Rome conference aims at improving media coverage of Catholic Church
Rome, Italy, May 9, 2010 / 06:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).-
The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome announced an upcoming conference to help journalists around the globe improve their coverage of hot-button issues in the Church today, such as bioethics, ecumenism, Pope Pius XII and the recent controversy surrounding clerical sex abuse. (I don't suppose it will come as a shock to readers that the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross is an Opus Dei university and seminary. This conference was first held in 2008 and is slated to be repeated every two years.)
“The Church Up Close: Covering Catholicism in the Age of Benedict XVI,” will take place in Rome from September 6 to September 12. The seminar will be held in English and is open to all working journalists, though space is limited.
Listing the topics that will be addressed at the seminar, the university said that in addition to discussing the most pressing issues of today, conference leaders will also educate participants on the nature of the Church and how the Vatican functions. The seminar will also touch on the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, now in his fifth year as the Holy Father, and will give insight into his thinking and leadership approach.
In addition to classroom sessions, the seminar will also provide on site visits and personal meetings with curial officials and veteran Vatican correspondents. Conference speakers include Vatican officials Cardinal Francis Stafford, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, Msgr. Charles Brown, and Msgr. Patrick Burke, among others.
“Covering an institution as old and as large as the Catholic Church has always been a huge challenge, and in today’s shrinking world, it’s becoming ever more necessary to tell even local stories about the Church from a global perspective,” Rev. Prof. John Wauck, president of the organizing committee, said in a May 7 press release. (I really think this means to tell it from the Vatican/OD perspective.)
“The seminar should help reporters do that,” he added.“What’s more, Rome is an ideal setting for reflecting on religion and the media with journalists from around the world.”
What's most frustrating to me about this particular seminar is that there is zero representation from academics or ecclesiastical representatives who might represent the other face of the Church, the one that actually works in the trenches and is the face of the Church to the vast majority of the globe. That face of the Church of which Michael Kristoff recently wrote.
I get it that Opus Dei isn't overly interested in that face of the Church or those people that face reaches. OD has assigned to itself the business of communications and publicity for the Vatican bureaucracy. They are interested in exactly the kinds of people that this seminar is designed to reach---media movers and shakers, the people who are instrumental in creating the public face of the institutional church. These are the media people whose columns and coverage reach the educated and wealthy in the developed West. That's why this conference is conducted in English, not Latin.
Leaving theology aside, the monopolization of Church communication by Opus Dei is a bad thing precisely because it results in biased communication, stressing the Vatican face of the Church over any other face of the Church. Believe me, I understand the importance of this imbalance to promulgating the theology of Opus Dei and it's vision of Catholicism. I understand why Benedict is perfectly willing to support such imbalance because it's his vision of the Church.
What bothers me is that this perpetuates the myth that somehow Catholicism transcends Christianity, not to mention secular society, and that because of it's long history the Vatican can not be judged by anyone elses standards but it's own. (It's own, not God's.)
At this point in time the Vatican is having to come to terms with the fact that while it's one thing to control the message, it's quite another to assume your spoon fed message will be eaten by the intended recipients. What the Vatican and it's communications people now have to deal with is that reporters from secular media outlets no longer accept what the Vatican puts on their spoon. This process has been accelerated by the sheer facts of the abuse crisis. The facts were bad enough without the penchant for certain Vatican voices to blame anything and everything as justification for their own actions. It was Vatican insiders themselves which have precipitated the media's closer scrutiny of the stuff on their spoons. Now it's OD to the rescue to remind reporters that the Vatican's traditions and longevity demand a different style of coverage, and oh by the way, pay no attention to all the modern media apparatus at our University.
What modern OD communications people do know is that an ability to control or invent seemingly official and credible media outlets--in order to shape a given message-- can still produce serious effects with in a culture. We've seen this process have great effect for the Tea Party movement in the US with all it's corporate generated seemingly credible grass roots media campaigns. Liberals can delude themselves that the Tea Partiers have only served to destroy the Republican party, but the truth is much more subtle. Tea Partiers will also have impacted the Democratic party as the official Dem structure decides to move even further right in order to pursuit the ubiquitous 'swing' vote with it's disenfranchised Republican bloc.
Opus Dei, coupled with the Legion, has been involved in this strategy of inventing 'credible' media sources for a long time. I frequently use articles from these sources because they are easily accessible on the Internet. (Not too mention fun to comment on). The Vatican press office may give the appearance of not knowing what they are doing, but that's more a product of Cardinals who can't stay silent in the face of criticism than it is the Press Office's inability to use modern media for it's own purposes.
Don't be surprised if Benedict's 'leaked' desire to create a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization is heavily populated with academics from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. It's one of the things they do best--'evangelize'.