Bishops told they must embrace new media for the new evangelization

Cardinal O’Malley has been in the news a few times this week, based on comments at the U.S.C.C.B. meeting in Atlanta.  We will get to the interview with the Globe about the Catholic nuns in our next post. First, we get to the embracing of new media for the new evangelization. Here are a few select comments from Cardinal O’Malley, and below is the full context:

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston told the assembly that the church and the Vatican do a poor job of “communicating around controversial topics.” He said a spokesperson would be welcome and would help frame information in light of church teaching rather than having it distorted by voices in the media.

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The recent Vatican crackdown on the largest organization of U.S. nuns turned into a public relations “debacle” for the bishops, said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.

He complained that the Vatican’s decision to put bishops in charge of rooting out “radical feminist” elements within the nuns’ group was linked in the secular media to unrelated events, such as the bishops’ investigation of the Girl Scouts, with negative consequences for the church’s image.

“Our church, both in the States and at the Holy See, does not do a good job of communicating around controversial topics,” O’Malley said. “We need more help and more sophistication in our messaging.”

Bishops told they must embrace new media for the new evangelization (Catholic News)

The new evangelization calls for using new forms of media to reach people in their everyday lives, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Communications.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to be where the people are getting their news,” Bishop Wester said. “The advantage is the instantaneousness of it. Others are getting the news out there, and so if the church doesn’t get her message out there, than other messages are going to be sitting there … and then it’s settled in people minds.”

In a 20-minute presentation June 14 at the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in Atlanta, Bishop Wester discussed a series of steps his committee is undertaking to build stronger relationships with millions of parishioners in American pews.

He said there are serious questions revolving around how to effectively communicate the church’s work while remaining true to authentic church teaching.

“We used to ask ourselves, ‘What do we need to tell the people?’ Now we have to ask ourselves, ‘What do people want to hear from us?’ he said.

The USCCB is developing a new business model that incorporates best practices for its communications work and takes into consideration the way people seek information today and how they might seek information in the future.

The USCCB will continue to depend on traditional print forms of communication such as diocesan newspapers, but also will utilize multimedia primarily through the Internet to reach new audiences and to draw non-practicing Catholics back to the church, he said.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, USCCB president, told the bishops that the effort will include the naming of a spokesperson for the conference who would be available around the clock to respond to media inquiries and to be pro-active in seeking to share church views and teaching.

That prospect drew broad support from the bishops.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston told the assembly that the church and the Vatican do a poor job of “communicating around controversial topics.” He said a spokesperson would be welcome and would help frame information in light of church teaching rather than having it distorted by voices in the media.

“More than a few of us have raised the possibility of having a spokesperson who could respond to situations that appear,” said Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta. “I think that’s vital because we waste a second and a second could be vital.”

He also cautioned that the eventual spokesperson must have the full trust of the bishops so that he or she will have the confidence to know he or she “will not be shot down,” he said.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami urged that more emphasis be made on developing messages for the growing segment of Spanish-speaking Catholics.

Bishops also raised questions about the cost of a stronger communications effort, saying that the commitment to keep the effort going must be continuous and have the understanding such outreach is “well worth it.”

U.S. bishops plan PR campaign to soften image (Reuters)

ATLANTA | Thu Jun 14, 2012 2:34pm EDT

(Reuters) – U.S. Catholic bishops announced plans on Thursday for an ambitious public relations drive to soften and shape their image and reach out to the younger generation using social media.

In a lively session at their national conference in Atlanta, several bishops expressed dismay that they are slow to get their talking points across and are perceived as too confrontational.

The recent Vatican crackdown on the largest organization of U.S. nuns turned into a public relations “debacle” for the bishops, said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.

He complained that the Vatican’s decision to put bishops in charge of rooting out “radical feminist” elements within the nuns’ group was linked in the secular media to unrelated events, such as the bishops’ investigation of the Girl Scouts, with negative consequences for the church’s image.

The bishops are looking into concerns that the Girl Scouts sometimes work with groups that promote access to contraception. The U.S. church’s image also has been hurt sex abuse scandals.

“Our church, both in the States and at the Holy See, does not do a good job of communicating around controversial topics,” O’Malley said. “We need more help and more sophistication in our messaging.”

BCI has just two comments.

1) Do we really need bishops with a softer image?

