Dissenting Catholic publications

Are you tired of nearly institutionalized dissent in the now Jurassic park of the old Catholic media?

The USA has the National Catholic Reporter and a whole raft of still sub-optimal diocesan newspapers… though I must observe that many are improving and magazines.  You can surely think of a few. The UK has its weekly fishwrap The Tablet (aka The Bitter Pill or as I sometimes call it, RU-486 when it went all wobbly it approval).

Enough is enough.  Who is propping up those publications? 

My friend Fr Ray Blake, the great parish priest of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton, has a very good entry which riffs on what Pope Benedict recently told the bishops of England and Wales gathered in Rome for their ad limina apostolorum visit.

Some time ago someone from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told me that an English Archbishop had told the then Prefect that The Tablet was neither supported by or promoted by any bishop in the heirarchy of England and Wales. Now that same Prefect is Pope.

I am sure that The Tablet did not figure high in the discussions during the Ad Limina visit but I would love to know if it was mentioned.

I am not sure what that Archbishop meant by "support or promotion", presumably it didn’t include selling it at the back of his Cathedral, or bishops, including the Nuncio, giving it exclusive interviews. If the bishops are going to give a sign that they take the Pope seriously then we should expect a certain pruning in the newspapers and periodicals at the back of our churches, we should also expect complaints about dissent to be taken seriously and investigated.

    If the full saving message of Christ is to be presented effectively and convincingly to the world, the Catholic community in your country needs to speak with a united voice. This requires not only you, the Bishops, but also priests, teachers, catechists, writers – in short all who are engaged in the task of communicating the Gospel – to be attentive to the promptings of the Spirit, who guides the whole Church into the truth, gathers her into unity and inspires her with missionary zeal.

If The Tablet or any other newspaper or magazine doesn’t do this, then it should not be made available for sale at the back of our churches

    In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, 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. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.



This instruction from the Holy Father is not limited to England and Wales.


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  1. Mrs Kate says:

    “It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.”
    I hope and pray that our Bishops, renewing their communion with the Holy Father, will take those words to heart,teach and preach them everywhere and at all times.

  2. jaykay says:

    Hmmmmm. Was in London last weekend on a quick visit and called into Westminster Cathedral. Glorious sung Mass at 10.30 a.m. On the way out, and feeling great, the feeling was somewhat dispelled by the sight of a large pile of copies of the fishwrap on sale. The saving grace was that beside it there was an equally large stack of the “Herald”. Still… conflicting messages are being sent. Classic example of the quasi-Anglican: “well on the one hand but then on the other…” stuff.

  3. Don’t mean to be a broken record, but how recently has The Tablet or the National Catholic Reporter taken a gander at the documents of Vatican II?

    “The Church recognizes that these media, if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind, since they greatly contribute to men’s entertainment and instruction as well as to the spread and support of the Kingdom of God. The Church recognizes, too, that men can employ these media contrary to the plan of the Creator and to their own loss. Indeed, the Church experiences maternal grief at the harm all too often done to society by their evil use.” (Inter Mirifica 2)

    “To instill a fully Christian spirit into readers, a truly Catholic press should be set up and encouraged. Such a press – whether immediately fostered and directed by ecclesiastical authorities or by Catholic laymen – should be edited with the clear purpose of forming, supporting and advancing public opinion in accord with natural law and Catholic teaching and precepts. It should disseminate and properly explain news concerning the life of the Church. Moreover, the faithful ought to be advised of the necessity both to spread and read the Catholic press to formulate Christian judgments for themselves on all events.” (Inter Mirifica 14)

  4. Magpie says:

    Right Father. In my local church, we have copies of The Tablet, The Irish Catholic (a mixed bag) and Position Papers, an excellent Dublin based journal run by some priests of Opus Dei, I believe. It is so annoying that alongside good stuff is so much bad. The worst thing is obviously that church-goers are reading the tripe. Position Papers is a wee bit intellectual for the average punter. Interestingly, there is only usually a single copy of The Tablet on the booktable. I think it is a sample issue sent to the parish which is always made available. My conscience won’t let me humanely destroy the darned thing though the good of souls would seem to beg to differ. Instead I usually tuck it under other things so that it isn’t seen until the issue date has passed and it has become evermore irrelevant and redundant. I’m thinking of approaching the PP to discuss the matter about having it permanently removed.

  5. bookworm says:

    I used to work for a diocesan newspaper in a fairly conservative/orthodox diocese. We always recognized that we had a mission or mandate to serve as a teaching instrument and to give our readers a Catholic perspective on current events. However, we also recognized that we did our readers no favor by becoming a mere “house organ” telling them only what the bishop or the diocesan curia wanted them to hear, or by sheltering them from problems or bad news (e.g. priest sex abuse, controversies over speakers at Catholic events).

