Alas, We’ve Been Naive
In 1998 the Catholic Press Association (CPA) published a book innocuously titled The Mission and Future of the Catholic Press, edited by John F. Fink. We have seen no ads for, or reviews of, the book. You probably won’t find it in any bookstore — it carries neither a price nor a bar code. It’s a book for insiders, largely written by and for people affiliated with the CPA. But this obscure book is highly significant, for it is surprisingly frank about its subject matter — the state and direction of the establishment Catholic press.
The idea for the book came from its editor, John Fink, a veteran Catholic journalist who spent 30 years at Our Sunday Visitor Inc. (OSV), 12 of them as President and Publisher, and who is Editor Emeritus of The Criterion, the paper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The funding for the book was made possible by a grant from the Our Sunday Visitor Institute. When the book was being prepared for publication, the President and Publisher of OSV, Robert P. Lockwood, deployed various OSV employees to help with its design and production. Indeed, the CPA’s newspaper noted that the book could be considered an OSV “family affair.” And the book carries pieces by Fink, Lockwood, and OSV’s Associate Publisher, Msgr. Owen F. Campion.
Given that OSV has banned the NEW OXFORD REVIEW’s trademark ads from all its periodicals, we admit that we didn’t come to the book in a disinterested manner. Rather, we approached it with curiosity about the mindset at OSV. While the book carries the disclaimer that the opinions expressed are those of the writers and “not necessarily” those of OSV, the heavy involvement of OSV in the book just might, we thought, offer clues about OSV’s philosophy. And so it does.
Obviously, we at the NOR have special reason to be curious about that philosophy, but why should other orthodox Catholics care? Because OSV has a reputation for orthodoxy — even if it’s a centrist or muddy kind of orthodoxy. And even though OSV has been experiencing difficulty in recent years, it’s still the largest Catholic publisher in America. It has over 50 employees, publishes 10 periodicals (oops, make that nine, for we’ve just learned that its magazine Catholic Heritage is ceasing publication), and puts out two dozen or so new books each year. OSV is a major player in Catholic publishing, and hence OSV’s conception of the purpose of the Catholic press should be of interest to any Catholic serious about the Faith.
Now, OSV is often identified as being “moderate” in approach — or “balanced,” as OSV would probably want to term it. But curiously, none of the contributors to The Mission and Future of the Catholic Press is a recognized “conservative” Catholic, whereas several are clearly connected to the “liberal” camp. There are contributions from people associated with St. Anthony Messenger, U.S. Catholic, Catholic Digest, Maryknoll magazine, and Catholic Herald (the paper put out by Rembert Weakland’s Archdiocese of Milwaukee).
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