NEW YORK (RNS) A former adviser to Sarah Palin and an attorney with a long record of advocating conservative causes, will become the first spokeswoman for the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the USCCB announced Monday (April 29).

Kim Daniels (pictured here on March 13, 2013), a former advisor to Sarah Palin and an attorney with a long record of advocating conservative causes, will be the new spokesperson for the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Photo courtesy George Martell/The Pilot Media Group via Flickr (http://flic.kr/p/e2TAVn)

Kim Daniels (pictured here on March 13, 2013), a former advisor to Sarah Palin and an attorney with a long record of advocating conservative causes, will be the new spokesperson for the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Photo courtesy George Martell/The Pilot Media Group via Flickr (http://flic.kr/p/e2TAVn)


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The addition of Kim Daniels, who is a leader of the conservative media lobby, Catholic Voices USA, seems aimed at revamping the hierarchy’s communications strategy, which many bishops say has been hampered by a lack of coordination and an authoritative spokesperson.

Under the new structure, Daniels will speak for the president of the bishops’ conference — currently New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan — while the USCCB’s media office will continue to speak for the bishops as a whole.

Daniels’ hiring also looks like an effort to satisfy Dolan’s goal of finding an “attractive, articulate, intelligent” laywoman to help recast the hierarchy’s image, which many feared was starting to be seen as unfriendly to women because of legal battles like the fight against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.

Daniels has experience in that field, having worked for years with the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative legal group, where she fought, for example, for the rights of pharmacists to claim a conscience exemption from dispensing morning-after pills. Such religious liberty battles have become a public policy priority for the bishops, and having Daniels on board gives another veteran voice to the bishops’ campaign.

Yet the hiring — Daniels has been working on a “contract basis,” according to the USCCB — also raises many questions that the USCCB’s brief press release did not answer.

One is whether Daniels will deflect controversies or become a lightning rod herself.

Not only did she work for the Thomas More Law Center, which has a reputation as one of the more strident groups on the political right, but Daniels was also a paid adviser to Palin as the former Alaska governor tried to remodel herself following her candidacy as John McCain’s running mate on the 2008 Republican ticket that lost to Barack Obama.

Daniels — who also did legal work for the McCain campaign, according to The New York Times — was described as “Palin’s personal domestic policy czar” in 2010 and prepared daily briefings and speeches for her. But Palin has continued to alienate herself from all but her most loyal fans on the movement’s right flank, and it is not clear where Daniels’ relationship with Palin stands today.

Moreover, Daniels’ hiring could come off as exploiting her gender. A year ago Dolan said that the USCCB would do better to hire an “attractive, articulate, intelligent” laywoman to present its message because, as he put it, “In the public square, I hate to tell you, the days of fat, balding Irish bishops are over.”

Yet Daniels, a mother of six, will also have to be credible, which means she would need to have a clear mandate. Daniels will work under the USCCB’s general secretary, Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, not in the USCCB’s media shop.

“Kim Daniels is not in the Communications Department,” Sister Mary Ann Walsh, who has been the main spokeswoman for the bishops, said in an email. “As head of the USCCB Office for Media Relations I speak to the media in that capacity.”

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Photo courtesy Bob Roller, Catholic News Service

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Photo courtesy Bob Roller, Catholic News Service


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

As a result, it’s not certain how Daniels will affect the communications strategy of the hierarchy — whether as a behind-the-scenes policy person, or as a public face for the bishops’ policies.

It seems like new territory for everyone. The president of the USCCB has never had a personal spokesperson, and her hiring appears to be a compromise solution to a complex problem. During a meeting of all the bishops last June, there was an intense debate — indeed, the longest discussion of their two-day meeting — over whether having a single person speak for all the bishops would undermine their individual authority.

Hiring a spokesperson “would make half of us redundant within five years,” argued Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Ind.

But Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta worried that hiring a spokesperson without real authority to speak quickly and decisively on fast-moving events would be counterproductive. “The spokesperson has to feel the confidence to make statements that won’t be undermined by one of us,” Gregory cautioned.

A final wrinkle: Dolan’s three-year term as USCCB president ends in November, and a new president may want to use Daniels in a different capacity, or not at all.

