While covering the recent bishops' spring conference in Atlanta, a lot of reporters simply saw an opportunity to phone it in and rehash the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church to advance a political agenda.
The Los Angeles Times' Mitchell Landsberg, however, reported a story that has needed to be told for a long time: When it comes to sex abuse and the Catholic Church, the bishops have a serious public relations problem.
Landsberg reported from the conference:
On Thursday, the bishops said they've had enough. It is time, they said, to beef up their public relations arsenal.
"We need more help and sophistication in our messaging," said Boston's Cardinal Séan O'Malley …
[He] observed ruefully that when John Jay College released a landmark study last year of the causes and handling of the church's sex-abuse crisis, it "should have been a good moment for the church, and yet it was another black eye."
Indeed, while a mere seven Catholic priests were even "credibly accused" of contemporaneously abusing a minor in all of 2011, much of the the public still has the false impression that abuse is still rampant in the Church today – thanks largely to poor journalism and media hysteria.
In addition, with annual audits, diocesan review boards, abuse awareness trainings, and intensifies screening processes, the Catholic Church has implemented measures that are unsurpassed anywhere – making the Catholic Church the safest environment for children today.
But is the public aware of all of this?
How will the bishops respond to their need to inform people? Hire a national spokesperson? Implement a "social network" of bishops?
At least the first step has been made: The problem has been acknowledged, and now it is time for the bishops to improve their public relations.
Kudos to the Times' Landsberg for reporting it.