Action Alert!

Has the long-overdue reform of Vatican media operations been sidetracked?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Apr 30, 2015

Pope Francis has formed a new commission to implement proposals for a reform of the Vatican’s media operations . That’s good news, I suppose. Or is it?

The April 30 announcement from the Vatican press office about this new commission did not provide details. What will this new commission do? How does it differ from another special commission, forned only last year, which just finished its work, providing recommendations for reforms? According to the press office, upon reviewing the report submitted by the first commission, the Council of Cardinals “proposed His Holiness the institution of a commission to study this final report and to suggest feasible approaches to its implementation.” Didn’t the first commission give any attention to feasible plans for implementation of its recommendations?

In short, the April 30 announcement raises more questions than it answers. If the ultimate goal of a reform in the Vatican media operation is to encourage candor and clarity, it’s obvious that the reforms haven’t taken effect yet.

Yet there’s a more important reason for concern about today’s news. The original commission was composed of recognized experts in the fields of media and communications, drawn from institutions around the world. The new commission is made up of clerics currently involved in the Vatican’s media operations—along with one executive of the newspaper owned by the Italian bishops’ conference. This is very much an in-house bunch.

Let’s review the sequence of events:

  1. Vatican officials saw the need for a thorough overhaul of the Vatican media operations, which were (and are) uncoordinated, outdated, and generally ineffective.
  2. The Pope called upon a group of outside experts to study the situation and propose changes.
  3. Those experts submitted proposals—about which we know virtually nothing.
  4. Then the task of implementing those proposals was assigned to a group of insiders—a group composed of people who are involved in the current, messy operations.

Does that sound to you like a practical plan for sweeping changes? Or does it sound more like a bid to sidetrack serious reform?

I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that the new commission has been instructed to carry out the suggestions of the old commission, and to do so quickly. But today’s announcement has me worried.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: skall391825 - May. 05, 2015 2:59 AM ET USA

    Wake me up if and when the Pope decides to practice the use of discernment and to have his words and writings competently translated into English. He can start with Evangelii Gaudium.

  • Posted by: tcflanagan - May. 01, 2015 8:22 PM ET USA

    To patrickquirk7139: I noticed just the other day that the format of the site has changed significantly. Ultimately, I ended up finding that for which I searched (slightly more specifically, a document from the CDF under Pope Saint John Paul II). It turned out to be fairly simple...I think that it just seemed harder to find it because the layout is unfamiliar. A little time adjusting to the new arrangement, and all will be well.

  • Posted by: Langton7139 - May. 01, 2015 7:39 AM ET USA

    Am I correct that the Vatican website has changed format recently? Arguably harder to find the works of recent pontiffs. Or am I wrong about that?