As John pointed out a few days ago, L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, stuck its foot in its mouth again over the Pope’s comments about condoms. This is not the first time that the newspaper screws up and makes the Holy See look bad. Things have gotten so bad that the status quo is not an option. Only two options exist: a major reform of the newspaper or simply abolishing it.
First, ask yourself this basic question: does the Church founded by Jesus Christ to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world really need to be running its own newspaper? I don’t recall that being mentioned in the Great Commission. The newspaper is only useful to the extent that it is helpful in disseminating sound teaching and bringing souls to Christ. If it’s not achieving this purpose, then it’s useless.
To reform the newspaper would take a lot of work. This would require senior clergymen who are unwaveringly faithful to Church teaching to embark on a serious house-cleaning. That would take a lot of time and effort and would require ongoing supervision in the following years to make sure there is no relapse. I don’t think it’s worth it. I’d rather see those faithful clergymen focusing on more important matters.
The Church needs good means of communication, but newspapers are becoming less and less relevant in this respect. The Internet, TV and even radio reach more people. Contrary to other major newspapers, L’Osservatore Romano doesn’t have a very good website, so it relies mainly on the print edition. This is an outdated means of communication. What’s more, the daily edition is only available in Italian. Weekly editions are published in various other languages, but again, you can’t really get much on the web. How many people do you know that are subscribed the print edition of L’Osservatore Romano? Does your local Catholic bookstore even carry it among their products? Not likely.
Quite frankly, the Church has no difficulty whatsoever in getting media coverage for its main publications and announcements. Despite the existence of L’Osservatore Romano, the overwhelming majority of humanity, including practicing Catholics, never get their information about developments in the Church through its official newspaper. They get the info through other Catholic media or secular news outlets. So L’Osseravatore Romano is not an effective communcations tool.
To be honest, L’Osservatore Romano only gets noticed when it screws up.
It’s time for the Vatican’s communications strategy to enter the 21st century. Relying on printed newspapers is not going to get the job done. Let’s scrap this thing.