ASSISI, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis' conference on economics has suffered a public-relations disaster after not a single major secular media reported substantively on the three-day jamboree.
The mainstream media, hugely supportive of the pontiff's left-wing policies, almost entirely disregarded the Vatican's hyped-up Economy of Francesco, which was held online from Nov. 19–21 for young economists and entrepreneurs.
Celebrity speakers hosted by Pope Francis — many who are well-known for their controversial positions on globalism, abortion, population control, anti-capitalist economics, climate change and open borders — gained few column inches in the news media for the Vatican's publicity machine.
Secular scribes and pundits simply ignored media-savvy presenters like economist Jeffrey Sachs, eco-feminist Vandana Shiva, pantheist ex-priest Leonardo Boff, anti-property-rights political theorist Jennifer Nedelsky and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.
Instead, during the Economy of Francesco symposium, media outlets (from left-wing British newspaper The Guardian to the United States' CNN television network) were chasing a story of a lingerie-clad Brazilian model who got a "like" from Pope Francis' Instagram account.
The Vatican said it was investigating how a photograph of model Natalia Garibotto, who was dressed in revealing schoolgirl-style undergarments, was "liked" by Francis' verified account.
Church Militant spoke to the Economy of Francesco press office (created especially to liaise with the media), inquiring why there was so little coverage of the conference by mainstream media despite the presence of prominent personalities and the relevance of the topics on economics and ecology.
Roberto Pacilio, head of the Economy of Francesco press bureau in Assisi, did not respond to our query.
Church Militant spoke to veteran journalists and commentators, asking them to assess the media fiasco that torpedoed the papal gabfest.
Damian Thompson, associate editor of The Spectator — the world's oldest weekly magazine — explained how "Pope Francis' attempts to force the Church to adopt naive and outdated socialist ideology, blindly hostile to free markets, have become an embarrassment even to the liberal elites whose approval he seems to crave."
"The Economy of Francesco is directed at young people and embodies the most juvenile prejudices of middle-class Western millennials. One or two fairly distinguished people have been induced to take part — irrespective of the fact that they are passionately opposed to Catholic teaching ... on the sanctity of life," Thompson observed.
"But other speakers are distinguished only by the populist fatuity of their views," Thompson noted, citing the example of Dr. Vandana Shiva — "a pseudoscientist who attempts to marry Hindu tradition with crazy authoritarian socialism."
Shiva's argument that farmland should not be private property and her description of farmers as "rapists" is worthy of Stalin or Mao. Her claim to be a "quantum physicist" is laughed at in the scientific community because she's no such thing. But she is welcome at the Vatican because the astonishing crudity of her thinking — "capitalism takes from society without giving back" — mirrors that of Francis himself. Likewise, her near-deification of mother earth, an alarming theme in the pope's recent statements.
Deriding the Economy of Francesco as "a talking shop for left-wing ideologues and other assorted fruitcakes," Thompson, presenter of the Holy Smoke podcast on religion, explained how "the liberal media, biased as it is in favor of Francis, could find nothing here that qualified as news."
"Perhaps, at long last, they are waking up to the fact that the current successor of Peter is a waste of their time and space," Thompson remarked.
Even Pope Francis' message urging economists to involve the poor in post-coronavirus rebuilding, relayed on the final day of the conference, was reported by few mainstream media outfits.
Francis insisted on the poor being invited to participate in discussions about creating a "different economic narrative," noting that the world needed "to accept structurally that the poor have sufficient dignity to sit at our meetings, participate in our discussions and bring bread to their own tables."
"If Pope Francis dreamed of being hailed by the world's media as a visionary leader among the globalist elite, then he has been dealt a serious blow by their total lack of interest in his Economy of Francesco," columnist Dcn. Nick Donnelly told Church Militant.
"It has failed to gain traction as the pope's 'Davos,' and now just looks embarrassing. A possible reason for this failure to impress the 24/7 news juggernaut is its repetition of mediocre platitudes," Donnelly noted, jokingly referring to the event as the "pope's Woodstock."
Donnelly also observed that "Pope Francis, embroiled in the deepening scandal of Vatican financial chicanery, be it Cdl. Becciu or secret deals with China, has lost authority to talk about a subject that the world takes with deadly seriousness — money."
Mainstream media, led by left-wing Washington Post, returned to reporting on Pope Francis after the pontiff hosted a Monday meeting with players from America's National Basketball Association (NBA) in the papal library of the Apostolic Palace.
The meeting "provided the opportunity for the players to discuss their individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities," an NBA statement specified.
Editor of The Stream John Zmirak told Church Militant he wasn't surprised "that journalists and policy-makers have shown no interest in the Vatican's latest attack on natural law, logical thinking and Catholic tradition."
This silent auction has been going on for years now, and those who wish to sell their souls now face a buyers' market. They'll only get pennies on the dollar, so my advice is that they keep them. Who knows? Their souls might come in handy someday. Or at any rate the price might inch back up a bit.
The Vatican's own efforts to promote the event also flopped.
"The Economy of Francesco meetings — broadcast live to 120 countries with remarkable technical deployment, which included simultaneous translation into various languages — never reached an audience proportional to the magnitude of the event," Julio Loredo, Milan director of Tradition, Family, Property told Church Militant.
"The pope's message had a meagre 5,000 clicks. It means that not so many people are listening to Francis. The media coverage was also below what one would have expected given the significance of the organisers," Prof. Loredo noted.