Catholic Bishops Think a PR Campaign Will Improve Their Image June 17, 2012

Catholic Bishops Think a PR Campaign Will Improve Their Image

How deluded is the Catholic Church?

The men in charge of it recently accused nuns who fight poverty (but not gay rights and abortion rights) of promoting “radical feminist themes.”

They’ve (wrongly) accused the Girl Scouts of partnering with Planned Parenthood and promoting contraception and abortion.

Of course, they’ve argued with President Obama over their ability to restrict access to contraception. And there’s all the sex scandals and coverups…

And they think the solution to all their problems is “better PR“:

I still don't want to join the Church

“We need more help and sophistication in our messaging,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who decried the “latest debacle” of bad PR over the treatment of American nuns (which involves an investigation by the Vatican, not the American bishops).

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., suggested the not-quite-revolutionary idea of hiring a spokesperson, someone who “can speak for all of us.”

You don’t need more sophistication in your messaging. You don’t need someone who can deliver your message more clearly.

You need a new message.

Your current image is that of men who are anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-comprehensive-health-care. You don’t do enough to punish the rapists in your midst. A spokesman (I was going to say spokesperson… but we all know they would never hire a woman for the job) won’t be able to make you look good when so much of what you preach goes against common decency.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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  • Christoph Donges

    Maybe they need some ‘Catholicism WOW’?

  • Ggsillars

    Actually, Hemant, they usually seem to have a female spokesperson (sometimes a nun) to transmit their message to the press.  To me, however, having a woman deliver their medieval, misogynistic pronouncements makes the whole spectacle even more grotesque.

  • Ggsillars

    Hey, how about promoting the Catholic Church as a medieval theme park?  Fun for the whole family!  Well, except for the gay teenager, maybe.  Or the wife who doesn’t want to have twelve children.  Or anyone disposed to critical thinking.  Or anyone who thinks, really.  OK, bad idea.

  • Lee Miller

    It’s a mystery to me how anybody can publicly admit to being Catholic these days . . . and equally a mystery why anyone would continue to give money to the church . . .

  • DG

    I don’t know, I think the post is wrong.  There are few institutions today that appear to be more inept at getting their message out than the Catholic Church.  Of course it doesn’t help that the agencies used to get the message out are not often friendly toward the Church.  So you have the ‘Church hates nuns’ headlines.  What did they expect?  Digging into the actual docs will show all the Vatican was doing was telling nuns to stay within boundaries of Church teaching while they continued to do their good works.  It chastised those who basically gave the Vatican a middle finger.  OK.  I can’t imagine any organization that wouldn’t.  But that was really it.  But they should have preempted the whole thing months before, rather than allow the media – you know, the media* – to run it its own way.  Church attacks nuns!  So the headlines read. Even the stories themselves, when read through, showed it wasn’t the case.  But today, so few people read past the headlines, and the Church could do worse than realize this.  It won’t change people who hate the Church, any more than anything will change hate toward anything.  But it could at least allow the Church to speak on its own terms.

    *The best example of letting headlines do the talking comes from 2008 GOP primaries.  There was a story on one of the network websites (ABC I think) that ran: Mitt Romney Defends Mormon Faith!  Oooh.  Until you read the story and realized at no point in the story did Romney even mention his Mormon faith, except one quote in which he said, in answer to a question about his Mormon faith: “I’m running for president, not pastor.”  That’s why the Church could get better at finding ways to get its message out.  Understand the source that’s putting it out.

  • Verimius

    Lipstick and pigs comes to mind.

  • Fargofan

    I thought the Pope was their spokesperson. Don’t they trust this holy man to get the message right?!

  • Kevin S.

    Dude, I have a metric crap-ton of fun at Medieval Times. Course, settling disputes by trying to knock armored men off armored horses with fifteen-foot, thirty pound wooden poles while isn’t really fun for anybody involved, but it’s great theater.

  • Kevin S.

    Oh, forgot about the scantily-clad serving wenches. You kniw, Christianity would be qite as bad if they didn’t all turn into prudes a couple hundred years ago. Not quite, anyway.

  • Kevin S.

