A Secular Media View of the “Catholics Come Home” Campaign

Catholics everywhere are deeply distressed by the priestly sexual abuse scandals that have convulsed the Church over the past decade, but it seems that Boston-area Catholics have been among the most traumatized by them. In a certain sense, Boston was the epicenter of the scandal-quake that rocked the Church in the U.S., its aftershocks reverberating in Ireland, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere.

This was made clear to me several years ago when I arrived at a suburban Boston parish where I was to give a lecture that evening. To my astonishment, about two dozen men and women were demonstrating with chants and protest signs on the front steps of the church. I had never seen anything like it in all the years I’ve been doing this work. Drawing closer, I read the signs and saw that they were protesting Cardinal Law and the Archdiocese for their handling of the whole mess, especially of notorious offenders such as John Geoghan, Paul Shanley, Robert Gale, etc. Most likely, it was a contingent of “Voice of the Faithful” folks waving the signs. I didn’t ask. But it definitely made an impression on me.

Sadly, many thousands of demoralized New England Catholics have left the Church in the wake of the scandals. Last November, and again this past March, during two week-long speaking tours of parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, I had the occasion to talk with many Catholics who confirmed that. It seemed that practically everyone had a friend or family member who abandoned Catholicism and who identified the scandals as a major reason, if not the reason for their departure.

Well, there is a new and encouraging chapter being written in the history of the Church in the Northeast in part due to a highly effective media outreach being undertaken in the Archdiocese of Boston aimed at encouraging fallen-away, alienated, angry, and/or in some other way disaffected Catholics to come home. Appropriately enough, the media outreach is called Catholics Come Home, and their extremely well-produced commercials and other resources have already helped literally tens of thousands of former Catholics and a significant number of non-Catholics come home to the Catholic Church. I’ve been personally affiliated with Catholics Come Home, both as a supporter and as a consultant, for the past 3 1/2 years. (My work for them took place 3 years ago, when I authored all the original content for their website.)

I’m keenly interested in seeing how things go with their ongoing media outreach in major metropolitan areas around the U.S. That’s what this video clip caught my eye. It’s a news report by WGBH, a Boston-based radio & television conglomerate that blankets New England. I found their coverage of the recent Catholics Come Home campaign in the Archdiocese of Boston to be quite interesting, especially as it came at this issue from a decidedly secular vantage point. Check it out.


  1. Matthew Wade

    The priest in the interview had a beautiful response when he said "it's more than a message, it's about a relationship". I love that and I'm so thankful he said that.I want to know about the hostess. My guess is that she is Catholic (or used to be), but I couldn't get a vibe as to her relationship with the Church. When was this show originally aired?

  2. jasoncpetty

    The fallacy in the VOTF ladies' complaint is that they're critical of the Catholic Church because of something bad "it" has done,* and yet they're not equally appreciative of the videos illustrating the good "it" has done. If you want to judge something or someone by works, at least be consistent. *I believe, however, that VOTF always betrays its true agenda. Notice the woman's suggestion for what the videos should say: come back and help us, help us fix ourselves, etc., as if there is something deficient with the Church. They couldn't care less about individual Catholics' sins, and so they don't really see the point of the videos–they want the Eternal Church to change. At heart, they simply want the Faith not to be the Faith. (And nice job attempting to draw a distinction between the videos' welcoming message and the Holy Father, lady.)

  3. Domenico Bettinelli

    The host is Emily Rooney. She's the daughter of Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes. Her bio is on Wikipedia.The show originally aired last night.

  4. Steve

    "Aggressive" campaign to "lure" lapsed Catholics.These people make me sick.

  5. Tom Sofio

    Patrick,Ads aren't about product defects. They extol the benefits of a service or product, as these ads do wonderfully, which you can see in their entirety on the Catholics Come Home web site. But to the main point: Patrick you were way too polite in your overview. Yes it's Boston with it's sad history of sexual abuse coverup, but the logic that says that that tragic chapter in the Church's history must drive every new Church initiative is absurd. The lay guest said it quite clearly–most people didn't leave the Church because of the abuse crisis. They left because they got lazy, got consumed in a materialistic, (read godless) culture, or had differences with church teachings. All of which could place their eternal soul in jeopardy. These are the people the Church loving wants to reach out to. The salvation of souls is still a good thing to do without apologies.