56 Comments

  1. G. E. Schwartz

    A few points regarding Cardinal Dolan’s hiring of Ms. Daniels as a spokesperson:

    1. It’s timely, as he was just deposed by the Feds regarding his “cemetery dealings” at his former post as bishop…
    2. He made a major gaff heavily lobbying AGAINST the current measure before the New York Statehouse which would extend protection to sexually abused children;
    3. As Ms. Daniels was HIGHLY incapable of controlling her former client Sarah Palin’s long chain of gaffs… it’s to wonder how she will be in “aiding” the often brash cardinal…

    • What gaffs? Since 2008 she’s been great..:)

      And I’m glad she was an advisor to Palin, because it seems they have a bond in their Christan beliefs.

    • Sorry G.E. Schwartz, I missed Sarah Palin’s chain of gaffs. Would you like to point them out to us. It is quite possible your beliefs on Sarah Palin are that of a skewed MSM, suffering from PDS. The only significant female gaffs I saw in the Nation’s public discourse came from Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton.

      As for the author David Gibson, I guess he missed Hillary Clinton alienating herself from the American people with her Congressional appearance. On the other hand, outside of the Northeast Media Palin is doing quite well for herself among Main Street Americans, only that same MSM isn’t about to report that to you.

    • Oh please, spare me your far left pontifications. By the way, what about the gaffs of the teleprompter in chief in the White House? Ironic that you failed to mention ALL his gaffs and ineptitude. Then again, that’s typical MO of the far left. Try as you may, the Left will NEVER bring down the Catholic Church. I welcome Ms. Daniels as a CONSERVATIVE voice for the Church.

  2. What kind of rubbish are you trying to claim here? Palin is one of the most favored among top Republicans in every poll, and the only one able to influence primary races without having to spend millions on attack advertising.

    60 milion voted for her and McCain, and in 2010 she won 18 of 20 races for the Republican ticket, and a further 5 new constitutional senators in a weaker R year 2012.

    Palin does not need to remodel anything, her record of 20 years as an executive stand on its on merit, solidly conservative with a libertarian edge, openly promoting her faith unlike any other timid politician.

    I must ask, is this really a Catholic news-center or a liberal outlet pretending to be something it is not? How can you court controversy against an outstanding women and mother of five, fighting every day for the unborn and for faith in this nation..!

    Mr. John Kagen
    California

    PS: For every gaffe Palin had, junior Senator Obama made five. The difference is that the media had chosen their candidate, and needed to destroy Palin in the process as she resonated with real America like nobody since Reagan himself.<

    Good luck to Mrs. Daniels. Having worked for Palin is all you need on your CV for credentials.

  3. The appointment is an insult to the majority of Catholic women. Sarah Palin has become a laughing stock, but her advisor has been appointed to speak for the Bishops! Here’s another example of the Catholic church driving away women of faith.

      • You couldn’t be more wrong. It sound like you live in a bubble of Obama patronage.

        Sarah just keeps getting stronger, in spite of endless, frantic attacks from the Establishment in both parties. If she doesn’t take over the GOP then the GOP will die and be replaced.

    • Name me a politician in the country that is not a laughing stock. Does anyone even listen when Obama speaks? Sarah Palin is doing just fine, and remains enormously popular among Conservatives. If those on the LEFT studied her record as Governor, they too would appreciate her efforts.

    • So because you don’t agree with this woman’s politics, you think her appointment is an insult? That is ridiculous. Her politics aside, she has been a faithful Catholic, and THAT is what matters here. She is intelligent and a wonderful example.

      And I wonder how many women of faith (by that I assume you mean faithful, practicing Catholics who adhere to and embrace Catholic teaching) will be driven away by this (I’m gonna guess none)…I must also wonder how many you know if you are making a statement like that.

    • Catherine Burnham

      If they are really “women of faith” they will not be driven away by a lone female spokesperson. The Catholic Church is centered around Jesus, not advisors.

  4. Sigh. They really think it’s all a matter of image–that if they can get an “attractive, articulate” woman to front for them, or produce an advertising campaign to portray Jesus as a hipster, or a nice Pope who forgoes the palace for the Vatican guesthouse, people will come back to the Church. Give us some credit: it’s not image but substance that has driven people away. On substantive issues the Church will never give. It is committed to the doctrine that gender is theologically significant, that men and women ought to play different roles. It will never drop that, or a whole range of other doctrines that are unacceptable. No image make-over or advertising campaign will change that.

