Cracking the real da vinci code?
11. (C) The communication culture of the broader Catholic Church is diverse, however, with many Church-affiliated organizations now excelling at communication. One example of a Church organization that is using modern communications strategies to deliver its message, interestingly enough, is Opus Dei. (Pope John Paul II was widely perceived as being more adept at public comunications than Benedict; his communications director, Joaquin Navarro Valls, famously belongs to Opus Dei.) CDA and PolOff recently met with xxxxxxxxxxxx, and discussed how Opus Dei responded to the „Da Vinci Code“ – a novel which pilloried the group. Sanchez said that Opus Dei realized it could respond in one of three ways: (1) ignore the controversy; (2) adopt a `no prisoners‘ approach and refute every error; or (3) treat the controversy as a chance to explain Opus Dei to the world. Opus Dei chose the third option, holding regular briefings for journalists and others, and the organization’s membership has actually increased as a result.
Fixing what’s lost in translation
12. (C) There is a growing urgency within the Vatican about the need to change the current communication culture. The rare public criticisms offered by Father Lombardi and Cardinal Kasper of their colleagues‘ roles in the Lefebrvist scandal are an extremely strong indicator of internal disquiet. There are a number of proposals circulating to help fix the problem. xxxxxxxxxxxx have confirmed privately to the Embassy that discussions are underway about having the Pontifical Council for Social Communications assume a greater coordinating role on major decisions. Father Lombardi has privately proposed to his leadership the possibility of creating an office in the Secretariat of State to flag potentially controversial decisions and has asked for resources to prepare translations of major statements more quickly. Other Vatican insiders close to the Pope have suggested bringing more native English speakers into positions in the Pope’s inner circle. And not a few voices are calling for Cardinal Bertone’s removal from his current position.
13. (C) Behind closed doors, our Vatican contacts seems to be talking about nothing but the need for better internal coordination on decisions and planned public messages. Most Church leaders recoil at the notion that they could be seen as anti-Semitic or endorsing Holocaust denials, yet are confronting the ugly reality that many people actually believe these notions because of their own poor communications culture. But if or when change will come remains an open question. The structural and cultural roots of the current situation are deep, and will not be easily uprooted as they are closely connected to Pope Benedict’s governing style. Similar criticism after the disastrous Regensburg speech led to little or no change. The percolating discussions regarding the creation of a policy coordinating body within the curia – and other possible solutions — are hopeful signs. But they are not yet guarantees that change is coming. Stay tuned. End Comment.