  6. Anonymous

    Like I said in the previous blog, picking from the tree of Protestantism in order to bring fundamentalism to Catholicism. Traditional Catholics are already home.


    Actually Ms. Doucette, Jesus did say 'come follow me' not 'hey i need your help' and he did say 'i am the way the truth and the life'.Any other way will lead to perdition.The Holy Spirit see's right through their hatred for the Holy Father and the beautiful Church Jesus is guiding even through these horrible crisis that SOME 'Judas priest' put the Church through.Liberals, they just don't understand how the Holy Spirit works, but we'll pray for you all.

  8. Mary Ellen

    I realize that many people say they left the RCC because of the sex scandals,but from what I have noticed with family members and other friends who have left is that the uses the sex scandals as their excuse for leaving. For instance, I know of some who stopped going to Mass out of sheer laziness but then used the excuse that they didn't like receiving the Eucharist in the hands. When I told them that they don't HAVE to do that, they make up another excuse such as they don't like Eucharistic Ministers. When I tell them they just need to get in line with the priest instead, they say they don't like girls as altar servers. It's always something! Then when the sex scandals hit the news…all of the sudden they say they left the church because of the sex scandals. I think anyone who leaves the church does so because the just have not grasped the teachings of the Church or have an understanding to what the Eucharist is. Those from VOTF have one agenda, and that's to take down Pope Benedict and allow women to become priests. I somehow doubt they give any of those kids that were abused a minute of thought everyday, but are frothing at the mouth to use the sex scandal as a tool to take down the Church and rebuild it to their own liking. (Sorry for the long comment–a bad habit of mine)

  9. Anonymous

    When college age (fifty + years ago) we observed that those who left the faith usually did so because they didn't want to live according to the Church's teachings; then they rationalized the behavior in terms of doubt about this or that doctrine. If I don't want to live a/c the Church's teachings on morals, I can kid myself into thinking that it is because of "X", where X is the current intellectually respectable attack on the Christian faith – "the real Jesus project" in the 1990s, where so-called scholars attacked the canonical gospels as myth (not really what Jesus said, faithfully translated); and in the 2000s, the sexual misbehavior of some of the clergy.Sinners are always with us – See Luke 12: 42-48. "But if that servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, …"Problems may have existed in the communities for which the author of Luke wrote.TeaPot562

  10. Ismael

    " The lay guest said it quite clearly–most people didn't leave the Church because of the abuse crisis. They left because they got lazy, got consumed in a materialistic, (read godless) culture, or had differences with church teachings."A person strong in his/her faith will not be discouraged by the scandals.Sure to know that some priests have committed such horrible acts is a painful blow and the media persecution does not help either.These scandals are a true form of persecution, one that comes both from inside the Church (from the bad priests and bishops who did wrong) and from outside (the liberal media).Jesus himself teaches us this clearly in the 'Parable of the Sower': if we have no 'roots' and when testing comes, they fall away (Luke 8:1-15)In any case I do disagree with those who scorn the 'Catholic Come Home' campaign.I think it’s good to show the good side of the Church to people (they get more than enough about the bad side from the secular media….) so that they can understand that what the media portrays in general is not what the Church is about.Also it is our duty to ‘look for lost sheep’ like the Good Sheppard in Jesus’ parable.We all should try to show to people what the Catholic Church is really about, its spirituality, its sacraments and its philosophy.After all most ‘lapsed Catholics’ are usually very ignorant of their former faith…. and will get no education from the media…

