Today's interview is a little unusual. First, it took place about a year ago, so I've waited awhile to post it. Second, I was actually the person being interviewed. Nevertheless, since it was such a great conversation with one of the Church's most fascinating leaders, I thought I'd share it here.
Back in November 2011, I had the pleasure of chatting with Cardinal Timothy Dolan. He invited me onto his weekly radio show, then called "A Conversation with the Archbishop and now called "Conversation with Cardinal Dolan", and along with co-host Fr. Dave Dwyer we had a blast. Cardinal Dolan was just as warm, funny, and gracious as he comes across in his preaching and writing.
At the time, my book on the Church and new media just came out, for which Cardinal Dolan wrote the Afterword. So we discussed the book, including the reasons why Catholics are generally hesitant toward new media, how we can begin to change that picture, and shining examples we can turn to for inspiration.
1:07 - Summary of The Church and New Media book
1:28 - The Incarnation as the ultimate communication
3:00 - Does the Church need to communicate better?
4:00 - Is the Church lagging behind with new media?
6:27 - Fr. Barron's YouTube evangelism
7:52 - The digital Areopagus
8:26 - How can Church leaders get help with new media?
10:00 - With this digital revolution, are Catholic newspapers dead?
11:57 - Stories from Brandon's blog
12:46 - What are some recommended Catholic blogs?
13:44 - Negative effects of new media
14:30 - Cardinal Dolan's online Lenten video
15:16 - Virtual tour of St. Patrick's Cathedral
15:46 - New media giving the Church a human face
16:17 - Pope Benedict's digital example
17:05 - Other recommended Catholic websites
18:26 - If Jesus walked the earth today, would he use new media?
Cardinal Dolan: What I praise with the technological revolution within the Church is the full activity of our laypeople. This is an area where our laypeople, and our young people, are leading and showing us the way. We bishops marvel at the blogs and websites of committed, educated laypeople. Is that correct, Brandon? Do you think I'm on to something?
Brandon Vogt: You are, you hit the nail on the head. And that's precisely why these tools are such great gifts from God. When you look at the demographics of the Church, the most distant demographic has long been the young adults. They're the ones least likely to come to Mass, and least likely to participate in the sacraments, yet these are also those who are most active in these new media realms. So it seems in a certain sense that, believing in the Providence of God, that he has dropped these tools to us at this particular time in history to act as a bridge between the Church and those who are most distant from her.
Cardinal Dolan: I don't know if you'd agree or not, Brandon, but I've heard it said that the Catholic Church was one of the first religions to get into the newspapers. Rare would be the diocese that didn't have a newspaper, and if I understand correctly as a historian, that really got started back with St. Francis de Sales, who to this day is the patron of the Catholic press. But although we made tremendous strides with newspapers, when television and radio came, we didn't keep up. Yeah, we had some stars like Archbishop Fulton Sheen, but in general we didn't keep up and the great progress we made with newspapers did not continue. Some people today are even saying the days of newspapers are over. Would dioceses be better off getting rid of their diocesan newspaper and investing heavily in these other technologies? What do you think?
Brandon Vogt: I don't think the days of print and newspapers are over. You know, some people are even pronouncing the death of the book which, as a bibliophile, terrifies me. I don't think the days are over, but I think the solution is more both/and rather than either/or. What I like to encourage dioceses to do is dedicate one full-time staff person to online ministry. It needs to be separate from your communications and public relations departments, which are typically more reactive. Online ministry is more proactive and conducive to conversation, engagement, and community. A great place to look for somebody like that is the Catholic colleges. Or look to a young graduate who is probably savvy with these skills and who could really help a diocese or a parish.
Check out Cardinal Dolan's blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age and be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Why should the Church use new media?
According to a recent blog post from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, "the whole Church is missionary territory." In much of the Western world numbers are dwindling, parishes are closing, and secularism is pressing in at all sides.
That's why we need a New Evangelization. And that's why we're all missionaries now:
"Guess where we’re at: We’re with the apostles on Pentecost Sunday as we embrace the New Evangelization.
No more taking our Catholic faith for granted!
No more relaxing in the great things the church has accomplished in the past!
Cynicism is replaced by confidence . . .
Hand-wringing by hand-folding . . .
Dullness by dare . . .
Waiting for people to come back replaced by going out to get them . . .
Presuming that people know the richness of their Catholic faith replaced by a realistic admission that they do not . . .
From taking the Church for granted as a “big corporation,” to a tender care for a Church as small and fragile as a tiny mustard seed Jesus spoke about. . .
Keeping our faith to ourselves to letting it shine to others!
This is the New Evangelization!"
Cardinal Timothy Dolan
It’s easy to take religious freedom for granted. It's enshrined in our Constitution and praised by the Church, and most of us have grown up without questioning it. However when this liberty is threatened, when it's not respected as a fundamental right, we're forced to pull back and ask a basic question: why do people deserve religious liberty?
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York gives his answer in a new eBook released today. True Freedom: On Protecting Human Dignity and Religious Freedom (Image Books, 37 pages, eBook) shows how respect for human dignity—the dignity of all humans, regardless of their beliefs—undergirds the right to religious liberty. Quoting Pope Leo XIII, he begins by saying:
“True freedom… is that freedom which most truly safeguards the dignity of the human person. It is stronger than any violence or injustice. Such is the freedom which has always been desired by the Church, and which she holds most dear.”
Dolan spends most of the book linking religious freedom with dignity. He uses several pages to reflect on Pope John Paul II’s magnificent encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), which holds the natural moral law and intrinsic dignity as the twin pillars of the culture of life. Dolan shows how, like the walls of a house, when these two principles are ignored the whole project collapses--including the right to religious liberty:
“In only the last few years we’ve experienced rampant disregard for religious beliefs in this country with the approval of embryonic stem cell research; legal justification for the torture of prisoners; the provision of tax dollars to abortion providers; the HHS mandates; and, most recently, a redefinition of marriage by many of our leading political figures.
We can see that there is a loss of a sense of truth here, and objective moral norms--rules of conduct that apply always, to everyone, everywhere--and an ‘eclipse of a sense of God and of man’.”
In Dolan's view, three ideologies--a “trinity of culprits”--are primarily to blame for this 'eclipse,' each standing athwart to the culture of life. There's pragmatism, which ties man’s value to his output and efficiency; utilitarianism, which equates value with usefulness; and consumerism, which determines value by one's ability to fill a need or satisfy an urge. All three systems share a common flaw, namely the preference of “having” and “doing” over “being.” This mistake not only fuels the culture of death; it's also behind today's modern assaults on religious liberty.
But what's the response? How can we diffuse these threats and reclaim the primacy of dignity? Dolan answers by channeling John Paul in calling for “a positive, hopeful culture of life [rather] than wringing (our) hands over the culture of death.” It’s this culture of life, rooted in objective dignity, that will lift religious liberty back to its privileged position and lead to a flourishing society:
“By appealing to the necessary link between freedom and truth and by stressing our relationship with the God who has endowed us with both, The Gospel of Life offers us a pathway to building not just good laws, but a free and virtuous culture as well.”
True Freedom debuts at a perfect time, just two days before the national ‘Fortnight for Freedom.' It's also cheap ($0.99), smart, and punchy, much like Archbishop Charles Chaput’s recent eBook. And at just 37 pages you can knock it out in one sitting. It's importance, timeliness, and cheap prices makes True Freedom a must-read for all Catholics in America.
Great anecdote from Lino Rulli via Twitter:
Am hanging out with Cardinal Dolan. Someone mentioned the book "Eat, Pray, Love." He said he almost chose that as his episcopal motto. #solid