With the Abuse Summit, Francis wants to restore the credibility of the church and create clarity. But it is often the Pope himself who causes confusion with his statements.
Personnel decisions are rarely unpolitical, even in the Vatican. For the most important moment in his pontificate, the Pope brings his familiar former spokesman back from retirement. Father Federico Lombardi, 76 years old, a Jesuit like Jorge Mario Bergoglio, will chair the Abuse Summit with the presidents of all Episcopal Conferences, which will take place this week at the Vatican. Lombardi should make sure that everything comes to the table without damaging the institution. And the bishops will then know how to deal with scandals and child molesters in the future.
Equally important, it gives the world the impression that the Catholic Church is finally coming to justice with reasonable severity – after all the decades of silence, cover-up, and beautiful speech. The summit is just that: a struggle for the credibility of the church, a challenge for the communications department, probably the most complicated that ever came to be. The well-timed dismissal of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, once mighty Washington archbishop, clerics is a faint signal, though this has never happened before. McCarrick is now 88. He served three popes as a cardinal. He was also a star, as his weakness had long been known to young seminarians.
Everything is coming late, including this summit. The question is whether the battle for credibility will win at all. Francis has tried in recent years to reform, indeed revolutionize, the Vatican communications apparatus. The goal was to connect the world outside the thick walls with those inside reasonably. Vatican Radio, the Vatican Television Center, the book publisher, the social media, the newspaper L 'Osservatore Romano, the online platform Vatican News, The Photo Service, The Press Office: The Pope gathered everything under one roof and brought in many media professionals. The newly created Dicastery for Communication received as prefect an Italian journalist. Paolo Ruffini is not a clergyman, and there never was. For the journalistic line of all media is new Andrea Tornielli responsible, so far for the newspaper La Stampa wrote about Vatican.
Francis talks a lot and often. That's why his word is losing weight
But the reform is still not taking effect, it has so far created confusion and intrigues. A month and a half ago, Greg Burke, the American spokesman for the Pope, surprisingly stepped back from one day to the next. The Press Office of the Holy See, the nerve center and interface between the church world and the real world, now has an interim head of which no one knows how long he will stay. Not ideal in these difficult times.
Of course, this pope sometimes adds to the confusion. He likes to talk freely away from the liver. Francis also gives many interviews. His word is not as rare as its predecessor, so it lost a bit of weight. The faux pas on the Chilean abuse scandal drowns out to this day all his very dedicated votes on the subject, which followed. So now Padre Lombardi is back to give the whole thing a solid setting – so it's not too late for that.