Action Alert!

News coverage of the Vatican: the blind leading the blind

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 18, 2013

This gem comes to us from USA Today, in an article that—jumping the gun a bit—reflects on the first 100 days of the new pontificate:

"Tackling the Roman Curia — the Vatican's main administrative bureaucracy — will probably wait until October, when Francis is likely to appoint a Vatican secretary of state and the eight members of the College of Bishops."

Now what, do you suppose, is the “College of Bishops?” There are thousands of bishops in the universal Church, with new bishops appointed every week. But there is no body known as the College of Bishops. Does the writer mean the Synod of Bishops? The Pope could conceivably appoint 8 prelates to that body, but there has been no discussion of that possibility in Rome, and it is difficult to see how such a handful of appointments would have any impact on the Roman Curia. Does he mean the College of Cardinals? There are 204 members of that body, and no new appointments are currently anticipated. Or is he referring to the group of 8 cardinals who will provide the Pontiff with advice on Vatican reforms? They were appointed in April; didn't anyone notify USA Today?

Here’s a hot tip for news editors: If you want to inform readers about what’s happening at the Vatican, you should start by finding a reporter who knows, or can find out, what’s happening at the Vatican.

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 See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Jun. 22, 2013 3:46 PM ET USA

    I think he means the college of perpetual knowledge... The lack in knowledge about our Church remains insulting and a bit humorous at the same time. The sad part is professionals, presumably educated at our finest institutions, apparently have little respect for "due diligence". Hmmm.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jun. 18, 2013 1:32 PM ET USA

    The problem is, the media think they know.