Catholic press has ‘irreplaceable role’ Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Feb. 03, 2011 -- 1:00 AM

The Catholic press has an irreplaceable role in forming Christian consciences and reflecting the Church’s viewpoint on contemporary issues.

That’s not just my idea. It is what Pope Benedict XVI said in remarks on November 26, 2010, to members of the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies, an organization which represents 188 Catholic newspapers.

Despite the crisis in print media today, the Catholic newspaper still has a vital role to play in diocesan communications, the pope said in an article carried by Catholic News Service.

People need the full truth

While secular media often reflect a skeptical and relativistic attitude toward truth, the Church knows that people need the full truth brought by Christ, the pope said. “The mission of the Church consists in creating the conditions so that this meeting with Christ can be realized. Cooperating in this task, the communications media are called to serve the truth with courage, to help public opinion see and read reality from an evangelical viewpoint,” he said.

A primary task of the Catholic newspaper, he said, is to “give voice to a point of view that reflects Catholic thinking on all ethical and social questions.” The pope said the printed newspaper, because of its simplicity and widespread distribution, remains an effective way of spreading news about local diocesan events and developments, including charity initiatives.

As “newspapers of the people,” he said, Catholic papers can also favor real dialogue between different social sectors and debate among people of different opinions. “By doing this, Catholic newspapers not only fulfill the important task of providing information, but also perform an irreplaceable formative function” in the education of “critical and Christian consciences,” he said.

Catholic newspapers in Wisconsin

The Catholic Herald of the Diocese of Madison has been fulfilling these important tasks outlined by the Holy Father. As our mission statement says, our newspaper informs and educates its readers and provides a forum for commentary on issues related to the mission of the Church. Our current diocesan newspaper was established as a separate edition in 1948, two years after the Diocese of Madison was formed in 1946.

However, the front page of the Catholic Herald indicates that 2011 marks Volume 141. That is because the Catholic Herald had its origins in Monroe. In response to antagonism from local news media after the First Vatican Council’s declaration of papal infallibility in 1870, the pastor of St. Victor Parish in Monroe, Fr. John Casey, and parishioner Dr. D.W. Nolan founded the Catholic Vindicator newspaper to defend the faith.

Bishop John M. Henni of Milwaukee moved the paper to Milwaukee and renamed it the Catholic Herald Citizen. It was renamed the Catholic Herald in 1981. Operated by the Catholic Press Apostolate, there are separate newspapers under this umbrella published in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Dioceses of Madison and Superior.

Catholic press in U.S. and Canada

In 1911, representatives of Catholic newspapers around the United States and Canada met in Columbus, Ohio, for their first national meeting.

This new Catholic Press Association aimed to “keep the public informed on Catholic happenings of vital interest and to ensure that “the great work of the Catholic pen may go forward in its noble crusade for God, for country, and the right.”

Today, as the Catholic Press Association celebrates its 100th anniversary, there are more than 170 newspapers and 130 magazines with a circulation of more than 11 million. In addition, many publications have Web sites, blogs, and other new media initiatives.

As we begin the observance of Catholic Press Month, we encourage people to read the Catholic Herald cover-to-cover each week. Please encourage others to subscribe to the Catholic Herald in your parish or go to our Web site at for more information (and special features you won’t find in the print edition).

Stir up your soul. Deepen your faith. Read the Catholic Herald.