Six months after the original article, and following negotiations with the church and its comms service, the paper has printed an apology and accepted the allegations were untrue.
The article alleged that Church leader Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, through an intermediary, attempted to buy the silence of imprisoned paedophile priest Michael Hill. This had been consistently denied by the Church.
Catholic Communications Service director Mark Morley said the apology was a vital part of the PR battle to rebuild public trust in the Church
and its leadership, following negative stories concerning paedophiles.
He said: ‘From a PR point of view it was about reassuring our internal stakeholders… its about getting the truth and correcting a wrong.’
Gaining the apology also gives a strong message that the Church’s comms activity is looking to become more robust, following what Morley calls ‘a bleak time for the comms team’ as it dealt with accusations that paedophile activity was being covered up.
However, Morley said it was unlikely this would extend to libel proceedings. He said: ‘Our message is the gospel, it’s not about legal action against one organisation or another. It’s also about being dignified.’
Earlier this year the Church created the post of press secretary for the Cardinal and his Westminster diocese, appointing former Scottish National Party PRO Stephen Noon to the role.