LOATHE those who describe their profession as “communications”.
difficult to be certain how much of this is due to a disinterested love of
language and how much is journalistic self-interest.
this instance, the two are intimately joined: “communications”, in its
technical sense, is the craft of concealing things and ensuring that they are
out beautifully in a comment in the Sven-Göran Ericsson saga in Tuesday’s
anonymous expert was quoted as saying: “It just goes to show that the FA needs
a proper PR: a skilled communications director who is driven to keep things out
of the paper.”
not been the prime motivation of Rob Marshall in his years as a PR, nor even
when he was working as a priest.
Part of his
reward came at the weekend with huge coverage for Dr David Hope’s decision to
ease into retirement via parish ministry, a story that Fr Marshall had already
got into the papers at least four times in the last couple of years.
hardly have got more coverage had he enlisted the help of a secretary at the
wasn’t really a tribute to “communications” at all. The person who made it a
story was Dr Hope himself, because he was acting entirely in character.
straightforward, brave and modest. Even hardened religious correspondents are
ready to believe well of him, in the main, once they have met him.
picture that almost all the papers used brought out these qualities nicely. It
showed the Archbishop scrambling into the churchyard over a low wall: at first
it looked as if he had fallen in an undignified way.
realised he was just trying to get on with the job of being photographed in the
quickest way possible. It would be cruel to enlarge on the contrast this makes
with the self-importance of the last archbishop to retire.
RATZINGER’s letter on feminism was the other big religious story of the week.
It made an interesting test of journalistic accuracy.
test was the authorship. Most papers attributed it to the Pope, on the grounds
that he must have approved it, and, in any case, people had heard of him. It’s
astonishing how careless journalists are of other people’s bylines.
Pope’s views on women are something so well known that nobody needs to check
what they actually are.
just as well, since the prose of
Vatican pronouncements is usually so
opaque that they make sense only in an internal context, when it requires the
special skills of national Bishop’s Conferences to obscure them again and get
on with whatever the bishops in question were doing before being so rudely
release of this document was, for the vast majority of papers around the world,
a story about the
their cue from the wire-service copy, of which Reuters’ lead was the
best example: “Modern feminism’s fight for power and gender equality is
undermining the traditional concept of family and creating a climate where gay
marriages are seen as acceptable, the
what happens when a secular person first reads a
looking for a sensational quote.
Catholic women, however, who have spent their entire adult lives in a
post-feminist world, the message that came out was entirely different: that the
Vatican had at last come to understand
that they were right to work outside the home.
Odone had a tremendous rant in The Times on what she called “The
attitude to factual truth was as gloriously cavalier as anything she splashed
on the front page of the Catholic Herald when she was its editor:
“Women belong at the top of the professional ladder. Motherhood is not the
be-all and end-all of a woman’s existence. Women are better than men at finding
innovative solutions to economic and social problems. The words are those of
Pope John Paul II. His letter to the bishops, On the Collaboration of Men and
Women in the Church and in the World, published this week, marks a turning
point in this papacy: the man who for 25 years has been condemned by the
liberal establishment as a misogynist emerges as a born-again feminist.”
to quarrel with this, except to say that the words are not the Pope’s, but
Odone’s paraphrase of Ratzinger; and that they don’t mark a turning point in
are probably closer to the truth than the lazy liberal dismissal of the
document as restating the
’s standard position.
that the Pope is a feminist — born again or not — has a lot to recommend it.
went on to point out, and Catherine Pepister wrote in several articles, the
document does make it clear that Roman Catholic women have the right to rise to
the top of their professions; and, while this may not come as news to Cherie
Blair or Mary Robinson, it is still a contested position in large parts of
Latin America. The Pope’s signing up for it might make a difference there.
matters a great deal more than what happens where broadsheet-newspaper readers
live, none of whom take any notice of the
’s teachings anyway.