August 26, 2012
Catholic media brings out truth of human person Radio show host sees need for faith-filled voices
Every day at 5 p.m. listeners in the Chicago area join listeners around the Midwest and beyond in tuning into Relevant Radio to hear Shelia Liaugminas discuss the issues of the day on “A Closer Look.”
It’s a popular news show airing on 950 AM that looks at today’s top stories through the lens of the Catholic faith. Liaugminas, who lives in Wheaton with her husband, is a seasoned journalist who says she feels a great responsibility to provide a moral voice in this world of the 24-hour news cycle.
"A Closer Look" airs weekdays on Relevant Radio 950 AM and online at www.relevantradio.com.
In the digital world, she regulary reports and comments about the news at Inforumblog.com, SheilaReports.com and on Twitter @sheilareports. She also contributes feature articles to MercatorNet and various print publications.
She is an Emmy-winning journalist and some of the people she says she would like to interview are Pope John Paul II, G. K. Chesterton, Pope Benedict XVI and President Barack Obama.
One of her sons, Father Andrew Liaugminas, is a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
She recently sat down with editor Joyce Duriga to discuss the importance of Catholic media.
Catholic New World: You started out in print media. How did you end up in radio?
Sheila Liaugminas: I started out in print a long time ago, and then went to television. And then went from television back to print. So I’ve been across the spectrum. When I started out in print it was for a daily newspaper in Ohio. I went to television there, came to Chicago and here I was with Time magazine for many years. I did television in Chicago and freelanced for publications, including Crain’s Chicago Business. I won an Emmy for co-hosting the show “YOU” on WMAQ. From there I started to work more in print.
It was while I was working on a news story for the National Catholic Register and my research led me to a radio show host on Relevant Radio who was focusing on that same news — Drew Mariani. I had called him up to interview him for the story and while talking to him, we had a good rapport, and he said, “Hey, do you want to come on my show and talk about this story?” And I said, “Sure.”
Soon afterwards I was working on another story and he asked again “Do you want to come on my show for that?” It went really well and it started a good relationship with him and with the network and I became a regular on his show. Then it developed into hosting my own show and I was given the privilege of having that extended ability to deal with issues of the day.
But during all of that I have stayed in print. I am on the editorial board of Voices, the magazine published by Women for Faith in Family, and I write for them as well as other publications. And I blog regularly.
CNW: What do you see as the role of Catholic media today?
Liaugminas: I think Catholic media’s profile and importance has risen now more than ever, the more the secular media have started to turn away from their past noble efforts to be objective and their more noble purpose of, say investigative journalism, and being a fair representation of what’s happening in the news, to more agenda-driven news advocates that they’ve become. They are less reliable for the truth.
At the same time we’ve had the explosion of technology and the ability to access information globally — which is a great thing for people all over the world. We now have the ability to reach more hearts and minds, which is the Gospel mandate. The mandate Christ gave the apostles, and all of us ever since, was to go out and tell the whole world the Good News. We are now able to do that.
Catholic news media, whether it is digital, print or broadcast, is so important because we represent Gospel values and bring the truth of the human person to the center of all stories. So if it is a story on ethics, finance, business, the debt, politics, the culture, law, the courts — every single story you talk about has at its core the human element.
Commerce is another word for people buying and selling. Politics is laws that govern not just a nation, but lives. So at the center of every one of those stories is the human person and that’s what Catholic media brings to all of it — the truth of the human person. It helps shape public understanding of that as well as inform consciences. Or at least we try.
What’s really important — when I say we in Catholic media try — is that we ourselves realize the great responsibility that we have and that we start with prayer. For those to whom much is given much is expected.
We’ve been given platforms, any of us — whether it is print or broadcast. We humbly accept it and you start by being well formed yourself. You can’t presume to inform anybody’s conscience if you aren’t well-formed yourself. We stay in prayer and we ground everything in prayer.
We pray before going on the air and we have a Eucharistic adoration chapel at the center of our headquarters in Green Bay. Everything starts with that in our mission of the new evangelization.
