It’s the day before Memorial Day weekend, and I’ve got something on my mind (besides making the spinach salad we’re taking to the Ward’s barbeque). Does God need a Press Secretary?
For the past three or four years, the Catholic Church has been under siege by the Boston media. The media first broke the clergy sex abuse scandal, which has remained front page news, along with local church closings, and a recent high-profile firing for sexual misconduct by the CEO of the Church’s flagship hospital system.
To aid in the healing of the clergy sex abuse scandal, Archbishop Sean O’Malley has organized a series of ten Masses in which he asks forgiveness for the sins of the Catholic Church. These special Masses for forgiveness include priests prostrating themselves in front of parishoners on the floor of the church:
It is clear to me that the media exposure of widespread sexual abuse and the concomitant accountability and restitution was vital in preventing more abuse and in supporting those who suffer.
However, in this second example, it’s not so clear that the media’s influence produced a satisfactory result. On Holy Thursday, the day celebrating the Last Supper and Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, Archbishop O’Malley broke with the tradition of his predecessor and refused to wash the feet of a woman along with men. The Archbishop also included feminism in a list of societal ills in a homily he gave during a Holy Week Mass.
As you can expect, the media pounced on these stories, and the resulting uproar from the public pressured the Archbishop to publicly apologize for his remarks on feminism, and for his refusal to include a woman in the ritual of the Washing of the Feet. Regardless of my personal feelings on the matter, it makes me uncomfortable that public relations concerns regarding the sensitivities of a fickle media seem enough to counter (and deny?) difficult and unpopular religious doctrine.
Similarly, the Mormon church released a statement about The DaVinci Code, but has declined to officially respond to other events. So, what do you think about the media and its effect on religion and religious practices, given these examples? And how are God’s Press Secretaries doing?