Monday, February 24, 2014

Sunday Globe Special: Unholy Trinities

I think Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Israel is the unholiest....

"Popes past, present join at installation of cardinals; Benedict attends service creating papal voting body" by Nicole Winfield |  Associated Press, February 23, 2014

VATICAN CITY — In an unprecedented blending of papacies past, present, and future, retired Pope Benedict XVI joined Pope Francis at a ceremony Saturday to formally install new cardinals who will elect their successor.

It was the first time Benedict and Francis have appeared together at a public liturgical ceremony since Benedict retired a year ago, becoming the first pope to step down in more than 600 years. It may signal that after a year of staying largely ‘‘hidden from the world,’’ Benedict may slowly and occasionally be reintegrated back into the public life of the church.

Benedict entered St. Peter’s Basilica discreetly from a side entrance surrounded by a small entourage and was greeted with applause and tears from the stunned people in the pews. He smiled, waved, and seemed genuinely happy to be there, taking his seat in the front row, off to the side, alongside the red-draped cardinals....

Francis warmly greeted his predecessor at the start and end of the service, clasping him by his shoulders and embracing him. Benedict removed his white skullcap in a show of respect as Francis approached.

But in a sign that Benedict still commands the honor and respect owed a pope, each of the 19 new cardinals — after receiving his red hat from Francis at the altar — went directly to Benedict’s seat to greet him before then exchanging a sign of peace with the other cardinals.

They had, however, already pledged their fidelity to Francis in an oath of obedience.

Saturday’s surprise event was the latest in the evolving reality for the church of having two popes living side-by-side in the Vatican.

Over the summer, Francis and Benedict appeared together in the Vatican gardens for a ceremony to unveil a statue. But Saturday’s event was something else entirely, a liturgical service inside St. Peter’s Basilica marking one of the most important things a pope can do: create new cardinals....

Benedict’s decision to appear at the consistory could also be seen as a blessing of sorts for the 19 men Francis had chosen to join the College of Cardinals, the elite group of churchmen whose primary job is to elect a pope.

Francis’s choices largely reflected his view that the church must minister to the peripheries and be a place of welcome and mercy, not a closed institution of rules.

In addition to a few Vatican bureaucrats, he named like-minded cardinals from some of the poorest places on Earth, including Haiti, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast.

Two of the new cardinals hail from Africa, two from Asia, and six from Francis’s native Latin America, which is home to nearly half the world’s Catholics but is grossly underrepresented in the church’s hierarchy.

One cardinal sat out the ceremony even as he made history by living to see it:


"Cardinal picks embody principles of ‘Pope of the Poor’" by John L. Allen Jr. |  Globe Staff, February 23, 2014

One sign of the ferment is that Haiti’s embattled president Michel Martelly, a former Creole musician known by the stage name of “Sweet Micky,” was on hand in Rome for the ceremony....

Asked what affluent believers in countries such as the United State can do to help Haiti, for instance, Chibly Langlois said in an interview Friday with the Globe [that] the solution doesn’t begin with opening their wallets but with “opening their eyes and ears.”

Where did the billions in the Clinton/Bush charity aid fund go?


While expressing gratitude for assistance that’s reached Haiti from the United States and other donor nations, Langlois said that the last thing Haitians need is another foreign power riding in, even with the best of intentions, and dictating to them how to move forward.

They have had enough of those over the centuries!

“The Haitians are a people who need to be helped, maybe, but we don’t need to be ‘assisted,’ ” Langlois said. “More than anything, Haitians need to be heard.”

We all want that, for Haitians and ourselves. 

Only problem is, no one listening at the top.


Speaking for them.

RelatedHaiti earthquake survivor dreads departure

Decide for yourself if the Globe's coverage is helping or not.

Also seeThe Promise of Francis

UPDATEPope Francis revamps Vatican internal operations

Time to change denominations:

"For Trinity Church rector, a $3.6m home; Officials cite practicality of Beacon Hill purchase" by Lisa Wangsness |  Globe Staff, February 03, 2014

Trinity Church, the historic Episcopal congregation in Copley Square known for its charitable work, has purchased a $3.6 million condo on Beacon Hill as a home for its rector, the Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III.

