Denver Newsroom, Jan 5, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).
A Catholic political advocacy organization recently launched an online video platform designed to educate people and change minds on controversial issues, informed by Catholic teaching and “the foundational principles of America.”
EDIFY, an initiative of the nonprofit CatholicVote Education Fund, says it aims to be “a PragerU for Catholics,” a reference to the nonprofit media company PragerU, which is known for its popular videos which espouse conservative ideas.
Scot Landry, executive director of EDIFY, told CNA in an interview that he believes PragerU has proven the concept that five-minute videos on timely topics can do very well on social media because of their shareability and low barrier to entry.
“We seek to accomplish for Catholics what PragerU has accomplished for young conservatives,” Landry told CNA, noting that because so many young people are interested in and talking about politics, political discussions can be a great place to draw young people in and introduce them to the truths of the Catholic faith.
According to EDIFY’s website, topics to be covered in its weekly videos include Human Dignity, Religious Liberty, A Just Economy, “The Best Way to Live,” Care for the Environment, and Social Justice. Each video focuses on a single topic and features a transcribed monologue from an expert speaker, along with on-screen text and motion graphics.
Landry said he sees EDIFY’s mission as educational and, hopefully, evangelistic.
“If we can persuade somebody who might see the world from a secular point of view to understand the wisdom of Church teaching on a particular hot-button issue of the day, that can lead them to be curious on a second issue,” he explained.
“By just starting with that one issue that they’re interested in, and presenting, in a very pragmatic way, Catholic Church teaching on that political issue, or an issue related to human dignity…I think it’s one door God can use to bring people back to Him, to the fullness of truth.”
EDIFY’s first video posted was on the topic of “Seeing the World as a Catholic,” narrated by Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND.
Another recent video, on the topic of gender ideology, is narrated by Mary Rice Hasson of the Ethics and Public policy Center. Hasson is a contributor to Person and Identity, an online project of the Catholic Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C., which features information about current trends in gender ideology, scientific evidence against those ideologies, and explanations of Church teaching on the topic with the goal of promoting a Catholic vision of the human person.
On Nov. 30, EDIFY released a video narrated by legal scholar O. Carter Snead on the topic of “The Supreme Court & Abortion,” ahead of Dec. 1 oral arguments in the consequential abortion case currently before the court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
While CatholicVote has a reputation for primarily promoting Republican politicians and policies, Landry said he takes seriously EDIFY’s responsibility to ensure the content of their videos is authentically Catholic, rather than partisan.
“Ultimately my job is to make sure that everything EDIFY publishes is in line with the Catholic faith and our Catholic teaching, and that’s a significant responsibility on my shoulders; it’s not the first time where I’ve had a job where people trust me to make sure that what is being said— in their name, on behalf of our organization, on behalf of the Church— is fully Catholic,” Landry continued.
He also emphasized that, depending on the topic being discussed, EDIFY typically asks independent people from outside the organization to take a look at and fact-check each video before publishing.
“When the speaker is speaking on behalf of the Catholic faith, we want to make sure that that is well-sourced,” Landry said, citing a recent video EDIFY posted on vaccine mandates. He said he personally made sure that that video cited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “squarely and fairly.”
To vet the speakers featured in each video, Landry said the EDIFY team reads each prospective speakers’ published work, examining not only the factual content but the person’s tone as well. Special attention is paid to ensure that all the speakers are “people we know live the Catholic faith in private and in public,” Landry said.
Landry added that many of the speakers are chosen by EDIFY based on personal recommendations. For example, Landry’s twin brother Father Roger Landry is a well-known Catholic writer and commentator, and is scheduled to make an appearance in an upcoming EDIFY video.
CatholicVote says it is non-partisan and aims to encourage voter registration and voting among practicing Catholics, and the group’s platform is not completely aligned with either major party platform.
In the past CatholicVote has highlighted the importance of “a culture that celebrates life,” “marriage is between one man and one woman,” has noted that “we are all called to help the poor,” has called for environmental stewardship, and has said that “the death penalty is an unnecessary legal penalty in the developed world.”
However, in recent years, some have criticized aspects of CatholicVote’s strategy, particularly with regard to former President Donald Trump. In 2016, CatholicVote joined calls for then-presidential candidate Trump to step down following his lewd comments about women in a leaked audio recording from 2005, calling the comments “disgusting and simply indefensible.”
After Trump’s election, however, in Facebook and blog posts, the group regularly promoted Trump’s decisions or policies and those of other Republican lawmakers, and regularly criticizes Democratic lawmakers, with the exception of former Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski, who was one of the last pro-life Democrats in Congress before ultimately losing his seat.
Landry said it is plain to see that CatholicVote is known primarily for its political advocacy at the moment, but he wants to see the “education” side of CatholicVote’s mission come more to the forefront. Landry said CatholicVote’s educational mission is “to help Catholics apply the truths toward the issues that we’re facing in America, and at the local level in our communities and in our states.”
“There’s a very pragmatic application of it that many other organizations don’t get down to, that ground level, because their mission is a different mission than CatholicVote,” Landry told CNA, adding that EDIFY’s goal is to “present Church teaching in a way that makes young people want to explore more.”
Brian Burch, the leader of CatholicVote, told CNA in a statement that “EDIFY is designed to transform the way Catholics and all Americans think about today’s hot button issues, using the insights of the Catholic Church, and the foundational principles of America.”
“With the volume of information we are inundated with every day, more and more people are searching for how to make sense of it all. With the help of experts from around the country, EDIFY will be an invaluable resource that everyone can use to navigate the messy world of ideas and politics.”
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