White Smoke: Habemus Papam!

March 13, 2013

White smoke poured out the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican bells are ringing.

White smoke is seen from the roof of the Sistine Chapel indicating that the College of Cardinals have elected a new Pope on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Stay tuned. We will know the name of the new pope shortly!


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:

From: Terrence_Donilon@rcab.org
Subj: Rome updates and 2 requests

Friends,

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 (kdignan@rasky.com).

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

Thanks,

Terry

**********************************************
Terrence C. Donilon
Secretary for Communications
Archdiocese of Boston
Email:  tdonilon@rcab.org
Work:  617-746-5775
Cell:  401-480-0171

www.bostoncatholic.org

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.


Insider Questions: Is Cardinal O’Malley Really “Papabile”?: Part 1

February 21, 2013

All of the articles and buzz about the prospect of Cardinal Sean O’Malley becoming pope are asking the wrong questions and missing so much, it is almost impossible to know where to start. The latest, a column in the Boston Globe, says “One thing that is striking about Cardinal O’Malley and which makes him supremely “papabile,” or one who might become pope, is his sense of humor.”

Really?  Someone thinks a supremely important character trait for being Pope is a sense of humor, and it gets a column in the mainstream media?

First off, the responsibilities of the successors of the apostles are to teach, sanctify, and govern.  Before anyone continues promoting Cardinal O’Malley for pope–especially those in the media–they should ask themselves, “How would I grade him on those points?” How is he as an episcopal leader? What has his efficacy been as an episcopal leader in these areas and in making the salvation of souls a top priority for the Boston Archdiocese?  This is not about perceived humility. It is not about sense of humor. It is not about resolving sexual abuse cases. It is about efficacy as an episcopal leader and shepherd/leader of the flock to save souls.

Everyone will have their own opinion.  Here are some questions the media and other pundits should be asking, and the BCI perspective.

How is Cardinal O’Malley at Teaching? Does he give good homilies and write good pastoral letters (when written and propagated)? Yes. But how does he score for walking the talk and clarifying teachings when there is confusion? (e.g. “Catholics” who support pro-abortion Catholic politicians, Ted Kennedy funeral scandal, Gay Pride Mass at St. Cecilia in Boston, abortion referrals with the Caritas/Centene fiasco, Catholic identity in Catholic schools, pro-abortion advisers to Cardinal O’Malley). BCI gives him a B-/C+ for teaching.

How is Cardinal O’Malley at Sanctifying? We know that in order to sanctify, the bishop must be a holy person himself. (We are not in a position to grade that in Cardinal O’Malley and do not question his personal holiness). From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we know that the bishop (with his priests) sanctifies the Church especially through the Eucharist and by their ministry of Word, their ministry of sacraments, and by their good example. Furthermore, the bishop is commissioned to be a leader or motivator of building holiness for the priests of the diocese.  How is Cardinal O’Malley at the latter? We see little evidence that Cardinal O’Malley has invested a great amount of time and energy to make care and sustenance (spiritual and/or physical) for the presbyterate a high priority. BCI gives him a B for sanctifying.

How is Cardinal O’Malley at Governing? “Leadership” as defined by an expert in the field, means attributes like integrity (alignment of words and actions with inner values, walking the talk, sticking to strong values, and building an entire organization with powerful and effective cultural values), dedication (spending whatever time and energy on a task is required to get the job done, giving your whole self to the task, dedicating yourself to success and to leading others with you), magnanimity (giving credit where it is due and accepting personal responsibility for failures), and other traits.  On just the first three attributes–integrity, dedication, and magnanimity, what is the report card for the episcopal leadership of Cardinal O’Malley? BCI would rate it not very good. Depending on the day, BCI gives somewhere between a D and an F for governing.  Why is that?

Whether Bishop of Boston, Bishop of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, or Bishop of Rome, we extend the words of the late Bishop John D’Arcy to offer that the bishop’s role is as a loving, but tough-minded shepherd–a shepherd after the heart of Christ. “A bishop must teach the Catholic faith ‘in season and out of season,’ and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.”

Is that Cardinal Sean O’Malley?  Not as evidenced in recent years. Here are additional questions from BCI that we feel pundits and writers should be asking about Cardinal O’Malley based on objective evidence:

1) How does he handle  the load of his existing role?  Not well. We all know how in 2004 he wrote a 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.”

2) How engaged or unengaged is he as Archbishop of Boston in governing? (which most of the mainstream media are not aware of). Anyone who has attended meetings with him in recent years can attest to the concern.  Cardinal O’Malley is often largely, if not entirely, silent during important meetings. People presenting important concerns to him face-to-face report getting no response in the meeting, or in follow-up actions.

For those who would say the above is subjective, we beg to differ. These are objective observations.  In addition, a look at the number of important official documents that were supposed to have been signed by Cardinal O’Malley himself in recent years, but that were apparently signed with his name by someone else, makes it fairly clear that he is not entirely engaged in governance of the diocese. Analysis by a local handwriting expert shows evidence that important documents–including relegations to profane use of churches and perhaps even the sale agreement for St. John’s Seminary–were likely signed by someone other than the Cardinal O’Malley who tried to make it look like the signature was that of Cardinal O’Malley. Here is the forensic_handwriting_analysis report.

Certainly there are thousands of documents that cross the desk of the Archbishop of Boston and he cannot possibly review and sign them all. But one might reasonably ask, if the Cardinal is not sufficiently engaged to take the time to review and personally sign important official documents such as a relegation to profane use for a church, what else is he not engaged in?

3) How sound has the fiscal management of the Boston Archdiocese been?  To what extent has the Boston Archdiocese been upholding their fiduciary responsibility to donors to spend their contributions most effectively and efficiently to build the Kingdom of God and save souls?

  • How much debt does the Boston Archdiocese have?  Do they run a balanced budget? The Boston Archdiocese is nearly $140M in debt, with no way of repaying the debts to St. Johns Seminary and the Clergy Funds. Central Operations ran an $11M operating deficit over the last 2 year.
  • Are employees overpaid? They paid their top 16 lay executives $3.7M in salaries and benefits in the past year. 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.
  • How is the financial health of Boston parishes? 40-50% of parishes are in the red and cannot pay their bills.
  • How carefully are administrative expenses managed to preserve funds for ministry? Administrative expenses have been in the range of 33-36% of all Central Operations expenditures in recent years, an increasing share of expenditures from 6 years ago.
  • How are capital reserves? They have been drained. 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?

BCI will continue in a separate post to discuss other questions that should be asked by the media and pundits.  Those questions surround the culture of deception in the Boston Archdiocese, hiring choices for senior roles (full-time and advisory), the creation of scandal by publicly defending decisions or actions that are objectively indefensible–with a failure to acknowledge mistakes, ignoring of Vatican recommendations or directives, and the apparent lack of courage of conviction to match actions with words. These have all been chronicled by BCI previously, but we will summarize them in our next post.

Ultimately, the election of the next Pope is in the hands of the Holy Spirit.  But for those writing and conjecturing about who is “papabile,” they should at least be asking the right questions.


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