Reporting in today's National Catholic Reporter, correspondent John Allen commented on today's announcement that two outside firms have been hired by the Vatican to organize communications and finances. Allen's commentary is worth noting:
"Among other things, the moves confirm that the Vatican's traditional reluctance to compromise its independence by allowing outsiders to examine its internal workings has given way under Francis to a new desire to tap secular expertise."
I was struck by Allen's term "secular expertise." I have not often thought that secular expertise is something the Vatican needs for communications; finances yes, but not communications.
I have long thought that it is the U.S. Bishops that could use some "secular expertise" in the communications arena. For instance, last week, on the day that the world was mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela, a bishop of a diocese on the East Coast derided Mandela for his stance on abortion. This on the day when the entire world was celebrating a person who is arguably one of the most important figures of reconciliation in the last century. This bishop has every right to denounce the stance of Mandela. The issue, of course, is the proverbial "What were you thinking?" one. Why, in heaven's name, would this bishop issue this statement on the day he chose to do so? This is where some "secular expertise" could come in handy. I wonder if it might be helpful for the conference of Catholic bishops in the United States to have some rules in place to be sure that a particular bishop's statement on an issue such as this (and its awkward timing) is vetted by the conference, with the help of people with "secular expertise" in the communications arena, before being released? Might save an awful lot of embarrassment, bad feelings, and very, very bad press.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.