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Catholic leadership communications 101

Let's learn communication skills today from the masters of pastoral care. We will give three examples, starting with two of our recent local shepherds. Pay attention, now. One of these three religious leaders is speaking intemperately and without benefit of counsel, which can produce less-than-optimal strategic messaging in a liability situation.

1. Cardinal Edward Egan

(From today's New York Times, excerpts from a just-unsealed deposition on his tenure in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn.:)

“Bishop Egan, the fact that 19 individuals have come forward and made claims,” Ms. Robinson asked about Father Pcolka’s case. “You don’t consider that to be a significant number of individuals?”

The bishop waited while his lawyer quibbled over the number 19, then answered that considering there were 360,911 registered Catholics in the diocese, “I do not consider that a significant segment or factor.”

“Would you agree with me, Bishop Egan,” the lawyer pressed, “that if one person, one individual, has been affected by the sexual abuse of a clergy member, when that person was a child, that that’s far too much to accept in any diocese?”

“It would not be a significant portion of the diocese,” he replied. “Your question was ‘a significant portion of the diocese.’ ”

2. Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, retired

On August 22, 2002, lawyers for three men who claim they were sexually abused by the Rev. Paul Shanley conducted a deposition of Bishop Daily, a former top-ranking official in the Archdiocese of Boston, in a transcript posted by the Boston Globe here)

Q: Do you understand the question? On the basis of these four allegations that have been made against Paul Shanley from his beliefs in bestiality, incest, pedophilia, the McGeady letter, Gaysweek magazine about children feeling guilty when they have sex with men and men get sent to jail, on the basis of the two letters you received in May and July of 1983 about his attendance at NAMBLA, looking at those letters, do you still believe it was appropriate for you to appoint Paul Shanley as acting pastor of a family parish in Newton in 1983?

Bishop Daily: I would have to agree that it would be extraordinary. The only thing, the only saving feature of it is that we are talking about ideas and opinions in his promotion verbally, that the only saving feature is that, to my knowledge at the time, he wasn't involved in activities. But having even said that, if in fact he was promoting ideas and God knows at St. Jean's parish, that would be terrible. And there was no evidence he was at St. Jean's parish doing that; he was doing it in other parts of the country. But having said that, I would have very great regrets.

Q: You have regrets you made the appointment?

Bishop Daily: I think I would have done much better if I hadn't made the appointment.

3. Jesus Christ


But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:6


Images: Top: Louis Lanzano/Associated Press; Middle: AP; bottom: Fra Angelico

Posted on Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 11:46AM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments2 Comments

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Reader Comments (2)


I was born and raised Catholic, raised my children Catholic but left the Church about a decade ago. Instead of spending time trying to lobby Congress to send women back to back alley abortions they need to clean up their own house.

One victim of abuse is bad enough. 19 is a crisis. Shame on the Catholic Church for not seeing that.
December 6, 2009 at 04:14PM | Unregistered CommenterEloise
Eloise, I see it differently--protecting our children from violence begins in the womb, making it imperative for our Church leaders to speak out in defense of those in danger of losing our lives before we even have a chance to live them. HOWEVER...protecting our children from violence shouldn't END in the womb, a point our noble bishops and cardinals seemed to have missed. I persist in the belief that we, not they, are the authentic Church, in all our hope and imperfection, and that as Christ's body on earth, we have hope for healing these awful wounds...
December 6, 2009 at 07:29PM | Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn

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