Monday, April 12, 2010

vatican has a PR problem? really? PR?!?!?!

WaPo | Facing a torrent of cases in Europe and a new effort by survivors' advocates to highlight unresolved cases around the world, members of the pope's inner circle have said things that have only drawn more criticism, like the priest who on Good Friday compared criticism of the Church's handling of the abuse crisis to violent anti-Semitism.

Most American organizations facing such a barrage of negative news would long ago have pulled together a crisis management team and made top officials available for interviews to explain their point of view. But the Vatican said such an approach is too commercial for the Church to adopt. "We are not a multinational enterprise, this is clear," the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said in a telephone interview. "The normal situation of the Church and the Vatican is to help the people to understand the teachings of the Church and the documents of the pope and not to sell particular products."

On Friday, however, Lombardi released a statement that appeared to be trying to change the conversation. It said the Church wanted to emphasize its cooperation with civil justice systems and a desire for "reconstituting a climate of justice and full faith in the institution of the Church." Benedict, he said, "is ready for new meetings" with victims of clergy sexual abuse.

To those less supportive of Church leaders, there seems another reason why they don't communicate more: They don't want to. The pope and those in the Vatican, these people say, wish to remain in another world, focusing more on traditions and customs, even if that means in some cases keeping sex-abuse allegations private or letting the Church's internal justice system grind away slowly as victims suffer.

But that's not how pope defenders might frame it. "One thing that makes [Vatican critics] bonkers is this idea that everyone's spiritual welfare might be handled better internally," Bunson said. "But the civil system doesn't have to worry about eternal life."

Even as Lombardi framed the problem as coming from an outside world that doesn't understand the Church, he said, "We have a long way to go."

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