Debate: Should the Vatican put more energy into public relations?

The Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, at a press conference (Photo: CNS)

The Vatican is often criticised for paying little or no attention to public relations. It has only one spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, who is also in charge of Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Centre. Its press office closes in the afternoon, and its staff often do not speak very good English.

Last week it issued tighter norms on dealing with clerical sex abuse at the same time as it upgraded the punishment for the attempted ordination of women. This led to headlines such as: “Ordination of women as bad as child abuse in Vatican’s eyes.”

The mistake led to huge frustration among otherwise loyal Catholics.

However, many believe that a slick, modern PR office, obsessed with branding and being “on message”, would undermine the teaching of the Church. It would risk being insincere, concerned only with the next day’s headlines, and end up distorting the Church’s mission.

So, does the Church need to devote more energy to public relations? Should it be more PR-conscious?