Still in the Woods
The latest edition of the Weekly Gar has an archdiocesan flavor. Very noteworthy....
Public-relations 101In an interview with a suburban paper the other day, one priest -- who stunningly spoke on-record -- characterized Tuesday's meeting of the clergy thus: "To use Abraham Lincoln’s phrase, there was evidence of a house divided."
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia's response last week to the critical grand jury report on pedophile priests raises a question.
From whom is the archdiocese taking public relations advice?
Can you imagine a response more harmful to the church than the name-calling and evasion issued by the archdiocese and its lawyers?
Two things we've learned from public-relations professionals over the years: When an institution screws up, the best response is the truth, and fast. Followed by an apology and some humility. As Jesus once said, "Blessed are the meek."
We checked with a couple of Catholic PR pros to see what they would've advised Cardinal Justin Rigali.
They didn't want to be identified - that would be bad PR - but here's what they said.
"There was no way to spin that [grand jury] report," said our first pro. "I would've tried to strike a tone of remorse, apology and expressed my concern over the plight of the victims. Then I would have stopped... Because, no matter what else was going on, you're left with 63 priests engaged in unspeakable conduct."
Our PR pro No. 2 thought Rigali stumbled when he suggested that the graphic nature of the grand jury report made it unsuitable reading for families.
"That just reinforces in people's minds the idea that the church is still trying to cover this up," the pro said.
This pro would've advised the cardinal to hold open forums at churches throughout the archdiocese to explain the church's corrective actions.
"As a Catholic," one pro said, "I'm embarrassed by the church's response."
I can't emphasize this enough -- we are in uncharted waters.
Not since Archbishop-elect Dennis Dougherty (the First Pharaoh) slighted his inherited auxiliary bishop, John McCort, on the day before Dougherty's installation in 1918 has there been a division in the Philadelphia presbyterate of any public nature. None of us, lay or ordained, are used to this, but we'll just have to feel our way through.
For a couple weeks, we'll have to do it without the Boss. Cardinal Rigali is off to Rome for the Synod on the Eucharist which begins Sunday, and some are wishing he'd stay back to take care of more pressing matters at home.