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Catholic Voices to become permanent academy

By on Friday, 5 November 2010

Jack Valero, one of the co-ordinators of Catholic Voices, speaks on BBC News

Jack Valero, one of the co-ordinators of Catholic Voices, speaks on BBC News

Catholic Voices – originally conceived to meet the media demands during the Pope’s visit to Britain – is being refashioned as an academy aimed at keeping Catholics in the public sphere.

The group, consisting mainly of young lay professionals, was brought together to meet the growing media demands surrounding Pope Benedict’s visit. The members were given training on presenting themselves in the media and briefings on difficult Church issues.

Organisers say the project’s new form was inspired by the Pope’s call for Catholics to be active in the public sphere but also because of “the need to maintain and develop the existing network of speakers and experts brought together by Catholic Voices, to provide for their ongoing formation, as well as continued support for the project”.

The Catholic Academy, as it is called, will hold a regular series of meetings, including public events, lectures and debates. The organisation will also host Chatham House-style meetings on the Church’s place in the public sphere.

The group also plans to host a series of dialogues with people who are hostile to the Church. Eight members of Catholic Voices met a group of humanists who were part of the Protest the Pope coalition during the last week of October and more meetings are being talked about. The new Academy also hopes for dialogue with victims of clerical sex abuse.

While the media training for the Catholic Voices group was based in London, the Catholic Voices Academy will run a programme of briefings and media training sessions for a group in Manchester next year between March and

The original members of Catholic Voices, which was made up of “ordinary Catholics”, were selected by the project’s founders and co-ordinators, Jack Valero of Opus Dei, Austen Ivereigh, a Catholic journalist, and Kathleen Griffin, a producer at the BBC.

Those wishing to join the Academy’s speakers’ bureau go through a selection process where candidates will be chosen for their Catholicity, their sympathy to the bishops, and their presentation skills. The organisers have said they would prefer younger applicants with “ordinary jobs” from outside London, although they remain open to exceptions.

They will hold interviews in February 2011.

Dr Ivereigh and Miss Griffin are putting together a book which pulls together the briefings that were used to train up the Catholic Voices volunteers before the papal visit.

Organisers hope in part to pay for the costs of free media training by holding workshops at market rates for church organisations learning how to deal with “neuralgic issues”.

  • paulpriest

    God help us all !
    Orthodox and truly 'ordinary' Catholics need not apply…

  • http://twitter.com/RCYouthWorker Jack Regan

    Brilliant news.

    Catholic Voices is one of the best and brightest initiatives in the Church in this country for a long while and they have rightly made a huge impact.

    I was at Jack Valero's talk at Westminster Hall last week, which was amazing. His description of the history of CV and of their approach was amazing. I was especially impressed at their absolute insistence on not being combative or hostile. Jack's phrase was that we must all “bring light not heat!” Brilliant. A stark and welcome contrast to much of what has passed for discourse in recent years, both inside and outside of the Church.

  • http://twitter.com/seanmccarney Sean McCarney

    Great News

  • Rich

    Looking forward to hearing from them, only then can we make a comment!

  • paul

    As long as proper relevant sex education will be provided, in our to protect children from teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and in order to reduce levels of abortion.

    As a recent leaver of a Catholic School, I know that what we were taught was highly inadequate and that this must improve. Teenagers will participate in sex regardless of what you tell them, so lets at least avoid more teenage pregnancies and teenage abortions by giving some proper advice on how to stay protected.

  • EditorCT

    What I would like to know is by what authority do these people decide the “Catholicity” of their candidates. There's a clue, though – candidates' “sympathy to the bishops” is a requirement in those chosen, so the “Catholicity” of Catholic Voice representatives is clearly “post-Vatican II” and not remotely Traditional.

    I hope the media give them a wide berth. So far, their performances have been abysmal, with them concentrating primarily on their “presentation skills” – like the apostles, martyrs and saints, NOT!