    There were some lines we obviously could never cross, such as running an editorial promoting ordination of women or telling people it was OK to be a “pro-choice” Catholic. We never, ever wanted to be the poor man’s National Catholic Distorter or Commonweal.

    However, there were other matters were it wasn’t always clear what to do — for example, if we got letters to the editor complaining about Church teaching on women’s ordination, or about some controversial move of the bishop. Should we publish them or not? If we did, people accused us of trying to undermine Church teaching or the authority of the bishop; if we didn’t, people accused us of trying to “censor” or hide the truth about how people out there in the pews really felt.

    Another potential land mine for us was political advertising. We understood that if we accepted ads from ANY candidate in a particular race, we would have to accept ads from ALL candidates that chose to advertise with us or else we’d get in trouble with the IRS. Every election cycle we got lots of ads from candidates for state/local office touting their pro-life stands, but we always dreaded the day that the other shoe would drop and a pro-abort candidate would come in and insist on buying an ad. That didn’t happen very often, maybe once or twice that I can remember (in 15 years), and we always made it a point to explain our political ad policy when we did.

    We could, of course, have avoided the problem by simply refusing political ads altogether, but our longtime publisher (a priest) believed that would send the wrong message — that politics was just too dirty and sinful an occupation for a good Catholic to even think about. That priest is now deceased and I left the paper some years ago so I don’t know if they have the same policy today or not.

    To some extent there is and probably always will be a tension in Catholic journalism between the desire to be “real” journalists covering both or all sides of an issue and the call to be part of the explicit teaching mission of the Church.

  6. William says:

    And how about CNS (Catholic News Service)? CNS provides nearly ALL the news reports that diocesan newspapers carry. CNS, though an official agency of the US Bishop’s Conference (’nuff said!), highlights only those features that promote its own thoroughly leftist Church- and world- view. CNS has always loathed anything traditional and rarely gives Latinists any favorable play in their news releases. They treat Summorum Pontificium with thinly veiled contempt.

  7. Tominellay says:

    I get to read Fr. Richard McBrien regularly in THE TIDINGS. He’s a serial dissenter.

  8. Ogard says:

    “To some extent there is and probably always will be a tension in Catholic journalism between the desire to be ‘real’ journalists covering both or all sides of an issue and the call to be part of the explicit teaching mission of the Church.”

    I see no reason for the tension if the “Catholic journalism” is really Catholic. If it is, nothing prevents it from “covering both or all sides of an issue”, in most objective way possible, but adding forcefully the true position which cannot be but Catholic, i.e. the “part of the explicit teaching mission of the Church.”

    The problem is that some journalists style themselves Catholic, while de facto holding a non-Catholic position.

    And if magazines or papers of this kind are sold in our churches I wonder who is paying for unsold copies and for the work done in collecting and calculating the costs. Or, perhaps, cathedral administrators and parish priests get a commission for whatever they offer in their places?

  9. Bookworm:

    “However, there were other matters were it wasn’t always clear what to do—for example, if we got letters to the editor complaining about Church teaching on women’s ordination, or about some controversial move of the bishop. Should we publish them or not?”

    I’d like to echo Ogard’s point: use correspondence like this as a “teaching moment”; print the letter with a brief paragraph or two showing what the correct teaching is and what the errors (if any) are in the letter.

  10. boko fittleworth says:

    “Who is propping up these publications?” We are, of course. Faithful Catholics who despise heresy and dissent. My guess is that the Tablet is not “for sale” in the back of Westmister Cathedral. It is “for resale.” I know that’s how it is with a lot of dissenting rags in the US. Our betters accept our money and give it to the publishers of this trash, purchasing multiple subscriptions. Then they try to foist them on us. But even if you ignore the copies in the back of the church and even if you throw them away when the sacristan isn’t looking, you’ve already paid for them. I think (I hope) people would be shocked if they knew what the hierarchy, the chancery, and even individual parish priests spend their collection basket donations on. Politicians and groups that support abortion. Publications that push heresy.

  11. Frank H says:

    Since my parish church doesn’t have a periodicals rack, I forgot what a common thing it is.

    On a recent visit to suburban Milwaukee, I chuckled when I saw the rack in the back of a particular church…

    Commonweal, Faith & Family, America, Sojourners, National Catholic Reporter, US Catholic, St. Anthony Messenger.

    The only one I’m not familiar with is Faith & Family. But the others sure give a sense of the “faith formation” going on in that parish!

