ST. LOUIS -- It was a rare moment for the deeply private Archbishop Justin Rigali, made so because it was much more than just a moment.
The leader of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, who rarely speaks in public and usually from a prepared text when he does, spent last Wednesday afternoon making the rounds of the St. Louis media. For eight hours, Rigali gave extensive interviews with two radio stations, four television stations and the city's major daily newspaper.
On the same day the church announced the resignation of one priest following new charges of child sexual abuse and placed another on leave, Rigali surprised many by taking the time to answer more questions from the media than he did during all of January 1999, the month of Pope John Paul II's visit to St. Louis.
"The archbishop wanted to reiterate for the community, especially the Catholic community, how strongly he deplores the horror of sexual abuse of minors by the clergy and his unequivocal commitment to ending it," said Monsignor Dennis Delaney, rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and former director of communications for the archdiocese.
For the past month, as the scandal involving Roman Catholic priests and allegations of child sexual abuse grew nationwide and in St. Louis, Rigali remained mostly silent on the issue. But Delaney said Rigali didn't want reporters and television cameras to overshadow the Holy Week and Easter services at area parishes.
Another reason for the extensive interviews was to avoid the sound bites that often come from press conferences or short interviews.
Some thought Rigali's interviews came too late.
"He looked exhausted and he looked like he was in it all by himself," said William H. Evans Jr., a member of St. Agatha Parish in St. Louis. "I get the impression he is like Custer surrounded by Indians."