Monday 26 July 2010

The Vatican's not really PR disaster

Article by Marc Aupiais

When recently, already long in practice, but yet to actually be codified norms on dealing with sex abuse of minor's by the church's priest's, agents, were added to the official books permanently, giving the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a permanent and greater authority over the issue, next to this, the Vatican published new rules also only formalising what was already practice, and in fact taken accurately in Canons already present. The Second issue, the excommunication of those partaking in an alleged woman priest ordination, was added. Catholic commentators accused the Vatican of another Public Relations disaster, and thought they needed PR skills training school. As someone who knows that the Vatican does their homework (we often get visits to our SACNS service from the Vatican), I highly doubt that the juxtaposition by the Vatican was in any way a mistake. In fact, the Vatican almost always knows exactly the message it is sending, even when they later send out clarifications as Lombardi seems to call them.

By putting the two issues together, the church firstly pointed out to whom they answer: God, both were nothing really new, the norms and law over the heretical, schismatic act of woman "ordination", and the norms involving sex abuse were in practice old news. The church was showing that it was not bowing to public pressure, that it was God, and not what the Vatican sees as the anti-Catholic New York Times club that they answered to.

Secondly, they were equating the issues, as media rightly realized. Woman's ordination is in the Vatican's opinion likely even worse than once off sex abuse. It is a direct denial of papal infallibility, and an instant separation of those partaking from the church. The Vatican was telling Catholics, that in their view this issue was equally important. After all, the formalisation wasn't required, the law already excommunicated these people just fine. It was a veiled and purposeful statement: one which meant that the Vatican could create a coup de tat against the liberal forces in the church. By accompanying a move that pseudo-Catholics had focussed on so much, with one that conservatives would see a pointless but a nice thought, the Vatican was showing their independence, and their unwillingness to compromise.

I always call the church a mirror, criticise it, and the world can see your own weaknesses.

We are of the world? No, that is not how the Vatican sees things. The eternal life is more important than present justice. While the soul of abuser and abused may be lot in a few seconds, it is easily regained, as long as they remain within the church. Those involved in woman's ordination instantly deny a statement of papal infallibility and the entire tradition of the church, as well as the fact that the bestowing of sacraments is a privilege and not a right- that the gifts of God cannot be bought and sold. This is the way the Vatican sees things. It cares first for Catholics before caring for the world, for our salvation before the goodwill we desire. The Vatican made no PR mistake, but rather a purposely thought out statement.

I've read enough Vatican statements, and researched around them to know, the Vatican does not generally make a move without looking into it first. The SSPX issue was unfortunate, but since then I have often had the Vatican access our service, to check up on people working for it, and the like. The Vatican is no longer the helpless lamb it was on the internet.

There was no mistake in the purposeful juxta-position, as the church changed nothing, but made two poignant statements: we are dealing ourselves with the internal; structural issue of sex abuse, of those who disobey our authority, and betray us, as well as with the equivalent disobedience of those who very publicly deny our authority - divinely over the church. Personally, I think they view woman's ordination as a much more serious threat than sex abuse ever was. The Vatican lost more in Protestantism, than it ever did to many abusers of its love. It has not forgotten the lessons of Trent: the structure must prevail, and it will: independent of the braying of the world.

One need not forget who started this revealing process: the same man who almost destroyed sex abuse in the church when he lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To Benedict XVI, the eternal soul matters much more than the bodily integrity. He also knows that the negative press would not disappear in acquiescing. The Vatican, answers to the Vatican. Wherever Catholics should win against it by force, those dissidents, will also lose in what they gained. After all, the changes announced were already de facto practiced. Nothing, almost nothing, changed in the juxtapositioned statements.

And now that nothing has changed, the world press has picked up on another story. Panorama, owned by the family of Silvio dear Silvio, the Italian Prime Minister, found three actively gay priests who wondered around looking for sex at gay night spots. Their names aren't revealed of course. The fact that dear Silvio has had some recent clashes with Mother church in Italy is not noted. That one of his family's newspaper's wrongly accused a man who had been editing L'Avvenire, the Catholic bishops' paper in Italy of homosexuality, is not really noted. Instead, that three priests in all of Italy are gay club sex fiends is what the world is told. The Italian bishops condemned the alleged priests, who Dear Silvio's family propaganda machine says are real. After all, Vatican regulations forbid anyone currently inclined to strong attraction sexually to the same sex, from service as priests.

When one scandal loses its tang, another must emerge. 3 of 1.1 billion Catholics are sex crazed homosexual priests. Now, that is worth the headlines across the world press.

Remember, my fellow Vatican watching monsters, the church focusses on its mandate: salvation: first. Dealing with sex abuse in the church is an internal issue, as with treatment of abusive priests within the hierarchy. The Vatican already insisted on the contacting of the police by victims et al. Whether a man is a priest, and whether he is in jail are two separate issues. Both announcements were of internal structures, neither were about civil matters. After all, it is already demanded that civil authorities be contacted, what is done with a criminal by an organization is a separate issue, than what is to be done to him by the authorities.

Both announcements while making huge splashes, were really small stones. Neither really changed anything. Both were the Vatican scheming and speaking. Both were strategic nothings. How the church usually acts, when attempting to gain things that the world did not know it was giving.

I personally think the Vatican has achieved exactly the aim it was aiming for. Whether the world knows it or not.

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