Summary of today’s show: The Church needs faithful lay Catholic voices to present the Catholic viewpoint in the media. Catholic Voices USA trains lay Catholics, who are not official spokesmen for the Church, to be media friendly, studio friendly, and ego-free interview subjects and guests on television and radio and in print for journalists covering the neuralgic issues that involve the Church. Whether you aim to stand up for your faith on your local news or at the neighborhood cookout, Catholic Voices USA will be coming to Braintree in March for a weekend of training and Scot Landry talks to Kim Daniels of Catholic Voices USA about the group an its approach.
Listen to the show:
Watch the show via live video streaming or a recording later: BostonCatholicLive.com
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry
Today’s guest(s): Kim Daniels
Links from today’s show:
- Catholic Voices USA
- “Catholic Voices USA to offer media training for New England Catholics”, The Pilot, 12/21/12
- How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot Button Issues
Today’s topics: Catholic Voices USA
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show. He asked listeners if they feel called to defend the Church in secular media, at the neighborhood cookout, or even around the dinner table. Catholic Voices USA provides training to Catholics in all walks of life to publicly give witness to the faith. Catholic Voices will be providing training in New England on March 8-10. Kim Daniels is a director of Catholic Voices joining us from Washington DC. She has previously joined us on The Good Catholic Life and was part of the Town Hall for Religious Freedom back in June on WQOM and CatholicTV.
Kim said this is an important time for more laity to stand up for the Church. The group began in London ahead of Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK. There had been great hostility to the visit in the media so a group of lay Catholics organized other laity with media training to make a difference in changing popular opinion through interviews on radio, TV, and print. They have taken that model to other countries and they have been in the US since May. Scot said he knows there was some presence in Mexico by CV last spring as well.
Scot said CV trains people to be media friendly, studio friendly and ego-free. Kim said first they do not approach journalists as they enemy. Media friendly means to know what will happen in an interview and how to work in a studio. Ego free means that they are flexible and willing to adapt to to the journalists’ needs of the moment.
Kim said they see controversy as an opportunity to present the faith. The worse problem is indifference to the Church. Controversy is an opportunity to reframe issues and explain the truth and reality of millions of Catholics who live their faith every day.
Scot said many people think the secular media is opposed to the Church more often than not, but it’s usually not the journalist who anti-Church, but that they buy a very secular frame about the Church. It’s our job to understand that secular frame and help change it. Kim said for example the existing secular frame regarding women in the Church and Catholic Voices re-frames the issue that the Church is concerned about women’s equality as well.
Another common frame in the area is the vigils in closed parishes and local reporters find it a compelling story to tell the story of the heroic little guy standing up to the Church closing their parish. Scot said he learned that the better way to re-frame is to find the stories of other individuals who bravely and strongly saw the need for what happened and moved to set roots down in a new parish and in a new community. Kim said it’s good to put a human face on the story and in this case to tell the stories of people who have moved on.
Scot said to effectively defend the Church you need good tools and techniques, especially with neuralgic issues, i.e. the ones most painful to talk about. Kim said some of the tools are basic debate skills, like thinking in triangles, having three basic issues you keep coming back to. But it’s more important to talk about how you make people feel. Don’t just try to win on the debating points, but capture people’s feelings.
2nd segment: Scot noted that people trained by Catholic Voices don’t speak for the Church, but for their faith. He said sometimes the reason the Church gets bad media coverage is that the Catholics willing to come on are often those with their own agenda they’re trying to push. Kim said CV is a group of Catholics who know and love their faith and stand with the Holy Father and the bishops. She added that they are non-partisan. They’re trying to put their faith in ground-level terms accessible to everyone.
Media coverage of issues today often take place in the form of debates, often looking for a heated discussion. Scot said it’s often not the best place for a bishop or priest or religious to be put in that position, but a layperson might be a very effective advocate in that sort of media forum. Kim said it’s about witnessing, not winning. Turn the confrontation into something positive. Answer each point, but remain positive.
Scot said he learned from CV that if you want to witness well, find the positive intention the person on the other side has. It can be a tough discipline to go through that process, but if you can relate to the good the other person thinks they’re trying to do, you can begin a conversation that might lead them to understanding what the Church is saying. Kim said they just finished a training in New York City for people who’ve been involved in pro-life work. Abortion is a neuralgic issue. They found that when you look for the positive intentions you find that people are concerned with women in difficult situations and that women have as many choices as men do. Of course, we know that the unborn life is paramount. So when you talk about abortion, you always talk about the mother and baby and the support provide for the mom. That shifts the conversation to women and their needs and the real choices they face and the options they can get from the Church that they don’t get from an abortion clinic.
