Just who’s engaging in a PR campaign?

Just who’s engaging in a PR campaign?

A big deal was made in the Boston media over the weekend about some Catholics refusing to give to a second collection. This weekend, the second collection was earmarked for the Catholic Communications Campaign, which supports media bodies in both the archdiocese and nationally. To be honest, I’m skeptical of collections that benefit agencies of the bishops’ conference; I have a hard time believing either that (a) the money will be used in accord with the Church’s teaching or (b) that what they do does anything but build up the bureaucracy.

Still, I’m curious about the front-page treatment of what was a very minor story. For one thing, the headline splash on the Boston Herald‘s front page on Saturday claimed that “Catholics stiff P.R. collection.” First, the collection had not happened yet, so to say that it had been stiffed was premature. Second, it is an oversimplification to call it a P.R. collection, as if the money was going to pay for the archdiocese’s PR firm. It also funds the archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, and the TV station.

The crux of the dispute it seems comes from those who are protesting parish closings and Voice of the Faithful, which attaches itself like a leech to anyone who appears to challenge the hierarchy.

I’ll be curious to see, after the smoke clears and the money’s been counted, if the actual donations are down this year. And even if they are, I wonder how much can be attributed to the Herald’s pre-emptive headline.

In the past, I’ve found the Herald’s treatment of the Church to be more evenhaded than the Globe’s, but sometimes, as in this case, it is not. I suppose it’s hard to resist some sensationalism.

  • Hey, Dom,
    You hit the nail on the head. You are like others asking the question, how did the Herald report on a story that had not happened yet? Notice by the way their sources, they are all VOTF or SNAP. You do know also that the Herald endorsed TAT. Leads one to start asking the question, “Hey, what is happening here?”
    Consider doing this Dom: looking into which agencies, organizations and politicians benefitted financially from the coverage of the crisis and which ones were also sources that helped perpetuate the crisis.

    Remember our tiff?: What was involved I think, was the Globe’s revenge for me publically stating the name of a certain person as a source to the Globe and who’s agency benefitted financially from the coverage of the crisis. Hence, the Globe’s response to silence me. (You did not know that part when you published my name based on that report.) Yet, I will add that the veteran reporter who called me for that story was literally stuttering as he asked me the question. I knew then something was up.

    Here’s another question: Why do Mitchell Garabedian or his partner appear on TV unopposed? Is that a condition of their appearance?

  • Dom,
    On May 4, Christine Quagan, the media coordinator for the Committee to Preserve Holoy Trinity issued a press release announcing hte plan to withhold donations for yesterday’s second collection.  Here’s the operative paragraph from the release:

    “Last May, Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley informed the parish that it would be closed on June 30, 2005. Since then the parishioners have repeatedly asked for an explanation of how they ended up on the closure list, and they have gotten no meaningful response. All their questions have been ignored. Leo Higgins of the Committee to Preserve Holy Trinity summed up their frustration by saying, “Why should we be expected to give money to the Archdiocese for something they do not do? No communication from them means no money from us.” From their own administrator, to the Vicar General, to the Archbishop, to the Meade-Eisner Committee, parishioners of Holy Trinity have been stonewalled throughout the reconfiguration process.”

    As you note, the Herald ran a separate story, with a typically pithy tabloid headline, on Saturday, while the Globe folded the protest into a larger story on the looming next chapter of the reconfiguration saga that led the Sunday paper.  So, I don’t think that one can say that there was much disagreement in the estimation of the two papers of the news value of the Holy Trinity protest.

    Whether or not one agrees that the suppression of Holy Trinity is appropriate, I think it is fair to say that, as Strother Martin put it in “Cool Hand Luke,” “what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

  • Although I don’t have figures from last year, I can confirm, Dom, that parishioners are joining in the protest, and donations to the Communications campaign were low. 

    The first Mass brought in $14 in singles, and 19 “funny-money” protest slips.  At the noon Mass, the baskets had plenty of the pale green notes, but I haven’t heard a number.

    The previous week’s Catholic Appeal collection – the only collection – took in some $700 at a Mass whose Sunday collection normally raises $2000. 

    Admittedly, Dom, you’re right: it was a pretty minor protest by itself, and the papers only covered it because it was part of an ongoing fuss.  For HT parishioners, it’s part of an effort to expose how the parish was railroaded. 

    My top concern is that Bp. Lennon and the current administrator want to move the Latin Mass—an outreach of reconciliation—to a money-losing, nearly empty church with no parking and no public visibility in a crime-ridden neighborhood (St. James In Chinatown).  This is a poor example of pastoral solicitude.

  • RC,
    I’m not really talking about Holy Trinity’s giving as much as archdiocesan wide. The Herald story implied that Catholics, a whole, would not give.

    And my point isn’t really about Holy Trinity specifically. I’m more concerned with how this played in the media.

  • From the Herald story (which cracked me up):

    “I suspect that’s a question that Catholics will continue to ask: Where is their money going, and why don’t they have any say?’’ said Suzanne Morse, spokeswoman for Voice of the Faithful, a group of Catholics lobbying for reforms.

    (The idea of Miz Morse even knowing where Holy Trinity is gives one pause, but that’s an aside.)

    VOTF lady, you don’t have any say. You SHOULDN’T have any say. You have nothing to say, actually. You just talk an awful lot.

    And here’s an “original” critique from “SNAP”:

    “Their message never changes: Pay, pray and obey,’’ Gately said.

    I always laugh (albeit sadly) whenever I read or hear somebody (who as a rule thinks himself very clever) echo the above line.

