The Catholic Voices Academy was launched at the University of Notre Dame on London on Friday. Founded less than two years ago, to equip lay Catholics to speak about their faith to the media, around Pope Benedict's visit (in fact the CV team gave more than 100 radio and television interviews at that time) Catholic Voices has gone from strength to strength since and has been asked to give media training to groups in Spain, Germany and elsewhere.
The evening's speakers, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Jack Valero and Dr Austen Iveriegh were introduced by Catholic Voices patron Lord Brennan. During his presentation Archbishop Nichols praised the initiative. Apart from any other reason, he said, "we know that attractive young people, men and women, are far more marketable than crotchety old bishops... Anyone who has been watching the Pope’s visit to Germany on the television will see how unattractive elderly bishops, badly dressed in their cassocks, wearing headphones, can really look. So in terms of getting a Catholic voice on the media, there is a great deal of advantages that the organisation called Catholic Voices – just from an aesthetic point of view, let alone any other point of view – offers."
Archbishop went on to praise the intelligent, hopeful and non-confrontational style of Catholic Voices. He suggested that Catholics can 'reframe' their opposition to gay marriage by learning from the Green movement’s call to respect the order of the natural world.
Quoting from the Holy Father’s speech in the Bundestag the day before, he said: “How can nature reassert itself in its true depth, with all its demands, with all its directives?” ... "I would say that the emergence of the ecological movement in German politics since the 1970s, while it has not exactly flung open the windows, nevertheless was and continues to be a cry for fresh air which must not be ignored or pushed aside, just because too much of it is seen to be irrational. Young people had come to realize that something is wrong in our relationship with nature, that matter is not just raw material for us to shape at will, but that the earth has a dignity of its own and that we must follow its directives." .."If something is wrong in our relationship with reality, then we must all reflect seriously on the whole situation and we are all prompted to question the very foundations of our culture."
"The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. Yet I would like to underline a further point that is still largely disregarded, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he listens to his nature, respects it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.”
And there, I suggest, is the beginning of a reframing of the issues, of an approach – that marriage first belongs of course to nature, not to the Church."
The Archbishop concluded: "I am immensely grateful to those who have taken this initiative and I assure them of my prayers and goodwill as it seeks to develop into a whole new strength in the life of the Church in England and Wales. Thank you all very much indeed."
The evening also saw the launch of two books: Who know Where They Stand: Catholic Voices and the Papal Visit to the UK, by Jack Valero and Austen Ivereigh, published by the University of the Holy Cross’s School of Communications in Rome; and Catholic Voices: putting the case for the Church in an era of 24-hour news, (Darton, Longman and Todd) by Austen Ivereigh and Kathleen Griffin, with a foreword by one of the project’s trustees, Fr Christopher Jamison. The book is a 'how-to' guide to help ordinary Catholics respond to criticism of the Church on controversial issues, such as condoms and Aids, clerical sex abuse, equality and religious freedom.
For more information on Catholic Voices visit their new website at: www.catholicvoices.org.uk/
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