Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Where to the Catholic Press?

Fr Tim reading one of the "Catholic" papers
at the back of Westminster Cathedral
"What future does the Catholic press have at the height of a digital revolution that is bankrupting many newspapers? According to the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the future will depend on the capacity of Catholic journalism to be faithful to its mission."

"In his opening address the archbishop presented the Catholic press "as a reality that is close to people, capable of accompanying one's life, of perceiving the concerns, desires and plans of the people who are its readers -- not only of those who belong to the Catholic community.""
I have banned the Tablet from my church, I just got sick of its carping about the Pope and its liberal agenda, I am told it is improving. Fr Clifton, who reads The Tablet with occassional bursts of irritation, complains almost continually about Msg Basil Loftus who writes for the Catholic Times, and others wonder about the orthodoxy of the Herald and the Universe. I tend to feel that I ought to ban all Catholic papers.

In the not too distant future I am sure that most have no future, young people simply don't read them.
Archbishop Celli said the current context in which the Catholic press moves is that of "a dictatorship of relativism, where we witness the attempt to reduce the action of the Church and of religion to a private realm, without public importance, de-legitimizing it as if it were an enemy of man, of his liberty and dignity, in this age of sad passions."

When I first read this passage I thought the Archbishop was actually speaking of our British Catholic Press as actually being part of the dictatorship of relativism, attempting "to reduce the action of the Church and of religion to a private realm, without public importance".

If one reads the Catholic Press, one is overcome by both its dreariness and its "churchiness". It doesn't seem to know what its purpose is. Forming a loyal, well informed laity, should be its purpose, helping to proclaim The Truth should be its purpose, instead it scratches the itch of its indisposition, continually looking inwards, moving chairs as the Titanic is sinking. The national Catholic Press is bad and diocesan newspapers are even worst, most parishes have difficulty giving them away.

What is the future?


Recusant said...

Well, apart from the probably forlorn hope of getting well informed and intentioned journalists into the mainstream media, there isn't a lot of hope for a specialist Catholic newspaper market. Newspapers in any case are a dying breed.

However, there is a potential market for a well produced, and that means aesthetically as well, Catholic inspired or influenced magazine of comment and discussion. First Things in the US is a very useful model here. The thing is, it must not appear to be a creature of the bishops or the organised church. It should remain defiantly highbrow and appeal, by the quality of its content and debate, to a world beyond the solely Catholic.

David said...

In Scotland we are plagued with the Scottish Catholic Observer aka Pravda that gives a platform to Msgr Basil Loftus who sees the Second Vatican Council as a Year Zero which, amongst other things, apparently 'downgraded' the inerrancy of Holy Scripture to the fallible witness of human authors.

Even while parishes and Cathoic schools are closing and young people are simply walking away from Church as soon as they get to 15/16, the SCO insists on putting a rosy glow on the situation of the faith in Scotland. Then, what can be expected from a press that is dependent on the favour of bishops who put their name to the heretical Gift of Scripture?

The surest way to destruction is to hold on to the illusion of safety. And that is what the Scottish Catholic Observer is helping to do - maintain the illusion that we are enjoying a "New Springtime" (shades of Mao's "Great Leap Forward") and everything is fine and dandy here.

Luke Coppen said...

Thanks for prompting this discussion about the role of the Catholic press. As the editor of The Catholic Herald, I'm aware of the challenge that faces today's Catholic papers.

That's why, during the papal visit to Britain, we provided both live online coverage and retrospective coverage in the paper itself. We were delighted that young, enthusiastic Catholics contributed significantly to both.

We had a very positive response to our coverage and that gives me grounds for hope that we can continue to provide a useful service amid the technological revolution we are living through.

Anonymous said...

The Catholic Press can be lacking in many areas but it will usually give information e.g. papal encyclicals, not usually available in secular press. Most Catholic papers have some in depth articles which help people to be informed in their faith. Just because they are not perefect does not mean they should be totally discarded.

RJ said...

