How did the 115 crisis managers meeting in secret conclave in St. Peter’s in Rome yesterday do to help the Catholic Church by selecting Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the first Pope Francis?
These include priests sexually abusing children and church hierarchy covering it up; disconnect with many Catholics on gay rights, contraception and celibacy; Vatican-based financial and political scandals; and the rising rolls of evangelicals and Muslims around the world.
On resume alone, they did extremely well in trying to soothe the crisis-wracked church. And he followed that PR boost by taking the name of Italy’s patron saint.
Bergoglio is the first pope from South America. He is a Jesuit, an order that largely avoided most of the personal scandals plaguing the church. Jesuits are generally known as educators, and therefore slightly more liberal [in a Catholic context] and open-minded. His career is highlighted by extraordinary service to the poor and a common touch that will be refreshing for a bejeweled church whose breathtaking and priceless art surrounded the cardinals yesterday.
The biggest plus from his resume is his Latino heritage — complimented by Italian immigrant parents. With Hispanics powering church growth, he’s the right person at the right time. And, he will surely try to break the lock of the Italian-centric curia, the Vatican’s powerful administrative wing.
Those are the positives.
Here are the negatives and the too-early-to-tells.
First, these cardinals were mostly chosen by the last three popes, all of whom were doctrinaire conservatives. You don’t expect the Tea Party to select Barack Obama and that’s the case here. For all his love of the poor and his support of AIDS patients, the new pope represents a conservative Catholic view of the world. Don’t expect celibacy to end, for gay priests to feel welcome coming out or an aggressive effort to punish priestly sexual predators or their apologists.
Francis I is clearly not a reformer. Nor was he chosen — at 76 — to lead the church for the next 20 or 25 years. His cardinal peers offered him as a new face, perhaps as an olive branch, in acknowledgement of all the church needs to clean up its act.
But the crisis managers who voted for him want whatever reforms and clean up they think the church needs to be relatively brief and not reach very deep.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.