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Vatican hires Fox News reporter as communications adviser June 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Media, Religion, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: Former Nazi youth Ratzinger’s Catholic Church, Fox News and the ultra-right Opus Dei, quite a trifecta of authoritarianism, elitism, racism, patriarchal sexism, and homophobia.  The Pope picked thee right (in all senses of the word) man for the job.

 

Published On Mon Jun 25 2012
 
Fox News journalist Greg Burke, poses in Rome on June 25. Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican's secretariat of state.Fox News journalist Greg Burke, poses in Rome on June 25. Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican’s secretariat of state.

ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Nicole Winfield and
Victor L. Simpson The Associated Press
 
VATICAN CITY—The Vatican has brought in the Fox News correspondent in Rome to help improve its communications strategy as it tries to cope with years of communications blunders and one of its most serious scandals in decades, officials said Saturday.

Greg Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become the senior communications adviser in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, the Vatican and Burke told The Associated Press.

“I’m a bit nervous but very excited. Let’s just say it’s a challenge,” Burke said in a phone interview.

He defined his job, which he said he had been offered twice before, as being along the lines of the White House senior communications adviser: “You’re shaping the message, you’re moulding the message, and you’re trying to make sure everyone remains on-message. And that’s tough.”

Burke, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement. Pope John Paul II’s longtime spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, was also a member of Opus Dei and was known for the papal access he enjoyed and his ability to craft the messages John Paul wanted to get out.

After Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, Navarro-Valls was replaced by the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Jesuit who had long headed Vatican Radio and still does, along with running the Vatican press office and Vatican television service.

Lombardi told the AP that Burke will help integrate communications issues within the Vatican’s top administrative office, the secretariat of state, and will help handle its relations with the Holy See press office and other Vatican communications offices. Burke will report to the Vatican undersecretary of state and the official who oversees Vatican communications in the secretariat.

Lombardi confirmed the news after the AP broke the story, several days before the Holy See had planned to announce it officially.

The Vatican has been bedevilled by communications blunders ever since Benedict’s 2005 election, and is currently dealing with a scandal over Vatican documents that were leaked to Italian journalists. While the scandal is serious — Benedict himself convened a special meeting of cardinals Saturday to try to cope with it — the Vatican’s communications problems long predate it.

Benedict’s now-infamous speech about Muslims and violence, his 2009 decision to rehabilitate a schismatic bishop who denied the Holocaust, and the Vatican’s response to the 2010 explosion of the sex abuse scandal are just a few of the blunders that have tarnished Benedict’s papacy.

Even the Vatican’s response to the leaks from within the Vatican of sensitive papal documents hasn’t involved a terribly sophisticated public relations strategy. Just last week the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, blamed the media and the devil for fuelling the scandal and accused journalists of “pretending to be Dan Brown.”

Brown wrote “The Da Vinci Code,” the bestselling fictional account that portrayed Opus Dei — of which Bertone’s new communications adviser is a member — as being at the root of an international Catholic conspiracy.

Burke acknowledged the difficult task ahead but said that after turning down the Vatican twice before, he went with his gut and accepted the third time around. “This is an opportunity and challenge that I’m not going to get again,” he said.

He said he didn’t know what, if any, role his membership in Opus Dei played. Opus is greatly in favour in the Vatican these days, particularly as other new religious movements such as the Legion of Christ have lost credibility with their own problems. Currently, for example, the cardinal who is heading the Vatican’s internal investigation into the leaks of documents is the Opus Dei prelate, Cardinal Julian Herranz.

“I’m an old-fashioned Midwestern Catholic whose mother went to Mass every day,” Burke said. “Am I being hired because I’m in Opus Dei?” he asked. “It might come into play.” But he noted he was also in Opus when he was hired by Fox and Time magazine.

Burke has been a Fox correspondent since he joined the U.S. network in 2001. He was the Time magazine correspondent in Rome for a decade before that.

At Fox, he led the network’s coverage of the death of John Paul and election of Benedict in 2005, and has covered the papacy since then, travelling with the pope around the globe. But he has also used Rome as a base for non-Vatican reporting, including several stints in the Middle East during the last intifada, labour law protests in France and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid.