  5. David,

    Great job in introducing unnecessary controversy into an otherwise interesting piece!! By referencing the name “Sarah Palin”, you reduced Kim Daniels’ career and achievements to obscurity. Also, great job telling us that the Thomas More Law Center is “strident.” Your opinions on stridency are important to us.

    To achieve a sense of balance in your work, perhaps you would care to share some of your opinions on stridency from the left or put some additional hot buttons into the article. You might start with abortion and what you think about Dr. Gosnell and late term abortions.

    Why did you take an important subject and reduce it to the level of sports talk radio?

    I am no fan of Dolan or most of the eminences whom we now serve, but I think it is a wonderful idea that they would start listening to someone who isn’t addressed as “your Holiness”, “your Eminence” or “your Worshipfulness.”

    By the way, if you want to expose Kim Daniels for the shame of having worked for Sarah Palin, you should come to Illinois and research Barack Obama and his friends. No shortage of liberal hypocrisy here.

  6. It is understandable that the headline to this story emphasizes the Palin background, but more troubling I believe is Daniels’ work for the Thomas More Law Center. I wrote this piece for COmmonweal last summer on the work of that organization and I am stunned that a former leader of that group is now a spokeswoman for the USCCB.
    http://commonwealmagazine.org/not-muslim-issue-0

  7. Elizabeth Thompson

    “Yet Daniels, a mother of six, will also have to be credible . . . ” Was the implication of this sentence structure intentional? Is motherhood a reason for incredibility? Do moms have something to prove that others don’t? I hope not.

  8. Diane Ellison

    glad to see the connection of credible to motherhood! proving she has an intense background working with, influencing, supporting, negotiating, compromising, standing firm , articulating on many levels, budgeting, planning, executing, working through fatigue, sharing joy, and never giving up! she will do a steller job! excellent choice. bravo!

  9. David Gibson

    David Gibson

    Article author

    Elizabeth Thompson: Res your question, no, I just thought it was important to note at some point that she is a mother of six — I think many people would find that admirable and important to know. I also think, as regards placement, that her credibility — if she needs more — would be bolstered by having raised six children and pursued a professional legal and political career. But others may disagree.

  10. I would like this author, David Gibson, to explain how being a “mother of six” makes Daniels any less “credible” as a spokeswoman. I find his statement extremely offensive and prejudiced against women and mothers. I saw nothing in Daniel’s background that makes her appear unqualified for this job.

  11. Virginia Hagan

    I have followed Kim Daniels since the wake up call brought about by the HHS mandate. I cannot think of a more effective and articulate choice for this position. It is wonderful that she is so accomplished including rearing six children. I eagerly await her contribution to the USCCB.

  12. David Gibson

    David Gibson

    Article author

    Mr. Burns, why do you think her being a mother of six makes her less credible? I think many would say the opposite. It seems like a pretty amazing qualification to me!

    • So why not say it that way in your article, Mr. Award winning Journalist? Your presentation of her motherhood as a positive aspect is poorly done if you meant it respectfully.

    • It’s Ms. Burns, thank you. And I do NOT think being a mother of six makes her less credible! Rather, that is what you implied by your choice of sentence structure, “Yet Daniels, a mother of six, will also have to be credible…” This clearly suggests that being a mother of six makes it difficult to be credible. Perhaps, if you had not begun with the word “yet.” I accept your earlier explanation that you simply wanted to work this information into the article somewhere, but I also believe you chose a poor place for it, and might have noticed that if you truly did believe that being a mother was an asset.

  13. Very interesting news. Your own doubts are presented clearly before us, including an obvious decision to toss in “mother of six” with a remark about her needing to prove her credibility! What’s THAT all about!? I’ll be interested to see how this goes. Obviously it’s new territory for everyone.

  14. Re: “Daniels’ hiring also looks like an effort to satisfy Dolan’s goal of finding an “attractive, articulate, intelligent” laywoman to help recast the hierarchy’s image”
    Are not the majority of women functioning as spokespersons, in high profile positions, rather “attactive, articulate, intelligent”? If there is no spin here, why not simply comment on her professional qualifications and work history? Why even mention her marital status and her appearance?