  • EditorCT

    paul, yours is the kind of “Catholicity” they want at (not so) Catholic Voices. Why not apply?

  • paulpriest

    Oh they've already said plenty,,,take a look at John Smeaton's or James Preece's blogs for a recap.

  • paulpriest

    Oh they've already said plenty,,,take a look at John Smeaton's or James Preece's blogs for a recap.

  • paulpriest

    a] Was it true ? [i.e. Jack's version of how it all began]
    b] Why not be combative or hostile to the enemies of human dignity, human rights or human life ? I mean intellectually combative and intellectually hostile – actually arguing against them rather than resorting to compromise, pragmatism and dismissive relativisms ?
    c] No – they have NOT made a huge impact.
    d] Any chance of declaring your self-interest in the initiative 'jack' ?

  • paulpriest

    a] Was it true ? [i.e. Jack's version of how it all began]
    b] Why not be combative or hostile to the enemies of human dignity, human rights or human life ? I mean intellectually combative and intellectually hostile – actually arguing against them rather than resorting to compromise, pragmatism and dismissive relativisms ?
    c] No – they have NOT made a huge impact.
    d] Any chance of declaring your self-interest in the initiative 'jack' ?

  • paulpriest

    Catholicity of the candidates ?

    What about the Catholicity of the Catholic Voices trustees?

    If Catholic Voices wishes to continue as a charity doing their inoffensive collaborationist relativising in the 'meedja' with their bunch of hand-picked elitist 'future darlings of the Catholic quangos' ?
    Let them !

    But a Catholic Academy – something for which they are utterly unskilled, untrained and uneducated to perform ?
    It's a disaster waiting to happen – redolent of all the pitiful aspiring professional laity being duped into spending a fortune on diocesan 'pastoral theology' certificates.

    If Conference or the Catholic Union or the CCN had approached Maryvale and asked them to actuate a Catechetical , Evangelical , Apologetical Initiative together with public-speaking, debating, presentational and media-skills ?
    Had everyone been invited to participate – Catholic Journalists, Authors, Academicians, Commentators, Charity heads, the blogosphere etc been asked to participate ?
    Then – we might be able to consider this as a new dawn for Catholic communications in the land.

    But this Ivereigh/Valero/Griffin initiative ?
    Take a look at their media record already – remember – these were the media experts – the co-ordinators – and within Catholic Voices it was very much evident that amidst the team there were a few 'diamonds in the ash' among the trainees who outshone and outclassed Ivereigh and Valero to the point of humiliation….

    Ask the 'ordinary Catholics' out there – they are desperate for initiatives like Catholic Voices and a Catholic Academy to come to fruition and assist in the new spring of Catholic identity in a Benedictine revolution.
    People who will defend the Faith and argue for it and the right to exist as a believer in it,

    Remember Catholic Voices prime directive – the first thing they told every aspiring applicant :


    This is directly contrary to everything for which Catholicism stands.

    Only last week – amidst an onslaught of virulently hostile secularism threatening Catholic identity, praxis, worship and conscience rights – Austen Ivereigh called for a new approach – a “Positive Secularism”

    In other words ?
    Collaborationist, inoffensive, non-confrontational, non- boatrocking 'catholic' vichyism!

  • EditorCT

    Well said, paulpriest. Absolutely spot on. The sheer nerve of these people takes some beating. Note that one of their leaders, Kathleen Griffin, works for the BBC and is quite high profile – producer of several Radio 4 programmes including Women's Hour. You don't need Sherlock Holmes on the case to know that she's no straight-down-the-line fully believing Catholic.

    They really do have a nerve – and an agenda to match.

  • paul

    The Church's teaching on contraception and abortion is contradictory – in that banning contraception increases unwanted pregnancies and therefore abortion.

    Country that has the fewest teenage abortions in Europe – Holland, seemingly counter-intuitive given their liberal stance on abortion, however it proves that good sex-education and access to contraceptions reduces abortions. This may be a comprise from a Catholic point of view, however if it stops abortions who am I to argue..