He is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism

If Men Could Get Pregnant, Abortion Would Be A Sacrament June 6, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Religion, Right Wing, Women.
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The fallible Pope, and his advisers’ folly February 11, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion.
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From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail

He was a pope playing out Jesus’s parable of the shepherd and the lost sheep – leaving the flock to search for the stray and return it to the fold – and nobody in the Vatican’s inner circle had the smarts or the knowledge to warn him of the consequences.

The story of Benedict XVI and the Holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson, is as simple as that, the story of a pontiff largely insulated from the outside world by a tiny handful of unworldly advisers.

He was enthusiastically intent on ending a schism in Roman Catholicism by enticing an ultraconservative orthodox sect back into the 1.1-billion-member church. Except no one in the Vatican explained to him who was in the catch.

The Vatican has acknowledged Benedict had no idea of Bishop Williamson’s views before lifting an excommunication order against him last month.

The acknowledgment itself is an almost unprecedented admission of error. A number of senior clerics have made astonishing public declarations that a mistake was made, and long-time Vatican-watchers have described the Pope’s act of readmitting the bishop to the fold of mainstream Roman Catholicism as the church’s worst communications debacle in memory.

The leading Italian commentator on the Vatican, Sandro Magister, has described the Roman curia, the administrative apparatus of the church, as chaotic and the Williamson affair as a double disaster: of governance and of communication.

The curia plays on a great stage – Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s magnificent St. Peter’s Square – but in reality it’s a tiny, unsophisticated bureaucracy stumblingly running a global behemoth.

The BBC’s chief Vatican correspondent, David Willey, says he has never seen a comparable fiasco in his more than three decades of reporting on the church.

Much of the problem stems from Benedict’s isolation. He sees maybe three advisers on a daily basis, people who don’t think in terms of who should be consulted on various decisions.

Unlike his predecessor, John Paul II, he doesn’t socialize, he doesn’t network, he doesn’t invite people in for meals.

The Vatican is an autocratic society where everyone is hugely deferential to the Pope and what he wants to do. There would have been people who knew about Bishop Williamson’s Holocaust views, but they would not have access to the Pope.

Moreover, the errors of the Williamson affair have been compounded by the Vatican’s seeming inability to explain just what the Pope did – which was simply to revoke the excommunication order prohibiting Bishop Williamson from participating in church life as a step toward ending a schism with the 150,000-member group, the Society of St. Pius X, to which he belonged.

At no time did the Pope restore him to any episcopal office. Bishop Williamson remains suspended from functioning as a priest.

The news media reported Bishop Williamson’s Holocaust views and his imminent readmission to the church three days before the Vatican made its official announcement revoking his excommunication, and yet no damage control was attempted. Indeed, the church let another 10 days pass before ordering him to publicly recant his statements.

In addition, the Williamson controversy bears more than passing resemblance to the furor Benedict ignited in 2006 when, during a lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany, he quoted from a Byzantine text characterizing the Prophet Mohammed as evil and inhuman.

Benedict’s media spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, quietly conceded later that if more worldly and knowing eyes had read the Pope’s lecture before it was delivered, the offending text might either have been removed or more properly contextualized and the uproar avoided.

In the case of Bishop Williamson, Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, said the matter was “talked about too little” in the Vatican and he wasn’t even consulted before the bishop’s excommunication was revoked.

And one of the Pope’s strongest allies in the church hierarchy, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria, said: “Someone who denies the Holocaust cannot be rehabilitated to an ecclesial office. One cannot but voice a certain criticism of the Vatican for not looking into the matter more closely.”

The Society of St. Pius X was created for the followers of the late French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected the 1960s Second Vatican Council reforms ending, among other things, the Latin mass and the notion that the Jews were guilty of deicide for having crucified Jesus Christ.

When Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated Rev. Williamson and three other priests as bishops without Vatican approval in 1988, Pope John Paul II ordered them all excommunicated.

The theologically conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI in 2005, was never militantly or intellectually opposed to the Lefebvre traditionalists and has taken several steps since becoming pope to accommodate them.

The Society of St. Pius X this week expelled Bishop Williamson from the seminary he had been running in Argentina, and yesterday an Argentine government official said he would face a court inquiry into his Holocaust statements.

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