While I’m not a Catholic, I was mesmerized and watchful about the recent storytelling that accompanied the election of a new pope.
Whichever cardinal is responsible for the Vatican’s public relations is doing a fantastic job. In particular, I am amazed at how deftly the story was turned from a jaw-dropping papal resignation (what scandal! what’s the story!) and recent long history of horrific, heart-wrenching scandals to black smoke-white smoke and the tiny interesting details of Pope Francis‘ humble background.
Masterful, if you ask me.
There was never a denial or any effort at all to tell the story behind Pope Benedict’s resignation. There was speculation but no digging, no offering of explanation.
Instead, the focus shifted to the process of finding the next Catholic leader and the media bought into it. While I’d sure love to see the dark secrets behind this age-old institution, the public relations analyst in me knows there is no productive outcome from going there.
Every institution has problems. It’s how they rise in the face of challenge, how they resolve, that is more important than what created the problems in the first place. It’s always better to take a face-forward approach rather than a looking-back-and-lamenting.
In fact, I have to commend the Catholic PR machine for deft, dignified storytelling. We are a nation (and in fact, it’s the whole Western world) intent on slurping up other people’s bad news. We take unprecedented interest in seeing others fall from grace.
For what end?
We are all human and we’ve all made mistakes. Every institution is fallible by definition – especially when you have constructs and strictures that limit human nature. Anytime you try to organize individuals, you’re going to find conflict because no one is quite on the same path. It’s virtually impossible to herd individuality into order.
So forgiving that at the outset, I’d love to see our society move toward a more forgiving note. The brotherhood of man, right? The understanding that to love is actually to relate to another, not preferential attachment but universal understanding.
In there lies the truth.
So the Vatican and the Catholic institution has stumbled many a time. No religious institution is free from that scrutiny.
Kudos to the cardinals responsible for spinning the right stories into the hands of the storytellers. A masterful public relations feat indeed.