Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Caucusing cardinals trump greedy media

  • 15 March 2013

'Wish I knew who to credit with this: 'What the cardinals are looking for is Jesus with an MBA'.' So tweeted the ABC's Lisa Millar, waiting in the 5000-strong media pack outside the conclave that has just ended.

Whether Jorge Mario Bergoglio quite fits that description may be doubted. A newly elected pope who chooses Francis as his reign name doesn't exactly evoke images of slick corporate CEOs and Harvard Business School-inspired modern managerialism. And who would want a pope who conformed to those images anyway?

But for all its glibness, 'Jesus with an MBA' was a clever line and whoever coined it deserves a credit. It pithily summed up the perhaps contradictory qualities the cardinal electors were seeking among the papabile: genuine humility and pastoral sensitivity, combined with the courage and intellectual acuity needed to clean up the muddle and corruption that have mired the Roman Curia. The Vatican Bank, at least, really needs a dose of managerialism.

So the world's news outlets gleefully seized on the phrase 'Jesus with an MBA' and ran with it. It was far from the silliest line churned out of Rome during the past fortnight, as the media cranked up reporting of what the cardinals were doing and saying, while the Vatican tried to muzzle anyone resembling a reliable news source.

The result of the Vatican's efforts, predictably, was that unreliable news sources, peddling lurid, bizarre and uncheckable stories, often got a run they did not deserve. The media abhor a vacuum, and thus we got to hear about, among other things, the cabal of anonymous gay clerics who are allegedly at the heart of the Vatileaks and banking scandals. UFOs and monsters from space didn't appear in these stories, but if the Church had endured another week of sede vacante they probably would have.

There was plenty of serious coverage, too, of course, much of it drawn from the reportage of veteran Vatican watchers like The Guardian's John Hooper and John Allen of the US National Catholic Reporter. They were obviously talking to cardinals and curial officials who weren't supposed to be talking to them, and from those forbidden chats a more or less consistent narrative emerged, which was picked up by rest of the