What Diogenes said

BenXVIarms.jpgBefore we launch into Pope Benedict XVI's views on Michael Jackson, no, wait, the state of the global economy, I would like to note an interesting GetReligion-esque riff by the omnipresent "Diogenes" over at Off the Record blog at the conservative Catholic World News. The hook was a Washington Post news item -- "Signs of Media Savvy at the Vatican" -- posted at the newspaper's God In Government weblog. Here's the top of the report:

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to delay the release of his encyclical on the global economy, poverty and the worldwide financial crisis until just before the G8 summit at L'Aquila, Italy, next week, according to Italian reports.

He was expected to sign the document this week but, in a sign of some PR chops somewhere in the Vatican, won't release it until next week, according the reports. The timing should help it attract maximum media coverage. The encyclical, "Caritas in veritate" (Charity in Truth), will outline the goals and values that the faithful must "tirelessly defend" to ensure "true freedom and solidarity" among humans, Benedict said in a recent speech.

The anonymous Diogenes makes an obvious, but still funny, observation. At least, it will be funny to any mainstream reporter who has ever tried to wrestle reader-on-a-sidewalk-level material out of a complex papal document. The Vatican is not, shall we say, an accessible, media-friendly shop.

It's a tough room, folks. The Vatican website is gigantic, and helpful, but the press people there are going to do what they want to do. Even people who have insider status wonder if folks at the Vatican even bother to keep up with their own emails, let alone the tidal wave of online 24/7 news.

Thus, Diogenes quips:

The Post suggests that the delay can be attributed to the influence of "some PR chops somewhere in the Vatican." ... If the Post thinks that someone in the Vatican is thinking intelligently about public-relations questions, then the Post definitely doesn't understand the Vatican.

Meanwhile, the anonymous media critic also thinks that this Post item contained another semi-error, or sign of a lack of understanding of Vatican protocol.

The Post finds it significant that the Pope signed the document on one date (June 29), but the encyclical wasn't released until later. Actually it's customary for the Pontiff to sign such documents on a significant date -- in this case, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul -- regardless of the actual release date. So now the reader is suspicious: if they don't understand Vatican traditions, can the Post reporters really understand Vatican intent?

It's a bit of a low blow, but there's some fire under the snarky smoke.

It never hurts to remember that the most powerful religion in most newsrooms is politics and there is a constant temptation to assume that all truly important religion-news events are, deep down, just politics with scripture references and perhaps a bit of ritual.

Please respect our Commenting Policy