Lawler on Catholic Journalism

From Ignatius Insight comes this interview with Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World Report. Worthwhile reading. The best point he makes is this:

"Actually, the first obligation of any journalist is to be read. If no one reads your stories, it doesn't matter what they say. So it's very important to put the news in a lively, appealing form, so that people will find it attractive."

The most problematic thing he says comes in this exchange:

"Schmalz: Catholic World Report (CWR) and Catholic World News (CWN) have both made names for themselves as being willing to criticize the Church for its policies and to criticize the actions of certain Church figures. Many Catholic publications are unwilling to do that because they feel it undermines the Church. You have a different perspective. Can you explain that?

Lawler: Again, I'm confident in the truth. As St. Augustine said, "God does not need my lie." The Church is in the business of proclaiming the truth, and if we're not truthful in the way we convey in-house news, then how can people be confident in the way we preach the Gospel? And what is it that is being undermined when we expose some unfortunate truths about the state of Catholicism? Is it the Church, the Body of Christ? Or is it the corruption that tarnishes the Church? It is my love for the Church that compels me to speak out when I think someone is harming the faith. "

In principle I agree. Wholeheartedly. But too many prominent Catholics and Catholic publications these days use "the truth will set you free" as an excuse to launch heated polemics on the flimsiest pretexts (just because your pastor comes down out of the sanctuary to shake hands during the kiss of peace does not mean he's a heretic). To report unpleasant facts is one thing. To set yourself up as a parallel magisterium is another. Not accusing Phil Lawler, here, just speaking generally. More on this later --it's one of three manifestos brewing. (The "truth" manifesto; the social teaching manifesto; and the role of the laity manifesto). Or maybe they're all the same thing ultimately.