Cardinal Timothy Dolan appeared live yesterday on CBS This Morning to discuss what everyone in the media is talking about-the release of a controversial draft of the Catholic Church’s document on marriage and family life. A select group of Catholic bishops and cardinals have been meeting in Rome to discuss how to address this issue and a draft of their initial thoughts has been released to the public. The release has caused a furor in the Church and in the media. Proponents for change have hailed the draft as a signal of a new direction in how the Church handles divorced Catholics as well as same-sex lifestyles.
I don’t intend to discuss the relative merits of the document. I am not a theologian. However, anyone involved in public relations and crisis communications should take a look at Cardinal Dolan’s interview with CBS. He was confident without being defensive. He was humorous while standing firm in his answers. He answered the reporters’ questions with clarity and honesty. He admitted that the document was flawed and a work in progress. He didn’t make excuses or attack those who asked him direct and pointed questions.
At a time when some in Rome have offered hysterical responses, Dolan was reassuring and in control. He didn’t appear uncomfortable or surprised by any of the questions he was asked. He got out in front of the issue and was able to deliver his message without being controlled by the chaos surrounding the news. That’s the right way to handle a crisis in messaging. We can all learn from this.