In case you have been wondering how and why Cardinal Sean O’Malley is getting so much press in and around the upcoming conclave to elect a new pope, now we know why. The Boston Archdiocesean PR machine is in high gear drumming up stories, as exemplified by the email below from Cardinal O’Malley’s cabinet secretary for communications. A rational person seeing their press activity might wonder why the Cardinal and his PR team have embarked on such an active campaign in the days before the conclave starts.
Here at BCI, we would like to do our part to assist, and we invite our readers to help as well.
1) We suggest that Cardinal O’Malley revisit the list of publications he reads for input and those with whom he spends time interviewing. In this interview with the National Catholic Reporter, published March 3, here are his answers to several questions:
How are you preparing yourself?
Spiritually, I’m trying to focus on the seriousness of this, asking for God’s help in prayer. I’m also trying to learn as much as I can about my brother cardinals.
How are you doing that?
I downloaded Mr. Miranda’s material, because he has a page of just the cardinals who are going to be at the conclave. [Note: Salvador Miranda of Florida International University maintains a web page on the cardinals.] I had my secretary go through and take out the biography of each one. A lot of them, of course, I knew, but this was one way of putting names to the faces of those I don’t know. That’s especially true of the Eastern Europeans and a couple of the Africans. I’m trying to read articles, to become acquainted with some of these issues in the past faced by conclaves. Your articles are all very interesting too.
Where do we start on this? The “National Catholic Reporter” is not even Catholic–as exemplified by recent statements by Kansas City Bishop Finn that the paper should not call itself Catholic, and by Colorado Springs Bishop Sheridan that the National Catholic Reporter ‘is an embarrassment to the Catholic Church.’ Why is Cardinal O’Malley even spending time or giving credibility to the paper by agreeing to an interview with them? Furthermore, since the paper publishes pieces by dissidents such as Joan Chittister and takes editorial positions that officially condemn Catholic Church teaching–including “on the ordination of women, insistent undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching, and a litany of other issues”–what does this say about the theological standards and discernment of the Cardinal? BCI would suggest that Cardinal O’Malley instead prepare for the conclave by reading writings of the saints and publications other than the National Catholic Reporter.
2) Here is the email just sent out by Terry Donilon asking for help on Cardinal O’Malley’s Vatican public relations campaign:
Subj: Rome updates and 2 requests
As you know the Cardinal is in Rome preparing for the conclave. This week will see the start of the meetings with the College of Cardinal’s. Through The Pilot, Cardinal Sean’s blog and our social media team as well as CatholicTV we will keep you up to date as the proceedings get underway.
We do have two requests we hope some of you can help us with.
As you can imagine, the media has descended on Rome from all over the world. This week the Boston media will be arriving to cover the events.
1. We have a need for Boston folks in Rome either on pilgrimage, working or visiting during the week ahead to engage with the media which we will vet and who would have positive things to say about the Church. The local media arriving and some national media have made requests to us
2. We need local stories where parishes, schools and ministries are involved that are learning and celebrating Pope Benedict, the papacy and the universal church (perhaps Boston-based folks with a connection to Rome/Vatican).
Thanks so much for any consideration you give to this request.
Please email your suggestions and connections to me and Kellyanne Dignan (email@example.com).
Please continue to pray for Cardinal Sean and his fellow Cardinal’s as they undertake this most important responsibility.
66 Brooks Dr
Braintree, MA 02184
The main question people should be asking themselves is “Why exactly are Cardinal O’Malley and his team mounting this PR campaign?” When Terry writes, “We have a need…,” is it clear to any readers why they have a “need”? What will happen if the need they have is not fulfilled? The Boston Archdiocese is spending about $1 million annually on media (Terry Donilon salary and benefits, Scot Landry salary and benefits plus his media and CatholicTV team, and Rasky Baerlein) and yet they have to beg everyone in the archdiocese for Rome stories. Is there anything wrong with that picture?
In addition, BCI readers have heard us tell you for some time that Terry Donilon–paid $184K in salary, plus benefits, for total compensation of $208K–is challenged when it comes to spelling, grammar and knowledge of Catholicism. This email is a great example. There are meetings of the College of Cardinal’s. [Note: Students learn how to make a noun possessive in 2nd grade. (e.g. "the boy's ball") There is no possessive in "College of Cardinals"] And how exactly is it that parishes, schools and ministries would go about “learning…Pope Benedict? Also, we should pray for Cardinal Sean and his fellow Cardinal’s [again, what are they possessing?] as they undertake this most important responsibility. [Which responsibility is it the Cardinal's are undertaking? Is it fulfilling the "need" for stories?] . Is this quality of work worth $208K a year, subsidized by Catholic Appeal donations? Does the Compensation Committee think someone who cannot spell at beyond a 2nd grade level and is paid $208K a year is somehow not being excessively compensated?
To help the archdiocese, BCI is going to do several things:
- We will write to the Compensation Committee and suggest their first target for job standards and pay reduction.
- BCI is going to offer to Terry and the PR team that BCI will speak to the press about our apostolic ministry as Catholic bloggers, where we are helping people learn about the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI. (We even have a connection to Rome/Vatican, because BCI readers keep sending BCI blog posts to members of the Roman curia, hoping they will do something about the problems in Boston).
- We are going to offer to Terry and the Rasky Baerlein team that, as long as Terry is still doing the communications job, we will help proofread and spell-check emails from Terry before they are sent out.
Lastly, if any BCI readers are in Rome, would like to talk to the press about the papacy of Benedict XVI or the papacy in general, or have a connection to the Vatican (e.g. by means of your having emailed or called the Papal Nuncio or others in the Roman curia), feel free to help out Terry Donilon and the Boston Archdiocese. Drop Terry and Rasky an email and offer to speak to a reporter.