Saturday, August 30, 2003

Church spokesman believes in message

'How do you sleep at night?'

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Dan Andriacco is confident the church can overcome mistakes of its past and help heal wounds
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
Dan Andriacco could tell the woman was upset even before she began to speak.

She approached him at a church festival a few weeks ago, eyes blazing and jaw clenched. She said she had seen Andriacco on TV, defending the church's handling of a priest who she said had sexually abused her husband years earlier.

"I just have one question," she asked. "How do you sleep at night?"

As the director of communications for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Andriacco has been the public face and voice of the church throughout the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

It's his job to explain what the church did or didn't do, and it's his job to talk to fellow Catholics who are angry about it.

The experience has tested Andriacco's patience, his endurance and his skills as a communicator. But it has not tested his faith in the Catholic Church.

He is confident the church can overcome the mistakes of its past and help heal the wounds that some of its priests inflicted.

Confrontations like the one at the church festival are a reminder of how difficult the task will be.

"Each one of these cases represents a real victim in real pain," Andriacco says.

"It's not just some kind of intellectual challenge to me to defend the archdiocese."

But he does defend it.

He grew up on Cincinnati's staunchly Catholic west side, attended Catholic schools and took college courses in Catholicism. Behind his desk, the opening words to a prayer are framed on the wall: "I Believe."

"I do believe," he says.

"I'm not saying I never questioned (the church), but when I did, I asked myself if I really believed it and I said, 'Yeah, I do.' It's so much a part of me."

He also believes it's his job to get the church's message out, even when his audience may be too angry or frustrated to listen. So he keeps talking, just as he did at the church festival a few weeks ago.

He knows the woman did not walk away happy, but in the end, they found one thing to agree on: "I just wish it would all go away," the woman said.

Andriacco nodded.

"We all do," he said.

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