    • Then why not tell all the celibate bishops to mind their own business about the sex lives of lay people and stop trying to interfere with their private choices like family planning, contraception, abortion, etc. Tell their co-members of the USCCB and all clergy to keep their pants up and their cassocks down.

      A good start in ending the clericalism that pervades the church like terminal cancer would be for the bishops to stop criminally covering up the sex crimes of their clergy. Perhaps the bishops want more minors for their clergy to abuse sexually. This is meant to be caustic!

  15. “Yet Daniels, a mother of six, will also have to be credible, which means she would need to have a clear mandate.”
    I don’t understand the connection between Daniels’ credibility and position as mother of six. The implication seems to be that a woman cannot be both. As a woman, I find that mentality offensive. Perhaps the author did not intend to convey that message. If not, the statement should be corrected.

  16. The best thing possible with Dolan’s replacement as Benedict’s self-assigned president of the USCCB in November would be to desert everything Dolan has done while he practiced his jolly politics as the group’s president. That would include his setup of William Lori as chair of his insulting “religious liberty” committee.

    It should be hoped and prayed that Francis has enough respect for the US bishops to manage themselves. One of Benedict’s biggest failures, a hangover of the thinking he obviously inherited in Hitler’s youth program. was his attempt to micro-manage the national churches and many dioceses from the Vatican. Benedict deserves retirement even though he didn’t earn it for a good papacy that was an imitation of Jesus, “The Model of the Holy.”

  17. David Gibson

    David Gibson

    Article author

    AER: Keep up! See comments above. I think you are misinterpreting, but it may have been an infelicitous placement. Mea maxima culpa.

  18. Benedict should have displayed the good grace to retire elsewhere than in the shadow of his successor, neither at Castel Gandolfo nor in a royal monastery in the Vatican gardens, hovering of the shoulder of his successor. It has taken months to renovate that “monastery” to be fit for a papal monarch. Benedict should have retired to his home in Germany with his cats, and we should get over the idea that the role of pope is an eternal position of royalty

  19. Christine Lefebvre

    I had the same concern, that your wording seemed to attach a question of credibility to the fact that she is the mother of six. I’m glad you’ve tried to clarify that; it would have been nice had you chosen that approach in the original article. You’ve raised some good questions about how this excellent choice will be able to navigate the all too political USCCB waters. The discussion I’m seeing about her connection to Sarah Palin appears to be a microcosm of the controversy raging about Palin all over the country. It will be interesting to see how the real truth of all this plays out in the coming couple of years.

    • If the “waters of the USCCB” are so murky, it is because of the very conservatism of Dolan and the likes of Kim Daniels. I don’t see what her six children have to do with anything. How old is she? Why did she stop at six? It would make more sense to just discuss the business of Catholic religion that Benedict and Dolan and Lori, etc., seem to think they have a right to dictate to people, even in our government, in this age when innumerable others are just as educated at the clericalist clergy. The creeds have as many meanings as there are those who recite them, you know.

      Down with dictated doctrine. Benedict’s gone. Let’s hope Francis discards the CDF and the notion of an official “magisterium.” Of course, Kim Daniels isn’t going to fit well with any of that. Perhaps her next job could be as Benedict’s secretary at the Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican Gardens trying to control Francis.

  20. Good for Mrs. Daniels! I wonder why the author mentioned the size of her family in the same sentence he questioned her ability to establish credibility? Also, as someone who has worked for politicians, I can attest that a true professional can serve a politician without being in lock step with, nor being responsible for, everything that politician says or does. Seems like Mrs. Daniels’ CV is bigger than just her time with Mrs. Palin. The real issue here is why the USCCB would hire someone to speak for Cardinal Dolan, separate from their media office. The potential for confusing messages is huge, and it won’t be necessarily Mrs. Daniels’ fault when it happens.

    • You wonder why the author mentioned the size of Daniels’ family? When the most active business of the celibate clergy of the church and the bishops of the USCCB through Dolan of New York, Lori of Baltimore, and Cordileone of San Francisco is all about the sex lives of others, even with our government and contraception, why do you wonder that Daniels’ family size should be referenced? And when the Catholic clergy have sexually molested so many of our children, and the bishops continue to work more at covering up those crimes and not paying awards than preaching the gospel, why would you wonder? Perhaps Daniels can teach the bishops and their priests how to keep their pants up and their cassocks down! A mother of six has had lots of experience teaching “children” how to dress!

