Program #0083 for Monday, July 4, 2011: Dr. John Garvey and Domenico Bettinelli

July 4, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry

Today’s guest(s): Dr. John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America, and Domenico Bettinelli, creative director of the Office for New Media of the Archdiocese of Boston

Today’s topics: Catholics in new media; Catholic University of America

Summary of today’s show: Dom Bettinelli joins Scot to talk about new media and how the Church and all Catholics should engage the “digital continent,” then Scot and John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America, discuss the link between virtue and the intellectual life and how that resulted in a decision to have single-sex dorms only.

1st segment: Scot welcomes everyone to the show on this Independence Day holiday. He said Pope Benedict has focused in his recent addresses for World Communications Day on the need for each of us in the Catholic Church to embrace the “digital continent.” That will be today’s primary topic. He will also interview Dr. John Garvey on his first year as president of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, as well as his recent decision to make all dorms at the university single sex.

Scot welcomed Dom Bettinelli to the show. He’s usually behind the scenes of the show, making these shownotes and maintaining the website, but now he’s in front of the mike.

Ever since Scot has known Dom, which predates their working together, Dom has been one of the pioneers within the Boston archdiocese for the embracing of new technologies in terms of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Dom said is interest in the technology for using it to communicate the faith goes back many years to when he was a child. He was on the leading edge of the Internet and there’s been something exciting about connecting to people far and wide throughout the world, to be present to one another even when not physically present.

Dom’s wife Melanie is also very involved in new media. Scot asked if they met online. They met at Mass during the sign of peace. Dom set up Melanie’s first website when they were dating. It was a way for her to communicate with her students when she was teaching at Salem State College. Now he refers to her as the famous blogger in the family with a wide audience. Her blog is at The Wine Dark Sea, which is a reference from Homer—the Greek, not the cartoon character.

Scot and Dom will be looking at a document delivered by Bishop Ron Herzog of Alexandria, Louisiana, to his brother bishops at the meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) last November on social media. He got the bishops up to speed on both the technology and why every diocese should embrace it. He also articulated that people who embrace this new form of communication are on a digital continent.

Dom said when the Holy Father refers to it as a digital continent he’s connecting to the Church’s history of evangelization, when the apostles and later Christians spread out the world with the Gospel. This is yet another part of the new world. It’s a new place to bring the faith.

Bishop Herzog said:

Pope Benedict XVI calls the world of social media a Digital Continent, with natives, immigrants, and even missionaries. He encourages Catholics, especially our priests, to approach this culture of 140 characters and virtual friendships as a great opportunity for evangelization. We are asked to respect the culture of these Twitterers and Facebookers, and to engage on their terms to bring Christ into their “brave new world.”

Dom said the natives are anyone under the age of 25, who have grown up without ever knowing a world without the Internet, without email, without instant worldwide communication. Maybe other older people who’ve been living in this world on a daily basis for years. The immigrants might be anyone else who’ve seen the Internet, like our parents and grandparents, who use the Internet now to stay connected with family and friends and to be informed and entertained. The missionaries should be all Christians. Pope Benedict is clear about bringing Christ to the Internet, to be Christ for people because the Internet can be a vast wasteland. There’s a lot of emptiness. You can see the yearning and even hostility toward faith.

2nd segment: Bishop Herzog begins his address with:

I often hear people, both in my work and in my circle of friends, who dismiss social media as frivolous and shallow. Who can blame them?

Status updates.
The very words used by the practitioners seem to beg for ridicule. Their light-hearted twisting of the language suggests that these are the latest fad in a culture that picks up and drops fads quicker than the time it takes me to figure out my cell phone bill.
I am here today to suggest that you should not allow yourselves to be fooled by its appearance. Social media is proving itself to be a force with which to be reckoned. If not, the church may be facing as great a challenge as that of the Protestant Reformation.
That sounds like more hyperbole, doesn’t it? But the numbers are compelling.

There are more than 750 million Facebook users, bigger than every country but China and India. Bishop Herzog is addressing his brother bishops, most of whom are in their 50s, 60s, and 70s; only a handful of them are in their 40s. Only a handful embrace new media.

