Is Archdiocesean Anti-Corruption Effort Corrupted and Conflicted?

May 4, 2011

On March 25, the archdiocese released a Code of Conduct policy and anonymous whistleblower process using a 3rd-party tool, Ethicspoint, whereby anyone can file a report of a violation of the Code of Conduct and have it investigated.  The policy itself and the process outlined for the archdiocese to investigate claims raised a number of questions that we did not have the time to bring up then, but now that a number of readers have submitted claims and received responses, we feel we need to open that can of worms.

Below, you will find an example of a claim recently submitted and the response, which left a BCI reader sufficiently dissatisfied that they just sent it our way. It is the 4th complaint BCI has received about the program. If you have tried submitting claims and got back an unsatisfactory response, please email it to us.

Archdiocesan auditors had recommended the archdiocese implement an anonymous whistleblower program for years, and BCI reminded the archdiocese about this for a number of months.  But from our first post on the topic through our most recent one in January, Whistleblower Policy: Progress and Problems, we raised concerns about weak leadership and the proposed plan of routing claims to the very people responsible for the problems, or to no one.  Then there are the ambiguities about the policy itself as currently worded.  Little more than a month into the program, it seems that the chickens have come home to roost. The program that was time-consuming for the archdiocese to develop and implement may already have proven sufficiently ambigious and subject to interpretation that it is ineffective.

First, here is the Ethicspoint website for the Boston Archdiocese where you can read the Code of Conduct Policy and/or file a claim. Claims can be filed in these categories:

  • Financial, Auditing, Accounting and Stewardship Misconduct: Accounting, Auditing and Internal Financial Controls; Abuse of or Fraud with Benefits; Donor Stewardship; Embezzlement; Falsification of Contracts, Reports or Records; Theft (Larceny, Burglary, Robbery); Time Abuse
  • Archdiocesan Employee Code of Conduct Violation or Misconduct: Conflict of Interest, Data Privacy, Disclosure of Confidential Information, Discrimination or Harassment, Gifts and Entertainment, Improper Lobbying or Political Contribution, Misconduct or Inappropriate Behavior, Retaliation, Sabotage or Vandalism, Substance Abuse
  • Workplace Safety: Unsafe Working Conditions

The Reporting Process is described in this document, which says, “Whether made through the Archdiocesan website or via the dedicated toll-free telephone hotline, all reports…will be given careful attention by the appropriate Archdiocesan Vicar or Director. All reports submitted will be supervised by the Audit Committee of the Archdiocese of Boston Finance Council. If a submitted report references the Vicar or Director who is responsible for investigating in the area of concern of your report then they will be omitted from the reporting process.”

Below is an example of a recently submitted report and the response.

Report Submitted

Issue Type
Misconduct or Inappropriate Behavior

Please identify the person(s) engaged in this behavior:
Jack Connors – Finance Council member, Chair of Campaign for Catholic Schools

Do you suspect or know that a supervisor or management is involved?

If yes, then who?
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley

Is management aware of this problem?

What is the general nature of this matter?
Connors is violating the Code of Conduct by hosting fund-raisers for pro-abortion political candidates and by serving on the Board of Partners Healthcare, which provides abortions.

Where did this incident or violation occur?
multiple times. see below

How long do you think this problem has been going on?
More than a year

How did you become aware of this violation?

If other, how?
I read it in the newspapers all the time

The Code of Conduct says “The public and private conduct of Church Personnel can be a source of inspiration and motivation, but it can also scandalize and undermine the faith of the people that are served.”

“Church personnel who disregard or violate this code will be subject to remedial action. This action can take several forms, from an oral or written warning to removal and termination of employment or services.”

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

This article in the Boston Herald says Jack is hosting a fundraiser at his home for the most pro-abortion President in our country’s history.

Here we have Jack Connors hosting pro-abortion politician, Joe Biden for a “friend-raiser.”

Jack is Chairman of Partners Healthcare, whose Brigham and Women’s Hospital profits from performing 4,300 abortions every year (3,600 first-trimester and 570 second-trimester).

Jack was the Co-Chair of the 2004 Democratic National Convention that nominated Sen. John Kerry for president. Sen. Kerry is pro-abortion.

Jack publicly endorsed Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate.
Martha Coakely is pro-abortion. In a January 2010 radio interview, when asked about conscience rights and religious freedom for Catholic healthcare workers who believe what the Pope teaches, Coakley responded, “You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.”

The Code of Conduct says Connors, by being a Finance Council member and Chair of the Campaign for Catholic Schools, qualifies as “Church Personnel.” His private conduct supporting pro-abortion politicians is a source of scandal, according to Cardinal O’Malley himself, and undermines the faith of the people that are served. It would seem to me that remedial action needs to be taken. If Connors does not cancel the upcoming Obama fundraiser, then I believe based on the Code of Conduct, he needs to be removed from any service to the Archdiocese of Boston.

Here is the Ethicspoint Response:

Mr. Connors is not representing the Archdiocese of  Boston at this event. The Code of Conduct does not bar Church Personnel or Volunteers from attending or hosting fund raising events. There is no violation of the Code of Conduct.

#   #   #   #

The reader commented the following to BCI,

The policy clearly states “Church Personnel will conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as enunciated by the Holy Father and the Bishops in communion with him.  More specifically, Church Personnel shall, in all such matter, accept, rely upon, and defer to the teaching authority of the Archbishop in all matters of faith and morals.”  Does someone in the archdiocese not realize that abortion is against the teachings of the Church?!!  They write a Code of Conduct policy that says private conduct can be a source of scandal and undermine the faith of people, but when I raise a claim of two instances of private conduct that are diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Church and scandalous, one of which our archbishop himself said publicly borders on scandal, they respond saying there is no violation. Who makes the decision that Jack Connors’ behavior is not a source of scandal and thereby a violation of the policy?  How do we know that person or those persons who reviewed my claim and responded themselves agree with the teachings of the Church?  The policy is clearly bogus. There is not even a way for me to respond to the bogus decision. BCI needs to expose that the program is corrupt.

This gets back to something that reader, “Objective Observer” objectively observed in a comment right after the policy was issued:

1. VERY POORLY DRAFTED — overly broad and vague; standards are wildly subjective; open to completely inconsistent enforcement; flunks the
“whim” test; which makes it…

2. UNENFORCEABLE… The standard is completely subjective —so need not be applied consistently. In other words, the circumstances of violation in the Code are very broad and vague, and the enforcement is completely subjective — some “Church personnel” (the list includes everyone except your cat) could be fired AND sued, others could be left to do as they please.

After looking at several emails forwarded to us by people who have filed what BCI feels are valid claims, we concur that both the policy and the program are flawed, conflicted, and perhaps even corrupted.

The intention of a Code of Conduct and an anonymous whistleblower policy is good. But this particular policy as worded and the implementation need work. Pastors are going to have to complain about this.

What do you think?

ps. For the moment, if you find the response to the claim above problematic, we encourage readers to submit their own Ethicspoint reports on this same issue (or other issues).  You can submit anonymously via the Ethicspoint website, or you can call 1-866-491-5283.  The only way we believe this flawed policy and program be made right is for people like you to weigh in on it. Keep us posted how you make out.

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