3rd segment: This is the third time, CV will be offering training. They offered it in DC and NYC last year. Kim said they teach the Catholic Voiced approach and go through practice sessions for radio and television. It’s also wonderful to come together with people who love their faith. They start on a Friday night with an opening prayer time and an opportunity to meet everyone. They start with an emphasis that this is about our faith. On Saturday, they talk about the CV approach and the art of the radio interview and TV interview and how to get your point across in three minutes. They include time for prayer and for fellowship. On Sunday, they give substance on the primary issues, moving people from general knowledge to specifics.
Scot asked what newly trained Catholic Voices do to articulate the Church’s teaching. Kim said last May the HHS mandate was very big in the news and it was a big focus of their training. It’s a complicated issue so they equipped them to talk about it. After, CV trainees spoke at rallies around the country, wrote in newspapers and on blogs, and were interviewed on TV and radio. Scot said those who are trained in March will be available to talk about national issues or local issues. If the training occurred last year, the trainees could have been vital in the physician-assisted suicide debate. Kim said they become a resource for Catholic groups looking for people to talk about these issues. CV can also help people get connected with media organizations looking for Catholic voices.
Scot said there are 16 open spots in March. He asked what characteristics they’re looking for. Kim said they get many, many applications. They look for someone on fire for their faith who’s looking for a little bit of help to make that last step. There’s often a tendency that they have to look like a Fox News anchor, but she said it’s about being authentic. The single most important factor for being an effective communicator was their authenticity. They do hope that people will have a certain level of understanding of their faith, but not to be subject matter experts.
Scot said the participants don’t have to have had any media experience before, and in fact some of the most persuasive in the practice interviews were people who had never done this.
Scot said the application deadline is January 31, but they have rolling applications so it’s helpful to get it in early. The applications are on their website, along with their blog in which they write about issues in the media every day.
4th segment: Scot said now they will go through one issue to illustrate the Catholic Voices approach. He asked her the most common secular frame to the Affordable Care Act/HHS mandate issue. She said the secular frame is that the government is trying to increase women’s access to contraception, which is sen as good, by having employers pay for it and anyone opposed is against women. They say the Church is trying to impose its views on the American public. But the case is that the government is trying to impose its voices on the Church. The government is trying to violate Catholics’ most deeply held religious beliefs. Scot said if this is a pro-woman law, and we counter this frame, then the Church is saying it’s bigger than being pro-woman, but is about the issue of the Church being able to define what is religious activity and what it means to live our faith. We have to avoid getting pulled into the debate whether we’re pro- or anti-woman. Kim said women are some of the most valuable voices for the Church. They also frame this as hurting the poor because they will be the ones hurt by the lost jobs and wages from business being forced to pay these increased costs.
The positive intention of the other side is that they want to help women in need. That’s why we respond that we want to help those in need because this mandate hurts the poor and those who serve them the most. We also point to how this mandate affects conscientious objection and religious belief.
Scot said CV also emphasizes the need to limit yourself to the top three points of rebuttal. The first is hurting the poor. The second is that this isn’t a political issue. The third is that the government is imposing its views on people of faith. Scot said the group most persuasive at shifting opinion have been laypeople like Kim who are easy to relate to.
Catholic Voices has a set of principles they work by.
- Look for the positive intention behind the criticism.
- Shed light, not heat.
- People won’t remember what you said as much as how you made them feel.
- Show, don’t tell.
- Think in triangles.
- Be positive.
- Be compassionate.
- Check your facts, but avoid robotics.
- It’s not about you.
- Witnessing, not winning.
The second is to shed more light than heat. Don’t come in like an invasion, but to provide a convincing and attractive alternative to the secular frame. The third is that people will longer remember how you feel than what you said. The fourth is to show, don’t tell. For example, to give solid examples of how crisis pregnancy centers work with compassion compared to the cold abortion clinics. The sixth is being positive. We have to be talk about what the Church is for, not just what she is against. The seventh is being compassionate; by engaging people in a loving way even in a vociferous debate. Kim said you have to recognize when talking with people that what’s most important is being a good listener. The ninth is that it’s not about you. Kim said anytime we are out of our comfort zone, we need to remember that people are not focused on us, but on the message that we’re bringing and so to be prepared. The final is witnessing, not winning. Kim said this is the one that is most important. We need to remember that it’s about showing people what it is to be a faithful Catholic, remembering we’re talking to another person.