title of our post. The book includes commentary from interviews with diocesan and religious priests who acknowledge they are gay. One priest admits he has come out to other priests, and has attended and blessed four “gay unions.”  Two diocesan priests tell how they were not supportive of the effort several years ago to gather signatures for a constitutional amendment banning “gay marriage.”  The book by Scott Pomfret is called “Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir.”  The real names of many priests are listed in the book. A simple google search on passages from the book reveals rather clearly who one of the key pseudonymous characters is in real life. Here is an excerpt from the chapter that talks about “Fr. Butterballino” and his blessing of the gay unions (3rd page of the chapter preview):

He admitted, “I’ve been to four civil weddings of gay people…After the rite is over, I do some kind of prayer or blessing. If I’m called on it, I can say I was there and I performed a prayer. I didn’t perform a wedding.”

This priest is still a pastor today, as are other priests known to have performed blessings on gay unions. These situations mislead the faithful, lead souls away from salvation and scandalize the faithful. Sources indicate Cardinal O’Malley has been made aware of this information, and BCI has also sent an email to the archdiocese about the situation with an excerpt from this blog post.

Why did diocesan priests agree to be interviewed for a book by a known writer of gay pornography?  Why is that not a problem for the Boston Archdiocese?

Given there was a shake-up with Cardinal O’Malley’s Franciscan brothers at St. Anthony Shrine right after the book was published–with the Franciscans having acted on the information in the book by removing the author as lector–and since  local and national media reported that the book suggested some local clergy, given fictional names, are sexually active, what was done at the time of publication to investigate and address the revelations in the book?

Why is Cardinal O’Malley apparently not so troubled by pastors blessing “gay marriages” that he has not removed these priests from pastoral leadership roles and/or corrected their false teachings?

If bishops should be disciplined for failing to move against sexually abusive priests (which BCI agrees with), what should happen to bishops for failing to move against “out” gay priests or those in a “gay network” whose public actions can lead the faithful to sin (and to think those sins are permissible and worthy of public blessing)–and lead souls away from salvation?  Is that not a form of spiritual abuse that needs to be disciplined and corrected?

If there are any more interviews with Cardinal O’Malley, we invite the reporters to ask these questions of His Eminence and to publish the responses. We invite all to pray for the discernment of Cardinal O’Malley and all of the cardinals on the election of the next Pope.

Cardinal O’Malley’s Vatican PR Campaign

March 4, 2013

In case you have been wondering how and why Cardinal Sean O’Malley is getting so much press in and around the upcoming conclave to elect a new pope, now we know why.  The Boston Archdiocesean PR machine is in high gear drumming up stories, as exemplified by the email below from Cardinal O’Malley’s cabinet secretary for communications.  A rational person seeing their press activity might wonder why the Cardinal and his PR team have embarked on such an active campaign in the days before the conclave starts.

Here at BCI, we would like to do our part to assist, and we invite our readers to help as well.

1) We suggest that Cardinal O’Malley revisit the list of publications he reads for input and those with whom he spends time interviewing.  In this interview with the National Catholic Reporter, published March 3, here are his answers to several questions:

How are you preparing yourself?

Spiritually, I’m trying to focus on the seriousness of this, asking for God’s help in prayer. I’m also trying to learn as much as I can about my brother cardinals.

How are you doing that?

I downloaded Mr. Miranda’s material, because he has a page of just the cardinals who are going to be at the conclave. [Note: Salvador Miranda of Florida International University maintains a web page on the cardinals.] I had my secretary go through and take out the biography of each one. A lot of them, of course, I knew, but this was one way of putting names to the faces of those I don’t know. That’s especially true of the Eastern Europeans and a couple of the Africans. I’m trying to read articles, to become acquainted with some of these issues in the past faced by conclaves. Your articles are all very interesting too.

Where do we start on this?  The “National Catholic Reporter” is not even Catholic–as exemplified by recent statements by Kansas City Bishop Finn that the paper should not call itself Catholic, and by Colorado Springs Bishop Sheridan that the National Catholic Reporter ‘is an embarrassment to the Catholic Church.’ Why is Cardinal O’Malley even spending time or giving credibility to the paper by agreeing to an interview with them? Furthermore, since the paper publishes pieces by dissidents such as Joan Chittister and takes editorial positions that officially condemn Catholic Church teaching–including “on the ordination of women, insistent undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching, and a litany of other issues”–what does this say about the theological standards and discernment of the Cardinal? BCI would suggest that Cardinal O’Malley instead prepare for the conclave by reading writings of the saints and publications other than the National Catholic Reporter.

