US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Vatican manages the media for a change

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

"The media" is once again the villain in the spin surrounding the pope's comments on condoms: "The media is at it again" wrote the St. Michael Society. Chicago priest and seminary professor Robert Barron of Word on Fire ministries called the coverage "One of the most dispiriting expressions of the media culture that I have ever encountered."

But since the Vatican (in a stroke of marketing genius) approved the excerpts for publication just prior to the book’s release--which appeared in Italian in the Vatican's own newspaper!--it seems likely to me that the furor was pre-planned by the Holy See. It even came complete with a Vatican press release the day after, which, while insisting the pope’s remarks were made “in a colloquial, and not magisterial, form” and denying any change in church teaching, confirmed the gist of the news.

In other words the pope, stung by reaction to his comments on AIDS on his trip to Africa last year, got to revise his comments "colloquially," essentially giving cover to Catholic health care providers to include condoms as a last resort in prevention efforts. Plus, he got credit for what will be an extremely popular change in church policy without doing anything official--in other words, no change in "official" church teaching, just the pope's opinion. Everyone wins.

The Benedictine papacy has hardly shown great skill in handling the media; this occasion, however, was stroke of genius. So don't go blaiming the media. This time they followed the Vatican script to a T.