    Ack, that totally reads as pro-objectifying women. That we can ditch. I was more talking about how they used to not be quite so sexually repressed.

  • machintelligence

    You need a new message.
    I think “AMEN” is appropriate here.

  • Kevin S.

    Except they weren’t chastising them for not staying within the bounds of church teachings, they were chastising them for emphasising the good works teachings while not hauranging (sp?) people on the sexual control teachings. You make it sound like they were passing out condoms. I’d really like to know how focusing on social justice is outside the boundaries of church teachings.

  • No, don’t worry, you were right. If we didn’t descend from a bunch of prudes, women would be more free to choose what they want to wear and not feel guilty for looking pretty.

  • Bob Becker

    Here’s a PR idea: maybe they could post a sign in every church akin to those “X Days Since An Accidental Injury” signs in factories. The church ones would say “X Days Since A Priest Molested A Child In This Diocess.”

  • LutherW

     Pedophile Report – that is the PR than could help!

  • Bruce the Moose

    Their slogan could be, “Benedict XVI, bringing back the 16th century.”

  • LutherW

     Pigs are smart. The lipstick cannot hide that.

  • Kevin S.

    Women choosing to dress however they would like – empowerment
    Men pushing women to dress for their viewing pleasure – objectification

    I’m a big fan of the first, not so much the second. While the women who work at Medieval Times surely chose to work that job (as do waitresses at Hooters, Tilted Kilt, etc), their counterparts from a millenium ago did not.

  • DG

    No, they weren’t doing that.  In fact, the Vatican bent over backwards to affirm those who were doing the good works and not railing against the Church’s teaching.  Of course folks don’t have to agree with the Church, and can support those nuns who were actively advancing things against Church teaching.  That’s merely to say ‘I think the nuns were right, the Church is wrong about that issue.’  But several of the nuns were very, very outgoing in their advocating teachings against the Church’s position.  That was what the Church said – keep up the good works, but stop fighting the Church or advocating things against Church teaching.  That’s a world of difference from ‘Church attacks nuns for helping poor.’ 

  • Silver_fox-trot

    Hmm, I think at some point, there’s nothing that  PR can do, and I believe the Catholic Church reached this point when they accused Galileo of heresy.

    Kind of reminds me of the Heartland Institute, they can do whatever they want now, nothing is going to save it.


  • TheAnalogKid

    “The Roman Catholic Church; We Don’t Rape that Many Kids these Days”

  • When one of their core “values” is to attempt to force women members to breed more tithers so they can increase their revenue (not that it’s working in this country), all the PR in the world isn’t going to help them much.  When you throw in child rape allegations that just won’t go away and publicly rebuking some of your indentured servants, well, give it up.  Only radically changing your ways is going to fix your image.

  • MegaZeusThor

    How about a message that doesn’t involve a deity (or is it 3 in 1?), the supernatural, and a seriously outdated manual on life.

    We have, generally, better ethics and protections today than we had 60 or 100 years ago. Why would a ~2,000 book have a good guide for living today? (To be fair, Aesop’s Fables are old too, and sometimes relevant, but they don’t pretend to be something they’re not.)

    Like it or not, but the Catholic church still has enough money and power to seriously affect the world. If they really wanted to help, they need to look towards secularism and real education. Have their clergy become qualified therapists for example. I wonder how actual help might improve their image?

  • The Catholic Church is trying to improve their image with the general public, and at the same time they are losing their mainstream members. Their doctrine is obsolete, and as a result most of their members ignore parts of it: most Catholics use birth control, and there is a significant minority that supports abortion rights, and a significant minority (possible majority) that supports the idea that homosexuality is natural. Many are embarrassed by the behavior of their leaders. Many consider it absurd that there are no female priests. Of course, once people feel free to ignore obviously faulty doctrine, they are more comfortable with ignoring even more.

    The bishops would do well to get their own house in order before getting more involved in politics- which will only continue to alienate them.

  • Rodger

    I want this on a bumper sticker!

  • jose

    How about this new message:

    “I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of
    thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.” –Dalai Lama

  • Well, here you’ve got a nun whose legs are showing through her habit.
    Seriously, some of the images Shuttestock accepts are ridiculously bad.

