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C21 Convenes Panel of ‘Lay Business Leaders’

A panel of three “lay business leaders” and Boston College alumni discussed problems plaguing the Catholic Church and their potential solutions at the Church in the 21st Century Center’s fourth “Revitalizing Our Church” panel on Monday night.

Denise Morrison, retired president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company and BC ’75, said that one of the issues the Church faces is the varied nature of families today. She said that the Church was more successful when the “nuclear family”—a family comprised of two heterosexual parents and their children—was more common in the United States.

“You’ve got six different types of families out there, whether it’s multigenerational, multicultural, same sex, single mothers—it’s a hodgepodge,” Morrison said. “That’s so significant because our Catholic faith has been built on the nuclear family.”

She also referenced the Church’s sexual abuse scandals, a decline in priestly vocations, and a decline in members of the Church as issues that the Church must overcome in order to continue to survive.

“It comes back to purpose,” Morrison said. “The purpose of bringing Jesus to the people.”

Chuck Clough, founder and CEO of Clough Capital Partners and BC ’64, echoed Morrison’s point about the Church being under stress, but he said that it is Catholics’ responsibility to ensure that the Church survives so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.

Clough, who has been ordained as a deacon, went on to say that the 19 percent decline in parish attendance and 57 percent decline in Catholic marriages in the Archdiocese of Boston over the last 10 years are alarming statistics because they show that there is an absence of young people in the Church.

“I grew up in the streets of Boston, and [children’s lives] away from school were dominated by parish life,” Clough said. “You didn’t live in Jamaica Plain or West Roxbury—you lived in St. Thomas parish.”

Clough said that the decline in clergy will become an issue for all Catholic universities in the future, although he clarified that it is not a pressing issue at BC, as there are currently plenty of Jesuit clergy on campus. He recalled how University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., started a trustee committee in 2001 to ensure that Jesuit values would would still be promoted on campus after all of the clergy had left on campus after all of the clergy had left.

The decline in clergy only means that lay members of the Church will have to assume a larger role in its success, according to Clough.

“The most powerful homily is a lay person telling about their faith life, their conversation to faith,” Clough said. “I am thinking of a model … where we can be called to live out our baptism.”

Jack Connors Jr., a founding partner of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Inc. and BC ’63, then spoke about what he sees as the “broken business model” of the Catholic Church.

“I think that after 2,000 years, it’s time for a reboot,” Connors said. “I think 2,000 years ago, things were a lot different. I don’t think [Jesus] would be impressed by any of the abuse charges, I don’t think he’d be impressed by the Vatican museum that has amazing resources, [while] there’s an awful lot of poor people just outside the Vatican that can’t afford a meal.”

Connors mentioned that he has worked with the parish school system, and that while he was very impressed with the size and number of Catholic schools when he first got involved, they have since been in decline. He said his work with them, however, has shown that they are a great resource and that they can be more effectively run.

“Success for the future of our faith is a team sport,” Connors said.

Morrison responded by saying she hopes that lay people could be more involved in advising clergy leaders, and she wants the communication between the Church and its members to improve.

Connors then said that he believes that Catholics today need to take a more active role in the “building and rebuilding” of the Catholic Church in order to help it become more successful.

“I think we’ve got to go out and get more people to appreciate the faith, because that’s what it’s really about,” Morrison said in agreement.

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor

May 12, 2019