Update: The English version of the video discussed below has been removed from YouTube. The Italian version can be viewed on the Pontifical Council for Culture website, or here:
A recent YouTube video released by the Pontifical Council for Culture has appalled many English-speaking Catholic women. Reactions on Twitter and Catholic blogs range from “Is this thing a joke?” to “It makes me queasy, actually angry.” I won’t repeat the comments sent to me via email, out of charitable regard for the Pontifical Council as, one assumes, they meant well but appear to be clueless about the concerns of real-life women.
The two-minute video was produced by the Pontifical Council for Culture in preparation for the February 4-7, 2015 Plenary Assembly in Rome. The theme of the assembly is “Women's Cultures: Equality and Difference”. In the opening moments of the video a coquettish blond woman tosses her ringlet capped head about and chirps:
At the Pontifical Council for Culture, in the Vatican, they have taken inspiration from Pope Francis’ openness and are reflecting on women’s cultures and the place for women in societies today, between equality and difference. At what point are we today, as women?
Most women who viewed the video were first stunned then distracted by the puckered lips and false eyelashes of the speaker—not that Catholic women who wear false lashes are here impugned. But what is the message behind those distracting spider legs? A plenary assembly on women’s concerns should be serious business. False eyelashes often pertain to a different sort of gathering. Are we to take seriously Coquette’s invitation to make a one minute video of ourselves listing our hopes and dreams “as women” and send it along to the Council?
What type of woman does the committee who produced the video hope to attract? A woman worried about cultural support for marriage family life? For education? For the protection of unborn babies? At the very least, an actress in false lashes is an awkward, discordant note to the topic at hand.
Catholic women in television and film have blasted the clumsy production as simply unprofessional. TV writer Karen Hall (Judging Amy, The Good Wife) and screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi (Mary, Mother of Christ) both had caustic responses. Hall, beseeching God, stated, “Please, send the meteor, already.” Apologist Patrick Madrid facetiously asked, “Hey guys, you outsourced this video, right?” A scan of responses to the YouTube video include “ghastly”, “repulsive” “painful” and “an attempt to be hip.”
The goal of the Council was to invite women the world over to send them one minute videos of their own assessment of women’s concerns: “In cultures around the world today women have countless joys and hopes, fears and anxieties, gifts and ideas. Tell us yours with a photo or a video. We want to know!”
However, as some noted, the video was uploaded on Dec 23rd, but the submission deadline is January 4th, 2015. What woman in the midst of the Christmas season and family holidays would have time to produce a video? Only those alerted before the video went public, is the surmise of some who commented, “They have an agenda, while pretending to appear inclusive.”
As I write this and return to check some of the comments posted to the YouTube video it appears that the Pontifical Council has yanked the English version of the two-minute-long video. Deo Gratias. Somebody, somewhere in the halls of the Council realized that this piece of flippancy is simply a fiasco. One wonders who is responsible for this effort of the Council to communicate with women? Can it possibly be that Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the erudite president of the Council, had not seen the video before it was uploaded? And, once the responses flooded in, he was alerted to the criticism? Recall that Cdl. Ravasi was chosen by Pope Francis to serve with five other cardinals as the drafting committee for the final version of the Report of the Extraordinary Synod 2014, after the disastrous preliminary mid-term report of the Synod. Perhaps the Plenary’s ad hoc "Consulta Femminile" committee should table attempts at outreach until the members of the Council have better grasp of matching message to purpose.
Even a review of the “about” page on the English version of the Council’s website indicates an unprofessional translation: “The Pontifical Council for Culture traces its origins to the Second Vatican Council and its opening up to that great, dynamic, worried and multiform world of contemporary culture.” Worried? A “worried and multiform world of contemporary culture”? Could they mean worrisome? Either way, between the YouTube blunder and the statements on the Council website, I am…worried.