  • CelticWhisper

    Actually, I believe the word in cases like this is “spokeshole.”

  • Baby_Raptor

    I don’t know. If you’re only there for a couple hours, you can just point and laugh and thank whatever that you don’t think like that.

  • summertimebluesandgreens

    From the child rape to the gay hate to the b/c debacle: bad, bad business. No sympathy from me.  They are looking only short term (you’re hurting us! boo hoo) and not long term. Now the people are seeing them for what they really are. Good.

  • summertimebluesandgreens

    The Vatican bent over ..the VATICAN BENT OVER BACKWARD TO AFFIRM THOSE…dude, please…and I don’t mean this in a er sexual way here. The Vatican is making a fool of themselves, period. The Church is wrong, period. The fact that they can’t admit it and save face at the same time is their problem, period.

  • ScarabDrowner

     Jousting is fun for those who are doing the jousting, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it 🙂 Where else can you literally get a feel for F=M*A?

  • I’m a woman, I understood what you meant. No worries, Kevin. I even agree. 🙂

  • That was my first thought to! Bring on Buddy Christ!

  • Cardinal Donald Wuerl suggested… hiring a spokesperson, “someone who can speak for all of us”…

    I suggest you hire GOD.

    Since you have been speaking for The Great Shy One for two millennia it only seems right that he speak for you. The next time you reluctantly venture out of your golden palace to answer questions from the press about the latest child-raping priest cover-up or other outrage, set up two podiums with microphones, one for you and one really super fancy one for God.

    Cardinal Wuerl: “To answer your questions on that particular matter,  I will now defer to Our Lord, The Almighty Creator of the Universe, who I know will speak for all Catholics.” (cameras turn to really super fancy podium)

    (soft hiss of mic static)

    Cardinal Wuerl: “Thank you. we’ll answer no further questions at this time.”

  • Patterrssonn

    I’m starting to wonder if ‘Father Ted’ isn’t a documentary.

  • DG

    No, the Church has a right to expect people serving in its name to do so in accord with its teaching.  It continues to affirm the good works, and has made that clear.  Once again, it was allowing this to be released by a media not known for its keen religious understanding, or its desire to unpack complicated truths.  When I first saw the headlines I thought, “Wow, where did that come from!”  Then I read what was actually be said, done, and who it was and wasn’t being applied to, and it was far less shocking.  As things covered by the media so often are.

  • Deliver up those bishops (and archbishops and cardinals) who led the international conspiracy to cover up sex abuse of minors to civil authorities and THEN the world at large MIGHT begin to take your silly bullshit seriously.

  • Too bad they would never consider entering the 21st century instead of merely rebranding their medieval BS in an attempt to make it palatable for 21st century people.  

  • Kodie

    So “Catholics Come Home” didn’t work? A somewhat surprising and inordinately high number of people I have known in my life were Catholic. Some converted TO Catholicism even as I knew they did use birth control and have premarital sex. It’s like they didn’t understand. Oh, he’s Catholic, so I should also affirm that and agree to raise our kids like that, without noticing or caring that pedophilia stuff, or the corruption or the, you know, really being a Catholic. At least one of my nephews is baptized Catholic. It’s like a cute shrug to these people. Wandering away from the church and/or the teachings/beliefs that make one Catholic, they’re still “Catholic” or adamantly no-longer-Catholic. People who are sentimentally Catholic are already home (once in a while), and everyone else has heard why the Catholic church is to be avoided and warned against. The only way I see more people choosing to be Catholic is like I’ve observed: people who are wholly uncommitted to any religion but are also wholly unaware of any evils in any religion, not Catholicism specifically, are attracted by the architecture and the voodoo rituals, AND are attracted to the potential to be married to someone who is already nominally Catholic. Inter-faith marriage is their best hope.

  • Keulan

    My thoughts exactly. Also, I love how they had George Carlin play a Catholic priest in that movie.

  • amycas

    Ramen, actually…

  • Pedro Lemos

    I Think Zach Weiner already did that:

  • summertimebluesandgreens

    The Vatican would be in a world of hurt without those Nuns. They are wrong.

  • Mrfislawdo

    You mean it’s *not*?!?! (wide-eyed innocence)

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