Archdiocese defends blocking critical blog, seeks open dialogue

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese of Boston is rejecting criticism following its decision to block Pastoral Center employees' access to an anonymous blog questioning administrative practices of certain high-level officials.

Citing concerns over employee productivity, the archdiocese blocked Pastoral Center employees from access to the Boston Catholic Insider blog. The anonymously-written blog is critical of the archdiocesan administration and is authored by individuals who claim to have close ties to the Archdiocese of Boston but remain nameless for fear of repercussions.

"The anonymous authors of this site were actively spamming the employees of the Archdiocese with links to the site, interfering with their work day, so we did block access to it from work computers," said Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, in a statement.

In response, the blog's writers compared the archdiocese's actions to the Chinese government blocking the access of information about the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

The blog, which first posted on June 23, 2010, portrays Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley as a slack administrator and is critical of certain high-ranking Church officials.

The blog alleges cronyism and conflict of interest in the hiring of certain Pastoral Center employees and vendors and questions some of the salaries of archdiocesan officials. Boston Catholic Insider also criticizes the sale of the archdiocese's Caritas Christi hospital network to a private-equity investment firm and questions the financial transparency of the archdiocese.

The blog also includes requests to Cardinal O'Malley and other archdiocesan officials for responses to their concerns.

Boston Catholic Insider is not the only blog that has been critical of the archdiocese in recent months.

The Bryan Hehir Exposed blog examines the public remarks and administrative performance of Father J. Bryan Hehir, the archdiocese's health and social services secretary.

Another blog, Throw the Bums Out in 2010 is the only blog written by a named author. Posts are written by longtime blogger Carol McKinley and have recently been critical of the archdiocese's move to block Boston Catholic Insider from employee computers. McKinley's blog also analyzes national and international news significant to religious audiences.

In a separate statement, Donilon addressed the archdiocese's willingness to meet with these bloggers.

"Cardinal O'Malley and his staff are dedicated to building unity in Christ and Christian community within the archdiocese," the statement said. "Toward that end, we have reached out to bloggers on numerous occasions to ask them to enter into a professional and Christ-centered conversation with us."

"We are concerned about the harm caused to individuals and to the community by anonymous and unfounded claims on blogs," the statement continued.