Feb 22, 2013

How Do PR Men of Catholic Church Speak with Straight Faces

Lobbying for the church blocked measures helping
child victims in Wisconsin, Arizona and Connecticut in 2010.
By David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
“How does he keep a straight face?” That’s the question I often think about the public relations staffers who work for Catholic officials.

Take Joseph Zwilling, the PR man for New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Here’s what Zwilling released yesterday about his boss’ deposition in clergy sex crimes cases:

"Today Cardinal Dolan had the long-awaited opportunity to talk about his decision nine years ago in Milwaukee to publicize the names of priests who had abused children and how he responded to the tragedy of past clergy sexual abuse of minors. . .” (Annysa Johnson and Bruce Vielmetti of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Long-awaited? Really?

Ever met anyone who really looked forward to being deposed by a hostile lawyer in a child sex case?

Dolan’s a chatty guy. He blogs a lot. He gives lots of interviews. Maybe we missed it, but we don’t recall even once hearing Dolan say “Geez, I’m just dying to sit in a room for hours, surrounded by lawyers, and face questions under oath about predator priests. . .”

Notice too that Zwilling mentions Dolan’s alleged desire to talk about “the good work and progress that took place to ensure the protection of children and pastoral outreach to victims" in Milwaukee and Dolan’s decision there “to publicize the names of priests who had abused children.”

That move, we’re convinced, was part of a shrewd strategy to forestall legislative reform that would have enabled more child sex victims to expose more predator priests in court.

But regardless, if publicizing the names of child molesting clerics in Milwaukee was “good work” and “progress,” why does Dolan refuse to do the same thing in New York?
Maybe now Wisconsin's dumb Ron Johnson will disavow his speaking out against the Wisconsin Child Victims Act just before he was elected to the U.S. Senate. First, he needs to pray on it, I suppose.

As Dan Bice reported in June 2010:
"People want a senator (referring to Johnson) who is going to fight for victims of abuse, not lobby against them," said John Kraus, a senior strategist for the incumbent Democrat [running against Ron Johnson]. "If he won't stand with children who are victims of abuse, who will he stand with?"

Here are the key political questions:

Why did a guy considering a run for statewide office decide to jump into a controversy that cuts across party lines? What upside could there be?

Only (Ron) Johnson can answer those.

In an interview last week, he said he was first contacted on the issue by Deacon Tim Reilly, director of administration for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay. Though a Lutheran, Johnson is a big backer of Catholic schools and was serving on the diocese's finance council at the time of his testimony.

The proposal [the Child Victims Act] would have eliminated the statute of limitations for future victims of child sex abuse and opened a three-year window for past victims.

It [the Child Victims Act] was opposed by the insurance industry and church organizations, including the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which argued the bill could bankrupt it. The measure had the support of several police organizations, social workers and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.

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