John Paul's most important Curial innovation was to jettison the tradition of the pope's spokesman being a Curial priest by installing the Spanish layman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, an accomplished journalist, as head of the Holy See Press Office.
It was often said that Dr Navarro-Valls (who liked to joke that his early professional experience as a psychiatrist had prepared him well for dealing with the Vatican press corps) brought the Holy See's press operation "into the 20th century". To which the proper response was, "Yes, the first half of the 20th century."That was no mean accomplishment, given Curial resentments over a layman who was spokesman, confidant and private diplomatic agent of the pope. But Navarro-Valls's personal accomplishments were mistaken by many as a sign that the Curia had entered the world of 21st-century communications.
It hasn't, as the first day of the Lefebvrist crisis made painfully clear: Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, Navarro-Valls's successor, was sadly unprepared for the informal press briefing he gave the day the story broke, because he hadn't been brought into whatever deliberations there had been about lifting the Lefebvrist excommunications.Thus the false impression was immediately created, and just as immediately hardened into "fact", that the Lefebvrist bishops had been restored to the full communion of the Church, which hadn't happened. That misimpression, the result of inept communications and bureaucratic blundering, intensified the outrage over Bishop Williamson's Holocaust denial.
Read George Weigel's entire article The Pope Vs. The Vatican at Standpoint.
Photo of Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J.