A thin-skinned Vatican spokesman harms his own standing

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 05, 2015

Father Thomas Rosica works with the Vatican press office, and is sometimes quoted by the English-speaking media as a spokesman for the Vatican. So you might take it for granted that he has some understanding of the field of public relations. You’d be wrong.

Hounded by an obscure Canadian blogger who subjected him to intemperate denunciations, Father Rosica had a lawyer send the blogger a letter, informing him that his statements were “libelous” and threatening to sue. The results were entirely predictable. The blogger, who had been an unknown, suddenly became a celebrity; his denunciations of Father Rosica reached a much wider audience. Meanwhile the sometime Vatican spokesman—who should have been a sympathetic figure, because the blogger’s criticisms really were offensive—placed himself in the position of the “bad guy,” a seemingly powerful figure threatening to close down a poor solitary blogger.

So now Father Rosica announces that “it was never my intention to sue.” Maybe not. But he—or at least the lawyer acting on his behalf—certainly intended to threaten a suit. A ham-handed attempt to silence a critic is not the best way to gain favor with the media.

Still Father Rosica seems not to have learned his lesson; he does not realize the damage that he has done to his own public standing. He seems to think that he, and he alone, will decide when discussion of this unfortunate incident should stop. “The matter is now closed,” he says. No, it isn’t.

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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  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Mar. 08, 2015 10:05 PM ET USA

    I would not characterize the blog post as offensive. It is within the bounds to accuse someone of being dishonest by presenting the evidence of their apparent dishonesty. It'a an opinion. There's a name given to this: the Barbara Streisand effect.

  • Posted by: MAG - Mar. 07, 2015 12:03 PM ET USA

    Phil I also wonder what is being called "intemperate denunciations". Perhaps I missed it. From my reading, Vox Cantoris simply brought attention to Fr. Rosica's own words; words in which he labeled Cardinal Burke a "dissenter". (This is the same Fr. Rosica who fawned over the heretic Gregory Baum...)

  • Posted by: dowd9585 - Mar. 07, 2015 6:31 AM ET USA

    I say thank God for Fr. Rosica in helping make known this courageous blogger. Mysterious are the ways of God.

  • Posted by: mclom - Mar. 06, 2015 6:58 PM ET USA

    From my reading on the matter of Fr Rosica, the blogger merely used Fr Rosica's own words & statements to show how far off the mark was Fr. Rosica from proclaiming certain Gospel truths which are also part of 2,000 years of Church teaching. I normally agree with and accept your analyses on various issues so I wonder if you would indicate just which of the blogger's comments were really offensive? How does quoting a person's own comments equate with them becoming offensive?