Dom said it’s good he’s trying to put them in terms they can grasp. It’s easy in this world of consumerism, of a fad a minute, to dismiss this as something that will be here today and gone tomorrow, replaced by some shiny new distraction. But this is a fundamental sea change in communication. This is as big of a change in society as the Industrial Revolution, as Pope Benedict says. It changes everything. The Church has to embrace if we don’t want to end up with another problem as big as the Protestant reformation when the Church was slow to embrace the change of communications caused by the printing press. This is something we need to be a leader in. The Church has to be a leader in communications because the Church has the most important message.

Scot asked why this is truly a revolution. Dom said it changes the relationship among institutions and individuals. In the past, you get your newspaper from a big corporation with lots of reporters and editors and photographers who hand it to you and it has an authority to it. Then the individual consumes it. It’s a one-to-many conversation. With the Internet all those barriers are gone. Anyone can set up a website or start a podcast. Everyone can use Twitter and Facebook. It doesn’t cost much money to start these things. You can set up a nice blog for free. A podcast requires a little technical gear and some costs, but compared to starting up a newspaper or magazine or radio station or TV station, it’s nothing.

The expectations people have are very different. People expect a dialogue with the institutions and organizations they interact with. Some companies already get this. If went on Twitter today and complained publicly about Comcast, you would get a Twitter response from someone who worked for Comcast asking how they can help. People expect an immediacy of response.

As the keeper of the Archdiocesan Twitter account, Dom has tried to do some of this. For example, there was someone from the West Coast who went on Twitter and said he needed help from a Catholic in the Boston area to get a priest to visit someone in the hospital. He’d said that it seemed there weren’t any priests willing to help someone, which obviously wasn’t true. Dom knew that it just had to be a breakdown in communications of some sort. He jumped in and asked how the archdiocese could help. Long story, short: They did get a priest in to see this lady and the guy went from being hostile toward the Catholic Church to being really appreciative and complimentary to what Dom was doing. It was a simple thing, but it goes to what people expect in this one-to-one dialogue.

Scot said Bishop Herzog and Pope Benedict talk about how this is a different culture. This is how people receive information, it’s how they exchange information, and it’s the way they form their ideas about what’s going in current events or how the teachings of Jesus Christ as relevant to them. Bishop Herzog writes:

One of the greatest challenges of this culture to the Catholic Church is its egalitarianism. Anyone can create a blog; everyone’s opinion is valid. And if a question or contradiction is posted, the digital natives expect a response and something resembling a conversation. We can choose not to enter into that cultural mindset, but we do so at great peril to the Church’s credibility and approachability in the minds of the natives, those who are growing up in this new culture. This is a new form of pastoral ministry. It may not be the platform we were seeking, but it is an opportunity of such magnitude that we should consider carefully the consequences of disregarding it.

He’s trying to say to his brother bishops that this isn’t a fad, but that this is the way people communicate. The Church needs to embrace it and they need to do it well. That doesn’t mean just the bishop has to have a Twitter account, but that he needs to champion and help promote an attitude among everyone working for the Church and every Catholic in the pew to share their faith and information about what they’re doing in this way.

Dom said it’s also not just about links to press releases. It’s about being present, having a ministry of presence on the Internet. His caution on egalitarianism is well taken because there can be a sense where every voice on the Internet is as authoritative as the next. Who do I believe, where do I turn for the truth? This is why we need the authoritative voices of the bishop and his appointed ministers online to be that authoritative voice for the Church.

Bishop Herzog gave an example of the USCCB’s Facebook page which can highlight the power of social media, which can be an inspiration for a parish, a diocese, or a ministry.

The USCCB started a community on Facebook last August. There are now 25,000 ‘fans’ associated with that community. Every day, USCCB staff provides at least four items of information to those 25,000 people: the daily Scripture readings, news releases, links to information on our marriage and vocation websites, and other information. Furthermore, if those 25,000 are like the average profile of a Facebook user, they have 130 friends, or contacts, on Facebook. With one click they can share the information they receive from USCCB. If only 10 percent of the USCCB fans share what they receive from USCCB, we are reaching 325,000 people. Multiple times a day. All it costs us is staff time.