I like the Catholic Herald. It's very largely free from error. Interesting features and book reviews. Good website. Shame that Quentin de la Bedoyere does not accept the Church's teaching on contraception.
Catholic Times: quite solid apart from said Monsignor. Plus their science correspondent seems to think that the principle of double effect would legitimate the use of condoms in some circumstances.
These aberrations concern me. I don't see why we have to accept a contaminated "water supply" or, as the Bible puts it: "one dead fly can spoil the scent-maker's oil" (Ecclesiastes 10:1 (NJB)).

Geoff Callister said...

Fr Ray, You’re quite right to highlight this issue. Several points immediately sprang to mind:
Firstly, I entirely agree with you about the Tablet, which is the embodiment of the Pope’s words at his ad Limina address to our bishops in February: “it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate”. However, during and after the Pope’s recent UK visit the Tablet has appeared to attenuate some of its subversive tactics, and this could be in response to increasing evidence that its circulation has dropped considerably, especially as a result of analytical websites (such as yours) exposing its real aims. It’s important that people continue to be vigilant and discerning about these underlying aims, and not be taken in by an apparent u-turn: if enough people continue to turn away, it wont survive.

Secondly however, I would take issue with you regarding the Herald, where you say: ‘others wonder about the orthodoxy of the Herald’. I cant help wonder who these ‘others’ are: Personally I always find the Herald to be mainstream/orthodox, without being drum-bangingly so, and I find in it, the same up-beat liveliness, that is in the new genre of attractive, engaging and refreshing orthodox catechetical resources ... which leads on to my third point:
I agree with you that ‘forming a loyal, well informed laity [a la Newman], should be its purpose, helping to proclaim The Truth’. Well, at least, I feel that should be a significant part of its purpose, and if this was presented in an ‘attractive, engaging and refreshing’ way, as in the aforementioned new orthodox catechetical programmes (especially from Maryvale and the CTS), then this could not only boost circulation, but it could help to stop the catechetical rot that has undermined so much of the Church’s Mission in the past 50 years - and help to fulfill Blessed John Henry’s dream of “an intelligent, well-instructed laity”.

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

I just love that picture of Fr Tim!

The Catholic Herald online facility to press a button & it arrives on your blog immediately is a wonder to behold! Only problem , there is too much that is good - how to choose? I started to buy the paper as well..because they meeenie err stopped posting the letters online! It did show me there was even more to read..I think it is excellent.

However, the Catholic Times gave a freebie Pope picture this week which I framed..

Michael Clifton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike said...

David has a particular view of the Scottish Catholic Observer. I wonder if he reads it every week? Yes, it is unfortunate that it gives a weekly column to Mgr Basil Loftus but that is only a small part of the paper. Let’s take a broader look at the latest edition.

The front page story is “MSPs listen to Church on assisted suicide”. This covers the evidence given to the Scottish Parliament by John Deighan, the Catholic Parliamentary Officer, on Margo Macdonald’s End of Life Choices Bill and also reports on the opposition to the Bill from medical and disability groups. How many secular newspapers gave the same coverage, I wonder?

On the centre pages, Professor Patrick Reilly, a retired University lecturer, has an article in which he criticises those who set themselves up as the Magisterium in the Church and defends the role of the Pope in leading the Church.

The Bishop of Argyll & the Isles, Joseph Toal, has a thoughtful article on the lessons which can be learnt from the Pope’s Address to the Bishops of Scotland, England and Wales. Dr Harry Schnitker has an article on how “Rosaries help express our love for Our Lady.” Fr Pat McGuire, national director of Missio Scotland, writes about the importance of the Missions and how we can help promote the work of the missions through prayer, sacrifice and financial assistance. And in another article, Peter Kearney from the Scottish Catholic Media Office comment about some recent statistics on abortion and call for a programme “in which chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage is normalised once again.”

Yes, there are problems in the Church, such as falling congregations and fewer vocations but there are other things to report about and I think that the Scottish Catholic Observer does a good job of giving wide coverage to life in the Catholic Church in Scotland. Let’s not always think about the problems but also look on the bright side. The SCO gives its readers news and information about events which show the positive side and, as result, gives encouragement to those of us who read it.

Patrick said...

