“[T]here was the Council of the Fathers – the true Council – but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council in and of itself, and the world perceived the Council through them, through the media. So the Council that immediately, effectively, got thorough to the people was that of the media, not that of the Fathers (…) the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council.” (Source)
Those were the words of Pope Benedict XVI in February 2013, shortly before he left. He was speaking of the Second Vatican Council and how the true message was completely hijacked by the media. They helped conjure up the so-called “spirit of Vatican II”, which is still invoked (almost 50 years later) to justify any kind of innovation, fallacy and perversion.
The same could happen with the Synod on the Family next month. Cardinal Burke is warning us that the media is already positioning itself for the ambush:
“I don’t think you have to be brilliant to see that the media has, for months, been trying to hijack this Synod,” said Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect for the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – the office which, among other things, handles annulment cases in the Church. (…)
The danger, Cardinal Burke continued, is that “the media has created a situation in which people expect that there are going to be these major changes which would, in fact, constitute a change in Church teaching, which is impossible.”
“That’s why it’s very important for those who are in charge to be very clear,” he said.
He’s right. But I don’t think the problem will be merely about disappointed expectations, as he says. It’s potentially far worse. The media might spin whatever outcome that emerges from the Synod as supporting the changes being demanded by the media and liberals.
When working in such a hostile environment, the communications aspect — the PR if you will — is almost more important than the substance itself. It will do nobody any good if the Synod affirms Church teaching with wording that is clumsy, hastily written and subject to various interpretations. It has to be crisp and direct.
For example, you can’t write something like: “While the Church’s teachings on marriage can never change, she is open to novel pastoral approaches towards the remarried that are founded on mercy and compassion for their unique challenges.” That would be opening the barn doors wide open and letting the horses run wild. You need something more like: “Any new pastoral approaches to show mercy and compassion towards the remarried must uphold the Church’s unchangeable teaching on the sanctity of marriage and it’s obvious corollary, that remarried persons cannot receive communion.”
You’d probably want to emphasize the message with a speech by the Holy Father, fully scripted and carefully worded, with no question period.
Ideally, we’d have a robust encyclical on marriage and the family published within one year, the equivalent of what Humanae Vitae did on the issue of contraception, to deflate any misconceptions.
The message emerging from the Synod has to be perfect. The Vatican should hire professional PR people for this event. Anything short of perfection that will make for a long 21st century of damage control, dealing with the “spirit of the Synod”.