Scot said it’s the most efficient way of communicating with large numbers of people that we’ve ever had. Dom said there’s no printing costs, no paper, no ink, no trucks to deliver it. Facebook carries the freight. All it takes is a little time.

The Archdiocese has a Facebook page: We do something similar. There is a priest of day to pray for, Scripture readings of the day, and any interesting news stories that have something to do with the faith in Boston. People link to them and click on them, they love to see their priests’ names up there. There’s a connection that people have, an identity is created with the Church that they might not otherwise have. People in the Boston area have an identity with the parish especially. This gives them a connection with the Church of Boston, the Archdiocese. It widens the scope a bit.

3rd segment: Scot asked what the Archdiocese of Boston is doing in social media and how people can connect with it. If you have a Facebook account, go to and search for Boston Catholic or Archdiocese of Boston or go directly to, click “Like” and become one of the 1,300-plus people who like the Archdiocese. There’s no obligation on the user’s part. Items from the Archdiocese will show up in your news stream automatically and you can share them with your other Facebook friends, just like Bishop Herzog was talking.

There’s also Facebook pages for The Pilot and CatholicTV and this program. Scot asked what’s the advantage of liking those pages. One benefit is that it helps promote the good works of those ministries. For The Good Catholic Life, they would see a link to the day’s show, including shownotes and a downloadable podcast, photos. The Pilot posts links to articles throughout the day and so readers don’t have to wait until the end of the week to see the latest news.

Twitter is for very short messages with links to particular stories. The Archdiocese’s account is, but CatholicTV, the Pilot, and The Good Catholic Life also have them. Twitter is a different medium. Dom said Facebook has a lot of other stuff going on, but Twitter is focused on that communication. It’s also a broadcast medium in which anyone can see what’s written. You don’t have to be a member or follower to see. But if you do follow you get the messages automatically. But you would join because you want to communicate directly with someone. A lot of people like to “retweet” which is the equivalent of forwarding, the interesting things you read.

Dom said if you really want to be entertained, follow Bishop Chris Coyne on Twitter (@bishopcoyne), who’s originally from Boston but is now an auxiliary in Indianapolis. He’s one of the most amazing bishop-tweeters out there. He gets it. If you want to see what a bishop can do on Twitter, you should follow him. His tweets from when he was at the Indianapolis 500 to give the invocation were priceless.

Scot said beyond Facebook and Twitter are blogs and certainly many people know about Cardinal Seán’s Blog, but there are other priests who have blogs. They’re a great way to learn about issues, usually in depth. Dom said there are several kinds of blogs, including newsy ones that discuss what’s topical, including blogs by canon lawyers and priests who blog about the liturgy and Catholic fathering, blogs about being a great Catholic moms. There’s an amazing diversity of intellect and experience. As a Catholic dad, he enjoys reading Catholic moms.

The Archdiocese also posts videos on Youtube and Vimeo. Whenever they use a visual medium, Dom puts it on Youtube and Vimeo. Vimeo has a bit better presentation and technology, while YouTube is just ubiquitous, everywhere. This summer, the Office for New Media is going to Madrid for World Youth Day with the Boston pilgrimage and will be covering the event at, where there will be videos, photos, blog posts everyday, following the pilgrims, helping people follow along. Video will be priceless for that because it will be posted within moments of the events taking place in some cases.

Scot said the great photo-sharing site is and the Archdiocese’s site there is, where George Martell’s photos of archdiocesan events are put. Dom said they have some great technology that allows photos to be transmitted instantaneously from George’s cameras to Flickr from wherever he is, in real-time.

Scot said there’s tremendous technology and the archdiocese is trying to use every possible means, often through Dom’s fingers on some sort of mobile device or computer keyboard.

4th segment: Scot welcomes John Garvey to the program. This past week he completed his first year as president of CUA. John said it’s flown by and it’s been wonderful for him and his family.

It’s been a completely new experience, even though he and his wife have worked at universities for whole adult lives. He was recently dean of Boston College Law School where the students were mostly older and he’d forgotten what a lot of growing up people do between college and law school. Those six or eight years make a big difference in the interests of the students and the focus of the institution.

