Removed from reality: Quo vadis, Catholic Church?

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"We`re not intimidated by petty gossip."
Pope Benedikt, Palm Sunday 2010.

The Catholic Church is currently facing one of the most threatening crises of its history, with thousands of priests being accused of molesting children and the Vatican apparently being responsible for a huge cover up.

I don`t really want to talk about the issue itself here, since this can easily become unruly, but I cannot help but wonder why the church seems so unaware of what damage this does to its public reputation.

If you argue from a crisis management point, the church just makes it worse and worse everyday. They are clearly still trying to cover up the ugly truth instead of being honest or transparent and they have no control over their members whatsoever: priests and bishops in different countries talk to the media, apparently unconstrained by directives. Some are still denying the facts, others are justifying themselves, but the whole church just seems to get more and more caught in its own net.

Now the Vatican thought it would be a good idea to go into the defensive and attack the media. A Vatican newspaper editorial said the claims about Joseph Ratzinger playing a big part in the cover up were an "ignoble" attack on the Pope and that there was no "cover-up".

In Germany, still a predominantly catholic country, Bishop Müller accused the national media of campaigning against the church and compared the situation to the Third Reich, where journalists were also trying to "villainize" the church and to attack its credibility. Of course he was just trying to distract from the facts, "shoot the messenger" - what resulted in heavily offending the German journalists` union.

So how can such a global institution be so blind to the damage of it`s worldwide image?
The allegations have reached a level where there`s no longer a point in denying them. In my opinion, the only exit strategy the church has right now is to fully admit its guilt, to be open and honest about what has been happening in the past and what is still happening all over the world. They have to support criminal prosecution against priests instead of rambling on about "half-century old cases" and statutes of limitation.

The church clearly thinks it can save the institution itself by sacrificing a few black sheep and ride out the whole issue. Sure, they`ve been through worse.

Maybe the church thinks in centuries rather than decades. They still believe that things like that will eventually go away if you just remain silent long enough. But it doesn`t work like that anymore: the media, as well as the recipients have changed. And by not admitting their guilt, they are pushing away a whole generation of believers.

The Catholic Church is in desperate need of change: Change of attitudes, change of behaviour, change of reputation. Otherwise it will fully ruin its reputation and sooner or later, as generations change, lose its followers and therefore its right to exist.

For further information, watch this interview with BBC Vatican correspondent David Willey on failed PR.

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