Is Pope’s PR safety net misrepresenting his use of slang?

(CRUX. John L. Allen Jr.).

ROME – One curious feature of the modern papacy is the informal, but very real, PR safety net which grows up almost spontaneously around every pontiff. It’s forged in part by the Vatican’s own official communications channels, but even more so by outside commentators and media platforms heavily invested in selling a given pope’s story to the world. Throughout his papacy, John Paul II enjoyed a wide network of friendly commentators and analysts, forever prepared to interpret the pope in the best possible light. Benedict XVI had his own support system, though smaller and quieter by comparison.

The fact that Francis has such a coterie – not the same people, obviously, but doing much the same thing – has been made abundantly clear in the last 24 hours or so, vis-à-vis news reports that he used a crude slang term in referring to homosexuals in a May 20 session with Italian bishops. Ironically, it’s possible that in this case, the pope’s mediatic Praetorian Guard actually may be misrepresenting the pontiff in order to save him, but more on that in a moment.

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