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Public relations blunders leave the faithful confused

Malicious or ignorant reports do not only damage the reputation of ordinary Catholics; they also cause ordinary Catholics to lose confidence in their pastors

By on Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Catholic Church was back in the headlines last week and, as is so often the case these days, the headlines made depressing reading. Put briefly, the Vatican issued updates to Canon Law that strengthened the penalties against sex abuser priests and those who take part in the attempted ordination of women. The secular media eagerly seized this opportunity to suggest that, in the eyes of the Church, the abuse of children and the ordination of women were equally serious crimes. The Vatican denied this, but it was too late: the simultaneous announcement of the new canonical penalties – which would have attracted little attention a few years ago – positively invited the Church’s enemies to do their worst.

This sort of public relations disaster is more dangerous than Rome seems to realise. Malicious or ignorant reports in the media do not only damage the reputation of ordinary Catholics; they also cause ordinary Catholics to lose confidence in their pastors.

It is easy to forget that members of the Church cannot always discriminate between true and misleading stories in the press. On this occasion, faithful Mass-goers were among those left confused and angry by stories implying – incorrectly but plausibly – that something was wrong with the Church’s moral compass. At no time in recent years has the Vicar of Christ faced so many devious opponents; yet the truth is that anti-Catholic polemicists were handed this latest piece of propaganda on a plate. It must not happen again.

  • JeannieGuzman

    I disagree with the author. The Vatican's latest PR gaffe doesn't “Damage the credibility of ordinary Catholics!” Put the “credibility blame” where it should go. It damages the credibility of the Pope, the Curia and the Hierarchy! It seems as if the Vatican grudgingly throws Survivor/Victims of Priest Pedophilia a bone, every now and then, but this time the policy put forth by the Vatican WAS as provocative as the Vatican had intentionally intended it to be! There was no mistake. This provocative pronouncement was specifically meant to be a slap in the face to Survivors as well as to women, who aspire to break the all-male, glass-ceiling of the priesthood. Many Catholics as well as former Catholics honestly believe that the Hierarchy and Vatican has lost her moral compass. Since Vatican II taught us, “We are the part of the Magisterium” and the “People of God,” if the Vatican doesn't watch out, there could be a major insurrection, which might make the Reformation look like a Cake-walk!

  • Dan Goddu

    I disagree with both the author and the previous post.

    What should have the Vatican done instead? Not say or done anything? I view updates to Canon Law to better deal with this terrible matter as a good thing. How can clarification to prevent and or deal with the abuse issue more justly and forthright in the future not be a good thing? Actions based on self-inspection and re-evaluation is part of the reconciliation process. This is what the Magisterium does: keep the moral compass pointing in the right direction.

    As for woman ordination, the glass ceiling doesn't exist in this case. We need to clearly understand why God made man and why God made woman. Re-read Genesis 1, 2, Tobit, Song of Songs, and Ephesians 5. Use the Theology of the Body as your study guide.

    God Bless,


  • JeannieGuzman

    HI, Dan: I should have gone further to explain my post. I apologize. Yes, the Vatican made small improvements in the reporting of Clerical Pedophilia, but she still hasn't gone far enough by making the bishops, archbishops, cardinals and even the Pope accountable and responsible for shuffling Pedophiles from one parish to another and going through exercises in obfuscation in regard to the decades of coverups. On the topic of women in the priesthood, I understand that for many men this is a bitter pill to swallow. Unfortunately, it also a bitter bill for heterosexual men to need to accept the Eucharist and go to Confession if they have “Gaydar” and either discern or sense that their local priest is a homosexual. I realize this is a very sensitive topic, but if one looks at the demographics of most local Catholic Churches, who have homosexual priests, one readily sees that heterosexual men between the ages of 18 and 80 are often missing. I would like to make another point regarding female ordination. Who do you think that heterosexual men would be the most comfortable with? A homosexual male priest or a heterosexual female priest? Another point” On the Day of Pentecost, around 500 people, both men and women, were filled with “The promise of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.” Do you remember where Jesus promised the Holy Spirit? It was at the Last Supper! Women were not excluded from the Promise of the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit was the one who enabled BOTH men and women “to go forth and to preach the Gospel to all nations!” Also, the early Church had female priests, as evidenced in the New Testament. The apostle Paul, who by the way was NOT ordained by man, but rather by the Holy Spirit, spoke of “The Apostle, Junia!” Junia was a female. She was NOT a priest, who happened to have “female tendencies.” If one goes back to the Jewish Priesthood, it WAS solely a male priesthood, but something VERY interesting about it is that it would have been an anathema to have a homosexual or an unmarried, male priest. If you don't believe me, please read the Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The current structure of the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church leaves a lot to be desired, both scripturally and practically. Having female priests, in my humble opinion, would ONLY be an improvement.

  • thomaspj

    This happens only because the Pope is surrounded by power hungy “learned and clever” men and not men of God who have the interest of Christ at heart.