[Austen Ivereigh] Days after appointing an American as its new spokesman, the Vatican has named an American laywoman as one of the first 16 new members of the Secretariat for Communications, the body created by Pope Francis last year to manage and overhaul Rome’s different news and media outlets.
Kim Daniels is a former spokesperson for the president of the US bishops’ conference, where she served both Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz. She is also a founder and former director of Catholic Voices USA, and currently a communications consultant for organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, the Archdiocese of Washington, the Catholic Climate Covenant, and Women Speak for Themselves.
Members of Vatican departments, known as ‘dicasteries’, attend at least yearly meetings in Rome, acting as external advisors or consultants by providing input into initiatives and proposals.
Two other laypeople have been named as members of the Secretariat: Markus Schächter is a German media ethics professor and journalist in Munich, while Leticia Soberón Mainero is a part-Spanish, part-Mexican communications expert who was a consultor to the now-defunct Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
A number of bishops and cardinals have also been named as Secretariat members, including Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who in the 1990s represented the Holy See to the United Nations before being moved by St John Paul II to Dublin to tackle the Irish clerical sex abuse crisis.
Other bishop members include two of Francis’s surprise picks last year as cardinals: Myanmar archbishop Charles Muang Bo and Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes, Haiti. Also on the list are bishops and archbishops from Lebanon, Kenya, Portugual, Lithuania and Spain.
Against that list Daniels — a mother of six children who lives in Washington DC — stands out as a veteran communications professional who has worked closely with the U.S. bishops and has their trust. She was a lead member of the church team responsible for the U.S. launch of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si, and as director of Catholic Voices USA commentated on the conclave that elected Pope Francis in 2013.
A graduate of Princeton and the University of Chicago Law School, she is currently a lay advisor to the US bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.
US bishops’ president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz told Crux and Catholic Voices: “Kim brings both an insightful approach to communications and a knowledgeable love of the Church. Especially as the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications looks to help the universal Church reach out to young people with the hope of the Gospel, Kim will be a strong contributor.”
I got to know Kim when she was Catholic Voices director in 2012-2013, when she helped develop trainings and messaging strategies on issues such as religious liberty, immigration reform, and life questions. She appeared on CNN, Fox, PBS and the BBC, while writing articles for major publications.
Savvy and strategic, with a great love for the Church, she combines a lawyer’s rigor with a natural penchant for communications.
Daniels told Crux and Catholic Voices she was “honored and excited” by the appointment, which she said comes at a key moment in the development of Church communications.
“Pope Francis is showing us how best to convey the Gospel: by bringing the love at the heart of our faith close to people in the concrete particularity of their lives,” she said, adding: “The hallmarks of his approach — mercy, dialogue, personal encounter — are essential to effectively bringing our faith to others, and I’m looking forward to helping advance that mission.”
[A version of this article also appears at Crux]