News this morning out of Rome: Giacomo Galeazzi, writing for Vatican Insider, reports that the Vatican is considering establishment of a Secretariat for Communications, which would be a dicastery of the Roman Curia having oversight responsibility similar to that of the newly established Secretariat for the Economy.
If the Secretariat is established, it will be a centralized structure which would coordinate offices including the Vatican Press Office, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, CTV, Vatican Radio, and L’Osservatore Romano.
The proposal to unite these various communications entities within the Holy See is part of the ongoing structural reform of the Roman Curia, currently being considered by the Committee of Eight.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, spoke last week on the topic of “Creative Strategies for Promoting Cultural Change.” In his speech, presented to the Faculty of Institutional Communications in a seminar held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Father Lombardi announced an update to the communication of the Holy Father’s message to the world.
Will Bloggers Be Involved?
What, I wondered in reading of this new initiative, will be the Vatican’s official engagement with Catholic bloggers, should this new Secretariat be established?
In May 2011, the Vatican held its first-ever Vatican Blogfest–inviting 200 bloggers from around the world to convene in Rome, under the joint sponsorship of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Pontifical Council for Culture.
I was privileged to be among attendees at that meeting, and I reported at the time regarding Father Lombardi’s address:
Father Federico Lombardi acknowledged the important role of the Catholic bloggers and assured us that the Vatican wants to partner with them—the Vatican as institutional communicator, the bloggers more personally—in providing an integral service to the Church in the world. He spoke of the blogosphere as “borderless” media, and he surprised us by disclosing that he reads a summary of our blogposts each morning to find out what’s going on in the world!
Elizabeth Scalia (The Anchoress) was among presenters at the Blogfest, and she spoke to journalists gathered from around the world about the need for Catholic clarity and Catholic charity:
“Even as more-mainstream media outlets attempt to downplay blogs and blogging as being a force for nothing much beyond self-promotion, the pope has been ahead of the curve, urging priests, religious and lay folk to embrace social media as a powerful means of evangelization, and a source of Catholic clarity in a very noisy, confused and divided world. Catholic clarity, of course, cannot be disseminated without a measure of charity, and charity can sometimes be the biggest challenge we face in new media.”
Elizabeth pointed to the twofold role of the Catholic blogger to disseminate information, and to correct information (as when the media reported that the Pope approved condom use).
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Bloggers are an unruly sort. Most are well-intentioned, but they are not beholden to a local bishop or to an ecclesiastical advisor. (An exception in the news recently is Britain’s Deacon Nick Donnelly, whose popular blog Protect the Pope was suspended at the request of Lancaster’s Bishop Michael Campbell. Deacons, however, are not independent; they serve their local bishops, and–as I learned when my deacon husband was advised not to post political lawn signs before an election–has a responsibility to appear impartial and to speak with the mind of the Church, both during ecclesial functions and in his personal life.)
Yet increasingly in the Internet age, blogs have played an important role in communicating information about the Church, as well as about social issues. The Catholic Blog Directory currently lists more than 2,500 Catholic blogs.
How a new Secretariat for Communications would affect the bloggers… how news would be disseminated and shared… remains to be seen.