Catholics Can Beat the Press


The new Pope is upon us and the hamsters that run the mainstream media’s spin machine are being force-fed Four Loco so they can produce new sound bites that will presumably rebrand the same, old, tired themes.  No doubt you’ve heard the chattering classes going at it already.

“Isn’t it time to end celibacy?”  (Sigh.  How ’bout trying to understand the value of something before advocating its destruction?)

“Will the new Pope be more receptive to ordaining women?”  (I dunno.  What do you think the chances are of hell freezing over?)

“Don’t you think the Church’s continued fetish with birth control is undermining its moral authority?”  (<spit take> Excuse me?  Who, exactly, has the fetish here?)

“The Church’s membership is in a freefall.  Don’t you think that’s sending message that the hierarchy needs to get with the times?”  (Because…the bishops have to meet their quota?)

And so on, and so on.

And what’s worse, my dear friends, is that we–idiots that we are–try to answer these questions, not realizing that in doing so, we allow our opponents to set in motion a game we cannot win.  Why?  Because if there is one thing I can tell you as an expert at verbal judo (what do you think therapists do all day anyway?) I can tell you that when you allow a conversation to begin with you having been put on the defensive, you will always lose.  Always.  And intentionally so.

By putting  you on the defensive from the get-go, your questioner sucks you in.  You think that you’re being asked an honest question to which you must offer a thoughtful reply in the hopes of changing hearts.  But here’s what really happens.  You end up playing catch-up with the conversation as the interviewer treats you as if you were mentally deficient at best, or twists your words beyond all recognition at worst.  And consciously or unconsciously,  that’s the whole point of asking you those questions inthat way in the first place. 

So what do you do?  Here are 3 Steps Catholics can use to beat the press. 

Step 1:  Firmly/Respectfully Reset the Conversation.

Step 2:  Ask Leading Questions (i.e., Interview them.)

Step 3:  Establish the Real Agenda (i.e., Give ‘em Jesus.)

Here is an example of a conversation that illustrates these three steps at work.

Step 1:    Firmly/Respectfully Reset the conversation.

Imagine a reporter asks one of the questions that began this post (or some variation on the theme).  Then imagine the following conversation.

You:  I appreciate where you’re coming from, but I need to be clear about something.  Your question presumes the Church has something to learn from your world.  It doesn’t.  The Church exists to make your world more like the Church.  It has nothing to learn from you.

Reporter:  What do you mean?  The Church would seem to have a lot to learn!  Abuse scandals, criminal priests, and co-conspirator bishops.  Don’t you think you had better thank God that the world is there to look over the Church’s shoulder?

You: Really, you’ve just proven my point.  (Stop talking.  Uncomfortable silence ensues.)

Reporter:  What do you mean?

Step 2:  Ask Leading Questions  (The conversation is now on your terms.  Turn the table with your own questions)

You:  I mean you’ve just made an excellent point.  You wouldn’t expect the Church to do any of those things would you?

Reporter:  Of course not!

You:  Well, why not?

Reporter:  Because it’s the Church!

Step 3:  Establish the Real Agenda

You: Exactly!  Excellent!  You’re offended because in every one of the instances you cite, the Church behaved like the world instead of the Church.  You’re absolutely right to be offended too, because it’s the Church’s job to look as little like the world as possible so that we can tweak your conscience, make you think twice, get under your skin.  We MUST be different because we, quite literally, are called to irritate the hell out of the world.   The more the Church does any of the things you want it to do, the less it functions as Church and the more it becomes some benign social club.  But be honest.  You’d love that wouldn’t you?  Because you’re tired of the Church making you think twice about questions you can barely stand to think once about.

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Dr. Gregory Popcak


Dr. Gregory Popcak is the Executive Director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to tough marriage, family, and personal problems.

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  • Dessy12

    Excellent ideas. Wish all our bishops would use your suggestions.

  • peacebwu12

    Indeed, excellent ideas, though it takes a well-developed mind (and soul), open to the Holy Spirit, to shed our defensive communication habits. This article, and others like it, can help give people a template for such change. Let us pray that we all “go beyond” ourselves and respond to the world in a Holy, Loving way, as our Lord desires! Thank you Dr. Popcak!

  • elmccl

    Thank you for putting words in my mouth.

  • Lucky Scrunchy

    Awesome read!

  • bezubop

    Great article!

  • Sheila Hughes

    Booyah! Love it! Thank you, Dr. Popcak!

  • Angelita Perez

    thank you for this, I have always wanted to know how to get out of a defensive one sided conversation… i will definitely try this out
    also to Dessy12, its not just for the bishops, its for everyone, there r many times i hv been accosted not by newswriters but by people from other religions, other faiths … now i know how to respond and get out of it

    thanks again