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?