LOS ANGELES, June 3—The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest archdiocese, became the latest to hire a public relations firm, calling in crisis management specialist Sitrick & Company to help it deal with the fallout from the sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Roman Catholic church through the first half of the year.
The church has been widely criticized for its response to charges of child sexual abuse, with responsibility delegated to local archdioceses and dioceses.
In Boston, the epicenter of the crisis, Morrissey & Company has been working with Cardinal Bernard Law. The firm’s founder, Peter Morrissey, is a cousin of Law’s spokeswoman, Donna Morrissey. Meanwhile, Rubenstein Associates is helping the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which serves more than more than 1.5 million Catholics living in New York's Nassau and Suffolk counties and which has pledged full cooperation with civil authorities.
In St. Louis, where seven priests have been arrested or come under investigation, Fleishman-Hillard donated the services of senior vice president Jim Orso to the local archdiocese, where he has served as acting director of communications. And in Chicago, Public Communications has been working with the Carmelite order deal with charges brought against one of its priests.
In Los Angeles, the archdiocese had received advice from Weber Shandwick Worldwide, but recently hired a new attorney, Michael Hennigan, who recommended Sitrick. More than 30 current or former priests of the archdiocese are under investigation by law enforcement authorities for alleged sexual misconduct.
Hennigan said he chose Sitrick because the archdiocese “was not doing well in the press. I thought the press was focusing on the very negative aspects without the whole story coming out.”
Sitrick, who has counseled celebrities such as Halle Berry and Paula Poundstone through crises, as well as accused spy Wen Ho Lee and numerous corporate clients, said the first priority was “trying to get perceptions to equal reality. You can’t do anything about what was, only what is and what will be.”