I agree with Geoff Callister about the Catholic Herald. I find that it is pretty orthodox, with the odd laps.

The issue really is the Tablet. It is a disgrace, and should not be on sale in Catholic churches. We need some sort of concerted effort either to bring it back to orthodoxy (which would be very welcome) or for it to acknowledge explicitly that its stance is of Anglican-type modernism, well outside the Catholic fold.

But what to do?

FatherTF said...

I should say by way of "full disclosure" that I write short column for the Herald. I'm happy do so because I think that it is the best of our Catholic papers by a long chalk. I wouldn't agree with every article in every issue but the reporting is first rate. Anna Arco and Mark Greaves, to name only two, are excellent journalists, Stuart Reid is always fun, and there are often big hitters on the main op-ed section.

We have recently doubled our order for the Herald in the parish in response to demand for it.

Significant too, that you had such a quick response from the editor with a calm and conciliatory tone.

Fr Frank Marsden is very good in the Catholic Times and Maureen Mullally from the Universe. Apart from the serial nonsense of Fr Loftus, those papers are not unsound in my view, but I don't think they are close to the Herald in quality.

Oh, and yes, Tabula delenda est.

Unknown said...

The Catholic Press can be interesting and informative - as well as successful

The Catholic Herald shows what can be achieved.

On the Continent there are many successful professional Catholic Newspapers and magazines which have large circulations: Famiglia Cristiana and Avvenire are two in Italy and others exist in France, Germany etc. They are professionally produced, interesting and informative.They are also educative which shows that there is a "market" for media which teach the faith and help people deepen it

Unfortunately I have to agree with David regarding The Scottish Catholic Observer. It is just not in the same league or anywhere near it.

Father John Boyle said...

I would like to recommend the National Catholic Register here in the US as a template for Catholic Newspapers. There is no doubt about its purpose, i.e. it seeks to propagate the Catholic faith and facilitate an informed laity, with good news articles, a weekly culture of life supplement, coverage of the Holy Father's weekly audience (usually reproduced in both summary format and in full), advertising of the myriad of orthodox apologetics courses and courses on the authentic meaning of human sexuality that are available here, etc. etc. And also intelligent comment on the political issues of the day from a Catholic perspective.

berenike said...

The SCO used to be called the 'Catholic Comics" by some friends of mine (normal Catholics). It does have some good articles, but it's always a case of "oh look, it's actually got quite an interesting article in it this week". But even those are relentlessly "on message".

It is hampered also by restricting itself a tabloid style of reporting in terms of length and complexity. I don't see why it shouldn't add a centrefold with something more meaty in.

Liz Leydon said...

As editor of the Scottish Catholic Observer I am delighted that readers of many different perspectives have taken the time to contribute to this dialogue on Catholic media.
Recent secular coverage of the build up to the UK Papal visit has highlighted the increasing need for a Catholic voice, or preferably Catholic voices, in the world of communications. In Scotland we benefit from great diversity within the Catholic population, something the SCO thrives on working to reflect.
Like all press, the Observer, now in its 125th year, is embracing the opportunities afforded through digital media to reach more readers in all age ranges and interact with the Catholic community via options such as social networking. The recently relaunched SCO website brought live and breaking reports throughout the Papal visit and continues to offer news and analysis on a regular basis between editions.
However, as Pope Benedict XVI recently highlighted in his theme for the forty-fifth World Day of Social Communications—Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age—there are dangers in an over reliance on technology in media and there is no substitute for human judgement and truth in communications.
A message from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications offers great insight into the Pope’s thinking on media, and into his message to come that is ‘to be understood as focusing on the human person who is at the heart of all communicative processes.’
“Technology, on its own, cannot establish or enhance a communicator’s credibility,” the council said.

David said...

In fact, I do read the Scottish Catholic Observer every week as my father-in-law buys it. I must admit that I have stopped reading Msgr Basil Loftus as his columns make my blood boil. It is simply appaling that this man is given a platform for his heretical ramblings, thereby giving ordinary Catholics the impression that Vatican II 'changed' the entire Catholic faith.

