Only one editor of the Catholic Herald has ever been sent to jail. But Charles Diamond was a major figure in our history: the paper’s founder and, from 1888 to 1934, the man at the editor’s desk. The Herald was founded in the era of Cardinal Manning, when the cause of workers’ rights was at the heart of the Church’s life; Diamond referred to the newspaper as “the organ of Catholic industrial democracy” – not a slogan we considered reviving for the cover of this first monthly edition, but one which indicates the seriousness of the man.
Diamond’s Catholic Herald was, then, not a paper which stood back from the world, but one which engaged with it energetically – and, it must be admitted, sometimes recklessly. (His six-month jail term was for “soliciting others to commit murder”, after he published an article which covered, with what a jury felt to be too much sympathy, an assassination attempt on the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.)
That tradition continued, in a less aggressive form, after Diamond’s death in 1934. The group of laymen who took over the paper promised to cover the news from a Catholic perspective. There was, they thought, “a real need for such a paper on account of the strong current running in opposition not only to the mission and the claims of the Church but even to the Christian life itself.”
The same words, of course, could be written today; they are echoed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s recent remarks about the “seemingly humanistic ideologies” which have undermined the Faith and which are so often backed by social pressure. The Catholics of 1934 may not have faced exactly the same issues that Benedict mentioned – abortion, same-sex marriage, IVF – but the challenges of Catholic life are in many ways perennial.
As the editorial team of 1934 wrote, it was tempting to ignore the problem: “As long as their religious belief is not openly challenged, Catholics are somewhat inclined to shut their eyes to these tendencies. Many of them, moreover, are accustomed to separate, so to speak, their lives into two compartments, the one closed and almost sectarian, the other indistinguishable from the public, business, or social life of other people.”
Their answer in 1934, and the ideal this monthly magazine aims for, is to de-compartmentalise: to cover both the world of religion and the world of, well, everything else. So the reader will find here not only some brilliant reporting on the life of the Church, and some magnificent spiritual writing, but also politics, poetry, economics, sport, cocktail recipes, philosophy, language, science, history, fiction … and a lot of flowers. It is, after all, Mary’s month.
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