Sham Searches: Part 1

bostoncatholicinsider | September 27, 2010 at 8:04 am | Tags: Archdiocese of Boston, fr bryan hehir, jack connors | Categories: Cronyism, People | URL:

One of the things that most upsets us here at Boston Catholic Insider is when the Boston Archdiocese is knowingly deceptive. They pretend they are open and “transparent,” yet they say and do things that may be flat out wrong, intentionally vague, or cloaked in secrecy.  The so-called “searches” to fill key positions are among the most egregious examples of this, but it goes well beyond that.  A “sham” is defined by various sources as a “trick that deludes,” “counterfeit purporting to be genuine,” “fraud or hoax,” “pretended.” So we are calling the archdiocese’s recent and ongoing way of filling many key positions “sham searches.”  Today we talk about Sham Search #1 (Secretary for Institutional Advancement) and #2 (Exec. Director of the Mass Catholic Conference).

But before we cover that, let us look at the September 24 issue of The Pilot for some other examples of deception.  This is not a criticism of The Pilot–it is a matter of what officials tell The Pilot and let them publish.

The Priest Appreciation Dinner, held on September 16 “raised over $1 million dollars for the Clergy Funds” according to the front page photo caption.  That’s awesome!  Cardinal Sean on his blog said they realized a profit of about $1 million, but Clergy Funds Advisor Joe D’Arrigo (expensive consultant, whose contract compensation is still undisclosed) said final tallies on the net “amount raised were unavailable at press time since dinner expenses still needed to be accounted.” Sorry for nit-picking guys, but that last part is just bogus. You know how much the food cost per person when you signed the event contract, and there is a final billing invoice signed usually the evening of the event, or a day afterwards. Here is the catering menu for the Seaport World Trade Center. The event costs were probably around $70-80/person, so for 1,500 people, take $100K-$120K off the top.   They know exactly what the event netted and apparently just do not want to tell us.  (By the way, we are still waiting for that list of the trustees of the Clergy Retirement Fund.

But far worse than that is John Kaneb’s comment regarding progress of recent events to raise money for the fund.  The Pilot reports that Kaneb discussed how “in 2008 the fund had a $10 million operating deficit and by next year the fund will be operating at a near zero deficit.”   That is an interesting spin to describe the condition of the fund, given that the Boston Globe reported in May 2009 that as of the end of the 2008 fiscal year, the fund had a $114 million shortfall, and officials said the pension fund will run out of money in two years without major change.   This past June, the funding gap for 2009 was reported at $109 million.  It is great that they have “trimmed” annual operating expenses today (so what comes in is about what goes out).  But they just coincidentally neglected to remind people at the dinner about the Titanic-sized iceberg of future benefits they have not yet figured out how to pay?  By the way, Kaneb was a dinner co-chair, is CEO and chairman of HP Hood, and according to Boston Magazine’s “The 50 Wealthiest Bostonians” is worth $600 million, so he could wipe out the fund shortfall with one check that would barely dent his net worth if he wanted to.

Back to the sham searches. Sham Search #1 is for the new head of institutional advancement for the Archdiocese.  Jack Connors, who played a key role in the cabinet rearrangement that moved out the previous Cabinet Secretary for institutional advancement, is running that search committee. By coincidence, the 2010 fund-raising initiative for his Campaign for Catholic Schools is now winding down (around $20M short of its goal) and some of the people from that campaign may be now looking for jobs.  Coincidentally, Kathleen Driscoll, President of the Campaign for Catholic Schools was named event co-chair for the Priest Appreciation Dinner, which gave her a good chance to exercise her talents and interact with a lot of priests and Pastoral Center staff.  Ms. Driscoll is a Boston College alum (just like Jack), formerly worked with Jack Connors at Hill Holliday from 1984-1992, and then went to work for John Hancock Financial Services. John Hancock became a big client of Hill Holliday, and Jack’s friend, David D’Alessandro, was chairman, president, and CEO while Kathleen was there.  Water cooler buzz around the Pastoral Center has suggested for a while that the “fix is in” for Kathleen to get the job.  After she was introduced to people at the Pastoral Center, some were advised to “be nice” to her, given she might be working closely with them in the future and/or might be their next boss. By coincidence, very few other candidates have been interviewed by a broad group of people at the pastoral center. A commenter on this blog observed that her appointment would further squeeze and pressure Cardinal O’Malley to conform the archdiocese to the vision of Jack Connors, since Connors or his cronies would control virtually all fundraising—Catholic schools, clergy retirement fund, and the Catholic Appeal.  If Connors controls all of the money flow, how could the Cardinal not kow-tow to his demands? Ms. Driscoll may be a very capable person.  Nonetheless, if we were Cardinal O’Malley, we would remove Jack Connors from the search committee and ensure that no one beholden to Jack is named to this position.

Sham Search #2 is for the new Executive Director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference.  MCC is the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts, and the person in that role needs to be energetic, articulate, solid in their faith, enthusiastically embrace Church teachings, and be passionate about bringing Church teachings and positions into the public square.  We already reported on the controversy over the search that selected the late Ed Saunders as the last MCC head.  (We are told that one of the three committee members for that  Saunders search was actually out of the country at the time when Fr. Bryan Hehir picked Saunders and never even met him).  The Pilot tells us that the well-qualified Gerry D’Avolio has been lured out of retirement to serve as interim MCC head while the search is underway for a permanent leader, and that is a good move.  However, we have heard nothing about the search to the new person.  Who is heading the search, and who is on the committee?  Anonymous.  When will the archdiocese disclose this information?  Seems already like this one is already shaping up to be yet another counterfeit search pretending to be genuine.

We suggest the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council take the matter of the “sham searches” up with the Cardinal when they meet on Wednesday evening, along with the other issues in our most recent Open Letter.  Anyone reading this post, please drop an email to Sr. Marian Batho and ask her to put all of the Open Letter points on their agenda, would you?  ( and We published the first Open Letter on August 23, and are still awaiting answers to the points raised, so hopefully by now, the archdiocese has a comprehensive response ready for the APC.

Stay tuned for more sham searches next time.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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