Citing poor handling of the lifting of the excommunication on the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi called for the creation of a “communications culture” at the Vatican.
The lifting of the excommunication provoked much controversy and negative media coverage, especially following revelations that SSPX Bishop William Richardson had made statements minimizing the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust.
“We didn't control the communications,” Fr. Lombardi said to the French daily La Croix.
Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to lift the excommunications was initially announced by the Vatican Press Office in a simple statement accompanied by a Vatican legal document.
According to Fr. Lombardi, the communiqué accompanying the announcement “left too much in doubt, giving rise to different interpretations.”
"I think we still have to create a communications culture inside the Curia, where each dicastery (ministry) communicates by itself, not necessarily thinking of going through the press room or issuing an explanatory note when the issue is complex," Fr. Lombardi said to La Croix.
He said that the Vatican could have avoided the recent controversy if it had issued the order for Bishop Williamson to recant his views along with the announcement of the removal of the excommunications.
"Especially when it's about hot topics, it's better to prepare the explanations," he told La Croix.
While some Vatican documents are meant for specialists of canon law or theology, he explained, others are meant for all Catholics.
"But today, whatever the type of document, it all ends up directly in the public sphere. It gets difficult to manage."
Fr. Lombardi said that Vatican officials had focused on the views of SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay and not those of Bishop William and the other bishops.
"They didn't take the views of the other bishops enough into account," he said. "One thing that's certain is that the pope didn't know. If someone should have known, it was Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos.”
Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos heads the Pontifical Commission of Ecclessia Dei, dedicated to reconciling breakaway traditionalist Catholics with Rome.