Pope Francis’s spokesman, Greg Burke, announced that he and his deputy, Paloma García Ovejero, had both resigned. It was the latest in a string of upheavals and mishaps in the Vatican’s PR operations at a time when Francis’s increasingly embattled papacy needs to get its messages across in an effective manner. Next month bishops from around the world are to assemble in Rome for a crucial summit on the clerical sex-abuse crisis which is tearing at the Catholic church and alienating many believers.
As Lady Bracknell would doubtless comment, to lose one spokesperson may be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose both looks like carelessness. By slipping out the news on the last day of the year, Mr Burke and Ms García Ovejero tried to minimise the effect of their resignations, but their departures were nevertheless embarrassing for Francis. He was already under fire from three directions. Many Catholics question whether their leader understands the degree of public outrage over clerical sex abuse, and particularly over the efforts of some high-ranking prelates to protect predatory priests. Traditionalists abhor his doctrinal flexibility. And there is hostility in parts of the Vatican to the pope’s plans for a shake-up of the central administration of the Catholic church, which could involve moving some operations away from Rome. In part, the opposition is down to bureaucratic inertia and the safeguarding by Vatican bigwigs of their powers and privileges. But some officials appear to have legitimate grouses over a lack of consultation and information.