30 August, 2010

Questions before the upcoming Papal Visit to Great Britain

John Paul II
Benedict XVI
With Britain on the horizon, is the Vatican’s communications office up to the challenge?

Sadly, the probability that the answer to this question is 'No'. The Holy Father is an intellectual and holy man; a wise choice of the Holy Spirit. Alas, he does not the possess charismatic presence of his predecessor. Come the end of his Pontificate, it is unlikely that  the crowds will shout out "Magnus" as happened at the Funeral Mass of John Paul the Great. Learned Vatican watchers bemoan the chaotic and seemingly 'reactive' posture of this pontificate when it comes to presenting a hermeneutical key that defines the message of the Holy See. Where John Paul fashioned and planned his messages with Joaquín Navarro-Valls and others so as offer the clarity of fundamental principles as they apply in different cultures.

Politics teaches: you can either 'define' yourself, or allow others define you. Through missteps and poorly crafted messages, the team around B16 has let the opponents of the Church define him. Where John Paul's charisma and coherent message was able to breakthrough into the public consciousness, seizing the opportunities of foreign visits to proclaim his message, B16's lack in these same areas has been insufficient to accomplish the same feat. Admittedly B16 suffers in the comparison, not because of any religious or moral failing - he is universally accepted by the majority of Catholics as being as holy and orthodox as J.P. II,  - but because of his failure to surround himself with advisers who understand how to 'market' his message.

This has resulted in B16 being portrayed as probably complicit in the tsunami of sex abuse scandals that have swept across the planet over the past 30 years. Documents such as 'Crimine Sollicitationis'  and the 2002 letter of the Holy Office reserving such cases to the Holy See have been deliberately misinterpreted in the media by litigation lawyers as a 'command' to cover-up of these crimes. This is patently false. The document deals only with one aspect of these abuses (when the sacrament of reconciliation is involved and ergo the seal of confession must be protected so as not to identify the victims) and did not include a prohibition or admonition to keep these offenses from the civil authorities. Instead of making this fact clear from the start, the Vatican dithered, delayed and failed to present a cogent response until it was too late. The die had again been cast in a negative light with the current pontificate trapped within its grasp.

This is but one example of a series of misadventures which have served to squeeze the breath out of B16's pontificate.

As the Papal Visit to Great Britain draws near to the land of Fleet Street, there is little reason to hope (and thus a significant reason for Catholics to pray) that this journey will improve the media image of this Pontiff.  His message will have an uphill task in making itself heard above the din of the tabloids hyping the antics of Dawkins and Hitchens.  The BBC will also air a mock 'trial' of the Pope during the visit, encouraging viewers to call in with their verdict - facilitating an orchestrated campaign to vote B16 'off the island', further distracting for his message and adding fuel to the fire of those attempting to burn this pontificate to the ground.

Is Pope Benedict's media team up to the challenge? | Media | The Guardian

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