We have gotten a lot of email from people with feedback on the blog lately, and in this post we just want to share a few pieces of feedback we have received, and also make several corrections and clarifications. We appreciate and value all of it, even if we do not have time to respond personally to every email. The feedback is either directly quoted or paraphrased, and our response follows with >>> (Apologies for lack of hyperlinks today)
“It does seem like a fait accompli… If and when it happens, you have every right to demand and expect a transparent explanation for why an exhaustive search did not take place.”
“Ms. Driscoll, the apparent lead candidate for the Secretary of Institutional Advancement role is bright, capable, and worked very hard as the chair of the Priest Appreciation Dinner, contributing much of her time, talent, and treasure to ensure the success. She can’t be faulted there. She probably cannot be faulted if she is offered the job and even if she takes it. The process is flawed, but I believe her intentions are good.”
>>>We have nothing against Ms. Driscoll and acknowledged she may be a capable person. No disputing that she worked hard (in her paid job) to chair the dinner. No disputing that she worked hard (in her paid full-time job) to run the Campaign for Catholic Schools and raise nearly $50 million. In fact, we hear she probably came in to the Catholic Schools job under certain assumptions and then discovered the landscape was very different after she took the original job, and still may not want the new job. We do not think we have criticized her personally in any way, and regret if any of our criticism of the sham search suggests we have been critical of her. But if she knows the process is flawed, that she would be tapped for the job because of the Jack Connors relationship to be another agent of the Jack Connors agenda, and her appointment would be tainted by common knowledge that there never was a proper search, then is she completely free from fault if she is offered the job and takes it?
This “sham search” has big implications for the future of the Boston archdiocese—big enough that we are going to share this insightful reader comment from a week ago, with one or two Boston Catholic Insider notes.
“…go back 8-plus years to January 2002, when the crisis broke. Connors was one of the most vocal lay critics of Cardinal Law, railing that despite his privileged position within the business community in Boston, that he had no real influence in the Church to oust Law or effect other change. [BCI note: Connors did actually have influence to rally business leaders to withdraw support for Law and withhold contributions. See Globe article, The Invisible Hand of Jack]. Witness his attempts to change that through involvement in the National Leadership Roundtable, a group of business executives trying to tell the bishops that the Church should be run like a corporation, and the Church in the 21st Century program at Boston College, where he joined with his fellow travelers at Voice of the Faithful to gin up a grassroots demand for change in the governance of the Church. Neither were particularly successful. [BCI note: The National Leadership Roundtable is still around and may be more successful than you think at impacting how the Church runs, but just not so “in your face.” Fr. Bryan Hehir is a part of that organization as well. Do not write them off as irrelevant at all.]
Fast forward to 2010. Connors and his buddies have control of the largest fundraising initiative in the archdiocese with the 2010 Initiative. They have control of the archdiocesan finance council. They have control of the chancellor. They have control of the process to select the new head of institutional advancement. (He’s the chair of the search committee.) As you’ve said above, his favored candidate appears to be Kathleen Driscoll, a former employee at his old ad agency and the head of his 2010 Initiative. She was also recently co-chair of the Priest Appreciation Dinner this week, which benefits the priests’ benefit trust. It is not inconceivable that we will see her hired as head of institutional advancement, where she will control the annual Catholic Appeal, will retain control of the 2010 Initiative, and will be given control of fundraising for the priests’ fund. That would effectively put Jack Connors and his buddies in control of all fundraising for the archdiocese.
He who controls the purse…
Have you also heard, as I have from some pastor friends, that there is a move afoot to change the focus of the annual appeal from a broad parish-based campaign to a focus on major gifts, that is, those in the four and five-figure range? Why would you refuse the widow’s mite and put all your eggs in one smaller basket, to mix a metaphor? My hunch is that this would further consolidate the power of the purse in the hands of Connors and his rich buddies.
Once all this is done, the next time something happens in the archdiocese that Connors or his buddies don’t like, they can really put the screws to the cardinal and bend him to their will.
This is already happening. Witness the first response to Fr. Rafferty over the St. Pauls Hingham flap, when Mary Grassa O’Neill, Jack Connors, Terry Donilon, and the Catholic Campaign staff all threw an outstanding priest/pastor under the bus for doing what he judged to be the right thing while the Cardinal was in Portugal traveling. Regardless of what you think the right final decision is on that issue (and please, let us NOT go there in comments) the initial response has Jack Connors’ name written all over it, as evidenced by Jack Connors Boston Globe interview.
There is much blame to pass around if this is the direction the archdiocese continues going and the new head of development plays into it. The questions to be answered about the search have already been raised here many times. Given the shadow that already exists over this search, we feel it needs to be made transparent and re-tooled immediately–before an appointment is announced, not after.
Tone of Comments
“Your blog does a great service for the Church, calling it to accountability, but as owner of the blog you are accountable for holding your commenters to a respectable standard.”
“Your commenters often lack charity, and make ad hominem attacks on people – things that start with ‘I’ve heard …’ and go on to say something really nasty about some person at RCAB that often times is a good person, works hard, and does quality work.”
