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Wednesday, 21 July 2010

A little less "stupido" would be good


Elizabeth Scalia, "The Anchoress", over at First Things is planning a trip to Rome to do some loud pounding on desks while yelling "Stupido! STUPIDO!" This is in view of the obvious public relations disaster that was the announcement of new norms for dealing with priests who commit crimes against minors, and various other delicts such as, well, the attempted ordination of women. (See: The Vatican’s Epic Fail – UPDATE) This is much along the same lines as Damian Thompson's post of last week.

For an alternative view of the announcement, read Fr John Boyle's expert analysis and for a solidly neutral assessment, there is John Allen.

For what it is worth, my own position would be nearer to that of Elizabeth Scalia and Damian Thompson. (The Catholic Herald also has a good article on the matter this week.)

The Holy See should consider the public impact of its statements, taking into account the fact that many journalists, and not only those hard-wired to seize on any opportunity to attack the Church, will not read the full statements issued by the Vatican. This is even true of some Catholic pundits who simply follow the pack.

Anyone with an ounce of PR awareness could have shouted "Nooooo!" at an early stage, knowing that the juxtaposition would be like bowling a nice bouncy underarm to Sachin Tendulkar. (Seen above hitting Brad Hogg for six.)

Surely it would have been possible to issue the substantive norms concerning "The more grave delicts against morals" in an initial document, with the procedural norms attached; and then a few months later, to issue the substantive norms concerning delicts against the sacraments. The attempted ordination of women would then be lumped in with desecration of the Blessed Sacrament and the violation of the seal of confession.

It should also be said that while it is reasonable to complain about PR disasters, it is also important for Catholics to be well informed by reading the documents themselves, and pointing out that the journalistic take on the norms is also "stupido." The Curt Jester has a pertinent article in which he expresses his outrage that the State of Florida equates child abuse with impersonating government officials.
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