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Countdown to the Conclave, Day 5: Media Confusion

By Deal W. Hudson & Deacon Keith Fournier
March 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As we said at the outset of this series, the old hands in the media and at Catholic media such as America and Commonweal still recall the brilliant, and subversive, series of Vatican II reports published in the New Yorker under the pseudonym of Xavier Rynne, who was actually a Redemptorist priest, Rev. Francis X. Murphy, who attended the Council as a journalist.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - If you have read the documents of 2nd Vatican Council, you will have noticed there is nothing in any of them that even closely resembles the "Spirit of Vatican II" so often evoked by dissenters.  All those documents have one goal in mind: To make the Catholic worship and teaching more communicative to the people of God, or, as it is usually put, more pastoral.

As we said at the outset of this series, the old hands in the media and at Catholic outlets such as America and Commonweal still recall the brilliant, and subversive, series of Vatican II reports published in the New Yorker under the pseudonym of Xavier Rynne, who was actually a Redemptorist priest, Rev. Francis X. Murphy, who attended the Council as a journalist.

The success of spinning the meaning of Vatican II was not merely the achievement of Father Murphy but also due to the readiness in the late 60s to paradigm change in major cultural institutions. American's colleges and universities would never be the same again, but the Church, in spite of its decades of tumult, has remained the Church. The Holy Spirit, after all, has a larger audience than any and all media outlets, and led the last three conclaves to choose pontiffs who understood that the media was a reality they could not afford to ignore. 

On Monday, 115 cardinals will meet in the Vatican to set the date for the beginning of the next Conclave.  With Easter fast approaching, there's no doubt they want a new pontiff in place with enough time to prepare for the Palm Sunday celebration. But bearing in mind the Conclave will probably last no more than three days, at most five days, there is no need for the Cardinals to rush forward. 

The 11 Cardinals from the United States, all of whom are media-savvy, constitute the second largest voting block, 10%, next to the 28 Italians, 25%. All the cardinals are essentially "locked-down" during the Conclave, with cell-phones and wireless laptops being confiscated, and hopefully all the cardinals, even those Italians with close relationships with local press, will resist the temptation to leak. 

The best coverage of the Conclave for us will be found on Fox News, relying on Father Jonathan Morris, and on EWTN, who is sending their news director, Raymond Arroyo, to cover the event. It should also be mentioned that former Fox News reporter and TIME magazine correspondent, Greg Burke, a very reliable and informed source, is now a senior communications advisor to the Vatican Secretary of State.  Burke is close to both Father Morris and Arroyo. The other networks would be smart to pick up commentators like George Weigel or Raymond Flynn rather than relying on their cadre of "progressives" who are hoping the legacy of John Paul II and Benedict XVI will come to a screeching halt. 

The most respected and best informed of all Vatican reporters is Sandro Magister -- his latest articles can be read in English at this web site. Magister's reporting is always balanced and accurate -- he knows who be avoid be sucked into the kind of intrigue and speculation that surrounds such events.

The best source for an anti-Catholic view of Conclave remains the Huffington Post. Each day the HuffPo seems to outdo itself with anti-Benedict ugliness: the latest offering was entitled, "Cardinals Meet In Vatican Overshadowed By Scandal, Discord And Intrigue," whose author portrays the Conclave as mired in a long laundry list of stumbles and miscues,

"Roman Catholic cardinals gathering to choose a successor to 'Pope Emeritus Benedict' will be worrying about a Vatican hierarchy hit by scandals, intrigue and betrayals befitting a Renaissance court. As well as sexual abuse by priests around the world, the scandals closer to home involve the leak of Benedict's personal papers, media reports of sexual misconduct in the Vatican, wiretapping, bureaucratic bungling and mishaps that many say could have been avoided."

One final thought to keep in mind: When the new pontiff is chosen, it will be up to him to choose his "team" to fill the top posts in the Curia, especially the Secretary of State and head of the Vatican press office, the person usually referred to as the "pope's spokesman" or the "Vatican spokesman." Our sources tell us that there is already jostling underway for these positions -- of course there is! -- and that we should keep a close eye on who comes out on top.

These selections will have substantial impact on the face of the future papacy to the world: Think of the invaluable contribution made by Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the spokesman for John Paul II, to his legacy. 

There is much for Catholics to be praying about in the coming days, and it should include not only the new pontiff, but also his choices to lead the Church both in the Vatican and through his selection of nuncios and bishops around the world.

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