As Catholics, we know we have the right message. But we don’t necessarily know how best to deliver it those who aren’t Catholic (or even those who are). Other, louder voices out there make themselves heard much better than us. And because their arguments are basic (whereas the Church’s teachings are part of a holistic and structured framework) it’s easier for the media to pick up on and publicise their message.
However, an organisation was formed a few years ago to address this problem. It’s called Catholic Voices. It’s run by a bunch of ordinary Catholics, who know the faith, that are media-savvy and train others in how to articulate the Church’s teachings in the public square.
Catholic Voices has become so successful and popular that, after their founding in the UK, they created branches across the world, including in the United States, Chile, Australia and Poland, to name but a few. People from across the globe have found the Catholic Voices method for articulating the Catholic Church to be a great way of not only speaking up in the media, but also in their personal lives – such as when a friend asks a question in the pub, or in the office.
Last Saturday, Westminster Youth Ministry hosted a Catholic Voices media training day, to help Catholics in the local area better develop their public speaking skills. Jack Valero, coordinator and co-founder of Catholic Voices, was invited to speak and lead group activities.
Starting off with an introduction and history of Catholic Voices, Jack went on to talk about how questions and accusations made at the Church can be reframed, so that our response becomes something positive, convincing and agreeable.
It’s very easy for Catholics to feel attacked and on the defensive by the accusations that come our way. However, Jack talked about how we should try to first see the positive intention in the accuser’s remark; from there, we can reformulate the issue around this intention, but in a way that doesn’t alienate or validate the accuser’s pre-conceived assumptions about the Catholic Church.
For example, the accuser may say “The Catholic Church wants people to die in Africa because it’s against condoms.” The positive intention in this accusation is that the accuser wants to see lives saved. From here, a Catholic can respond by saying that they want to see lives saved in Africa too; so they are in agreement. However, a Catholic should be aware that in the accuser’s mind, the Church’s position is irrational and based on dogma. Thus, after this initial agreement on the positive intention, a good approach would then be to say that the Catholic Church believes there is a better way to save lives; and it is a way that has been proven to work, such as in countries like Uganda.
Defending the Church by citing Natural Law theory, the Bible or saying “See! Humanae Vitae was right all along!” is usually only going to validate the accuser’s pre-conceived biases, so it’s important to be able to defend the Church from other approaches.
Overall, it was a great day and an enjoyable way to spend the Saturday morning and afternoon. For those interested in learning more about the Catholic Voices method, check out their website here and their latest book here.