Metro

Ex-Bush aide to lead finances of Boston archdiocese

A former White House official has been named chief financial officer and chancellor of the Archdiocese of Boston.

John E. Straub. who served as a special assistant to President George W. Bush, has been serving as interim chancellor for the past seven months. He will serve a term of five years, the archdiocese said.

Straub said in an interview that the archdiocese had “come a long way both with financial stability and financial transparency” and one of his goals would be to “continue to maintain that stability and transparency and enhance it where we can.”

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Straub said that when Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley took the helm of the archdiocese in 2003 the church was financially “hemorrhaging.” Now, he said, “I would suggest we’ve reached a very stable point.”

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“Maintaining that stability is a challenge for any organization,” he said, but he also noted that “the goal is never just to be stable, the goal is to be thriving.”

Straub said another goal would be to support the archdiocese’s effort to reorganize its parish structure. Church officials have said that a “pastoral planning” effort, under which neighboring parishes would be merged into a single parish with worship at multiple church buildings, is intended to help parishes run more efficiently and free clergy from administrative tasks so they can evangelize.

Straub said the effort was intended to get priests back to their “true calling” in the community and relieve them of the burden of administrative issues such as the lawn care contract for the church or the care of aging buildings.

Straub, who was also a former associate dean of Harvard University, joined the archdiocese last year as executive director of finance and operations for central ministries. He's the sixth lay chancellor for the archdiocese, the archdiocese said in a statement. He will be responsible for day-to-day fiscal management of the archdiocese, he said.

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“John Straub has been a wonderful addition to the leadership team in the Archdiocese. He brings a diverse and experienced background to the position of CFO and Chancellor. The future of the Archdiocese is bright because we have been able to recruit committed and talented people like John,” Cardinal O’Malley said in the statement.

Straub, 44, is a native of Lima, Ohio, and a graduate of Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

The archdiocese serves 1.8 million Catholics in 288 parishes spread across 144 communities. The pastoral planning effort calls for the parishes to be merged into 135 “parish collaboratives.”

The archdiocese was rocked by the clergy sexual abuse scandal in 2002, and the closure of dozens of parishes in 2004 and 2005. In recent years, it has also contended with declining Mass attendance, diminished financial resources, and a shortage of priests.