Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thoughts on the Pope visit

To open this post up, I just want to apologize up front if I offend any hard core Catholics out there. If I do, oh well.

About seven or so years ago, I was working for a PR firm that was doing some crisis work for the Archdiocese before and right after the Boston Globe broke the sex abuse scandal story.

I was stationed at holy roller HQ in Brighton. Those were some very long days. Working at 7am and until 11pm at night. Everyday there was something new that we had to deal with. It was a losing battle. The powers that be never returned any media calls. They never dealt with incoming media requests via email or fax. Basically, they kept quiet. When they did finally start to open up it was too late. The flood gates were wide open at that point.

As a side bar, I had an investigative reporter for WBZ-TV ask me if they - the Archdiocese - had me swear on the bible as to not to return reporter phone calls. That's how bad it got.

Anyways, it was the worst assignment I ever had in my career. We were spinning wheels. And being a Catholic myself, I had inside knowledge of things that I cannot discuss, but bother the hell out of me to this very day. The experience made me question the Catholic faith, the church and everything about it.

It was that bad.

On the other hand, the experience was a great one from a PR standpoint. I had hands on crisis experience that I could never duplicate but replicate in terms of the steps you need to take to be prepared for the media onslaught. That experience has come in handy in other situations I've dealt with in my PR career.

So what does this have to do with the Pope visiting the US?

Well, to be blunt, I just don't care. Why it such a big deal? Why is it such a big media story? (I know the answers to these, but I'm just being sarcastic).

I understand these sort of events move people that are embedded into the religion. They feel connected. They feel the need to be part of it. However, the experience I went through changed my views on the church. It changed in such a way that I consider myself a Catholic, but don't care to practice it like others might. Funny thing is that I worked at a Catholic high school for four years. Going to church was part of the job sometimes. Every time there was an event, I would think about my time in Brighton. It was very hard to NOT think about my time in Brighton when stories like the Pope's visit dominate the news.

So at about six this evening, I fire up and see the story about the Pope meeting with five victims in the Boston sex scandal.

Check out the lead:

Pope Benedict XVI, in a dramatic move likely to alter forever the image of his pontificate, met this afternoon with five victims of clergy sexual abuse from Boston.
Are you kidding me? This one meeting is going to change the image of his pontificate? That's BS. The church will never recuperate from what Bernie and crew did. The damage has been done and they had the opportunity to "heal" by addressing the issue at the outset. But nope, let's just shuffle these kid diddlers around from church to church and hide it as much as we can. We are the church. We don't answer to anyone. That was the mentality, even was I was working on their behalf.

Only 100 years from now will this story not be as big. The sex abuse scandal will just be another chapter in our country's, sometimes dark, history.

No matter how many visits this or other Popes make to the US, the scandal is tattooed on our fore head. It's like getting loaded in Vegas, meeting some chick in the casino, getting married, and waking up to find out you've got Frodo's ring on your finger.

The big difference is that you can't annul the nightmares those bastards injected into the minds of thousands of people.

Just ask the Pope. I'm sure he got some pretty detailed accounts this afternoon.


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