2) We wholeheartedly support the Cardinal’s statement that “a spokesperson would be welcome and would help frame information in light of church teaching rather than having it distorted by voices in the media.”  BCI is very serious that we support the Cardinal on that point, assuming that spokesperson actually understands, agrees with, and enthusiastically embraces church doctrine and church teaching.  When can Boston get one of those?

What do you think?

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16 Responses to Bishops told they must embrace new media for the new evangelization

  1. anonymous says:

    This is fabulous news!!!!!

    I don’t think the issue is “softer”, this issue is to respond in
    an expeditious manner disallowing another entity to define who
    we are.

    For example: The Bishops are not “attacking” the girl scouts.
    because they got a bad batch of cookies.

    The Bishops are attacking “detrimental, regrettable choices”
    made by young girls being led improperly.

    One cost free way of stemming miscommunication is by
    having the message communicated to parishioners weekly.
    —–Keep it light, but make it clear.

    This empowers the parishioners with a simple, yet important
    mechanism to handle conversations during the week.

    Also, there is a website: http://www.reputation.com
    that may or may not be applicable for individuals and or
    the church.

    Have a nice weekend.

  2. jbq2 says:

    Cardinal Dolan is a plenty good spokesperson for the Catholic bishops. Cardinal Sean would do well to copy his “Lone Ranger” style instead of acting like Tonto. The liberals want to put Dolan in his place and stand behind a mealy mouthed spokesperson.

    • anonymous says:

      Please refrain from personal insults.

      What about having ordinary catholic families and/or
      college kids “speak up” about their faith from time to time.
      Maybe a series in the newspaper (etc, weekly, biweekly
      or monthly??)

      Perhaps a brief and sincere thanks to their local parish, priests
      and/or archdiocese? Perhaps sharing a story of how their
      particular parish and/or priest has played a positive role
      in their lives?

      **This must be unpaid—it must come from the heart.

      The challenge with “one” PR person, is that person may
      become a person subjected to ridicule and hurtful commentary in the media. If the person is in a powerful position, they
      can appear to be fair game for this cruelty.

      Can the archdiocese set up a website for creative
      suggestions, and, individuals and/or families offering to
      do more?

      • Carolyn says:

        Dear Anon,

        The blog entry is not about the Archdiocese of Boston, it is about having a single person make the public statements for the USCCB (the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). This is about having a professional who deals with news media easily, and knows how to write appropriate news releases when hard information is to be imparted to the public by the bishops. While ordinary Catholic families and high school kids could make great “evangelization” ads for the Church, you need a highly knowledgeable, thick-skinned, gracious but firm person who can speak on behalf of the bishops’ conference on a regular basis.

        Archbishop Dolan is a superb speaker, but he cannot spend his days writing news releases and answering long questions from reporters about things like the report after the visitation to the women religious in the U.S. and why the U.S. constitution assures religious freedom. You need a pro who does nothing else but work on getting the word out.

      • anonymous says:

        Thank you, Carolyn. What about both?

  3. Carolyn says:

    Does Cardinal O’Malley plan to ask Ann Carter to chair the search committee for a new USCCB spokesperson? Or Scot Landry? Or Terry Donilon? His suggestion that the bishops need a spokesperson is not a bad one, but it would make a lot more sense if his own diocese had more effective public information support. Catholic radio and TV in Boston are vehicles for information, but they only produce the broadcast — the USCCB needs someone who can handle “incoming” without getting abrasive, and who has a reassuring presence.

    Am I remembering that there was a woman who was a TV anchor and devout Catholic for network news? That’s the kind of person the USCCB needs. Someone who has been a reporter or news anchor has the skills needed to do the job.

  4. breathnach says:

    I’m not confident with Cardinal O’Malley as frontman for a new PR “image” for the U.S. bishops. Cardinal Sean’s local PR stable includes Jack Connors, an advocate of Barack “Culture of Death” Obama and the Cardinal’s PR factotum Terrence Donilon is not exactly an effective advocate of Catholic teaching.

  5. Jack O'Malley says:

    The fundamental question here is whether there should even be such an anomalous entity as the USCCB or any other “conference” of bishops. This is Roman Catholicism not Orthodoxy.

    Collegiality is an aberration introduced following that council of superannuated hippie prelates. Let the whole bloody thing mole ruat sua.

