The secular press did a wonderful job in handling Pius XII's death story and announcing his successor. But all too often it suffers from a certain irresponsibility. It frequently, e.g., over-emphasizes "cheese cake", and gives favourable reviews to evil films and unsavoury books— which, as Canon Sheehan put it, have almost usurped the place of religion as the guide and teacher of men. The cumulative effect of this kind of press propaganda, is that large numbers of believers are weakened in their faith and gradually fall away from it.
The purpose of the Catholic Press is quite definitely to give Catholic news and counteract unsound Principles by presenting sane and healthy ones, Leo XIII declared: "Bad books (and the same is true of newspapers) must be fought by good books." Cardinal Newman observed appositely: 'Honest persons are set right and enemies are silenced by the mere statement of what we believe." For Catholics, says our Archbishop in this issue, "it is hardly possible to overstress the importance of reading a Catholic paper regularly." The power of the press is great, because it moulds public opinion. Wendell Phillips, the orator, once said, "We live under a government of men and morning papers."
The Catholic press emphasizes Catholic news and any Catholic angle found in the ordinary daily news—something that is not often done by the daily press. In Holland there are some 40 Catholic dailies which give both Catholic and secular news, with a special interpretation of all news from a Catholic angle. In England four national Catholic weeklies take the place of the many smaller-circulation diocesan weeklies in the U.S.A. In all these papers, as in our local M.C.N., Catholic news, both home and foreign, is given, with a defense of Catholic doctrine, articles of Catholic interest concerning labour, the family, the movies, encyclicals of the Pope or addresses by prominent Catholics, together with important social and moral problems and editorial emphasis on moral principles that arise in connection with either Catholic or non-Catholic matters of current interest.
The chief source for our foreign news is the NCWC airmail service arriving thrice weekly from Washington, where reports from correspondents throughout the world totaling about a million words each week are sorted out and condensed to some 50,000 words. These are mailed out to Catholic papers all over the world, reaching some 50 million customers. Many of the articles contain matter that is simply not found in the secular press, and enable Catholics to round out the information they get from their daily papers. "Diligent readers of the Catholic press," says Liverpool's Archbishop John Heenan. "are thus kept better informed on world afiairs than those who read only the secular press."
Our paper enjoys a big circulation, but there are still some Catholic families in this country who don't get it. Opportunities for further expansion would seem to be in the big rubber estates among Malayans living abroad. and those who have just finished schooling here. Of these. Pius XII asked shortly before his death:
"If they grasped the nature and magnitude of the issues at stake in the perennial struggle that the Church has to wage in the face of those who through ignorance or evil-minded enmity revile and misrepresent her and her teachings, would they be languidly gravitating to light, trivial reading? Would they not rather turn with an eager sense of chivalry to the best Catholic sources of information and instruction?" Past students from our Malayan schools might well take these words to heart.
It would be hard to sum up the Catholic press apostolate better than the late Cardinal Vaughan did it:
"We are in the age of the apostolate of the Press.
It can penetrate where no Catholic can enter.
It can do its work as surely for God as for the devil.
It is an instrument in our hands.
All should take part in this apostolate.
Here at least. there is work for everyone.
For ten who can write, 20,000 can subscribe.
And a hundred thousand can scatter the seed."
The Malayan Catholic News, January 25, 1959, page 4