“I know of many people within and outside the RCAB who agree with your positions, but have given up reading, purely because you allow commenters to say most anything, even if it is an uncharitable opinion.”
>>Valid complaint. We regret if some people have stopped reading the blog because of certain comments by other readers. We try our best to be objective in reporting information and share verifiable facts about situations, and we want the availability of user-offered comments to serve as an open forum for sharing feedback and venting if desired. In our opinion, most of the comments are fine as they are posted, but some have gone too far with angry-sounding personal attacks. That anger may well be very justified, but when you are commenting on a post, we would ask that you keep your comments focused on the post and free from personal attacks (ie please don’t say “John Smith, who works for the archdiocese as ___, is a liar and is incompetent”). If you had a negative experience with someone, feel free to drop us an email about it so we might investigate it further confidentially, but please do not wage a personal attack in the comments, lest we have to actively moderate or shut-off comments. We will take more care in the future to moderate any inappropriate comments.
That being said, the best way for the archdiocese to avoid the problem of angry comments is to work towards avoiding the problem of angry people who feel they are not listened to and need this blog as an outlet. Change the culture to be one of openness and transparency without the culture of deceipt, cronyism, conflicts of interest, and retaliation for speaking ones mind. Implement a credible whistleblower policy as we have outlined. Make the blog go away by doing the right thing and operating like a Catholic Church should, and you will eliminate the problem at its source!
Pastoral Center Staff Meeting
We did not mention that the main content of the Pastoral Center staff meeting of last week featured a presentation and discussion of “Catholics Come Home.” This blog was not a focal point of the meeting, and was just one topic discussed, though in the context discussed, the Vicar General still failed to acknowledge the underlying issues the blog has been raising. Also, regarding the healthcare cost increase for the October 2010-September 2011 year, there is good news for employees in that Archdiocese is absorbing that increase, but it is likely that employees will need to pay more after October 2011.
Priest Appreciation Dinner
“Your comment about not knowing all of the expenses for the dinner when The Pilot article was written was indeed ‘nitpicking.'” Turns out that the final bill really did not arrive until a week after the event. The Pilot article was to share the good news and raise awareness and support for our hardworking priests so it is understandable if Joe D’Arrigo did not give the reporter an income/expense statement for the event. In the end with follow-on donations, the event will probably realize a profit of about $1 million. “So don’t slam him for his response to The Pilot…. As much as I agree with you on many things, in this instance you are not being fair.”
>>> Valid complaint. We agree and take back our criticism. In hindsight, that was a nit, and we should have just focused on the bigger issues.
“With regards to Joe D’Arrigo’s compensation, your criticism of him is unjustified.” Some people say he inherited a fiscal nightmare, created by others for a variety of reasons. Among those reasons–and there are bigger reasons than this–was people managing the fund who thought the money would never run out and basically approved all sorts of new care a few years ago that could not be sustained. Then the stock market tanked, more priests retired, healthcare costs soared, and nearly $100 million in the bank is headed down into the red. Joe did not create the problem of the funds burning cash, he was asked to fix it. One person asked, “Would you invest $1 if you knew it would return $100 in a year?” Joe has made a real difference, the operational deficit is almost gone, and he probably saved those funds.
>>> Valid complaint. We have never met Joe and apologize if our comment came across as minimizing his contributions. Indeed if he has done what was described and you can get a 100X ROI for the investment in his services, that sounds like a good deal, even if he does not necessarily work a 5-day work-week for the Archdiocese. Our main point is that the fund has suffered from major trust issues with the clergy. The expensive Towers Perrin historical report on the funds (including proper use of Easter/Christmas collections) commissioned by the Chancellor was not a true “audit” so a number of priests still do not trust its findings. Names of the trustees have never been released. The cost structure of the management of the fund is undisclosed. This archdiocese declared that the way to rebuilt trust is “transparency.” Why is the fund not operating transparently?
“Your blog criticized John Kaneb and The Pilot for not reminding people about the ‘Titanic-sized iceberg of future benefits they have not yet figured out how to pay’…John Kaneb did indeed attempt to brief the attendees on the need in the future, and the need for continued fund-raising…perhaps the dinner is not the best place to outline it with detailed, frankly boring , financials. Should this level of transparency happen in the future? Of course! Will it? Who knows. But again, I feel it is an unfair potshot to expect it to happen at a Priest Appreciation dinner (emphasis on Priest Appreciation… it is all about the priest on that night). It wasn’t a board meeting, it is a social fund-raiser. Your expectations seem unrealistic, and your tone uncharitable. Just my opinion, and again I generally agree with you!”
>>> Valid complaint. We agree and take back our criticism. In hindsight, we should not have gone there.
“You guys do a great job! Thanks for calling it like it is. I don’t know how you keep on top of all this stuff. As a priest who has been complaining about much of this for years with no response, it gives me hope to see an open venue like this. I pray that the Cardinal and his Cabinet are reading this blog daily and acting on the issues you raise for the good of the Church. God bless you.”