    Let Cardinal O’Malley celebrate the True Mass in his own Cathedral. Then and only then will he begin to regain credibility.

    For the record, the new media is the old media: the Pulpit. With the maniple laid aside. But what is a maniple? It doesn’t exist in the piskie vestments.

    But thanks be to God for the hundreds of protestants who have entered the Church to counterbalance the millions of Catholics who have left it. Pastoral Council? Such shepherds are more lethal to the flock than any pack of ravenous wolves.

    • Stephen says:

      Re: Maniples
      St Alphonsius Ligouri claims: “It is well known that the maniple for the purpose of wiping away the tears that flowed from the eyes of the priest; for in former times priests wept continually during the celebration of Mass. From: Alphonsius De Ligouri, Duties and Dignities of the Priest, Ed: Eugene Grimm, Redemptorist Fathers, Brooklyn, 1927, pg 217

  6. anonymous says:

    Good for you Cardinal Sean!!!

    BCI–please do not get ing up on the word “soften”…….
    the message will most like translate into more being “refined”.

    Is “refined” an adjective that is okay?

  7. anonymous says:

    Rev Stephen Fichter–new book: Same Call–Different Men
    review today @ newjersey.com

  8. GBA says:

    Great article on National Review Online:
    Being Truly Catholic Now

    By Kathryn Jean Lopez

    **Esp Paragraph (section) 7: Catholic Voices is about giving them
    permission……………..

    Great article to share with parishioners

  9. Newman1890 says:

    The only person in schism is Jack O’Malley by not assenting to Vatican II a true council of the Church…Jack you are the most single arrogant person I have ever come across in the Church. You are hurting the body of Christ with your divisive talk. Please stop. Keep YOUR opines to yourself and let the TRUE Church continue without you.

    • Stephen says:

      Jack’s quips are some of the most enjoyable posts on this blog.
      He is the clear spokesman for pre-V2 laity. They (he) has much wisdom and insight to share.
      V2 was pastoral in nature, remember?
      To ‘reject’ much of it is to reject crappy advice – a smart thing to do with a discerning mind. (please do correct me if I am wrong) In case you haven’t noticed, much of the post V2 initiatives to usher in a ‘new springtime’ haven’t been particularly fruitful. Although I hear Popapalooza (world youth day) is quite an experience if you go for that type thing.

      Re: USSCB spokesperson and the fortnight.

      The Catholic leadership voice known quaintly as The Majesterium is and has been centralized in Rome for quite sometime. Our Cardinals observation that the church has difficulty “communicating around controversial topics.” should perhaps be taken as a revealing personal reflection rather than a diagnosis of the problem at hand. The USCCB has no ecclesial standing within the church of Rome. Its kind of like a school club that makes bold statements that nobody pays attention to. No Bishop is bound to take a directive from the USCCB (Thank God) (again please do correct me if I am mistaken)

      Interestingly religious freedom as revealed and taught through time in the church seems a bit different than that currently proposed. (I am no expert). But from what I have read this freedom would be that those IN The Church do NOT have the freedom to support error, heresy or teaching that are contrary to revealed truth as define by dogma. Say for example; The sanctity of Human life…
      The current legal wrangling with -Obama, the abortion lover- seems to me to be more akin to Mormon’s fighting the anti-polygamy law of the land than any true anti-catholic issue. After all Abortion has been the law of the land since 1973 to the tune 50+ million abortions and the Bishops panties are all in a bunch now about it? Why, because THEY may have to pay for it? What say we talk about Ted Kennedy, OK? The ‘seat at the table’ these American bishops constantly thirst for with the liberal progressives has been a dirty abortion surgical table for many, many years.

      – Hey Jack, any insight into the Heresy of Americanism?

  10. GBA says:

    If there are approximately 40,000-50,000 priests in a country
    with over 300,000,000 people; are priests a minority?

    This is relevant in that if priests were afforded some protections
    from groundless hate speech, would the need for a PR person be as urgent?

    Again, it appears it has been the 99.9% of priests (on the front lines) who have had to endure the stress associated with
    this problem. I certainly hope this stressor is diminished in the
    near future.

    Thank you for allowing entries in dire need of correct
    grammar. This will be improved in the near future, too!!

    Stay cool!!!

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