If You Don’t Feed The Lions …

Nice quote from Fr Thomas Reese, NCRep correspondent in Rome:

If the Vatican won’t give the media proper information, then all the creative writing and conspiracy theories start coming out. You have got to feed the lions – if not they will bite you!

This in response to the Italian contingent’s crackdown on American cardinals giving daily press conferences after the morning general congregation red hat meet-up.

The American briefings were virtually the only time reporters could hear directly from the cardinals themselves. Because of the U.S. cardinals’ straightforward style, their press conference was drawing growing interest from the more than 5,000 journalists who have flocked to Rome for the conclave.

That clearly ruffled the feathers of some other cardinals, notably the Italians who still feel they have certain territorial privileges when it comes to events in Rome. On Wednesday, an hour before the U.S. briefing, reporters received an email saying it was canceled and would not be held again.


Maybe American Catholics would be wondering … why all the openness in Rome and not so much back home? And alienating a sub-clique of cardinals, well, it’s not like these guys are serious papabile, right?

How the USCCB media spun it:

Concern was expressed in the general congregation about leaks of confidential proceedings reported in Italian newspapers. As a precaution, the cardinals have agreed not to do interviews.

The U.S. cardinals are committed to transparency and have been pleased to share a process-related overview of their work with members of the media and with the public, in order to inform while ensuring the confidentiality of the General Congregations.

John Thavis, CNS sums it:

It’s ironic and a bit sad that the Americans, who have been completely above board, are being shut down because someone else is leaking anonymously to the Italian press.

Yes, well, I’m sure the Italian cardinals are a little anxious their super secret leaks were getting upstaged by actual information given to the press.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to If You Don’t Feed The Lions …

  1. Brendan Kelleher svd says:

    The more I read on this story the sadder I felt. The US Cardinals were doing a fine job, giving witness to the sort of transparency that should be the hallmark of a community committed to witnessing to the truth. Hopefully this will backfire, leading more Cardinals to realize that we don’t need an Italian Pope or one tainted by years of working in the Vatican/Curia.
    My consistent prayer is for a non-Italian, non-European Pope. And above all a Pope ready and willing to not only to assign a totally new set of Prefects for each of the dicasteries, but also clear out careerists in the lower levels. Much of what they do can be covered at the local and regional level, and probably more efficiently. Might also help if English was declared the daily business language of all Curial dicasteries.
    Beginning with my own community, the SVD, and I’m sure many other Religious communities with Generalates in Rome, General Council Meetings have been conducted in English and Spanish for well over twenty years, probably longer. Back in the early 90’s I sat in on such meetings as a secretary. Though we began in Germany, acknowledging shifting demographics within the society, German was dropped as an official language some years back.
    Rome – Vatican – Curia, wake up, we are in the 21st Century.

    • Mike K says:

      I would actually take another step besides making English the daily business language – no more cassocks when conducting the daily business of the Curia, only clerical suits. Surely, this is the “business” of the church being conducted and should be treated that way.

      Now if someone’s wearing a cassock because they are conducting/have conducted a non-Eucharistic liturgical service (i.e., morning prayer, and with surplice and stole, let’s say), then stops in the office, that’s fine. But the daily business of the Church should be conducted in “business” clothes. Even in a court, the judges wear their robes only when they’re on the bench. They don’t wear their robes when in meetings or other business activities, such as lunches or dinners.

  2. John McGrath says:

    Why transparency in Rome, but not at home?

    Because they are excited like teenagers to talk about their ‘team,” the church, that is, the top clergy?

    Because they want secrecy on their home turf, but don’t mind talking to the media on the turf of the Italian cardinals? Rude “guests?”

    Because they have felt excluded by the secrecy of the Curia cardinals?

    Because they are flattered by all the media attention?

    Because they have been following the advice of the American PR expert Burke hired to advise the pope on effective public relations and media relations. His advice would be to take the initiative with the media, to win them over.

    What really matters is that the American cardinals have revealed that at least some cardinals want to talk frankly, at least among themselves, about why all sorts of people are leaving the Catholic church and what can be done about. The meetings held by the pope were highly staged and controlled, and the cardinals would never have been allowed to talk about this.

  3. Katherine says:

    Rocco at Whispers has this:

    ‘In response to the fiasco, the Quote of the Day came from the USCCB media chief, Sister of Mercy Mary Ann Walsh, who gave the Associated Press the analogy that “In true old-style Catholic school teacher fashion, someone talks and everybody stays after school.” ‘

    But I think it’s important that the cardinals are able to talk freely, and if this provides a way to put pressure on the real culprits, so be it. The journalists will just need to earn their keep without relying so much on the cardinals for fodder. They should make Fr Lombardi and his colleagues earn theirs, too, by asking good questions that experts could brief them about, etc.

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    Where, in all of this, is the skilfull and professional guidance of the much-ballyhooed Greg Burke, OD? Is he earning his money? If so, how? Wasn’t he supposed to stop all of this kind of communications snafu? Or is OD happy with this for some yet-to-be revealed reason?

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