I keep thinking a lot in my work “I gotta do this,” “I gotta get on that,” “Get on this story,” “Make sure people know this.” And I keep thinking of the psalm “If the Lord does not build the house in vain do the builders labor.” I think of that often. The Lord has to build this house. That’s a discernment process.
CNW: What do you see as the biggest issue facing the country or the Catholic Church today? Obviously there are the efforts to talk about religious freedom.
Liaugminas: The religious liberty issues get down to what Pope Benedict XVI says a lot that much of the world is living as if God did not exist. I think that might be central to an awful lot. We must not get too political of either party or candidates or any of that. Pope John Paul II warned about that. Pope Benedict has warned about that.
Our job is to represent the dignity of the human person, the imago dei, the fact that every human person is made in the image of God. That’s no cliché. In fact that is very true in these battles over marriage and over life issues because people self-identify as one thing like, say, gay-marriage supporter. What we should be talking about is: who are you as a person. The church understands marriage sacramentally, not the way the secular culture does, reminding people of the sacrament, reminding people of the human person, who, no matter what their belief is, has inestimable dignity.
So if we can have that conversation with civility, that’s central to what concerns us as a church and as a nation — the intrinsic human dignity of every person, which goes back to how that is at the center of every story.
That is an issue that we face. It’s important for us today to live not only believing God exists but that God gave us revelation in how to order our society and how to live our lives. I think that’s huge today, living as if God really did direct us with an order according to which everything should exist.
CNW: Is there a way to do that?
Liaugminas: We can start by bringing the culture back to the recognition that there is transcendent truth. The media have certainly treated it as if there is no such thing as transcendent truth. Of course, people of religion and religion itself are under fire today a lot. What role does religion play in public life is key right now.
So the election is about what is the proper size and role of government, but at core here is what role does religion play in public life.
The freedom of religion is morphing into the freedom of worship. So you can go behind closed doors or your church or place of worship and worship however you wish.
That’s a very different thing than freedom of religion, which allows us to be morally informed people and bring that moral belief, according to the teaching of our faith, into everything we do, whether you are a judge or a lawyer, a politician, a person in the media, a clerk. No matter who you are, we are a people who are allowed right now to bring our morally informed voices into the public square and to help shape social policy.
That also is central to what is most important to us as a nation right now, that fundamental human right.
CNW: Some people say that they don’t like to watch or read the news or commentaries because it depresses them or upsets them but why is it important to stay informed?
Liaugminas: Because if we don’t, then those who do are going to have all the power over everything — the power over culture, the power over society, the power over laws and government and social policy. It’s like when you don’t vote you have ceded that authority over to everybody who does. You’ve also, I think, given up your right to complain about the way things are. You’ve abdicated your responsibility.
When we are not informed we have no input into changing not only hearts and minds but changing lives. By being well informed we are able to give people hope. We have to be people of hope ourselves. It’s hard to maintain that these days when things seem so dark but we have to be people of hope.
It’s very important to be informed because there is an active campaign of disinformation and misinformation out there. If we don’t take our responsibility to inform ourselves and access information that is verifiably true then we are going to hear the propaganda. We are not going to be a part of the solution. We are going to be part of the problem.
You are kind of like sheep. The wolves are out for the sheep. That’s not hyperbole. Then the information is in the hands of a controlling minority.
I know on the floor of the General Assembly of the United Nations when he came here in 2008 Pope Benedict referred to it as “tyranny.” The “tyranny” is when there are people at the head of any government or organization who are making the decisions for everybody else.
He went on to say just because something is legal doesn’t make it moral. Might does not make right. So you get a small group who is in charge. You can see throughout history all the ways that didn’t work. That’s why we have to be informed.
Thankfully, right now we have so many ways to access information and engage the process of impacting the culture and contributing to a just and virtuous society.
For more about “A Closer Look,” and to listen to archives of the show visit www.relevantradio.com. Liaugminas will speak on Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glenview on the topic “Religious Liberty: Do You Really Know What's at Stake?” For more, email email@example.com.