Can a distinguished layman rescue the Pope’s communications reform?
Pope Francis’s choice of Paolo Ruffini to lead the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication could be the most significant decision of his pontificate, as far as the reform of the Roman Curia is concerned. That the announcement met with so little fanfare is arguably indicative of how little confidence remains in Francis as a reformer.
It is also a measure of the lengths Francis has to travel in order to recover even a portion of the trust and goodwill he enjoyed before the explosion of the clerical sexual abuse crisis in Chile, the conviction of Mgr Paolo Amenta, a sitting judge on the Roman Rota at the time, for sexual molestation of an adult and possession of child pornography, a public dispute over the running of the Papal Foundation in the US, diplomatic contretemps with China, theological and ecclesiological turmoil in Germany, and the “Lettergate” scandal that led to the vacancy Ruffini’s appointment fills.
It’s been a troublesome year for Pope Francis, and it’s only half over.
Pope Francis needed a win, and there is a sense in which the appointment of Ruffini is a bigger win than has been represented so far. Ruffini is a decorated 61-year-old Italian journalist with a decades-long record of distinguished service in print and broadcast news media both secular and ecclesiastical, as well as experience in working to implement new media strategy in ways that augment, rather than compromise, traditional forms of communication.
He is also a layman with a reputation as a class act. He has shown throughout his career that he is nobody’s pawn and won’t be anyone’s doormat.
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