Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

“The papal visit is the first bright spot for the Church in this part of the world for a very long time.”
(David Quinn of the Iona Institute on Twitter earlier today).

If you haven’t been following since he (the Pope – not David!)  arrived in Scotland on Thursday or have only heard what Irish media in general were reporting here, you might be wondering if David is getting a little carried away.

But since Pope Benedict set foot in Edinburgh, there have been huge crowds of ordinary Catholics – and non-Catholics – packing out the venues and lining the streets, 125,000 in Edinburgh, 75,000 later at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow for Mass. There are 80,000 in Hyde Park and more out on the streets. But it’s not just the encouragement of seeing so many turn out despite the predictions. I’ve been tuned in to Sky News who are broadcasting the visit non-stop – and three things really make this ‘a bright spot for the Church’ and a real tonic for Catholics feeling a bit beaten down by recent events:

First there have been interviews all day long with ordinary Catholics who’ve travelled out with their families or friends – and over and over again they’ve been showing their enthusiasm for their faith and for the message that Pope Benedict is bringing.

Second the extended coverage has given viewers a real insight into the personality of our Pope – and far from being a distant academic, we see a warm, gentle man, really engaging with the people, listening, smiling, responding. Even the Sky interviewers have commented several times on the different view we are getting of the man who is Benedict XVI.

And third, there is the message itself and the positive response it is getting. Now instead of a message delivered second hand by a media who too often present their very own version of what he’s said, we’re hearing him speak directly – hearing the context, the combination of forceful truth and caring compassion: his invitation to youth to spend time in silent prayer every day:

Even amidst the business and stress of our daily lives we need to make space for silence, because it is in silence that we find God. And in silence that we discover our true self.

– his reminder to the older people that he came to them as one of them – “not only as father but also as brother”, his strong reminder yesterday to the civil leaders of the UK that religion cannot to relegated to the private sphere as some would like. And I have to say, on Sky anyway, the presenters have really let his message go out: they’ve had positive and well-spoken Catholic commentators summarising and explaining his words, explaining elements of the Catholic faith. I even heard a Sky presenter say “The Mass is the celebration that binds all Catholics together, isn’t it?” !!

So – if you haven’t been following so far, there’s still time. The Prayer Vigil in Hyde park will be starting soon and tomorrow Cardinal John Newman will be beatified during Mass in Birmingham. If you don’t have Sky News, I’ve heard BBC News 24 are covering it, the official website is streaming it live and has transcripts of his speeches etc http://www.thepapalvisit.org.uk : and then there’s Facebook: friend or ‘like’  “The Papal Visit” or “Diocese Westminster” or Andrew O’Connell.

Our Irish correspondents are doing a great job on Twitter too (if you haven’t done it before, now’s the time to give it a try – it’s easy). I’d recommend Michael Kelly from The Irish Catholic twitter.com/MKellyIrishCath or David Quinn twitter.com/DavQuinn . Not Irish but very interesting too are The Catholic Herald twitter.com/catholicherald and Damian Thompson of The Telegraph twitter.com/holysmoke (just noticed Damian’s last tweet : Woman next to me in cafe says to husband: “All this hoo-hah before he arrived, but he’s had a very warm welcome.” Yes! )

Ok – no excuses now: tune in – you’ll be glad you did!


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I’ve been rattling on about the Church and Communications since I started this blog – I’ve just noticed the Communication tag has the highest number of posts attached.  My point has been that the Church owes it to her people – and in fact to everyone – to honestly and clearly present the truth.  It is obvious that this has been a huge weakness in the Irish Church over decades – and to be honest I don’t think it’s much better now.

Yes – step up to the plate about the disaster of the way clerical abuse was dealt with – no excuses or attempts to avoid the full responsiblity, no return to past practises of sweeping terrible crimes under the carpet for years.  But also, step up to the plate about what the Church DOES have to offer, what it IS doing now to rectify the past, what is central message still IS! What purpose does it serve to allow a wrong impression about how the Church is now dealing with child safeguarding to go unchallenged across the media? Is this truth or justice? What purpose does it serve for the Church to continue, but in a different way, to allow the truth to be hidden?

Andrew O'Connell makes A LOT of sense!

I won’t go on – because what I’ve been trying to say has been said most effectively by Andrew O’Connell in this weeks Irish Catholic.  And his outline of  a Church communications “rapid response unit” is exactly what is needed. Please do read his article – and then talk to other people about it – especially if you’re friendly with any bishops…

Church needs a rapid response unit – Andrew O’Connell

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I will be commenting in more detail on the quite long talk given by Archbishop Martin last night. He covered a lot of issues and made some really excellent points that are rarely made. I’m making this short post now to strongly urge you to read the full talk – there is a lot more to what he said than the short and dramatic sounding extracts we’ve been hearing today.

Here’s the link: THE FUTURE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN IRELAND- Speaking Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, 10th May 2010

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Gerry presents The Late Late Show (from RTE.ie)

I didn’t listen to Gerry Ryan very much – too often the views he expressed – with characteristic gusto – were views I disagree with – with equal gusto.  It’s not that I have a problem with people having views I don’t agree with (so you can all give a big sigh of relief 😀 ) but I find it frustrating when I have to listen for long periods to people – well I have to say it – pontificating if there isn’t any opportunity for those views to be argued, questioned, challenged.