The 3,100-square-foot Chestnut Street property boasts a two-car garage, a pantry equipped with a wine cellar, a courtyard draped with wisteria and ivy, and a guesthouse, all about a block from Boston Common.

The purchase, which sparked discussion among some church leaders, comes at a time when many mainline Protestant congregations are straining to meet their budgets amid years of membership decline, and when faith communities across the religious spectrum are increasingly concerned about the widening gap between rich and poor. Pope Francis has received global acclaim for spurning the Apostolic Palace for a simple suite in a Vatican guesthouse.

Peter Lawrence, Trinity’s senior warden, cast the transaction as a savvy investment that would have no meaningful effect on the church’s operating budget because a large chunk of the purchase price would come from the church’s $30 million endowment.

No big deal, only 10% of it.

He noted that the new rectory would essentially replace the church’s former, and far larger, clergy residence at Clarendon and Newbury streets, where Trinity rectors have lived since the 19th century, but which was converted into church office space in 2006.

Trinity’s leaders have twice mentioned the purchase in letters to the congregation, Lawrence said, and not a single parishioner has raised a concern to him. The letters did not mention the cost, but the price has been discussed openly in casual conversations. Church leaders offer a full accounting of all church spending at the annual financial meeting, which is coming up in March.

“I’m sure people will look at it and ask questions, but fundamentally, we looked at this as a business decision, and we think it’s a very sound business decision,” Lawrence said. “And that’s the headline.”

Okay. I'll take it on faith.

Lloyd said he does not regard his new residence as an extravagance, or out of step with the times, but rather as a tool to help him do his job....

To pay for the rectory, Trinity’s treasurer, Geoffrey Smith said, church leaders used $1.5 million from the endowment and borrowed $1.5 million....

I wouldn't like that!

Smith said there was some discussion among members of the vestry, the elected council that runs the church, about whether it was appropriate for the church to spend millions on a clergy residence rather than on other priorities — just as there is, from time to time, a discussion about why the church holds onto such a large endowment, he said.

“I hear the argument,” Smith said. But its counter — that the condo was a good investment, and that its purchase wouldn’t affect the church’s work — “carried the day.”

Kevin Ahearn, president of the Boston residential brokerage firm Otis & Ahearn, which was not involved in the transaction, said the church got a good deal on the property. Chestnut Street is “absolutely a coveted address and location,” he said; two-car garages on Beacon Hill are rare, the garden offers “a beautiful outdoor space,” and the refurbished interior has “a Tuscan feel to it.”

“It’s lovely,” he said. “It could have generated a higher price.”


Trinity’s $5.6 million operating budget includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending to help the needy. Church members volunteer at city homeless shelters, and the church partnered with the Pine Street Inn to open the Yearwood House, a residential facility for people who have been homeless.

The church also contributes to the Trinity Boston Foundation, a charitable organization that is a subsidiary of the church. The foundation will spend $2.4 million on programs for underserved youth this year — up $400,000 from last year. Its work includes a running and mentoring program for youth, an academic enrichment and leadership program for middle- and high-school students, a counseling center, and a partnership with the Dever-McCormack K-8 School.

Louise Burnham Packard, executive director of the foundation, said the rectory purchase made “perfect economic sense” to her, and because it required no cuts in programs or shifts in spending priorities.

“It’s problematic, because it looks like we’re just buying into the materialistic culture,” she said. “I think that’s probably why the vestry wrestled with the decision.”

But, she said, the rector needed a place to live, and the decision seemed to her like a small matter in the context of Trinity’s overall mission and contributions to the community....

Today, many churches offer their pastors a housing allowance, which comes with a federal income tax exemption. Brian Galle, a professor at Boston College Law School, said Congress explicitly exempted clergy from paying income taxes on the benefit of living in a church-owned residence in 1921, and extended the benefit to clergy housing allowances in 1954.

But it is not clear how long the exemptions will stand. They have come under scrutiny in recent years because of the mansions constructed by some megachurch pastors....

Trinity also plans to apply for a property-tax exemption for the property; the city of Boston normally grants exemptions for parsonages.


