Father Coyne steps down as spokesperson

Father Christopher Coyne, Cabinet Secretary for Public Relations and spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Boston, has returned to teaching liturgy and homiletics full-time at St. John Seminary, a position he held before becoming spokesperson. The move was officially announced in a Sept. 24 statement by Moderator of the Curia Bishop Richard Lennon.

In the statement Bishop Lennon also thanked Father Coyne for his service saying, “Archbishop Seán and I are most grateful to Father Coyne for his generous and able work in this area of Church life.”

Father Coyne’s decision to step down comes after more than two years of responding to media inquiries at all hours of the day and night, seven days a week.

"It hasn't just been about the abuse crisis or reconfiguration, but any moment in which the media has had any inquiry about the life of the archdiocese has gone through this office," Father Coyne said.

"Dealing with the media and media calls seven days a week at all hours of the day has been very stressful," Father Coyne continued.

Father Coyne began serving as co-spokesperson with Donna Morrisey in April 2002, during the height of the clergy abuse crisis. Initially, he was asked by Cardinal Bernard Law to serve on a temporary basis.

"As the [crisis] unfolded, my time [in this office] grew and grew," he stated.

It was in the heart of the abuse crisis that Father Coyne experienced his most difficult time as spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Boston — the day Cardinal Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston.

"It was a very difficult day, for all kinds of reasons," he recalled. "Donna [Morrisey] was still in the office and it was a very sad day for all of us."

When Morrisey resigned as spokesperson in April 2003, Father Coyne was asked by then-Apostolic Administrator Bishop Richard Lennon to continue in his position until a replacement could be found.

"I was only supposed to be there temporarily for two or three months," he recounted.

After Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley was named to be Archbishop of Boston, the search for a new spokesperson was halted to allow the new archbishop to oversee the process.

For Father Coyne, the installation of the new archbishop was the “highlight” of his time as spokesperson for the archdiocese.

"That day went incredibly well, thanks to the tremendous amount of help I received from so many people," he said. Father Coyne also praised the media's involvement in the installation.

"They [the media] were incredibly cooperative and helpful in order to make that event a success," he stated.

Two months after Archbishop O’Malley was installed, Father Coyne approached him and asked if he could “get another person in place so I could go back to my faculty position or to another ministry that may need me.”

According to Father Coyne, the archbishop asked him to stay on as spokesperson for a time because “at the time he had too much going on.”

Now, one year later, Father Coyne once again sought to step down, noting that the constant stress was beginning to affect his dealings with the media.

"I began saying things on the record and making mistakes that I never had made before," he said. "The archbishop was good to me and has accepted my resignation."

Reflecting on his experiences over the past two years, Father Coyne expressed a mix of emotions when it comes to dealing with the media.

"Most people I had to work with at various times were professional and ethical," he commented. "But there were some who were neither at times, and that was very frustrating for myself and my office."

"The culture of the media is very different from the culture of the Church -- and I don't mean that in any negative way. I'm not saying one is better than the other, but it is what it is," he mused. "The media is what it is. It's a business. They have to be concerned with circulation and ratings. Because of that stories -- especially those that involve the Church -- had a way of picking up such a momentum that was at times frustrating to me."

In the coming weeks Father Coyne will be assisting the transition staff in the communications office as well as aiding in the search for his permanent replacement.