Changes coming to the Boston archdiocese

Changes coming to the Boston archdiocese

I’m starting to hear word of big changes coming to the Boston archdiocese, mostly internal changes that could be said to equal, in scope if not impact on individual Catholics, the parish closings.

Reorg the org chart and no smoking

First, I’ve heard that a reorganization of the archdiocesan bureaucracy is being prepared. Now this would be normally be good news, but it sounds like they’re bringing in outside corporate efficiency experts who may make recommendations based on corporate profit/loss criteria rather than along the lines of the needs of the Gospel. We could also see a lot of the lower level employees—people who actually accomplish some good in serving the Gospel—let go while the middle-management, Voice of the Faithful sympathizers remain in place.

Second, the archdiocese is preparing a new set of rigid guidelines for how parishes are to operate. They codify everything from when employees are to be paid to accounting practices to whether priests will be allowed to smoke in their own rectories. While we’ve seen ample evidence of the need for strict guidance regarding parish finances, some of this smacks of Big Brother. It’s one thing to say that no one is allowed to smoke in public areas of the parish, such as parish halls during functions. But it’s quite another thing to tell a priest in his own home that he can’t smoke a pipe or cigar if he wants.  For one thing, a lot of these priests are living alone now anyway. Who are they bothering? And if they do have a vicar or pastor that is bothered by it, they’re grown men. Let them deal with it on their own.

Archdiocese reaches into parish bank accounts

More ominously, in apparent attempt to stem the flow of red ink on its own balance sheet, the archdiocese is planning to require parishes to set up automatic payments out of their bank accounts for money owed to the archdiocese. As it works now, parishes that have loans from the archdiocese as well as those that have to make insurance and other payments, do so like any other bill. The bill sits in the stack and a check is written and mailed. And since it’s not likely the archdiocese is going to foreclose on a parish for falling behind on its payments, often those bills get low priority and are paid last.

  • Domenico—“pound of flesh”?

    Not an apt metaphor.

    I haven’t seen or heard any of what you’re talking about, but let’s be just a little bit circumspect on this, shall we?

    Parishes that have not been paying back their loans for decades have been taking money from the food pantries et. al. of OTHER parishes!  The revolving loan fund only works when everyone honors obligations.

    One of the reasons that parishes have revolving loan debt is that they decided (often imprudently) to make major additions or renovations to their physical plant.  They needed the help of all the other parishes (via this fund) to make the repair or to build the parish center.  Now it is a bill, just like heating, electricity or “funds for the food pantry.”  When they refuse to pay it, they are depriving other deserving parishes of the ability to do what they’ve done.  It’s unjust, and the diocesan machinery is beginning to deal with this crushing problem.

    Now, as to “funds for the food pantry,” how many parishes do you know of where the parish collections go to support a food pantry?  Most, if not all, are funded by donations to St. Vincent de Paul societies or by other private donations.  That was a gratuitous tug at the heart-strings, my friend, and not necessary.

    Now I’ve never seen the “books” of the Archdiocese, but I’ve been assured that the funds from the Revolving Loan Fund are in no way utilized for the support of diocesan offices.  This fund likewise doesn’t benefit from the annual Appeal, so they shouldn’t be lumped together.

    I’m as uncomfortable as you are with directives on smoking, even though I’m a reformed smoker myself.  Perhaps there’s an insurance difficulty?  Maybe we should wait to see what the new regs are all about before we jump to conclusions.

  • One thought – the maginal cost of managing the checks and other archaic stuff (on both ends) is probably mounting – people are expensive – and entirely unnecessary in our connected world.

    If I could give my credit card number to my parish and a default weekly donation, I’d do it. Of course, you can’t push this too far: I definitely wouldn’t want to see a Credit Card machine tacked on to the end of the collections basket. That would be just wrong (and I think I should say three Hail Marys tonight for just coming up with the image…:-)

  • Fr. Clark,

    You need to see the proposed Parish Policy Manual.

    I’m not saying that parishes shouldn’t pay their bills, but that the archdiocese is removing all flexibility and applying a one-size-fits-all solution without regard for the particular situation of individual pastors. The principle of subsidiarity is being shredded.

    The food pantry reference was not just a throwaway tug at the heart strings. In our parish the cost of heat and electricity and office supplies and the like come out of the parish budget. Donations specific to food for the poor only go to food for the poor.

    I’m in agreement with JRP on the credit card donations, but I think that’s a different subject.

  • I don’t think that here in LA we need that sort of system: Crd. Mahony always gets his money one way or another.

  • Okay, I hear your explanation, Dom—and I have yet to see this manual (you have? interesting….)

    The “one size fits all” approach does seem to characterize the approach traditionally taken by the RCAB.  Pity.

    Our food pantry is wholly run by the SVDP society, which receives donations directly, through the once-yearly second collection and by regular weekly offerings in the “poor boxes” in the Church.  These funds cover all their expenses.

    There are, by the way, places that do accept direct withdrawal as a means of tithing.

  • My pastor often refers to the “diocesan tax” that he says must be paid just like any other bill.  I’m not aware of precisely how this works in the parish office.  I am aware of how it works in my home.

    My husband is seriously disillusioned with Roman Catholicism and often can’t bring himself to attend Mass.  Donations to the parish are a sore subject that frequently causes friction between us.  One of his arguments against increasing that donation is “The bishop will get a part of it.  I thought you didn’t want to contribute to the bishop’s funds.”  There is no way to rebut his argument considering the diocesan tax takes a percentage of contributions to the parish.  Hence any argument I may mount for increasing the amount of the weekly contribution falls on deaf ears, and I probably should count my blessings that he permits me to contribute anything at all at this particular point in Catholic times.

