The influence of issue management upon public relationships in a changing environment: how John Charles Mc. Quaid, Roman archbishop of Dublin (1940-72) managed the issue of the Second Vatican Council from 1959 to 1972 and the extent, if any, to which this influenced change in the public relationships between Archbishop, diocesan priests and laity.
Document Type Article
This research examines the influence of issue management upon public relationships in a changing environment. The example chosen is the management of the Second Vatican Council, from 1959 to 1972 by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and the public relationships are those between archbishop, diocesan priests and laity. Public relations theories on issue management, publics and relationship management are applied to a religious context, one where relationships may be distorted by the religious faith, authority and obedience on which they are based and which is different to the commercial business environment within which they were framed. The methodology is qualitative, interviews with 41 priests and laity who were participants or observers, and examination of archives, especially the Dublin Diocesan Archives. The findings force a fine distinction between broad stakeholder relationships and dynamic public relationships formed with both active and aware publics as the Council issue developed. Shifts in the broad stakeholder group relationships could not be proven, but there were shifts in the relationships involving aware and active publics on the Council issue. However, it could not be proved to what extent these shifts were the result of the Archbishop’s handling of the issue as many other factors influenced change at the time. There was strong evidence that the media of communication influenced the relationships more than what the Archbishop said or did, as they were a driving force in popularising and explaining the Vatican Council. The findings can be seen as an illustration of emerging public relations field dynamics theory and the complexity that surrounds issue and relationship management when there are numerous issues and numerous relationships interacting simultaneously in a changing, even turbulent, environment