In Sister Mary Ann Walsh, both the Church and the media had a friend


By John L. Allen Jr.
Associate editor April 29, 2015

Back in 2002, at the peak of the sexual abuse crisis in the American church, then-Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., at the time the president of the US bishops’ conference, was in Rome. Every journalist on the planet wanted an interview, and my friend Jim Bittermann from CNN was lucky enough to score one.

I asked Bittermann if I could tag along to his appointment at the North American College, the American seminary in Rome, figuring it was the only way I would get access to Gregory on that trip. (Even though I worked for a competing publication, I was a regular on CNN.) Bittermann agreed, and so we set off.

We got as far as the inner courtyard at the NAC, which is where we ran into the unmovable Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the US bishops’ media coordinator.

Walsh immediately sniffed out the ruse, and wasn’t happy about it. She looked at Bittermann scornfully and said, “What, aren’t you man enough to do this by yourself? You need somebody to hold your hand?”

I was sternly exiled outside to wait for Bittermann to finish, and never did get my face time with Gregory until much later in the game.

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