"Congregants wrestling with Trinity’s $3.6m condo; Some fear departure from religious values" by Lisa Wangsness |  Globe Staff, February 14, 2014

Trinity Church’s purchase of a $3.6 million Beacon Hill condo to house its rector is sparking dissension among some members of the landmark Episcopal congregation, with a few even asking if the church could resell the property.

Some say they feel the new rectory, where the Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III now lives, feeds the perception that Trinity is a bastion of privilege and obscures the congregation’s significant contributions to the city’s less fortunate. Others say the problem goes deeper than optics, maintaining that the purchase is a departure from the Christian ethic of standing in solidarity with the poor and marginalized....

About 100 of the church’s 2,000 or so active participants attended a conversation about the purchase with church leaders on Sunday. A second meeting is scheduled for Feb. 26.

Those who attended Sunday’s meeting, which was closed to the press because those present wanted everyone to feel comfortable speaking, said the discussion was forthright but respectful.

That's an indictment of sorts, for the last of the unholy trinities!

Anne Phillips Ogilby, the junior warden — akin to vice chairwoman of the vestry — said later she apologized at the outset of the meeting for causing consternation within the congregation. She said she told those gathered that she wished leaders had included more details about the purchase in letters to the congregation that mentioned the new rectory so that there was a better understanding of the decision ahead of time.

Most members of the congregation learned about the rectory’s price and location in a Globe story last week.

Asked during the meeting whether the vestry would consider selling the property, leaders said that was off the table, according to several people who attended....

Several people who attended Sunday’s discussion said about 75 percent of those who spoke expressed concerns about the purchase, ranging from strong disapproval to milder discontent about church leaders’ failure to communicate more clearly with the broader congregation about the decision....

Hattie Gawande, also 17, who teaches fourth- and fifth-graders in Sunday School, said helping the underserved has always been a dominant theme in her church.

“I thought Trinity was so sensitive to our relative privilege in comparison to the lack thereof of the people that we help, and it’s a really insensitive act to have bought a $3.6 million rectory in Beacon Hill,” she said. “So that was sort of a betrayal. It puts us in the position of one who treats business decisions and living in the lap of luxury above . . . putting that money somewhere else or living in modesty.”


The Beacon Hill property is a refurbished 3,100-square-foot, two-level condo in a three-unit brick row house on Chestnut Street, about a block from Boston Common. Amenities include a two-car garage, a pantry with a wine cellar, an outdoor courtyard, and a guest cottage.

Because much of the rectory’s cost was covered by Trinity’s $30 million endowment, Peter Lawrence, the senior warden, and Geoff Smith, the church’s treasurer, said in an interview this week, the purchase had little effect on the church’s operating budget and no impact on its work for the poor.

The church, together with a subsidiary charitable organization, the Trinity Boston Foundation, pumps millions of dollars a year and thousands of volunteer hours into programs serving inner-city students, the homeless, the hungry, people in need of mental health counseling, prisoners, and others in need. The budget of the foundation is increasing from $2 million to $2.4 million this year.

Vestry members said they thought buying the condo would be a sound business investment because the church got a good deal on a property in a desirable neighborhood where home values appear destined to appreciate. Trinity plans to apply for a property tax exemption on the property, leaders said; rectories are normally granted exemptions in Boston.

Lloyd, who lived in the old rectory for 11 years before leaving for a six-year stint as dean of the Washington National Cathedral, returned to Trinity in 2011. Until last month, he and his wife, who have two grown children, had been living in a church-subsidized rental in the Back Bay. The vestry felt Lloyd needed a permanent place to live within walking distance of the church, and one large enough to accommodate church dinners, meetings, and other gatherings.

Caroline Abernethy, a teacher at the Epiphany School in Dorchester, a highly regarded Episcopal school that educates mostly poor students, said the issue was complex.

“There’s a bigger picture here,” she said. “I feel that Sam Lloyd, the rector, walks his talk, and the whole ministry here is about reaching out and really trying to be an inner-city church.”

Louise Burnham Packard, executive director of the Trinity Boston Foundation, said she was glad the discussion had prompted the congregation to ponder how it could contribute even more to the community and also contemplate a fundamental question in their own lives: “How much is enough?


Finally, the sermon is over.

UPDATE: Trinity Church moves on in debate on condo

So am I.