US bishops name religious freedom advocate as president’s spokeswoman

Washington D.C., Apr 30, 2013 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has hired religious liberty attorney and mother of six Kim Daniels as spokesperson for conference president Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

The bishops’ conference said April 29 that it “welcomes” Daniels, who brings with her experience as director of Catholic Voices USA, a lay Catholic organization that “works to bring the positive message of the Church across a broad range of issues to the public square.”

In recent years, Daniels has emerged as a leader in efforts to engage the culture and spread Catholic teaching in new ways, particularly on crucial topics for the Church in the U.S.

The announcement of the new position drew praise from her colleagues.

“Kim is a gifted and natural communicator whose life is testimony to her love of Christ. Her vocational life as a wife, mother, and religious liberties attorney are joyfully ordered to her love of God,” said Kathryn Jean-Lopez, a columnist, editor and Catholic Voices USA coordinator in an April 29 blog post.

Catholic Voices USA, which was inspired by its U.K. counterpart, seeks to respond to Pope Benedict XVI’s call “for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity.” It helps train lay Catholics to speak about their faith in debates, interviews and other public settings.

Daniels also co-founded the Women Speak for Themselves movement with Helen Alvaré, a George Mason University law professor who has previously represented the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-life Activities.

Women Speak for Themselves helped give a voice to more than 38,000 women who objected to politicians assuming that they supported the controversial HHS mandate that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception – including some drugs that can cause early abortions – and sterilization, all of which are recognized as immoral by Catholic teaching.

The mandate, which has drawn lawsuits from nearly 200 plaintiffs across the country, has been a prominent religious liberty concern for the Church in recent months, along with conscience protection issues involving abortion, attempts to redefine marriage and immigration.

Daniels will now address religious freedom matters and other pressing issues as the first ever spokesperson for the U.S. bishops’ conference president.

The move follows debate at the U.S. bishops’ spring assembly in June 2012 about how to improve the Church’s communications model in light of rapid changes in media and reporting.

Bishops who supported hiring a rapid-response spokesperson said the position is necessary to provide immediate comment on important issues. The current process for issuing an official statement can take one or two days. Other bishops voiced concerns that the position would undermine statements from the hierarchy.

However, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the U.S. bishops’ communications committee, stressed at the meeting that the U.S. bishops cannot meet present and future challenges “without embracing a culture of innovation and experimentation in communications.”

The U.S. bishops’ conference has its own communications office, headed by Sister Mary Ann Walsh. Daniels’ position as spokeswoman for the conference president is distinct from this office.

A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Chicago Law School, Daniels has six children with her husband, David. They are parishioners at a Bethesda, Md., Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Among her other initiatives, Daniels has served as counsel for the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, a non-profit Christian legal group. She has also worked as an adviser for Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Her columns have appeared in numerous secular and religious publications, including the Washington Post, Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic News Agency.

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