    I usually pretty much understand RC, but this line has me stumped:

    My top concern is that Bp. Lennon and the current administrator want to move the Latin Mass St James’ decline has happened FOR A REASON. Killing
    the place the Latin Mass has thrived and forcing it into a Church
    which has not been able to attract a supporting Congregation, and has
    significant barriers calls into question the Chancery’s commitment to
    the Latin Mass. And of course, they are public about how they feel
    about the German Community.

    John Salisbury
    Committee to Preserve Holy Trinity Parish

  • At Parish Council, Fr O’Regan stated, when asked about specific
    numbers to determine if ADEQUATE parking had been arranged, “don’t
    worry”. He has REFUSED to be specific. We can only guess how much
    parking from his statements that he thinks (or at least reports to
    his higher-ups, who DON’T want to hear about success here) we have “a
    hundred, maybe two” PEOPLE, which translates to approx 80 cars. We
    have RIGHT NOW, twice that number (cars and people), and this is a
    down year.

    Further, Lennon and higher-ups are under the false impression from Fr
    O’Regan that St James PRESENTLY accomodates 2-2.5 TIMES the number of
    parishoners weekly that it ACTUALLY does. They have been led to
    believe that there is no parking problem for THAT group (though they
    also believe that LOCAL Catholics go), and that therefore, there
    shouldn’t be one for a new group of the SAME size.

    Also – remember that he was specifically asked if Holy Days of
    Obligation, and/or Weekday Masses would also be provided for, and
    they will not be. (again, Fr O’Regan has discouraged and
    underreported Weekday attendance and interest at HT)

    Another problem is that, Fr presently DOES arrange for about 40
    parking spots on Sunday for the Chinese community, and we do not know
    if THOSE are included in his total “adequate” package. If they are
    (and I suspect this is the case), despite what the Chancery
    understands, those spots AREN’T going to be available for Latin,
    German, any other community. The Chinese group comes to Chinatown to
    spend the day, shopping, dining out, going to Chinatown neighbourhood
    groups and classes. The timing of our Mass, at the previous group’s
    lunch hour invites conflict.

    WE have to be specific to Bishop Lennon AND NEMC about the NUMBERS of
    parking spots we PRESENTLY need, how many we WILL need given the
    continuing expansion of the Latin Mass, and that those needs are
    would CONFLICT with those of the Chinese community at St James,
    whereas they COMPLEMENT those of the German Community at HT.
    WE!!! have to be specific about numbers when we comment, so as to
    make the inadequacy of the arrangements clear to BOTH the AoB and
    NEMC (the School/Hospitals SHOULD be alarmed at the burden Fr O’Regan
    is dumping on them)

    John Salisbury
    Committee to Preserve Holy Trinity Parish

  • Hi, Kelly!  So I’ve become a spokesman for the Beautiful People?  Lucky me.

    Seriously, though, what’s hard to understand?  We’re trying to get disaffected people in fringe groups—people who have kids and live in the ‘burbs, where most of the fringe groups are—to start coming to a legitimate church. 

    When people can’t park, or when they think the church is not in a safe neighborhood (people still think Chinatown = Combat Zone), it gets in the way of our mission. 

    HTC is not that good a location, but St James is worse.  It will give the church’s enemies another excuse to claim that the bishops here in Boston don’t really want traditionalist faithful back.

  • RC, please,

    I’ve been in contact since May 12 with Rob, okay? But I’m still confused.

    One thing I do understand, more than anything, is about the physical structure of Saint James. I’m sure it’s possible—with Jesus, anything is—to celebrate a Tridentine Mass with a whacky altar table and no altar rail, to name just two problems—but I can certainly see the difficulties.

    It’s scary as hell, to me, that the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, Queen, are getting into the act. To me, that’s Problem #1. (Problem #2 is getting VOTF into the act, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.)

    What I don’t get—and I’m sorry if I seem like an idiot – is the parking and the “they don’t like German people” stuff. Help me on these two things because I’m at a loss.

    I’ve walked to Trinity—and HAVE walked to St. James—more times than I can count. I’m not German, but other than that I don’t see the problem here.

    You know as well as I do that China Town isn’t all that bad. It’s the building that’s bad.

    Complaining about parking, and “a bad area,” and “prejudice against Germans” isn’t going to get a lot of sympathy. I’m sorry to say this but it’s true. I live in a Bad Neighborhood myself! wink

    I’d truly like to help. Do you think I want the Tridentine Mass to disappear from Boston? I certainly do not. But there’s so much I don’t know. I don’t know, for example, what the problem is with the existing building itself. As I told Rob, Father Murphy told me months ago that he was sure it wasn’t going to be suppressed.

    Here’s my thought. Sending out press releases slamming the Archbishop and the hierarchy is really **sing in the soup, if you’ll forgive me. Putting parking as the real complaint, genuine as it may be? Ditto. The “anti-German” moan? Forget it. Again, this is just my opinion.

    What you folks I think need to do, and I’m willing to help, is to demonstrate that the people of the Archdiocese of Boston are entitled, by the permission of our Holy Father of happy memory, his Cardinal Archbishop,  Bernard Law and our current Archbishop, Sean O’Malley, and more than likely our current Holy Father Benedict XVIII, to a Tridentine Mass. Period. And from what I can see, Saint James simply isn’t qualified to accomodate this.

    Other church buildings are. Please give me an opportunity to help keep the Tridentine Mass in Boston. I’m more than willing to try.

    No need to take up Dom’s space on this if it isn’t necessary. You know how to contact me if you choose to do so. I do hope I can help.

    Veni, Sancte Spiritus,