In the original "Star Trek," Capt. James T. Kirk was both the brilliant tactician and the swashbuckling ladies' man. When "Star Trek: The Next Generation" rolled around, Kirk's character was split in half, with Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as the brains and First Officer Will Riker as the brawn.
In effect, the Vatican has now unveiled a "Next Generation" strategy to address its perceived PR woes.
During the John Paul years, the Vatican had its Kirk on the communications front, someone who combined both external visibility and insider clout. Spanish layman Joaquin Navarro-Valls was a power broker in his own right, with a place at the table when decisions were made and the public face of the institution, second only in terms of visibility to the pope himself.
Under Benedict XVI, the Vatican has limped by on half that formula. Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the current spokesperson, is endlessly accessible and visible, but he lacks the insider muscle wielded by Navarro-Valls.
The Vatican has finally moved to plug that hole.