Gerry was good at pontificating and he rarely had anyone on his show who was capable of arguing the toss. To be fair to him, there aren’t that many people out there any more who are BOTH willing AND able to capably argue the toss when it comes to matters of belief.   And so, Gerry in his time had quite a bit of influence in shaping the way his listeners thought about lots of things.  I heard one of his friends saying that Gerry had his finger on the pulse and could often detect the way public reaction would go: certainly he was good at that, but I feel that some of the reason for that was that he was that he was one of the opinion formers, one of those who shaped public reaction.


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Yesterday  Fr Hans Kung, the  controversial theologian, had something to say. Something he felt was important.

Guess what he did? He issued a statement to the media and followed it up with many live interviews on radio and television stations across Europe, and I’m sure, around the world.  What a good idea! Thousands and thousands of people heard what he had to say…

Mmm… I wonder could the Church here learn anything from Fr Kung…

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Philip Pullman is a master storyteller. His children’s trilogy “His Dark Materials” portrays a fascinating world where all humans have a daemon – a creature in the form of an animal who stays your side and is a kind of soulmate. I read the books myself some years ago and quite enjoyed them.

I didn’t read them to my young son, aged around 10 at the time. I had a sense that an author who so overtly uses his story to pull down the Christian Church and undermine the belief of those who trust in a loving God might not be an immediate choice of reading for a child I’m hoping will continue to trust in that same loving God.

Pullman was interviewed on Radio 1 this morning about his new book The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Myles Dungan on the Pat Kenny Show).  The interview was interesting and while I know that Pullman is a humanist who feels that organised religion is cruel, I thought ‘Well – he’s presenting his case in a reasonable and interesting way – I’m all into open debate.’ According to Pullman, one of his motivations for writing the story is that he hopes readers will go and read the Gospels from cover to cover (Great!)… so that they can see all the inherent contradictions and vagueness… (Oh…)  Curious, I googled the new book to find out more…

Philip Pullman has realised the potential of story (as did Christ). It is an amazingly powerful way to convey a message – because it is so creative – you’re not restricted to facts or reality.  It is like putty in the hands of a master sculptor – it can be anything the author desires. Here’s an extract of Pullman’s current book – see if you can work out what message the author is hoping his readers will come away with:

At that time, Mary was about sixteen years old, and Joseph had never touched her.

One night in her bedroom she heard a whisper through her window.

“Mary, do you know how beautiful you are? You are the most lovely of all women. The Lord must have favoured you especially, to be so sweet and so gracious, to have such eyes and such lips . . .”

She was confused, and said “Who are you?”

“I am an angel,” said the voice. “Let me in and I shall tell you a secret that only you must know.”

She opened the window and let him in. In order not to frighten her, he had assumed the appearance of a young man, just like one of the young men who spoke to her by the well.

“What is the secret?” she said.

“You are going to conceive a child,” said the angel.

Mary was bewildered.

“But my husband is away,” she said.

“Ah, the Lord wants this to happen at once. I have come from him especially to bring it about. Mary, you are blessed among women, that this should come to you! You must give thanks to the Lord.”

And that very night she conceived a child, just as the angel foretold.

In case you haven’t guessed the author’s intent yet, here’s another clue:

Once, in a town Jesus had not visited before and where his followers were little known, Christ got into conversation with a woman. She was one of the prostitutes Jesus made welcome, but she had not gone in to dinner with the rest of them. When she saw Christ on his own, she said “Would you like to come to my house?”

Knowing what sort of woman she was, and realising that no one would see them, he agreed.

He followed her to her house, and went in after her, and waited while she looked in the inner room to see that her children were asleep.

When she lit the lamp and looked at him she was startled, and said “Master, forgive me! The street was dark, and I couldn’t see your face.”

“I’m not Jesus,” said Christ. “I’m his brother.”

“You look so like him. Have you come to me for business?”

He could say nothing, but she understood, and invited him to lie on the bed with her. The business was concluded rapidly, and afterwards Christ felt moved to explain why he had accepted her invitation.

Somehow I’m glad now I didn’t read Pullman’s children’s books to my son…

But my real question is…where are the Christian master storytellers of today whose message is the truth that we Christians believe – writers in the mode of Tolkien and, more overtly, C.S. Lewis? We can’t keep pointing to only those two – we need writers who today craft powerful stories that convey something of the hope that is within us, in the same way that Pullman is crafting stories with a very different message.  Know any?

Mark Patrick Hederman, Abbot of Glenstal, may be one. He’s not a novelist (as far as I know) and I haven’t read any of his books yet – but after his interview yesterday morning (Pat Kenny Show again) I’ll be looking for his new book “Underground Cathedrals”.  He has an amazing eloquence and spoke about the origins of the whole abuse scandal with a great insight and wisdom. It isn’t a perspective I’ve heard before, and though I haven’t always agreed with Hederman’s views, I really recommend you have a listen: Mark Patrick on Radio 1

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I thought this was a good response to the decision today to open pubs in Limerick City from 6pm to 11.30pm on Good Friday because of the Leinster – Munster rugby match: Statement from Limerick Diocesan Administrator, Fr Tony Mullins.

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