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Never underestimate the use of jazz hands to distract from an awkward moment Phil Gold via Flickr

Column Cardinal Rules Part 17. How to handle a scandal.

The (not) Primate of All Ireland imparts his hard-earned wisdom on how to cope with the fallout of scandalous revelations. Jazz hands are an important distraction tool.

IF THERE IS one thing that this week has thought us, it is that whenever a scandal breaks, or a tribunal report is published, one always needs a strategic response.

We in the Catholic Church are well versed in responding to so-called scandals. For those of you in need of advice in how to react appropriately to such situations I now give you some guidelines. These proven techniques work whether you’re a priest, businessman, or politician.

Dealing with press conferences:

The first thing you need to do is call a press conference. The very fact that you called it makes it look as if you are serious about addressing the issues raised by a tribunal/report/Prime Time special.

It also prevents you being door-stepped by the media while eating a chicken sandwich. There is nothing worse than being asked a serious question and only being able to answer with, “Buyime eading a shicken samwush.”

Also, if you have any hair, make sure and brush it before the press conference. If you don’t have any hair wear a serious hat.

Always remember to look directly at the members of the liberal media, while delivering your answers in a calm serious voice.

After answering questions, and a brief but serious statement, always smile and do jazz hands. It will endear you to the attending press corps, and it will be the one and only thing anyone remembers the next day. You will be pleasantly surprised by how many of those in attendance or watching at home will transfer their sympathies to you.

Any chicken sandwiches must be consumed BEFORE sitting down to a press conference.

Language is your best friend:

The report/tribunal findings will be allegedly “damning.” An hysterical media will no doubt fan the flames of finger-pointing even further. In such a situation one needs to wrest linguistic control from insidious elements.

I find that loads of adjectives and adverbs do the trick. I call it “the quick brown fox” gambit. Hit them with an adjectival avalanche of such power that they will be left reeling. Use words like “serious”, “dark”, “troubling”, but follow these with words like “light”, “healing”, and “pink.”

What you are doing is manipulating language in such a way that you are making everyone feel they are being taken on a metaphorical journey from darkness towards light. Finish with a “call for understanding” and maybe throw in another “healing.” Use some alliteration, assonance, and onomatopoeia if you think they can handle it. Sympathies aroused. Job done.

Bring it down:

You should be able to make so-called problems and alleged infractions seem so much smaller than the media or general public mistakenly believe they are.

For example, let us imagine there is a hypothetical priest called Father Branigan. When asked questions about this hypothetical priest, respond with, “Well, three and sixty four acres really isn’t that much for a priest to have invested in.”

And/or, “He was helping the homeless of Las Vegas with that money.”

And/ or, “The important word to remember here is pending. Pending being put on the FBI’s most wanted list.”


There is a technique practiced by the great magicians such as Mr Paul Daniels. It involves: “Oh my God there’s something crawling on your shoulder!”

Did you see what I did there?

Misdirection means removing any attention from the so called core of the issue, and directing your audience towards something more relevant.

Eg: “Yes, I understand people were hurt, but think of your granny alone at home right now. I bet aggressive secularists are breaking into her house with baseball bats as we speak.”


If there are alleged victims of the alleged crime in the alleged report, then one must use sympathy and empathy. When asked a question try and recollect the names of all 7,107 Philippine islands. Your frown will be mistaken for sympathetic understanding.

Imagine you have a sore knee or a paper cut try and focus on the pain. Project it and use it. Nod sorrowfully. Finish your empathetic display with jazz hands.

Prison? As if:

When being questioned in public, whatever you do, do not think about the possibility of going to prison. You will only laugh and ruin everything.

Impress them:

Should you be arrested (ludicrous, I know) always be aware of the image you portray. Again you must direct your audience away from the so-called core issue. For example, if you’re being led away by the police do a back flip and follow it with jazz hands.

There is a very good chance people will be so impressed by your display, that they will forget why you have been arrested in the first place and let you go.

Mental reservation:

And finally, while I do not advocate lying, I find a little mental reservation goes a long way. Mental reservation is the doctrine of stating or using falsehood without actually really lying.

For example, one might be asked a question like “Where is Father Branigan?” One might then reply, “I have absolutely no idea, officer,” while concealing a finger under your cassock which is pointing in the general direction of Arizona.

Commit all the above to memory, and you are more than prepared for whatever your critics may throw at you. God bless.

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(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady
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