Monday, April 12, 2010

In which we offer PR help to the Catholic Church

Pope Prada I meets Cardinal Pedobear

The Catholic Church is in a bit of hot water as of late, what with the whole 'raping kids and not doing anything about it' scandal. From revelations that the church refused to do anything to a man who molested 200 deaf kids, to revelations that the Pope himself resisted action against pedophile priests citing "the good of the universal church", accusations that you've "killed the church", inaction in other child rape cases, to threats of legal prosecution against the church, stripping of papal immunity in the UK, to the imminent buddy cop team-up and arrest of the Pope by rogue cops Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, it seems the Pope is in for a rough couple of months... followed by a rough eternity in one of nine circles.

So seeing as he's in a spot of trouble, we figured that The TB Public Relations Conglomerate are the obvious ones to give him advice on how to proceed and provide critiques of their recent media strategies and statements. First, my credentials: I was born on Good Friday and thus am probably the resurrected Messiah, I have been to or seen a church within the last decade, and can remember several instances and interactions with priests where I wasn't raped. Satisfied?

Onward with a critical review of current Vatican media strategies. Remember, this is for you own benefit, Benedict.

Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League.
"The Times continues to editorialize about the "pedophilia crisis,: when all along it's been a homosexual crisis."... “It’s not a pedophilia” because “most of the victims were post pubescent,” as old as 12 or 13 years of age. Anything older than that is the fault of gays."
Nicely deflected. Not only is it an overarching gay conspiracy, but it isn't pedophilia, because the priests were merely raping 12 and 13 year olds. It's practically not a crime then. Still, some might not be swayed by the logic of that argument, so you might want to emphasize how raping kids once they hit their teens is practically a commandment. Plus, you referred to the New York Times as "The Times" and not "The Jew York Times". It seems like you were attempting a full triple twisting back crazy and pulled out and only singled it. We're going to have to deduct points for mild sanity in between blaming gays, parents, and everyone but the priests or the church for it. Practice the full crazy and get back out on that horse.

Grosseto Bishop Giacomo Babini
A website quoted Giacomo Babini, the emeritus bishop of Grosseto, as saying he believed a "Zionist attack" was behind the criticism, considering how "powerful and refined" the criticism is. ... Allegedly speaking to the Catholic website Pontifex, Babini, 81, was quoted as saying: "They do not want the church, they are its natural enemies. Deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are God killers."
Nicely played. The controversy so much isn't child rape, church negligence, and cover-ups, no. The controversy is how the Jewish run media is coordinating coverage of these legitimate claims of abuse and accusations of church inaction/malfeasance. This is the kind of advanced blame shifting and Jew baiting that one can only learn from a lifetime in the Church. Take notes, Mr. Donohue. Do be careful about trying to ascribe conspiracies, Jewish or otherwise, to this scandal. It has the danger of making people thing of other conspiracies. Like a conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse of children over a period of decades by a central religious authority.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, during an Easter Mass at the Vatican.
Sodano's praise for Benedict as well as the church's 400,000 priests worldwide cranked up a vigorous campaign by the Holy See to counter what it calls a "vile" smear operation orchestrated by anti-Vatican media aimed at weakening the papacy and its moral authority. ... "Holy Father, on your side are the people of God, who do not allow themselves to be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials which sometimes buffet the community of believers," Sodano said.
Again, nicely played by a high church muckity muck. Glibly reducing credible accusations and investigations, teary confessions, and tacit admission from the church that these accusations are true and that they saw no need to punish guilty priests further as "vile smears" and "petty gossip" is always the right track when discussing facts. Though I would not that your choice of venue, the Easter Mass at the Vatican, does smack a little of "preaching to the converted". It might be the textbook definition. Try to get a few feet outside of the Vatican next time. Also, embracing the Pope immediately afterward might not have been the best idea. If charges are brought that incident could make you an accessory to a crime.

Writer Matt Taibbi
The Catholic Church is a Criminal Enterprise.
This may be true but it is not helpful to the cause to point this out.

Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn
Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, speaking of Benedict's long years as head of a Vatican office that investigates abuse, said the future pope "had a very clear line of not covering up but clearing up." ... "I admit that I often feel a sense of injustice these days. Why is the church being excoriated? Isn't there also abuse elsewhere?
Ahh, nicely done. When in doubt, state the exact opposite of everything that the media is revealing about Pope Benedict's actions while in charge of disciplining priests. Acknowledging someone else's reality is the first step towards losing an argument. Which is why I'm more disappointed in the second statement. Sure, the "everyone else is raping kids and covering it up, we aren't the only ones" defense looks sound on paper and is a real winner in terms of public support, but you acknowledging the media narrative and also tacitly admitting that priests rape kids and the church covers it up. Which is bad. The admitting it, I mean.

Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
"I am not proud of America's newspaper of record, The New York Times, as a paragon of fairness."
Yes! Question the source. Just how reliable is one of the world's most reliable papers anyway? Though in the Times defense they are just passing on the accusation of 200 deaf boys, not making the accusations themselves. So the question is: do you want to question the credibility of 200 deaf children and wage a PR battle against them? The answer might seem like an obvious yes, but keep in mind there is a lot of sympathy on their side. After all, they were raped over a series of decades and nothing was done about it.

Anthony Fisher, bishop of Parramatta
''Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating,'' he said. ''Nazism, Stalinism, Pol-Pottery, mass murder and broken relationships: all promoted by state-imposed atheism or culture-insinuated secularism.''
Nicely pointed out. Where would we be without the Catholic Church? What if we were all atheists? What would we be getting up to if we rejected the teaching of the church? Probably something awful like raping kids and covering it up. I can't bear to think of that reality.

An unsigned editorial from the Vatican
[it accused] the NY Times of willfully ignoring the "truth" of Ratzinger/Benedict's record and of attempting "to instrumentalize, without any foundation in fact, horrible episodes and sorrowful events uncovered in some cases from decades ago." The media, it continued, showed a "despicable intent of attacking, at whatever cost, Benedict XVI and his closest collaborators."
That's right, not only is this really only an issue that the Times is dragging up, this all happened decades ago. Who can remember what happened last week, let alone decades ago? The past isn't important or legally actionable. Though again, try to refrain from alleging a conspiracy or using words like collaborators. It tends to make people think a group of people within the church, including the Pope, might have "collaborated" on trying to cover up abuse cases. Best not mention that kind of thing at all. Bonus points for not signing the editorial. That takes bravery.

New York Times Op-Ed Columnist, Ross Douthat
In reality, the scandal implicates left and right alike. The permissive sexual culture that prevailed everywhere, seminaries included, during the silly season of the ’70s deserves a share of the blame, as does that era’s overemphasis on therapy.
Yes, blame the left. It works well in American politics, why won't it help shield the church from rape allegations? I mean weren't these crimes the hallmark or leftist hippies and their 60's and 70's culture? What was it they said at Woodstock "Watch out for the brown acid and if you see a kid grab him and do whatever you want"? Wasn't Purple Haze about covering up abuse allegations? Still, while these are useful additions to the defense, they should not be made from the pages of the New York Times. Haven't you seen the attempts to demonize the Times and blame it for the scandal. Or should I say "scandal". If op-ed columns blaming hippies and saying the Pope shouldn't resign are coming from the Times then how is it an effective demonization tool? It isn't. Shape up.

So there, I hope that helped out with the Catholic Church's efforts to blame everyone else. I hope that these tips and messaging strategies will provide useful when attempting to pretend that credible stories, abuse allegations, evidence, and paper trails leading to the Pope don't mean anything. But I want you to remember the keys to this strategy: don't ever admit you did anything wrong (infallibility), don't ever apologize, don't ever attempt to punish or give a stern talking to any accused priests, don't ever appear to have a shred of human compassion, ethics, morality, or empathy, above all think of yourselves, and protect the Pope at all costs to your credibility and religion.

You stick to that plan and soon you'll have completely eradicated Christianity from the earth. That is your goal, right? If it isn't I'm going to have to change my advice.

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