Ireland gets its equivalent of Catholic Voices – ‘Catholic Comment’
Rónán has already mobilised young, dynamic Irish lads and lassies who are willing to step up to the plate and clarify the Church’s teachings on radio, TV, and public debates. For too long the young generation of Irish people have been characterised as hating the Church. True, among my generation of twenty-somethings there is a lot of apathy about Catholic teaching and bitterness towards priests. This was evidenced for me when I was at university, training to be a schoolteacher and there was heavy reluctance among the 18 – 22 age-group student body to teach the children-in-classrooms prayers. But there is still a percentage, however small, of active young Irish Catholics who throng the retreats at Knock every year, do the arduous pilgrimage at Lough Derg and who attend the Youth 2000 prayer groups to recite the Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament.
But until now – we haven’t heard their voices. What Catholic Comment has done, is to allow young Irish Catholics a chance to develop their speaking abilities, be strengthened by each other and get media experience that will serve them well throughout their lives. God bless ‘em!
The aims of the group are clearly set out in the vibrant, new website. No doubt, cynical suggestions might circulate that these young people are taking part in Catholic Comment because they are in the pay of the Irish Catholic Church or they are ‘spin doctors’. Sincerity is their means, not spin. They are proudly ‘independent’ and act ‘on our own initiative’. But they don’t shy away from acknowledging the situation in Ireland: ‘the Church's mission in Ireland has been compromised by the scandals and their impact, and by powerful competing voices of secularism. While all this is going on, thousands of people are watching, listening and looking for answers to life's questions. We could see all this as a deep crisis for the Church. Or we can see it as a time for authentic Catholicism to bring hope to our society.’
While Catholic Comment might take its lead from Catholic Voices, there are cultural differences. Catholic Voices here in the UK is quite big on teaching reframing questions and formal discussion, whereas Catholic Comment is more about friendly conversation, which as anyone who has lived in Ireland or read the works of Frank O’Connor knows, is integral to Irish life. Catholic Comment emphasises that politeness and good manners are essential, they encourage Catholics to join them, who: ‘Want to share their Catholic worldview in an open, confident, friendly and respectful way. There is never any reason for Catholics to speak offensively or act defensively. Our hope is greater than any of the challenges we face.’
Breda O’Brien and David Quinn are advisers to Catholic Comment; David came over to London last year to take part in a Catholic Voices academy session on the issue of gay marriage.
The organisation’s name ‘Catholic Comment’ is very appropriate for our times: the word ‘comment’ is used more in the English lexicon than ever before; as so many people discuss the comments on their Facebook wall and the comments left on their blogs.
You can follow Catholic Comment on Twitter.