Just for fun when we’re talking shop, my PR friends sometimes like to evaluate escalating public scandals by asking each other: “What do you think might be the best damage control strategy for this crisis?” Here’s an example: over a 15-year period, our local Catholic Bishop Remi De Roo used church funds to invest in a failing horse-breeding venture, all without bothering to ask anybody for permission. In desperation, he then tried to secretly cover his horse-breeding losses with a real estate deal that also went terribly wrong – once again using the church’s money.
For the sake of clarity, let’s call this “stealing”. De Roo’s Catholic diocese was left with a debt of over $12 million to cover his losses. But the church never did press criminal charges against him.
It seems that as far as the Catholic church is concerned, wayward priests who choose to commit crimes – from stealing $12 million to sexually abusing minors – don’t need to face the same legal consequences that you or I would face. And from a public relations viewpoint, my PR pals agree, that’s a disastrous perception. Continue reading