Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

That line, from the Wizard of Oz, leapt to mind when I read about Pope Francis’ recent endorsement of corporal punishment.

Or to be more accurate, that’s the line that I thought of after reading a Vatican spokesman’s defense of Francis’ remark.

"Who has not disciplined their child or been disciplined by parents when we are growing up?" Fr. Thomas Rosica, of the Vatican press office told Associated Press in an email. "Simply watch Pope Francis when he is with children and let the images and gestures speak for themselves!"


Pay attention to “images and gestures,” we’re told. Ignore the substance or content, we’re told. If it looks or seems good, then it really is good, we’re told.

We in SNAP are always harping “Words don’t protect kids. Only actions protect kids.” But maybe we should revise our mantra. Maybe we should say “Words, images and gestures don’t protect kids. Only actions protect kids.”

Twice in recent years, Vatican officials dramatically beefed up their ‘image boosting’ operation. First, they hired a former veteran Fox reporter Greg Burke. Then they brought in a highly respected outside public relations firm.

And since then, these PR professionals have done a stunningly effective job at improving the reputations and image of the church hierarchy.

But from time to time, there’s still a clear flub in the Vatican image efforts.

And those flubs tend to be illuminating.

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