Thursday, April 12, 2012

Catholic Voices Coming to the USA - Game Changer For Catholics In the Media ?

The Catholic News Agency had a story that was little remarked on , but I view as possibly being a game changer for Catholics as to the media and the public square. See Catholic Voices heeds Pope's call for public witness in US

Catholic Voices UK web site is here.

From their web site:
Catholic Voices began with a single aim: to ensure that Catholics and the Church were well represented in the media when Pope Benedict came to the UK in September 2010. Inspired by that visit, it has become much more: a school of a new Christian humanism; and a laboratory of a new kind of apologetics.

Let me say they were very successful , and have continued that success today. I have managed to catch some of their impressive team via the internet radio and tv links on occasion. They do remarkably well in front of crowds that can be well to say the least somewhat hostile. Catholic Voices UK seems to be something remarkably new and it works. I am sure they have had , will continue to have some bumps in the road but that is to be expected. It is refreshing to see a young diverse Catholic crowd stake out and put forth the Catholic position.

The question is can it work here. The United States presents some challenges just by size alone. So I am not sure how that would work. But I am pretty optimistic it could.

The Catholic Voices web site is here , and you can see what qualification they are looking for.

John Allen in his post - Thoughts on post-tribal Catholicism gave some kudos to Catholic Voices.

Third, the “Catholic Voices” project in the United Kingdom was launched in the run-up to Benedict XVI’s visit last year, giving a cadre of young Catholics a crash course in both communications techniques and issues facing the church, and then offering them as interview subjects to media outlets from around the world. The co-founders were the spokesperson for Opus Dei in the U.K. and a former editor of The Tablet, so they come from different Catholic backgrounds. Yet they’re great friends, and that spirit permeated the project. In the end, Catholic Voices projected a rational, self-confident, attractive face for Catholicism while the pope was in town, disarming a lot of anti-papal and anti-Catholic prejudice. The idea was so successful that today a “Catholic Voices Academy” is in the works, and like-minded Catholics in other parts of the world are looking to franchise the brand.

The point is not merely that Focolare, Salt and Light and Catholic Voices are all places where Catholics of different experiences have formed friendships. It’s also that this cross-pollination produced a sort of “hybrid vigor,” allowing these outfits to accomplish aims that would likely exceed the resources of any one tribe acting on its own. Moreover, nobody in authority launched these projects, but nobody got in their way either.

Fundamentally, what these examples illustrate is that post-tribal Catholicism is more than a pipe dream. If you build it, they will come.

The key to the success is getting the right kind of team together. Tracy Rowland down in Australia talked about this not too long ago at  Catholics and the media: Grim-reapers need not apply

Rowland's pieceis very good and I recommend reading it all. It shows the particular challenges the modern Catholic faces has in putting forth the Catholic viewpoint. However as to Catholic Voices:

...When they suggest that the Church's teaching, in some area or another, is weird, I think, well, no, it's not weird if you understand trinitarian theology, the flaws in Cartesian metaphysics or the moral bankruptcy of the utilitarian world-view. To return to the cathedral metaphor, it is rather like non-Catholics are saying, what's all the fuss about a gargoyle? When caught in these exchanges, I find myself trying to defend gargoyles by reference to some infrastructural principle, which I understand would lead to the collapse of the whole cathedral if it were to be removed - but the infrastructural principle is itself unheard of, or at least very strange, to many people.

Just take, for example, the question of contraception. The real issue is not about producing millions of Catholic babies; the real issue is about the meaning of sexual intimacy and the Catholic claim that in the act of sexual union a couple is participating in the life and creative love of the Holy Trinity. The trouble is how does one explain this to people for whom "the Trinity" is at best a fuzzy concept?

What Austen Ivereigh and the Catholic Voices group recommend is that, instead of answering the precise question which has been put, which is usually loaded with a bundle of misunderstandings, Catholics need to learn to "reframe the issue." Included here is the idea that behind every criticism of the Church is an ethical value - in other words, that there is some ethical motivation behind the judgments themselves.

The ethical motivations are often good, but linked to a whole variety of misunderstandings. The fundamental message of How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice is to affirm the ethical motivation, if it is a good one (and it often will be), but then go on to untangle the nonsense.

To do this one does need knowledge of the basic facts and of Church teaching - for example, that the Church does not teach that the only reason for sex is to produce babies. When people trot this line out, one does at least need to have enough knowledge of the theology in this area to say something like, "Unfortunately a lot of people think that, but John Paul II was highly critical of this idea in his theology of the body.".........

Getting more into qualifications:

....This second thought relates to another principle from Ivereigh's How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voices, and indeed the wider Catholic Voices project. This is the idea that the Catholic speaker should not adopt the demeanour of the grim-reaper:

"Catholic Voices should be idealists and radicals, inviting society to another better way. 'Pro-lifers' should sound like anti-slavery campaigners not admonishing moralists - they should not come across like the grim-reaper."

Part of the problem has been that on many of the controversial issues, those who set themselves up to speak on behalf of the Church do so with an unbearably grim demeanour. This sends most Catholics into a state of such extreme embarrassment that they just want to bow out of cultural battles altogether and concentrate on paying off the mortgage and funding the private school fees. They retreat into the privacy of their own backyard because they don't want their neighbours to think that they share the outlook of the "grim-reapers." They make it difficult for others who are genuinely trying to empathise with women in extreme situations, and to present the Church as a mother rather than as the village proctor.

The problem of the "grim-reaper" approach raises the question of credentials. Can anyone join? Can anyone hand out a business card to the media outlets? I suspect that were such a Catholic Voices group to get started in Australia, there would be a number of grim-reapers lining up to join. Some serious "quality-control" mechanisms would need to be put into place.

The ambition of Catholic Voices members is to be well-briefed and articulate, knowledgeable and able to communicate the settled teachings of the Church. They set limits to the questions they will take. So if journalists wanted to know how the bishops or a particular bishop would be likely to react to some event or statement, this would be deemed outside the Catholic Voices brief. But if a journalist wanted to know what is the official teaching on a particular issue, then there would be a whole stable of people, mostly young professionals, ready to engage the question...

I think this could be a game changer in as to Catholics in the media. It further might make the secular media in it's various forms have to expand their call list some. That would be a good thing.

I pray for Catholic Voices USA success here. This could be big


Brian MacIver said...

I wish you well. CV worked well in the UK and Mexico and Cuba. CV travels. Fresh faces, fresh confident approach. Leave the strident voices to the opposition,
And pray the the Holy Spirit:
"What I have to think,
What I have to say,
How I have to say it,
when to be silent,
How I act"

James H said...

I am excited abt it