  21. Catholic "Spinster"

    Why can’t the bishops find a qualified single lay woman to do the job ? Six kids !?? How old are they ? If they are grown maybe she has time for this job. If not, she needs to spend her time with them and be a mother.

  22. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    This woman’s biggest problem is going to be the vindictive people in the media who want to destroy anyone ever connected with Sarah Palin.

  23. David Gibson

    David Gibson

    Article author

    Deacon John, I’d have to disagree — the media love Sarah Palin! Sh is the gift that keeps on giving, news-wise…

    That is somewhat tongue in cheek. But I do think her real foes are in her own party, frankly. And she often doesn’t help her own cause.

  24. Hello, Ms. Daniels? As Cardinal Burke has said, and also (Cardinal) Ratzinger, the bishop’s conferences must decrease, and the individual bishops must increase. If you are truly conservative, please step and let the USCCB settle down rather than inflate.

  25. For some time now, critics have been accusing the church of waging a war against woman. As a Catholic woman, I find this offensive. If the church is in fact anti-woman, then the only conclusion that can be drawn about my desire to participate in it is that I am a) too stupid to know what’s good for me, or b) blinded by religious zeal. Kim Daniels, as a leader in the Catholic Women Speak for Themselves movement, contradicts easy stereotypes and misapprehensions about women in the church. She is a living rebuttal to the simplistic notion that the church is anti-woman because it doesn’t condone contraception or ordain women priests. So I think her appointment is not just an attempt at an image makeover. It is a very reasonable way of challenging the shallow misconceptions about the church. Here’s a smart, powerful, in all senses liberated woman, leading a whole movement of smart, sensible women, and she’s not castigating the church as a villain–she’s defending it and working for it. How is a smug reporter going to stand up and tell her–a successful lawyer with a large family–that the church is oppressing her or holding her back in some way? She will make short work of such challenges. I say this appointment is overdue, and I can’t wait to see Kim in action.

  26. They only reason to have a religious call Roman Catholic Church is OUR
    LORD JESUS CHRIST, and only reason we are on is to get to HEAVEN.
    Nothing on earth is matters. And I think talking about this matter. So it so health.

  27. John D. Carver

    I have decided to cease my contributions to the USCCB. It is indeed sad when a person is chosen on a basis of “political correctness” instead of the legacy of her efficacy for her former employer. Next there will be a to do of the birth record of Jesus.

  28. Kim Daniels sounds like a great choice! Hopefully articulate, intelligent women will continue to be appointed to key positions within the Catholic Church. The Curia could use a few more too! It seems odd to me that the article links her need to prove herself credible with the fact she is the mother of six. It somehow makes it sound like women who follow the teaching of the Church can’t be credible (or articulate and intelligent). May she bring the wisdom she has gained through her motherhood and her previous jobs outside the home into her new job!

  29. Robert Zahrt

    For conservatives, whether Catholic or civil, her appointment wil confirm their belief that Dolan is one of their own. For moderates or liberals, Catholic or civil, her appointment will confirm their belief that Dolan is hopelessly out of touch and can’t see the forest for the trees. Either way, Cardinal Dolan and the Bishops of the US lose.

  30. Of course Kim Daniels will “hurt” the U.S. bishops conference, just as much as Timothy Dolan hurt it when Benedict interfered with tradition and forced the conference to make Dolan the jolly political president as soon as the job became vacant after Benedict moved Dolan from Milwaukee to New York. Now, Benedict is gone–let’s hope. Soon, Dolan will be out as the USCCB president, and let’s hope he’s not replaced with his buddy William Lori, now of Baltimore, whom Dolan put in as “religious liberty” czar–as if anyone was even threatening the religious liberty of Catholics or anyone else.

    It seems, to the contrary, that the bishops invaded the religious liberty of thousands of our kids by sexually molesting them and then, like jolly Dolan when he was in Milwaukee, hiding diocesan funds so the diocese would have nothing with which to pay court-awarded awards to victims. Bankruptcy won out over honor. And this was all so much a pattern world-wide that it cannot be doubted that it was managed from on high, from Peter’s throne in the Vatican! I guess Peter fell asleep again.

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