  • The best diocesan finance system in the United States is the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA.  They have centralized banking, accounting, bill-payment, and a simplified form of a balance sheet.  Moreover, the pastors and the bishops love the system because it allows the diocese to keep an eye on the finances and the system does not take away from the principle of subsidiarity.  I aked the finance officer of my diocese to look into it.  Moreover, every pastor has a budget which is not easy to put together.  Somebody should do an article on this system.

  • “First, I-11-03 14:18:06
    While I was gathering signatures at another parish this weekend, one older man walked up to me and asked if I thought we should allow priests to get married…like the Protestants do.  I said no because they couldn’t support a family on what they get paid.  I added, Catholics don’t contribute to their parishes the way the Protestants do.

    He looked surprised…


  • Although I don’t know the details, I know my parents use some form of direct pay for their tithe to the church. My dad does it online from his bank account when he pays the bills every month. That way even when they’re out of town for weeks at a time (gee isn’t it nice to be retired!), the parish still gets their regular financial support.

  • Financial Mess and Unaccountable Funds at Holy Trinity/Boston:

    Please check out recent (within the last week)posts by myself and a few others on the Save Holy Trinity Yahoo Egroup. This will be helpful giving a better sense of the magnitude of what has been going on at HT. To say the situation this is a troublesome example of Parish Finance Administration is an understatement.

    At this time our Parish Pastoral Council has identified serious financial 17;t mind paying for maintenance of the buliding – repainting, fumigation etc. But if he shares the space with anyone – fellow priests, visiting parishioners or anyone who could be harmed, then it needs a policy.

    Can you tell I’m a hard line anti smoking fanatic ??

  • I’m a hardline anti-Big Brother fanatic. I’m against some institution coming into my home and telling me what I can and can’t do. If I were a smoker, I would discuss it with my wife. I certainly wouldn’t want my employer or the government or another institution mandating it for me.

    Priests are big boys. They can discuss it among themselves.

  • Lew Rockwell, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute: “This is a gross attack on liberty that implies that the government has and should have total control over us, extending even to the testing of intimate biological facts. But somehow we put up with it because we have conceded the first assumption that government ought to punish us for the content of our blood and not just our actions.” The entire article:

    Dom, this falls in line with your assertion that no one has the right – including Big Bro – to come into your house, or stop your car even, if you aren’t actually doing anything that can be judged to be putting others in peril. 


    MargieOh: “But if he shares the space with anyone – fellow priests, visiting parishioners or anyone who could be harmed, then it needs a policy.”

    As the above two articles explain, the policy should rest with the individual establishment (in this case rectory), not the government.  And people may then choose to either tolerate working there or not – total free will by all involved.

  • So the question is – who owns the rectory and who has the authority to set a no smoking policy ? I would argue that the archdiocese holds the right as owner, the priest lives in the rectory at the will of the archdiocese.

    Tom, I agree that people can choose to either work there or not, but what about parishioners who must visit the rectory to conduct parish business (if the offices are located there) Even if Father extinguishes his smoking material when the doorbell rings, there is still secinh hand smoke in the air for MR./Mrs./Ms. average parishioner to deal with.

  • Hi Margie,

    I agree with all your points.  Just as in every organization – the chain of command prevails, and if a smoking priest is overruled by his superiors then he must acquiesce!  All the while, though, the priest should be considerate of the impact his bad habit has on his parishoners – and be trying to quit … let’s face it, there’s enough evidence of its ill effects today to make it absurd for him to continue smoking (by the way, is it really still happening?  I don’t know any smoking priests – unless they’re hiding it really well).

  • I think the impact of secondhand smoke on people who come into the rectory for a few minutes at a time. If someone is not actively smoking near you and all you get is the smell of the smoke, there’s no danger to your health. You get more pollutants driving behind a bus.

    A priest has no choice but to live in the rectory. No one else is required to be there. In those cases where the parish offices are located in the rectory, then the priest should be considerate and not smoke in those offices.

    I’m not a cigarette smoker (and only an occasional cigar smoker), but I bristle when I see someone telling other people what they can or can’t do in their own homes.

  • Let’s face the facts though – nicotene is a powerful dependency that a morally-committed person ought to try to rid himself of – for no other reason than the example it sets with the impressionable youth.  There’s enough emphasis on smoking, alcohol and drug use in Hollywood movies and MTV without having the image of a priest be associated with such vices.  Nowadays, once youngsters are hooked, they will suffer many costly handicaps through life – with trying to get health coverage, paying higher insurance premiums and finding their dating options severely limited (so many single professionals cite ‘NS’ in their ads, etc.).  I would think a priest has a responsibility to demonstrate a life free of the depravity that besets the rest of mankind (but I could be going overboard with this topic – am I wrong about the image?  I’ve never smoked, so I am biased). 

  • We’re now veering wildly off the topic so this will be my last comment: nicotene can be an addiction, but is not necessarily so, just as alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation without addiction.

    Smoking is so far down my list of moral problems affecting impressionable youth as not to even bear mentioning. To equate someone who smokes a cigar or pipe or even cigarettes with “demonstrating a life of depravity that besets manking” is a bit much, don’t you think? I do and that’s my last word on it.

  • Yes, I agree.  Smoking as a habit is more in the realm of finger-picking than porn-viewing.  It doesn’t take away the fact that it’s a flaw that ought to be worked on, and not to be promoted as a lifestyle wished on our youth.  I forgot a major drawback to smoking – it’s expensive, dissolving the disposable income that especially non-established persons need for better purposes.  Thank you for your thoughts on this admittedly off-subject matter.