The Catholic voice

Yesterday I was thinking about how our Catholic voices appear in the media, and I can’t help but conclude that they don’t very well. After a television debate in which Katholiek Nieuwsblad editor Mariska Orbán de Haas (pictured) tried to defend the father-mother family construction, my Twitter page (and that of many others judging by her name being a trending topic for well into the net day) was inundated by, at best, critical comments about her performance and, at worst, serious personal attacks against her. And these did not only come from non-Catholic quarters. Most seriously, in my opinion, is the attack of self-styled Catholic media specialist Eric van den Berg, who was seemingly unable to present his possibly legitimate criticism without relishing in calling Mariska Orbán a “pearl-necklaced bitch” – a moniker admittedly coined by herself, but the use of which did set a certain tone.

I’m not writing this post to defend anyone. Criticism, after all, is not always bad, and can often be a helpful tool in bettering our conduct and performance. And when it comes to presenting our Catholic faith and the values we hold and consider important, we must learn from what critics level against us.

I am using “us” for a reason, because when it comes to situations like the one I outlined above, there is no visible sense of “us” among Catholics active in the media, in whatever form. Rather, we too often relish in the attack, personal or otherwise.

As Catholics we have something to say. But do we succeed in doing so? The Catholic voice in the media, social or otherwise, should be more unified and willing to offer constructive criticism. If someone fails in making the case that should be made, for whatever reason, there should be an effort in charitably correcting the mistakes, coupled with an openness in the other party to accept criticism.

When I consider the Catholics who are active in the media, on television, in newspaper, but also on the Internet, I see much potential in creativity, knowledge, bravery (which is sometimes indeed needed) and enthusiasm. But all that doesn’t always translate very well into the wider world of our secular society. Platforms like a television program which is a daily staple of many viewers, a major newspaper, but also new media that we ourselves can build, manage and develop, deserve a charitable and intelligent Catholic presence – charitable among ourselves and to others.

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I'm a 36-year-old lay Catholic from the diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. I write about the Catholic Church in the Netherlands. I not only enjoy bringing selected developments to the attention of readers, but I also think that it is sometimes important to allow a wider audience to read about the state of the Church in the Netherlands. That's why a fair number of posts about that topic will be translations of Dutch articles, episcopal writings and whatever else.

6 thoughts on “The Catholic voice”

  1. Hi Mark,

    May I remind you that ‘pearl-necklaced bitch’ was written by Mariska Orbán de Haas herself in her acclaimed book ‘Blonde, perky, praying’?

    Her deputy editor named her as such so fingerpoint into the right direction.
    The term got lots of emotions, justly, because it is a really bad word. No catholic fellow worker calls his boss ‘bitch’, not even as a joke.
    So I used that particular phrase in quotation marks as an example of such blatant irony of Katholiek Nieuwsblad itself in this case.


    For your interested readers of your blog and for your own judgement:

  2. You are right about the moniker. I have read her book, but it s been a while, so I didn’t recall her use of the name. I have changed my blog post to indicate that you did not come up with it.

  3. I don’t think – to put it mildly – that Mrs. Orbán’s appearance in the Pauw & Witteman show was her finest hour, but Mr. Van den Berg’s withering attack is uncharitable and unbecoming a Catholic. Although much (but not all) of his criticism is justified, there are other and better ways to voice it.

  4. How to put it most charitably… I don’t know the lady in question, nor Eric van den Berg, but invoking late cardinal Martini… Let’s say it doesn’t add much to his credibility…

  5. Hi Mark,

    I think that you have raised an important topic regaring Catholic presence (especially moral teaching) in media, regular attacks faces and a sort of journalism that we long for as balanced adn objective presentatation of orthodox Catholic point of view. In Poland where I live, we see more and more very biased coverage of Catholic issues and relatively less prounanced voice of courageous Catholic journalist (and often layman if they manged to get access to mainstream media which is rare) who present faithfully views of the Church. We live in Europe currently in a period when hostility against Catholicism has grown enormounsly, mostly due to relatively small minority of strongly liberal media which regularily attack teaching of R-C Church. I agree that there is dormant Catholic potential in media – not mainstream but rather internet (see how many good Catholic bloggs you can find, especially in English speaking regions, and – what is interesting- many of them, quite good, run by converts to Cathlicsm). This is a chance as I have relatively limited hope that Catholic point of view will get through thick “curtain” of political correctness dominating mainstream media (even if the viewers and readers might be sometimes interested in see this other point of view). In Poland, mainstream media journalist have very limited knowledge about the teaching of Church, real issues of Catholic life and massively distort the picture of the teaching of Benedict XVI also expliting aggresively any mistakes committed by clergy. Rarely you will find in liberal media like Gazeta Wyborcza or Dzienniki (local dailies in Poland) any balanced debate in which Catholic point of view is not ridiculued or attacked. The problem is also that even preists and sometimes bishops are not sufficiently prepared to clearly and comprehensively present Catholic point of view and balance the secular media bias. Also there are dissident journalist, a whole group of them, who try to undermine in the minds of the readers the substance of Benedict XVI or overall Church teachung. Hence, we need to help and support those courageous and reasonable who properly portray Catholic point of view including promotion of good Catholic blogs.
    God bless you

    Piotr, from Warsaw

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