A short while ago I wrote about my concerns about the Catholic voice in the media in the Netherlands. I especially focussed on the lack of unity and the tendency towards infighting which characterises the Catholic presence on especially social media.
On Sunday, I was at the annual Catholic Youth Day in Den Bosch, where my concerns found some resonance and also an indication of the road towards a resolution. First there was short conversation with Mr. Jeroen Goosen, director of Katholiek Nieuwsblad. Of course we briefly spoke about the tv appearance of that weekly’s editor Mariska Orbán de Haas, which sparked my initial blog post. And while I think that media training is a great asset for Catholics in the media, I also think that Mr. Goosen was right when he said that some media outlets are out to place the Church in a bad light, regardless of the intentions of what the person being interviewed brings to the debate.
Father Roderick Vonhögen later reminded me that it’s not merely about what we do, but that God works with us, literally. We are the tools He uses. And if He can work with me, who can’t He work with?
Lastly, there was the workshop I attended, organised by Amsterdam-based Leidenhoven College, about Catholic Voices. This initiative in the UK has managed to train Catholics for thoughtful, intelligent and positive media interventions and involvement on behalf and for the Church. This example is already being followed in several countries, and the Netherlands may soon be one of them. I think that Catholic Voices is just what we need. As I mentioned earlier, we have the talent and enthusiasm among Catholics in regular and social media. Over the course of Sunday and yesterday I have become increasingly enthusiastic about this, and I intend to try and do my part to contribute to what Catholic Voices aims to do.
Catholic Voices operates according to ten principles, organised in three sets, which are equally applicable in media settings as in social and family circumstances:
Set 1: core argument
1: Look for positive intention behind the criticism (reframing).
– Understand the case against the Church.
– Find the positive intention in the case (the concern that a person has in making the case).
– Agree with this positive intention.
– Start your response from here.
Set 2: Further content
2: Show, don’t tell. Use examples, not platitudes or slogans.
3: Think in triangles. Decide on three core points you wish to bring across in a conversation.
Set 3: Form
4: Shed light, not heat. Keep your calm, do not allow the conversation to turn angry.
5: People won’t remember what you said as much as how you made them feel. Making good points in an arrogant way won’t win people towards your side.
6: Be positive.
7: Be compassionate.
8: Check your facts, but avoid robotics. Don’t just list facts like an automaton.
9: It’s not about you. It’s not personal, and it’s about God and His Church.
10: Witnessing, not winning. Making your points should be your focus, not winning the debate.
Beyond the initial goal of providing a positive and well-rounded Catholic contribution to media debates, Catholic Voices in the UK soon became more. From their website:
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 the laboratory of a new kind of apologetics.
Photo credit: Eric Masseus