2) Here is the email just sent out by Terry Donilon asking for help on Cardinal O’Malley’s Vatican public relations campaign:

Subj: Rome updates and 2 requests


As you know the Cardinal is in Rome preparing for the conclave.  This week will see the start of the meetings with the College of Cardinal’s.  Through The Pilot, Cardinal Sean’s blog and our social media team as well as CatholicTV we will keep you up to date as the proceedings get underway.

We do have two requests we hope some of you can help us with.

As you can imagine, the media has descended on Rome from all over the world.  This week the Boston media will be arriving to cover the events.

1.      We have a need for Boston folks in Rome either on pilgrimage, working or visiting during the week ahead to engage with the media which we will vet and who would have positive things to say about the Church.  The local media arriving and some national media have made requests to us

2.      We need local stories where parishes, schools and ministries are involved that are learning and celebrating Pope Benedict, the papacy and the universal church (perhaps Boston-based folks with a connection to Rome/Vatican).

Thanks so much for any consideration you give to this request.

Please email your suggestions and connections to me and Kellyanne Dignan (

Please continue to pray for Cardinal Sean and his fellow Cardinal’s as they undertake this most important responsibility.



Terrence C. Donilon
Secretary for Communications
Archdiocese of Boston
Work:  617-746-5775
Cell:  401-480-0171

Pastoral Center
66 Brooks Dr
Braintree, MA  02184

The main question people should be asking themselves is “Why exactly are Cardinal O’Malley and his team mounting this PR campaign?”   When Terry writes, “We have a need…,”  is it clear to any readers why they have a “need”?  What will happen if the need they have is not fulfilled?  The Boston Archdiocese is spending about $1 million annually on media (Terry Donilon salary and benefits, Scot Landry salary and benefits plus his media and CatholicTV team, and Rasky Baerlein) and yet they have to beg everyone in the archdiocese for Rome stories. Is there anything wrong with that picture?

In addition, BCI readers have heard us tell you for some time that Terry Donilon–paid $184K in salary, plus benefits, for total compensation of $208K–is challenged when it comes to spelling, grammar and knowledge of Catholicism.  This email is a great example.  There are meetings of the College of Cardinal’s. [Note: Students learn  how to make a noun possessive in 2nd grade. (e.g. “the boy’s ball”)  There is no possessive in “College of Cardinals”]  And how  exactly is it that parishes, schools and ministries would go about  “learning…Pope Benedict?  Also, we should pray for Cardinal Sean and his fellow Cardinal’s [again, what are they possessing?] as they undertake this most important responsibility. [Which responsibility is it the Cardinal’s are undertaking?  Is it fulfilling the “need” for stories?] . Is this quality of work worth $208K a year, subsidized by Catholic Appeal donations?  Does the Compensation Committee think someone who cannot spell at beyond a 2nd grade level and is paid $208K a year is somehow not being excessively compensated?

To help the archdiocese, BCI is going to do several things:

  • We will write to the Compensation Committee and suggest their first target for job standards and pay reduction.
  • BCI is going to offer to Terry and the PR team that BCI will speak to the press about our apostolic ministry as Catholic bloggers, where we are helping people learn about the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI. (We even have a connection to Rome/Vatican, because BCI readers keep sending BCI blog posts to members of the Roman curia, hoping they will do something about the problems in Boston).
  • We are going to offer to Terry and the Rasky Baerlein team that, as long as Terry is still doing the communications job, we will help proofread and spell-check emails from Terry before they are sent out.

Lastly, if any BCI readers are in Rome, would like to talk to the press about the papacy of Benedict XVI or the papacy in general, or have a connection to the Vatican (e.g. by means of your having emailed or called the Papal Nuncio or others in the Roman curia), feel free to help out Terry Donilon and the Boston Archdiocese. Drop Terry and Rasky an email and offer to speak to a reporter.

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