LOS ANGELES: A week after hiring crisis guru Sitrick %26 Co., the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Catholic Church found itself amidst what the LA Times called a "PR snafu after issuing a release that refuted sexual misconduct allegations against Cardinal Roger Mahony - only to discover later that the alleged victim denied ever making the charges.
Last Tuesday, the Arch-diocese's media relations department sent out a press release announcing that a 33-year-old Stockton, CA man had accused Mahony, the head of the LA Archdiocese, of sexual misconduct stemming from an incident in the early 1980s.
The release went on to deny the allegations, and promise Mahony's full cooperation in an investigation.
However, when the LA Times contacted the man who allegedly made the charge, he denied ever having done so.
Instead, he told the Times he had only sent a letter to the Archdiocese in Stockton saying, "I want to see (Mahony's) face in court, because he was ashamed of the way the church was handling abuse charges in general, and the specific case of Stockton priest Oliver O'Grady.
He also told the Times that he had never met the cardinal.
After being alerted to the situation by the LA Times, the Archdiocese issued a second release titled: "Archdiocese receives independent corroboration that allegation of sexual abuse is false."
The Times ran an article the next day highlighting the releases, under the headline "Mahony is falsely accused in PR snafu, which charged that "Mahony's spin machine spun out of control."
Michael Sitrick, head of Sitrick & Co., said he is not happy with the way the Times handled the incident, and is writing a letter to the editor.
He added that the LA Archdiocese received word of the Stockton man's allegations through church lawyers, and although they felt the allegations were "questionable, the Archdiocese has a policy of "disclosing the information."
He went on to say that the Stockton man did make allegations of misconduct. "He did say it, and then he recanted, said Sitrick.
The incident came the same week that the Archdiocese began promoting its "zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse.