I suppose I should be all excited that the Pope has replaced his clerical spokesman, now retiring, with two laypeople. His deputy spokesperson is, oh gosh, a woman!
Greg Burke, an American former journalist, is the new director of the Vatican Press office. He joined the Vatican staff four years ago, chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as a special communications advisor. Pope Francis promoted him to press office vice director in late 2015.
It does not thrill me that he worked as a correspondent for Fox News, although he also had worked for Time, or that he belongs to the arch-conservative Opus Dei. It also is a bit of a stretch to consider Burke a layperson, if being a member of the laity means being a regular Joe.
Indeed, Burke, 56, as a numerary in Opus Dei has commited himself to celibacy. Members of the group attend daily Mass, read Scripture, say the rosary, and even engage in some penances, like self-flagellation or sleeping on a hard mattress. I’m not sure how many priests at the Vatican are that devout.
Nonetheless, Burke’s journalism experience seems to have helped the Vaticanbecome a lot more media savvy. That likely was particularly important when Burke came on board to salvage the media mess that Benedict’s reign created, replete with Vatican scandals and a prelate who projected sternness and a lack of tact.
There’s not much of an English paper trail for the Spanish Paloma García Ovejero, 40. Her journalism background seems almost exclusively tied to church-related media. She worked for one of the largest broadcast outlets in Spain, which is owned by Spain’s Catholic bishops.
I have no idea whether Garcia Ovejero is a feminist. America Magazine calls her“dynamic and very jovial,” so I guess that’s something. She studied at New York University, so she likely understands American culture.
It’s always good to see the laity have high-profile positions in the Vatican. And certainly it’s good that a woman got one of the top communications jobs there.
But particularly for a current Pope who routinely bypasses his own press office to speak directly to reporters, I’m not sure how ground-breaking these two appointments are.
And Garcia Ovejero certainly downplayed the notion that this appointment was in any way historic. According to Catholic News Service, she said: “I am in no way the first woman. The first woman above all in the church, in the Vatican and in the press office is the Virgin Mary.”
She stressed that in her new job she wanted to serve God, the Pope, and “in every possible way” journalists.
Good luck with that.
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post