In being truthful, transparent and loyal, the Church will be able to renew and purify itself from moral problems, Fr. Federico Lombardi said as he listed the Church's priorities for responding to controversy at a conference on Tuesday.
The Vatican's spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, addressed the Pontifical Council for Social Communication's Catholic Press Congress on Tuesday afternoon. His address was delivered as part of a series of presentations made by panel members who examined the topic "Ecclesial Communion and Controversies. Freedom of Expression and the Truth of the Church."
After describing some of the ways the Holy See's communications operations have adapted to a faster, more diverse and highly globalized news environment, he asserted that a strong grasp of the "correct 'hierarchy' of themes" is necessary for understanding the place of the different debates within the Church.
Topping the list of "essential priorities" for the Church, he explained, are matters relating to "God and the religious dimension of man (faith as a friend of reason), Jesus Christ who reveals to us the true face of God (God is love), and ecumenism as loyalty to the command of Christ."
The final two priorities of Church communication, Fr. Lombardi said, are "the dialogue between religions to feed the transcendent dimension of life (and) the commitment to translating the faith into works of charity and solidarity for the construction of an integral development."
This sequence of themes offers a "positive, substantial and rich message" in today's context, which is marked by the loss of "essential points of reference" in society. These priorities also serve as a "counter-current in the secularized world," observed Fr. Lombardi.
In this context where the Church is often "unarmed," he underscored the importance of focusing on these central themes, "on which converge the serious attentions of the Catholic press and of secular communications concerned for the destiny of the person and of humanity."
Fr. Lombardi said that beyond this "central content," the "credibility of the messenger," whether a person or an institution, is also "essential."
Posing the two most recent Popes as examples of this credibility, he noted that institutionally, as a result of cases of sexual abuse, there has been "a great loss of faith in the Church - in part justified, in part caused by the negative and partial presentation of the problems."
These damages, he added in reference to Benedict XVI's words, can be "compensated by a 'good' if the direction of profound purification and renewal is continued so that this wound is overcome in a stable way.
“One of the dimensions of 'overcoming'," he explained, "is the veracity, the transparency, the loyalty to see and confront the moral problems of the institution."
Noting the heightened public sensitivity to issues of "sex and money," he said that "a credible Church in the face of the world is a poor and honest Church in the use of assets, capable of accounting for such use, integrated loyally and legally in the network of economic and financial relationships, without anything to hide."
The Vatican's "bank," the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), has been under investigation by Italian authorities since last month after it was seen that several transactions between IOR accounts at different international banks did not follow standard European procedures.
Fr. Lombardi assured everyone that he is certain of the "upright intentions" of those in charge of the Vatican's economic institutions, but ceded that there is still some work to be done to show the public the "correctness" of these operations.