“This (pedophile priest cover-up) scandal is putting us, the clergy and the church, where we belong — with the excluded ones. Jesus was painted with the same brush as the two thieves crucified with him.” – Cardinal Roger Michael Mahony somehow equating himself with J.C. in a recent blog
There was life for the Catholic Church after the “Great Schism” between Rome and Constantinople.
And yes, there was also a future for the church after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg.
There was life after Bernard Law. There was life after the Da Vinci Code.
And finally, there will be plenty of life for the Catholic brand even in the aftermath of the church’s irritating pimple of a cleric, Roger Michael Mahony.
Guess they were surprised when yours truly walked into a recent conference to talk about social media.
They were expecting a Millennial or maybe, an X-Gen.
What’s this? A follicly challenged Baby Boomer approaching the 2x mark of his 29 birthday coming before them to evangelize about all things, digital self-publishing?
Maybe, just maybe, my gray locks provided me with a little more gravitas and a smidge more credibility as I spoke to communication types last week. The communicators were concerned among other topics with the never-ending pedophile-priest cover-up stories, the latest version courtesy of Cardinal Mahony (1.53 million Google mentions…and counting).
Considering the plight of the church, it already has a ton on its plate with a Papal conclave right around the corner, and now has to deal with Mahony’s above-the-fold headlines. With or without Mahony, there is the question whether social media is helping or hurting the church’s brand. Some are clearly uncomfortable with the notion that the Catholic Church as a brand. (Have you ever seen the cross, Jesus, Mary…?)
More importantly, will the church manage or will it be forced to watch others manage the Catholic brand by means of WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and all the other social media outlets. I sensed the church elders fear the answer to the question.
And yet there are good tidings to proclaim. The church with more than 1 billion “subscribers” has been around since about 33 A.D. It survived Martin Luther’s aforementioned 95 Theses (aided by Gutenberg’s printing press). It has co-existed with the Protestant Reformation. It outlasted the waves of other communications gadgets. It endured Cardinal Law. And yes, it will eventually outlast Mahony, even though he took to Twitter to announce that he will do his heavenly duty, voting behind the ecclesiastic doors of the Vatican for the next Pope.
Hopefully, there is zero chance that Mahony will be elected Pope…Talk about a public relations train wreck.
Years ago, I went to Tahoe with a fraternity brother or two to see the late comedian George Carlin. He did his gig about parochial school. The refugees of Catholic School, including this writer, were rolling in the aisles. Those who went to public school really couldn’t relate.
Think of it this way: To a non-Catholic, the image of a nun usually points to saintly Mother Teresa. To someone who endured the petty tyranny of the priests and nuns, the fearful vision is one of a woman in a habit with a steel ruler.
The Catholic Church in many ways invented arrogance. That’s why there was a Protestant Reformation and King Henry VIII created a new church so he could get his divorce and remarry. I would also humbly opine that arrogance/superiority is a primary reason there are so many fallen Catholics, including the writer of this humble blog.
Can a homily by a priest, monsignor, bishop, cardinal etc. be transformed into a thought leadership blog. The answer is affirmative provided the All Mighty accepts the theory of two-way symmetrical communication, the simple idea that members of the flock are entitled to critically respond.
There in a nut shell is the rub. Writing and delivering a sermon that is quietly received by the congregation and maybe saluted after the proceedings are done is not two-way communication. It is essentially a top-down talk from the mountain top.
Social media is a conversation, and a true two-way dialogue at that. The church or any other entity (e.g., corporation, non-profit, government agency, political figure) has to understand that its brand is in play in cyberspace by anyone at any time. Digital publishing enables an around-the-clock brand stock exchange with some rising and others falling…sometimes very quickly.
Didn’t St. Luke (14:11) write the following: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”?
Cardinal Mahony is cornering the market when it comes to exaltation. Maybe the rest of the church can be a little more humble in order to succeed as a brand in this 24/7/365 digital world.