    As a good Catholic and an intelligent human being I prioritize the lives of unborn children over the Church's squeamishness over rubber balloons for the male member.
    Given the facts what are your priorities may I ask. (and please don't bother disagreeing with the facts as they are true)

    NB. where DO I apply?

  • John

    “The Church's teaching on contraception and abortion is contradictory – in that banning contraception increases unwanted pregnancies and therefore abortion.”

    What utter nonsense! The Church's teaching is correct. Ever heard of abstinence? The purpose of sex is for the procreation of the human species. As such, sex should only be conducted to that end.

    And guess what? If people actually upheld Catholic social teaching, there would NEVER be unwanted pregnancies. You seem like a utilitarian Paul. The Catholic Church isn't about utilitarianism – it's about what is right.

  • paulpriest

    Oh Paul! Where does one start ?
    Primarily Catholic teaching on contraception/abortion is NOT Contradictory – both promote the sanctity of the gift of Life which belongs to God.

    Banning contraception ?
    You mean the Church declaring the use of artifical contraception is an intrinsic moral disorder beecause it seaprates the unifying and procreative aspects of human lovemaking – denying life and the mutual giving of one's whole self to one's partner and eradicates God – the Lord , the Giver of Life from the equation.

    Well ? The promotion of contraception has led to widespread indiscriminate sexual licence and MORE unwanted pregnancies rather than fewer – and more abortions.
    The argument was made when the morning-after pill was introduced that a chemical abortifacient would reduce mechanical abortions – well there was a small reduction of 1% for a year, then mechanical abortions continued to increase year-on-year to the extent that we have just under 50 million mechanical abortions a year across the globe – since 1970 we''re talking about 1.5 billion! Rather than prevent this genocide artificial contraception aggravated it by promoting reckless irresponsible sexual activity – to an extent that the morning after pill is being used by many as 'emergency contraception' – rather than acknowledging it's the murder of a developing human being.

    You appear to be quite misled regarding Dutch sex education programmes – yes they do indeed have a very in-depth sexual education aspect to their teaching – but there is also heavy emphasis on child-rearing and responsible parenting – making students pair up and share responsibilities over a baby doll etc.

    Far from being 'squeamish' over condoms – the Church recognises the inherent danger within their promotion without due recourse to responsible sexual activity – Over 1 in 8 gay men in London [70% of whom attest they have never had sex without a condom] are now hiv+ ; 97% contraception use among french women has not prevented a massive rise in unwanted pregnancies to 33%.

    And I suppose you think the Church is wrong over condoms in Africa with pandemic hiv/AIDS ?
    …and in the Church forbidding condoms in marriage where one partner is hiv+ ?

    Well – how safe do you think Condoms are? UN statistics show that users can come into contact with the virus 1 in 82 sexual acts ; but hiv is difficult to seroconvert – even if I injected the virus into you there's still a 10% chance you wouldn't get hiv – for passive gay men it's 1 in 200 viral contacts, women it's 1 in 1,000, straight men it's 7 in 10,000, active gay men it's 1 in 2,000.

    But if you break down these figures it means that everyone who continues their indiscriminate sexual activity and relies upon condoms for protection are playing an extended version of Russian roulette…
    Within 4.5 years a woman with an hiv+ husband who always used condoms [with sex acts at c.100 a year] would have a 10% chance of being hiv+
    Extrapolate that model onto the devloping world and you tell them condoms are safe and they can carry on with their sexual activity regardless? you have a long drawn out genocide-by-omission over generations…

    You tell us not to disagree with you over the facts – I'm sorry Paul but you don't know the facts – you merely give opinions based on what you think is happening….

    You'll fit in marvellously with Austen and Jack !

    …you declare yourself a Good Catholic and Intelligent human being – well you do realise from your stance on contraception that you are now a vociferous advocate for Gay sex and marriage ; because procreation is now out of the equation – any form of sex which merely unifies is now acceptable in your paradigm. The CV team will adore your inclusivity and outreach to minorities…

  • paul

    Try and read the writings of Pope Benedict before labeling me with as a utilitarian – he has said that the ideas of utilitarianism are central to the faith.