  12. Ogard says:

    fittleworth, what you say is revealing and – shocking. I wonder what others know and keep confidential, in loyalty “to the Church”?

    Gregory the Eremite, kudos. We must not be opsessed by fear of hearing false views; but equiped to cope with them, and use them as a stimulus for deepening our Faith.

    But this obviously cannot be done if a “Catolic journalism” limits its contribution to mere reporting facts and views in a “balanced” way. The Catholic truth must always be put accross forcefully at the same time; otherwise those who are not equipped with knowledge and experience can easily make the false views their own.

  13. catholicmidwest says:


    There is *absolutely* nothing wrong with a paper that is both orthodox and intellectual, like the one you appear to be carping about. Catholicism is not a kindergarten, fit only for puking babies, although you may have been led to believe it is–a very, very common thing.

    A generation or two of Catholics now have been told constantly that it’s somehow wrong to have a working brain cell or two, and that idea is DEAD WRONG in every way. St. Thomas Aquinas was a genius; St. Albertus Magnus was the last man to know everything there was to know; St. Teresa of Avila was an intellectual wonder, St. Paul amazing in his ability. Could a dummy have written the first dozen lines or so of the book of John??? Do I need to keep going???? Use your brain. It’s why God gave you one!!! And don’t cast aspersions on other people, their brains and their intellectual but orthodox tastes. You have no right to do that. It’s not Catholic.

  14. Supertradmom says:

    I think the current publication sales of the Pill are around 20,000. I think we can pray this away….

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    Athanasius was brilliant. Jerome, well, Jerome–do you know what the Vulgate is??

    Have you ever read Bonaventure? Not a little note by an idiot, I assure you.

    How about St. John of the Cross, widely regarded for centuries as the finest poet in the Spanish language?

    Did you know that the man who discovered genetics, the father of the entire discipline, was an Augustian priest??? And that among the formulators of modern mathematics and science were many priest academics??

    Stop with the Catholics have to be stupid to be faithful crap. Enough. Catholicism–no Christianity in general–is an intelligent religion that relies on a grasp of truth and a willingness to understand ideas and history. It’s not a mood ring kinda thing, and it’s not a kindergarten and anyone who tells you it is is chock full of baloney.

  16. Supertradmom says:

    The Western intellectual tradition from Europe was founded by those in the Church, along with the Greek and Roman philosphers. The monks kept classical education alive through-out the darkest and most barbaric of times, and the various bishops and popes kept the Magisterium true to the Teachings of Christ through prayer and study. Tradition is not merely oral tradition, but the interpretation of highly sophisticated intellectuals, some mentioned above by catholicmidwest, who passed on the Wisdom of the Church. In fact, as our present excellent Pope has stated many times, including at his address to the students at the seminaries in New York when he visited America in 2008, that Faith and Reason go together.

    To be anti-intellectual is not only dangerous and leads to religious fanaticism, but is a heretical position. Even some of our most modern Popes have written and spoke of this, including the great Saint, Leo XII, the Light of the Heavens……

  17. catholicmidwest says:

    Absolutely correct. From hospitals to universities, literally all the institutions of the modern world were first organized by the Church (or religious orders within the church), and those entities ran the premier versions for centuries.

    The fact that not only don’t we do these things anymore, but that Catholics act like ignorant boobs who don’t know anything and don’t want to know anything, is a grievous loss and a travesty. And it often makes us unconvincing to those looking for truth, you must realize.

  18. catholicmidwest says:

    If we act as though our religion is merely a “lifestyle choice” and a habit with no force of conviction or truth behind it, we can’t hardly blame other people for taking us at our word, can we??

  19. Supertradmom says:

    Intellectual assent is part of the adult apprehension of Faith.

  20. catholicmidwest says:

    Supertradmom, completely correct.

    I just realized something though. It’s the end of a long hard day and I have an apology for Magpie (and Fr. Z). I misunderstood your post Magpie, with respect to which paper you would cover. I have a big exposed nerve about the widespread dumbing-down of Catholicism and it inadvertently got jingled by your post. I’m sorry. I really can read, and I’ll be more careful.

  21. Athelstan says:

    Intellectual assent is part of the adult apprehension of Faith.

    Perfectly said.

  22. Geremia says:

    I did not know about

    Fr. Thomas Reese, who was forced to resign as editor of America Magazine by the Vatican for his refusal to stop publishing articles which question church orthodoxy on issues like contraception, human embryonic stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, homosexual priests, mandatory clerical celibacy, and whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be given communion.

    Source: Pewsitter.com

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