By Sarah Mac Donald - 21 March, 2014
“It now takes real courage just to present the case for the Catholic vision on many key issues affecting Irish society,” a spokesperson for the Catholic Comment organisation has said.
Announcing the expansion of the project’s panel of speakers to 28 following the second batch of speakers’ completion of their training course, Petra Conroy said it was becoming more difficult to get the Catholic side of the debate across on issues such as right to maintain a Catholic ethos in schools which remain Catholic, to articulating the Catholic view on sexuality and on marriage.
She said the recent but “growing tendency in Ireland to marginalise or even demonise the Catholic viewpoint in public debate is making it increasingly intimidating for ordinary people to articulate that perspective.”
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, Petra Conroy said that despite the negative reaction to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, no-one dropped out of the course because of concern over this intimidation.
“In fact a number of the new speakers said they felt that the Catholic Comment preparation would make it a little easier for them to speak on the whole marriage debate – they like the clear but respectful, non-combative approach Catholic Comment offers.”
“There’s no doubt though that some of the more extreme responses in the recent homophobia debate have been quite intimidating for Catholics who simply feel there is something pretty unique about marriage as a ‘man-woman with the possibility of children’ type of relationship and that we should continue to deal with that separately from other types of relationship.”
Asked about the panel of speakers which Catholic Comment now can offer the media to discuss the Catholic view on a range of issues, she said it was made up of men and women from across Ireland, North and South, working in a variety of jobs, some married, some single.
“They are enthusiastic about the Catholic faith, and they are prepared to make themselves available, if possible – and often at short notice – to participate in media discussion on matters relating to the message and mission of the Catholic Church.”
Catholic Comment was set up in June 2012 to coincide with the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin that year and is a sister organisation of Catholic Voices in the UK.
Similar groups have been established in many countries around the world including Lithuania, Australia, Mexico, United States and Spain.
The second round of Catholic Comment speakers have just completed their three preparation weekends and now join the existing panel.
The new team includes a newly qualified solicitor with an interest in drama, a mum of six who’s a fertility care expert, a financial services executive turned hospital chaplain, a secondary teacher with degrees in philosophy and education, and a young Dad who works in IT and loves acting.
The people on the panel keep up to date with developments in the Church and in the media and are happy to throw light on Catholic Church teaching and vision from their perspective, in media interviews.
Asked if Catholic Comment is expecting to be busy next month with the canonisation of the late popes John Paul II and John XXIII, Petra Control told CatholicIreland.net, “Our team are certainly ready if we’re called on to contribute to media discussion on the whole process of canonisation and in particular on the canonisations of John Paul II and John XXIII.”
She said both men “are much loved by Catholics and others around the globe, and both are connected with major shifts in church and society, so lots to discuss and explain.”