    I am not a moral idealist, because I recognize human nature dictates we never can be perfect. Sex before marriage has been happening before the institution of marriage was founded and although maybe not the best situation in some people's eyes cannot be stopped.

    Don't get me wrong I would agree with you if you had the facts to back up your argument, but evidence shows that abstinence-only programs produce more unwanted pregnancies than comprehensive sex education. I am intelligent enough not to argue with the statistics.

    As a moral pragmatist I realize we cannot create a utopia of perfect human beings. Which is better to you a society where some 'good' citizens practice abstinence, but the majority do not (as is the results of all abstinence-only sex education to this day), or you accept it does go on and provide contraception to avoid abortions. It may feel comfortable getting on your moral high horse, but if it doesn't provide results it is meaningless.

  • EditorCT

    I can't really improve on paulpriest's response to you, paul, but I offer this link (the very first site I came across to offer some facts on the myth that contraception prevents abortion – far from it.


    About Holland – I don't have time to research this, but perhaps someone else will know for sure, but I believe that in Holland when young girls fall pregnant outside wedlock, they're not given welfare help. Their families have to help them. I think that may explain in part, at least, why there are less youth-pregnancies. They're not afraid of the wrath of God but their parents? That's a different kettle of wrath altogether!

  • EditorCT

    What was that, paul, you are “intelligent enough not to argue with the statistics”? Well take a look at these http://www.davidmacd.com/catholic/chastity.htm

    But no theologically-literate Catholic needs to look to statistics on this subject. Either you believe that Christ has given His Church His own authority to teach on matters of faith and morals or you don't. If you do believe that, you are a Catholic, intelligent enough to know that God cannot lie and therefore you will trust His divinely-authorised Church before some scientist conducting an experiment which, as any real scientist or pollster will tell you, will be outdated the minute it has been published.

    If something is evil of itself, paul, then nothing can make it good or right. The Yorkshire Rippers of this world who argued that they committed their murders to rid the world of prostitutes, never won their case.

    So, go and take a look at the link I've provided and reflect on those shocking statistics, one of whom was a friend of mine from my childhood. She died at 40 years of age having been on the pill since she was 17 or thereabouts, more or less continuously. Told me her doctor had reluctantly admitted that could have caused her breast cancer but could have been another (unspecified, of course) cause.

    It's a well known fact, too, that the younger a girl embarks on a life of sexual activity, the more likelihood she has of developing cervical cancer in her 40s. That's common knowledge, so if it's statistics you're looking for, stop searching. That one alone is sufficient to make any sane person who gives a toss about the health of young girls, stop in his tracks.

    But it won't. You'll continue to believe the propaganda. Easier. You've lost your Catholic sense, you do not believe that the Ten Commandments and the Church's authority to interpret and teach these, comes directly from God. Indeed, you think of the Church as a spoilsport, People with these views used to be called Protestants – did you know?

  • LiberalTraditionalist

    What a bunch of pompous buffoons they are. Who on this planet are they intending to represent other than themselves?

    If they intend to hold “Workshops at Market Rates” they'll end up in a debtors prison before the year is out. One cannot defy the laws of Supply and Demand for long.

  • Austen Ivereigh

    I hate to interrupt what sounds like a very private conversation, but wasn't it the pope, rather than Austen Ivereigh, who called for a “positive secularism”?

  • EditorCT

    Would that be the same Pope who called for a Traditional Mass in every parish, then?

  • Maggalau

    This is a brilliant project. Well done catholic voices! Will pray for you.

  • paulpriest

    His Holiness's promotion of a 'positive' secularism in the Middle East and His commendation ofSarkozy's government's strengthening of French national laicity ; has bugger-all to do with Austen Ivereigh's ineptly ill-informed definition in the Grauniad