Scot noted he’d spent a lot of time at Catholic colleges, at University of Notre Dame and BC Law School, but Catholic University is a special kind of Catholic educational institution. John said CUA was begun toward the end of the 19th century as a graduate school o provide higher education to students, many of them priests and religious,who’d mainly been educated in seminaries. The focus on research and graduate education was somewhat unique in America at the time. The university began undergraduate education in the 20th century and they’re focusing on it more and more, especially as the role of the laity in the Church has grown since Vatican II.

CUA is known as the national Catholic university of the US, founded by the US bishops with the approval of the Holy See. Scot asked how that influences the type of education a student receives compared to other Catholic universities. John said the pontifical faculties of the university means they have a well-known school of theology and the only school of canon law in the United States. They also have pontifical faculties in the school of philosophy. That means they’re supervised not just by their professional organizations, but also by the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome. Another difference is the focus on the Catholic character of the institution. The board of directors comprises about 50 people, 24 of whom are clerical and 18 are all of the cardinals in active service and a dozen bishops from around the US. That board has kept the focus on the mission of the university in service to the Catholic Church.

The third difference is the quality of the student life. It’s not something they’ve always done well. They’ve even faced a challenge in doing it, unlike many of the Catholic universities, which themselves were founded by religious orders which imprinted their particular charisms on the life of the university. Because CUA is the university of the whole Church, they haven’t had and they’ve had to figure out who to do student life in their own and in the past decade they’ve invited the Conventual Franciscans to help with student life and that has improved things.

Scot said Garvey’s inauguration was this past January, 2011, and he said Cardinal Seán told Scot that it was one of the best he’d heard in a long time and posted it on his blog. Scot said he think Cardinal Seán liked it because it made the connection between intellect and virtue. Catholic colleges have to help form a more virtuous person.

John said his own interest in it arose from the education they got for their own children at Catholic schools. They were concerned when they went to college that they’d learn not just academics, but also how to grow in their commitment to virtue in their own lives. As the president of a Catholic university, he reflects parents may be looking for in his school as well. He thinks it’s part of the mission of a Catholic university to concern itself with the development of virtue as well as intellect.

5th segment: Scot said recently John write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, where he put the words he shared at his inaugural into practice by making a decision that the dorms at CUA will go back to single sex starting this fall.

John does think it’s an appropriate signal to send to young people about the kinds of relationships they should have. It’s what they would want for their own sons and daughters. He’s been surprised at the level of interest in this decision.

There have been a number of events on the topic of his inaugural address and at a conference in February, they heard from some young scholars who gave papers on the rates of “hooking up” and binge drinking on college campuses and how these activities took place at higher rates in coed dorms than in single-sex dorms.

Scot said some listeners might be surprised that its the norm that larger Catholic universities have coed dorms. What has led to that trend? Will this swing the pendulum back? John said in 30 years we went from single-sex dorms to coed dorms, which is bound up in a lot of changes in society.

Part of it was due to the changes brought by Title IX bringing more equality to women in many areas they did not, which he says was good. Changing to coed dorms was kind of just caught up in that rush to change. He said it’s good for young men and women to get to know one another in college, so he’s not calling for a change back to single-sex education.

John said the reaction has been positive on the whole. He’s found about 75% of people in favor, but of course there will always be some who are unhappy.

This weekend, parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston will be taking up a collection for Catholic University of America. John said there’s no diocese in America as generous as the Archdiocese of Boston to CUA. Every dollar raised is given back as scholarship aid to students from those dioceses and parishes.

Scot said many contributors may not have attended CUA, but all Catholics should feel part of the mission. Having a Catholic university in Washington, DC, is important for all of us. John said they also continue to educate the future leadership of the Catholic Church as well. It’s remarkable how many bishops and priests come through CUA for their higher education. But also the future lay leaders in Catholic colleges, high schools, and parishes as well.

For the next year, CUA is conducting strategic planning for the next 10 years. They’re already looking for a focus on undergraduate education to improve it. They also want to improve their fundraising, to make it more on par with what other Catholic universities are doing.

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