It is true that the SCO has actually improved since its revamping 2 years ago. It's definitely better than The Universe and The Catholic Times, which isn't really saying much, I'm afraid. Nevertheless, it still contains such 'gems' as a recent article attacking the 300+ Catholics who protested against a blasphemous play about Our Lord - "Jesus, Queen of Heaven" - in Glasgow as "heresy-hunting Catholics".

Yes, there are problems in the Church, such as falling congregations and fewer vocations but there are other things to report about and I think that the Scottish Catholic Observer does a good job of giving wide coverage to life in the Catholic Church in Scotland. Let’s not always think about the problems but also look on the bright side. The SCO gives its readers news and information about events which show the positive side and, as result, gives encouragement to those of us who read it.

Actually, the Scottish Catholic Observer almost never address the problems. In Glasgow the pews are practically empty of Catholics between the ages of 16 and 45 but still the paper acts as if there were no serious difficulties facing the Church. My guess is that because the SCO is beholden to the Scottish Bishops who are so insistent that the period since the end Vatican II has been one of renewal with few shadows that they choose to adopt this attitude of compulsory optimism. In doing this the Scottish Catholic Observer is actually exacerbating the crisi of the Church in Scotland in encouraging the remaining Scottish Catholics that there are no serious issues to address. Loudly admiring the Emperor's new clothes helps no-one.

motuproprio said...

Anna Arco's piece on the Catholic Blogosphere sheds an interesting sidelight on this discussion.

geoff.injebreck said...

You ask, at the end of your comment: “But what to do?” The answer is very simple: everyone reading this (say, 50) boycotts the Tablet, and we each persuade all of our Catholic friends (say, 50 each) to do likewise, and to persuade EACH of those friends to persuade each of THEIR friends (say, 50 each) to do the same. That totals 125,000 people! Now, lets say only one fifth of those people are Tablet readers: that means their sales would drop by 25,000 - and guess what ... THE TOTAL CIRCULATION OF THE TABLET IS ONLY 22,000: Job done!

Also reassuring is that, according to the industry monitored figures (from the “ABC”), the Tablet’s circulation has dropped steadily, from 23,600 in early 2007 - to 22,400 in early 2009 - to 22,000 in early 2010, and this doesn’t take account of unsold copies.

The other thing to do is to ask our priests not to stock it, on the basis that it rejects much of Church teaching, and has opposed EVERY encyclical and EVERY initiative of Pope Benedict. How on earth does this square with the euphoric response to his recent visit, even from thousands of non-Catholics?

As Geoff Callister said in his comment, we should not be seduced by their current, apparent u-turn. This is a tactic they’ve used before, especially then they’ve had circulation problems. Indeed THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO DO IT, while their figures are dropping.
After all, on his visit, the Holy Father said, in his homily at Bellahouston:
“I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission ... to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live ... in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation.”
This is a way of doing just that!
As Fr Tim says: Tabula delenda est.

St Malachy said...

As a Catholic Herald subscriber (paper version), my only complaint against that paper is Mary Kenny's continual sniping at teaching that doesn't fit her feminist agenda. I really wish her column was dropped.

The remainder of the Catholic press is pretty poor to be honest and there is far better quality to be found online - in my opinion of course!

pelerin said...

Fr Clifton mentions the new format of this blog. I see that when clicking onto another blog from the list, whether it is in white or cream, the title immediately turns Green. Has Fr Ray been influenced by his new MP I wonder. I think we should be told!

berenike said...

Is that comment from Liz Leydon a spoof?

rofl. If not, point proven.

David said...

Liz Leydon, can you explain how you can justify the continued publication of articles by Msgr Basil Loftus in the Scottish Catholic Observer when they so flagrantly fly in the face of Church teaching? I'm sure he's a lovely old gent, but orthodox he simply ain't.

RJ said...

I think there is a good case for Catholic newspapers to have a competent person check their material for doctrinal and moral conformity to the teachings of the Church. It might sound legalistic but Catholic readers have a right to expect what they read in a Catholic paper to be in harmony with the Church's teachings.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I have removed, at least temporarily Fr Michael Clifton's comment, as his blog seems to express his personal opinion in a slightly more nuanced way.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...