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The Pope's New PR Man: Fox News Reporter and Member of Secretive Opus Dei

The pope's new PR strategist not only hails from Fox News; he belongs to the secretive Opus Dei society and lives in an all-male house cleaned by women members.

Photo Credit: Fox News


Let's say you're at the top of a large, right-wing institution; one with such a patriarchal bent that only men are allowed into leadership. Imagine that, in recent times, your once-powerful worldwide conglomerate is losing oodles of clout, thanks in part to media coverage of the scandals that have beset you: the leaking of your CEO's private correspondence to a reporter, that pesky decades-long epidemic of child sexual abuse by your branch managers, mutiny amid the ranks of the service wing of your organization, and the perception that you have played dirty with one of your competitors.

Where would you find a really savvy player in the media world with legendary message discipline on a range of issues that serve the interests of the moneyed, exclusionary, patriarchal elite? Who ya gonna call?

Why, Fox News, of course.

This weekend the Vatican announced its hire of Fox News correspondent Greg Burke for the newly created role of communications strategist. Since the beginning of Pope Benedict XVI's reign over the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See, as the Vatican is known, just can't seem to catch a break in the media. Kicking off his papacy with hard-line rhetoric against Islam that resulted in rioting, Benedict now seems to have lost all control even of his own subordinates, as evidenced by the spilling over into the public sphere a round of internecine Vatican battles that resulted in the arrest of the pope's butler for allegedly leaking Benedict's private correspondence to a journalist.

That scandal took place just as the Vatican was earning black marks in American media for its jihad against U.S. nuns for not being mean enough to LGBT people, and for advancing such "radical feminist themes" as equality of the sexes. Instead of heading into the cloister to reconsider their radical views, nuns are taking to the airwaves to present their case, and in the eyes of Catholic laypeople, they appear to be winning the day.

Then there are recent attempts by state-level conferences of Catholic bishop to halt proposed state legislation in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts that would either lengthen or lift statutes of limitations for reporting sexual crimes against children, all in the service of further covering up thousands of such crimes by Catholic priests. Add to that the bishops' attempts to obstruct access to contraception to women who work in church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities, and the moral authority of the church hierarchy is taking a major hit, encouraging media outlets to cover the church more objectively and aggressively than they have before.

That any media strategist could prevail in restoring the reputation of an institution whose leaders have behaved as has the Catholic hierarchy -- knowingly subjecting children to potential sexual abuse through cover-ups and transfers of abusers to new parishes, refusing to admit women into church leadership, and demonizing LGBT people even as the AIDS epidemic claimed the lives of a number of its priests -- is a dubious proposition. But it's easy to see why the Vatican turned to Greg Burke.

On paper, at least, Burke is well-suited to the job: much of the brutal political ideology advanced by Fox News is shared by the Holy See. But where Fox News has been successful in snookering regular people into believing that the brutal agenda somehow serves their own interests, the Catholic Church is not faring so well at selling its own exclusionary agenda to the Catholic faithful, many of whom support the nuns under attack by the Vatican. (See the AlterNet report, " Why the Pope Hates Nuns.")