Public Relations – A Higher Calling?

He described the Pope’s meeting with victims as a cynical move designed by public relations experts. “It doesn’t alter things, because it’s purely public relations,” Dr Barrett told Fairfax Radio Network. “It’s all about just managing the crisis … it’s typical, they (the church) always do it in this way.” – see story in

Fr. Lombardi - spokesperson for the Holy SeeIl Papa ha ascoltato le loro storie e li ha consolati – “He listened to their stories and offered them consolation,” according to the 7/21/08 Daily Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office. The man behind that message is Jesuit Father Frederico Lombardi (left, working the phones), the director of the Holy See Press Office. A lifelong journalist, Fr. Lombardi was ‘spinning’ the Pope’s continued outreach to victims of sexual abuse by the clergy. The Pope is making a point of ‘hearing’ sexual abuse victims and therefore showing his concern and empathy.

The problem with that, according to critics in the story from Australia quoted above, is that ‘hearing’ and ‘consoling’ does not lead to ’doing’.  They are clamoring for action and the Pope is making PR gestures. What more could he do?

The Papacy is a business and the Pope is the CEO and Fr. Lombardi is the head flack.  He is not making or interpreting ‘the word’ – he is delivering the word, the conduit. Beside the deep lingering embarrassment for the Church, the decades-long sexual abuse by the Clergy is a crushing liability that can conceivably lead to bankruptcy and ruin. How would you like to be Chief Counsel for the Holy See?

From most public accounts Fr. Lombardi juggles his spokesperson duties and the Holy See radio station and TV station with angelic aplomb. Howard Rubenstein used to joke that Moses was the first spokesperson – he delivered the word of God.  Moses himself had a certified spokesperson. His name was Aaron. So when anybody calls you a cheap flack, clue them in to your Biblical significance.

But when Aaron was fulfilling his role and purpose, he was a capable and helpful teammate. Moses treasured his companionship. But he was always the representative of a greater authority. This was true when he was Moses’ spokesperson as well as when he was designated the first high priest of Israel. These were certainly honorable roles. See Men’s Devotional

“It is vitally important to tell the truth with clarity and simplicity. Every ambiguity, every reticence and, worse still, every intentional concealment of the truth, will exact a dear price in the end. The vicissitudes connected to the sexual abuse crisis were the weightiest proof of this.” – Father Frederico Lombardi Address to Catholic Media Convention in Toronto


  1. Darcy says:

    What about the Holy Mother Church, with a few notable exceptions, doing absolutely nothing when the Church knew and participated in the Jews being murdered prior and through WWII? Did the Church ever make “restitution” for that? Then, as the mass murderers fled, the Holy Mother Church took them in and helped them get passports for South America. Didn’t it take, like forever, for an “apology” or even acknowledgment? Why is the truth of the fondling of (mostly) white boys more significant? Worth millions in restitution? I feel sorry for the altar boys, yet I don’t get that girls and women are raped and fondled every day, and people such as Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker still say we’re making too big a deal out of it. It doesn’t really cause long-term harm. We should get over it. Where are our millions in restitution? Where are our apologies? Oh, our rapists were just trusted family friends rather than frocked and trusted. We can’t join a class action and get a check in the mail.

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