Action Alert!

Yesterday's news, tomorrow

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 20, 2014

“The Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops will meet on 18 and 19 November…” Thus opens an announcement issued by the Vatican Information Service today—which is November 20.

It’s standard operating procedure for Vatican officials to hold a press conference to “introduce” a meeting or conference before it occurs, telling reporters what they should expect. Then during and after the event, there’s no more information for the media. This approach does not inspire confidence. Background briefings are useful, and advance publicity is valuable, but neither constitutes news.

If the meetings are really so predictable that the media can be given the story in advance, why bother holding them? And if something actually might happen at the meetings, why not report it when it happens—rather than trying to predict it beforehand? In short why not report what has been said or done, rather than what (in the opinion of some Vatican functionary) ought to be said or done?

In other news, the committee impaneled by the Holy See to streamline Vatican communications met in Rome next week. That panel faces a formidable task, but let’s hope the members don’t work too long looking for a perfect solution. The need for some immediate fixes—almost any sort of fixes—is urgent.

Think of this as meatball surgery. The patient is bleeding profusely from multiple wounds. Just get him patched up—stat!—and we can worry about cosmetic surgery later.

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.

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