Boston Archdiocesan Spokeswoman Leaves Post

By Jay Lindsay
Associated Press, carried in [Boston MA]
May 7, 2003

BOSTON (AP) Donna Morrissey, spokeswoman for the Boston archdiocese during the clergy sex abuse scandal, has left the job she publicly described as a "nightmare" that regularly reduced her to tears.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, who has replaced Morrissey on an interim basis, would not say if Morrissey resigned or was fired. "We would never disclose something like that," he said.

Her exit was announced Wednesday, more than a week after her last day on April 28. Morrissey did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Coyne said the search for Morrissey's successor began the day she left, but said the search had no specific timetable.

"We're going to take our time," he said.

In the meantime, he said, the office would continue to work on improving communications within the archdiocese and with the public and media.

"As Donna and I have been doing all along, the most important thing I've tried to do is just be as honest and open as I can," Coyne said.

Morrissey, a former television news producer and public relations executive, became the cabinet secretary for communications under Cardinal Bernard Law about a year before the scandal broke in January 2002.

Law resigned in December following widespread revelations he and other church officials moved abusive priests from parish to parish while keeping their offenses secret.

Immediately after the first allegations surfaced, the archdiocese became the focus of a media onslaught, and Morrissey often became a lightning rod of discontent among Catholics angered by the church's handling of the allegations and the ensuing crisis.

"The office wasn't staffed to handle the onrush of the media that happened," Coyne said. "We've been trying to get up to speed. It's just been a long learning curve for us.

"It wouldn't be fair to single out the communications office," he said. "Nobody in the archdiocese expected the storm that erupted in January 2002."

Morrissey's relationship with the media was occasionally prickly, as she often would not or could not comment on sensitive issues facing the archdiocese. Law's attorney, J. Owen Todd, once noted Morrissey's tightlipped approach in contrast with abuse victims' attorneys.

"I wish I had a dollar for every time Donna Morrissey said, 'No comment,"' he said after a March hearing in which a judge chided victims' attorney for their high public profile.

In a March speech to the Boston chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, Morrissey called the scandal a "public relations nightmare," adding that information often wasn't shared with her or couldn't be released because it was confidential.

Morrissey and an assistant fielded up to 300 calls daily, forcing her to be reactive instead of proactive, and leaving her feeling overwhelmed, she said.

"There's times when I go home and ... I cry and sob," she said.


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