Bishops and the media

Bishops and the media

Fr. Ray de Souza’s article in the November issue of Crisis hits the nail on the head. Fr. de Souza writes about how the US bishops bungled the handling of the media during the Scandal. This is especially appalling given that the Church’s primary mission is the spreading of a message, the Gospel. Yet they couldn’t even do that.

He points out that, yes, the mass media may have an inherent anti-Catholic bias, but that’s not the reason for the Scandal. The Church created the Scandal, giving anti-Catholic media the cudgel with which to beat her.

Fr. de Souza says that rather than view the mass media as an adversary, bishops should view it as a tool for getting their message out. For example, the mass media are often anti-big business as well, yet when a crisis hits a big corporation, the good ones don’t hunker down in a fortress. They hire the best crisis managers out there who help them to craft their message and get their side of the story out. But what happened in the Church’s Scandal is the opposite.

During the spring of 2002, when Cardinal Law made two secret trips to Rome, his handlers back in Boston boasted to their friends how clever they were in spiriting the cardinal around secretly. But imagine if the thinking had not been irman Anne Burke recently addressed the Call to Action conference.)

“This is going to be devastating, from what I’m hearing on the inside,” said Bishop Raymond J. Boland of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. “People will look at these raw statistics and say, ‘This is a large number.’ But I’m hoping we can say, ‘OK, if they’re large and damning in many ways, how do they compare to the country at large?’”

Is that our best defense? It’s bad, but not when you compare it to the rest of society. Are our standards for the our priests and bishops so low that we don’t expect them to do any better with regard to the sexual abuse of children than the rest of the population?

Yes, the secular reporting of the problem of sexual abuse of children has disproportionately focused on the Catholic Church over the past few years while other sectors of society have gotten a free pass. But I don’t want to hear any excuses, I don’t want spin from the bishops that it’s not as bad as all that. It is as bad as all that.

The report is months away from release and already we have a bishop—who evidently hasn’t seen any of the data yet—giving us the spin they’ll be pushing.

I’d rather hear some mea culpas, some admonishment of their brothers who failed, some penitence in their voices, and some concrete plans for cleaning up the priesthood. That’s not too much to ask.