How the Pope's PR Machinery Failed

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• How the Pope's PR Machinery Broke Down
If it was so easy to foresee that Benedict's remarks about Islam would set off a furor, why didn't the Vatican anticipate it?

• Does Islam Flout Reason? Why the Pope's Case Is a Flimsy One
Viewpoint: The issue is important, but Benedict has presented neither the evidence nor insight to make his argument stick

• The Pontiff Has a Point
His take on Islam, however clumsy, raises tough truths about reason and religion

• The First Casualty of the Pope's Islam Speech
Leaders across the Muslim world are furious over Benedict's provocative comments, and now his first trip to a Muslim country, soon planned for Turkey, may be in jeopardy as a resultn

• Benedict and Islam
Written by TIME blogger Andrew Sullivan

• A Forced Argument on Forced Conversions
Viewpoint: Kidnapped journalists converting at gunpoint. The Pope quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor. The sudden focus on forced conversions to Islam reflects a fundamental misreading of that religion's history

• Excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI's Speech
Given at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12, 2006

• Behind Benedict's Vatican Overhaul
Though eyes are on his trip home, the Pope is (gradually) launching big changes back in the Roman Curia

One week after Pope Benedict XVI crashed onto the front pages with his controversial remarks on Islam, two central questions hang over the Holy See: How did that inflammatory quote get into the speech in the first place, and how do we get him out of this fix (and off the front pages)? The answers — tied both to the Pope's old habits and recent changes in the Roman Curia bureaucracy — are key to helping Catholicism's communicator-in-chief manage his message more smoothly and prevent another PR disaster like this one from happening again.

Benedict's speech last Tuesday at his old university in Bavaria was undoubtedly provocative and open to a range of interpretations. And for that reason, any course in Communication 101 — not to mention centuries of Vatican diplomacy — could have seen this coming. So much so that one wonders if the Pope didn't show his speech to even a single top collaborator.

Traditionally, key papal discourses would wind their way through several layers of checks and input from various offices in the Roman Curia — and particularly in the latter years of the previous papacy, bureaucrats actually wrote the speeches themselves. But the effective No. 2 man in the Curia bureaucracy, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, had been a lame duck over the last two months after Benedict announced his replacement as Secretary of State would begin this fall (Sep. 15, in fact, the day after the Pope's return from Germany). Insiders say the 78-year-old Italian hadn't had an effective working relationship with the German Pope since he became Pope (some believe he may have even tried to block the election of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the conclave of April 2005). But more to the point, the Pope has long trusted his own writing touch for major documents and speeches — and no one was going to edit his grand return to the University of Regensburg where he'd taught theology in the 1970s.

If someone else had had a chance to examine the speech in advance, they might have made the point that it wouldn't be smart to cite the now infamous words of a 14th century Byzantine Emperor — "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached" — without some context or interpretation. One might even defend the Pope's use of the historical quote in order to pursue his intellectual point — but not his simply leaving it there to flap in the wind, without saying what he thought of its merits. At his Sunday Angelus prayer, Benedict in fact stated clearly that he did not agree with the Emperor, and that he respects Muslims — two points that should have been inserted in his speech right next to the emperor's black-and-white quote.

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