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Issue Date:  May 20, 2005

From the Editor's Desk

A chill over Catholic publishing

It was a sad week.

I know that Jesuit Fr. Tom Reese’s biography is probably of little interest to those bothered enough by the content of America magazine to seek Rome’s intervention.

But I’ve known Reese for about 20 years, and I do think in an institution that speaks so eloquently of the dignity of the individual and of the significance of work that what happened to him professionally cannot be tidily separated from a life that has given so much to the church.

So what is said in our editorial on the last page deserves repeating here: He’s a terrific priest, a wonderful human being who cares deeply about the church and has done more than perhaps any individual in the United States to explain the institution in an understandable and credible way to the wider culture.

It is a chilly time for Catholic publishing, and the real losers, of course, are not members of the hierarchy. The losers are ordinary Catholics convinced that faith is a dynamic reality that grows and matures not by avoiding the difficult questions but by confronting them and dealing with them. Prohibiting Catholic journals from publishing pieces about controversial topics will not prevent the Catholic discussion from going on. It will only prevent Catholics from benefiting from some of the best minds in the community (see story).

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It is not too much of a stretch, I think, to make the case that the chill pervading Catholic publishing can be seen in the disturbing story about Erik Meder, who said he was asked to resign his position as outreach coordinator for the Office of Social and International Ministries at the Jesuit Conference after he wrote an interesting and provocative piece about homosexuality that was published in National Jesuit News. “This isn’t like the Jesuits,” I can hear you saying. Indeed, it isn’t. I have a hunch that such incidents are merely symptomatic of how fearful everyone has become. People are doing all sorts of things to protect themselves and to stay out of range of Rome’s radar. It was a sad week. (See story) (See article)

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Ah, but the church is never just one thing, one theme, one group in the ascendancy. So I call your attention to the story which reports on a new campaign, launched by more than a dozen church organizations and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called Justice for Immigrants ( see story).

The campaign “is intended to educate the public, and Catholics in particular, about how immigration and immigrants benefit the nation; to improve public opinion about the contributions of immigrants; to advocate for changes in immigration laws and policies; and to organize networks that assist immigrants with legal problems.”

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Finally, you’ll see a “house ad” asking for your help in bringing new subscribers to NCR. The campaign has been in the planning for months, and quite frankly we’re eager to see if our readers, so deeply supportive of our efforts, can help us grow (see promo).

Maintaining an independent voice in reporting on the Catholic church is no easy task. The most vital component is readers. Saturation marketing is beyond our modest budget, so we come to you, the community that has kept this little project going through four papacies and all the ups and downs of the past four decades. We’re asking you to help preserve this independent voice for the future. Go ahead. Look for the envelope with all the information you need.

And thanks in advance for your help.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, May 20, 2005

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