  11. Anneg

    I'm very thankful for the Catholics Come Home campaign, especially when it gets secular coverage. My husband was raised in a nominally Catholic family. Of his 6 brothers and sisters, he and I are the only practicing Catholics. Last year while visiting his family after his father's funeral, I made a comment to one of his brothers about all roads leading to Rome. I'm a convert. That started a dialogue with his brother's wife. When they returned home, they saw the Welcome Back campaign in their local parish and began the process of regularizing their marriage, returning back to the sacraments and are determined to follow every norm of the Church to become faithful, informed Catholics. They called to say thanks for spurring that inquiry. Without encouragement of campaigns like Catholics Come Home and you, Patrick Madrid, I probably wouldn't have thought to share my faith, even though I made it when returning from Mass. BTW, this is not plucking protestant technique. Read St Francis, St Alphonsus, St Ignatius Loyola, St Clement of Rome, I could go on. Thanks and blessings, AnneG in NC

  12. Romy

    Do you have any women working on this campaign? As a "conservative" Catholic, I found myself agreeing with the Voice of the Faithful! Very upsetting to me, that was. The campaign is more "you ought to come back because…" Instead, perhaps, a bit of humility (as shown by our Holy Father) is called for here. Can we say to the demoralized, "Please give the Church another chance"? Or, "Please forgive the human side of the Church, and help us make it better." Or, "Remember the Church has a mystical nature, also, as the Body of Christ. Come join us again to build up His Body through the Sacraments. Come home to the Eucharist!" This is a great chance to exercise the teaching authority of Archbishop O"Malley. Any group can do social justice, and shrinks can help us alter our lives but only the Holy Catholic Church can give us the Bread that comes down from Heaven. The epiousion.

  13. Susan L

    Hi, Romy. I'm a "conservative" Catholic (actually a convert) and I so much more appreciate the "you ought to come back home" approach. Humility isn't so much "I need fixing." True humility is saying the truth. We absolutely must say the good things that our Mother Church has done as a whole…as the bride of Christ. We absolutely must remind the people of the good that the Church has done in her 2000 years of existence. These campaigns are saying in effect, "Come back and take a second look. There is more here than you thought. More than the secular media is leading you to believe." Remember, the gentleman being interviewed said that the individual parishes are addressing the issues of hurt caused by the frail sinful human side of Catholic people. We must stay true to the body of Christ. If not, to whom shall we go?

  14. Peter Rowe

    I think that as Catholics, we need to understand that there is very good reason that people fall away from faith due to these scandals. Otherwise, Our Lord would not have said, "Woe to those from whom scandals come". This applies both to the priests who molested children and adolescents, whether gay or straigt or whatever, makes all look bad. And as the Mystical Body of Christ, we all suffer with our brothers and sisters who were molested. If their faith is hurt – and it would be only an absolute saint that would not have it hurt, our Faith, while personally strong, should help empathize with them. I think a lot of conservative Catholics are not dealing with their true instincts: that of disgust. And by the way, although I believe that Pope Benedict has done a _wonderful_ job on the scandals, Pope's are not immune, and any study of Church history confirms this. In the face of having our faith – or our brothers and sisters faith – shaken, we should remind ourselves that our Faith is not – and better not – in so and so a Pastor or Bishop, but in Christ Jesus who chooses weak individuals to follow Him.

  15. Susan L

    Peter Rowe, what makes you think that conservative Catholics are "not dealing with their true instincts: that of disgust?"Of course, we are. Everytime I'm reading the essays from Virtus I'm filled with disgust. I'm sick to my stomach over this stuff. That's not the reason people are leaving the Church. Sure…some will but I don't believe that is the majority. Not by a long stretch. For crying out loud, what about the public schools?? We have female teachers making national headlines over their perversity. Male teachers make local headlines quite frequently. This hits Protestant Churches as well. How come nobody mentions that most of these scandals (not all but most) are homosexual in nature? But no. Focus only on the Catholic Church. This "focus only" is what is really scandalous and harmful to those who are victimized.

  16. Stephen

    Why did the Catholics Come Home ad feature men sinning more than women (3 to 1)? In particular, why did it commence with two nearly identical scenes of two different men abusing their wives, but have no mention of wives abusing husbands, or neglecting their kids. As a Catholic man, I find this inconsistency irritating, and common. When a priest in his homily reaches for a quick example of sin, he'll invariably think of a man (particularly, the negligent husband stereotype). If I were a male, lapsed Catholic, I'd be feeling the Church doesn't "get it", or is just pandering to women.

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