'Irish Catholic Voices' launches with 11 interviews

Catholic Comment, the Irish sister-organisation to Catholic Voices, was launched last week in time for the International Eucharistic Congress, which opened yesterday in Dublin and continues to 17 June.

With a panel of 15 speakers chosen from more than 70 applicants from all over Ireland, Catholic Comment received 11 requests for radio and television interviews over their first three days. You can listen to Gene Dalton discussing the Eucharistic Congress and a recent poll on the Eucharist here; Catriona Curran talks about Catholic Comment at the start of the Michael Reade programme here; while Karl Melady discusses his experience of being a young Catholic in modern Ireland here.

Petra Conroy, Catholic Comment’s co-ordinator (back row, last on right) says that Catholic Comment is about "helping ordinary people to find a way to express their Catholic faith in a way that is useful in the media and suited to modern society." Catholic Comment aims to express, against a challenging background, how much the Church means both to Catholics and to modern Ireland, while making the case for faith in Irish public life.

While not dluting anything essential, Catholic Comment "respects the sincerity and positive intentions of our interviewers and opponents", seeing itself as a service to both media and Church. 

The seeds of Catholic Comment were sown by a July 2010 Irish Catholic article arguing that the Irish Church needed a ‘rapid-response unit’, a group of spokespeople prepared and available at short notice to go on radio and television to discuss and clarify controversial issues. The launch in the UK of Catholic Voices in September 2010 offered an exciting and encouraging model for such a group. CV coordinators invited Petra to take part in the second national speakers training last year in Leeds (this year, the course will be in Bristol.) 

Following that model, the training of Catholic Comment, led by CV coordinators Jack Valero, Kathleen Griffin and Austen Ivereigh, took place over three weekends in April, May, and June. Irish commentators David Quinn and Breda O’Brien, as well as the International Eucharist Conference organiser Fr Kevin Doran, were among those giving the group expert briefings on key topics. Robbie Butler, one of those taking part, said the training had been "intense", but also "immensely edifying and inspirational".

Catholic Comment is chaired by Senator Rónán Mullen, former spokesman for the archdiocese of Dublin. While it is independent of and does not speak for the Irish bishops' conference, it has their warm support.  As this week's Irish Catholic reports, Bishop Denis Brennan, head of the Irish bishops’ communications committee, said Catholic Comment "could be a real blessing for the Church."

Speakers include a doctor, an expectant mother, a primary school teachers, an accountant, a barrister, an engineer, a radio producer, as well as students and a parish pastoral worker. 

Gavin Dixon, one of the speakers, said: "this training experience and the thoughts of articulating some of the church teachings that I rely on so much has challenged me and left me stimulated for growth like nothing I’ve done before". Joe Quinn said it was "a true endeavour involving faith, common sense, and professionalism of a kind I have never before experienced." Gene Dalton, another of the speakers, wrote in the Irish Times last week of how her faith has motivated her to get involved in the project. 

The group’s chaplain, Fr Robert McCabe (first row, far right), plays a key role, leading the group in Masses, prayers, reflection, and adoration.

On the final weekend's training, Catholic Comment held a frank Q&A with the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown.

Five of the Catholic Comment team will be joining members of Catholic Voices at a retreat in Worth Abbey this July.


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