Weigel: Stupid Cardinals Over-reacted

George Weigel makes an interesting point. He calls the decision by the College of Cardinals to shut-down all communication " a remarkably woodenheaded move, even by recent Vatican-communications standards."

His point is this. The leaks of verbatim information from the meeting to the Italian press did not come from the cardinals, but almost certainly from the translators. But rather than deal with that problem, they shut down the press conferences from the American Cardinals. Those conferences, Weigel says, were the one regular venue for developing good news stories about the Church; that venue has now been closed. The leaks will continue, since the source of the leaks had nothing to do with the American press conferences; but the press conferences will not be available to correct misapprehensions, distortions, and confusions coming from the leaks."

Weigel goes on to say
A Church that is suffering from a terrible public image involving alleged cover-ups and scandals has reinforced that image, rather than highlighting one of the few instruments at its disposal for dispelling that image. And the widely advertised Vatican commitment to the full use of all media, including social media, as tools of the New Evangelization has been sacrificed to a lockdown communications “strategy” that is the antithesis of the openness essential in preaching the Gospel in a skeptical and often nihilistic 21st-century West.

I will admit my distrust for and antipathy towards the press prompted me to initially agree with the lock-down strategy, but I think Weigel makes some good points. For a Church with a history of turning management failures into public relations nightmares through silence and cover-up, it seems that some lessons have yet to be internalized.



  1. No, your first, instinctive, reaction was the right one, the Catholic one. Weigel's, in true form, is the wrong one.

    A conclave is not a synod or a conference, or a liturgical celebration, in which there is a need to make all information as freely available as possible. The pre-conclave, the General Congregations, work as a mild retreat, with presentations and discussions, at the end of which there is a strict retreat atmosphere (the conclave), and the election. It is not supposed to be a media circus, a moment of the external forum, but a moment of reflection, of the internal forum. Naturally, the media will report it, and will try to grab information, but it is not supposed to be media-centered, as arranged by the USCCB media apparatus in agreement with US TV networks and papers that hate the Church, but Christ-centered.

    It also shows how badly advised certain American Cardinals are, with their Walshes and their Weigels. God help us.

  2. New Catholic, my thoughts exactly. Mr. Weigel, day by day, continues to surprise me. Well, maybe not so much.

  3. I rather feel that nothing that is done will help - the media hatred of the Church is so deeply ingrained that it will twist everything into hatred.

  4. We keep forgetting that media hatred of the Church was fostered when the Church blamed its very real and terrible scandals on pure media bias, when, in fact, they did us a great service in exposing corruption. How quickly we forget this.

  5. Barbara,

    The media hatred was inflamed with the Church's bone-headed move, but that hatred had been burning long before.

  6. NC succinctly expressed my views. Weigels angst is ludicrous. Not every event in the life of the Church has to be a media circus, and the US Cardinals weren't exactly giving stellar evangelization in their often self-serving interviews. This is one of the most serious, solemn, grave events in the Church. It should be a time of prayer, study, and reflection, not a media bonanza focused on the "new evangelization."

    I agree, it shows just how badly advised the Americans are. They have damaged, perhaps destroyed whatever credibility they had in the conclave and seriously undermined their influence. Way to go.

  7. Alleged coverups? Are you ******** me? ALLEGED?!?!?!?! Can someone tell me why, besides the fawning biographies, we should take this man seriously.

  8. @Doug: The coverup allegations are false, if made against the church as a whole, or even the majority of dioceses or parishes. So Weigel is entirely correct about that.

    And cripes, man, untune your G-string.

  9. I think Wiegel's just mad becuase he doesn't have anyone to gossip with so he write a story.

  10. Dear Sophia's Favorite,
    Your "if" qualifier has no bearing on what I said. It is indisputable that there have been coverups of sexual abuse orchestrated by bishops and their staff. According to the John Jay study, over 60% of American bishops, when confronted with this situation, chose a campaign of lies and misdirection. Weigel's attempt to mischaracterize this fact as "alleged" is dishonest at the very least.


  11. Do be so kind as to tell me what part of the John Jay Study—here's a link if you want it—you get that from. I'd love to see a social science paper describe something as a "campaign of lies and misdirection".

    That does come from the paper, right? Not from you reading an interpretation in? Because I'll tell you for free, none of the responses to substantiated allegations, listed in the study, necessarily implies what you're saying. Also, of course, the study does not represent "60% of American bishops"—it covers "60% of the bishops involved". Those are two quite different things.

  12. 1. My "if" statement still stands. Try responding instead of evading.
    2. If you'll actually read what I wrote, I already qualified the bishops I was referring to, to those who were "confronted with this situation."
    3. Do your own homework. The JJ study is clear in that of the American Bishops who were confronted with this situation, over 60% of them chose to lie to the families of victims, to the parishes they removed the priests from, and to the parishes they moved the priests to. If there is one, consistent action taken by bishops with regard to sexual abuse, it is this: they can usually be counted on to lie.
    4. Work out your asperger's diagnosis with someone else.

  13. I'm all for "openness", "new media", and the need for revitalized evangelization. So let's bring back to tv "Life Is Worth Living" with Bishop Fulton Sheen. Surely Mr. Wiegel would agree!

  14. 1. No it doesn't.
    2. No, "over 60% of bishops, when confronted" is not the same thing as "over 60% of the bishops who were confronted". Don't dispute English grammar with a person who just got through writing how we use our present progressive as a semelfactive.
    3. Where does the John Jay study say a word about what was or wasn't communicated to families or parishes? Seriously, I can't find that.
    4. Armchair psychologists are cute. Work out your inability to read for comprehension on your own, jackass.


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