February 28, 2005

Jamie Allman's unholy challenge: Representing Burke and Archdiocese

St. Louis Journalism Review

by Don Corrigan

Can a TV newsman, who fancied himself an ace investigator of journalistic truth, suddenly take up a new life as a PR flack for an institution notoriously known for keeping its darkest secrets hidden from public view?
That is the perplexing question-and paradoxical drama-playing out in St. Louis, thanks to the unlikely professional path of Jamie Allman, the unusual protagonist of this Arch City plot.
In describing his career move from press sleuth to pulpit spokesperson, Allman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I feel like I've connected the most important elements of my purpose here on earth." In the new American Century of overblown, faith-based rhetoric, certainly Allman cannot be faulted for engaging in a little religious hyperbole.
Even presidents do that.
Nevertheless, critics of the St. Louis Catholic Archdiocese, Allman's new employer, contend that the former TV newsman could not have connected all the dots before making his decision to report for duty with Archbishop Raymond Burke. They also contend the marriage of Allman to the archdiocese is an odd arrangement made, well, not exactly in heaven. ...
With the Missouri Supreme Court's refusal late last year to prevent prosecution of a Catholic priest accused of sodomizing a youngster 25 years ago, the door may now be opened for decades-old clergy sex abuse lawsuit cases that once faded due to the road block of the statute of limitations.
Indeed, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has been sending the news media a steady stream of releases about clergy abuse cases and new lawsuits since the first of the year. Some members of SNAP speculate that Allman may have been brought on to try to deal with hundreds of credible clergy abuse complaints that once were held in limbo.
"Embattled bishops often look for a quick fix," said David Clohessy, a local and national leader for SNAP. "It shows a sad, but all-too-typical concern for image-building rather than healing and prevention. Bringing on another mouthpiece rarely leads to reform."
Clohessy made note of Allman's predecessor, Jim Orso, a Fleishman-Hillard public relations professional. Orso was brought on by Rigali two years ago to help the archdiocese navigate the press storm of clergy sex scandals. Orso told the Post he was looking forward to "going out to the real world" as Allman took his post.

Posted by kshaw at February 28, 2005 11:02 AM