Publish or Perish: How the Church Is Doing in the Media (Part 1)

Author Matt Pinto Sees Room for Improvement

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

SANTA PAULA, California, FEB. 12, 2003 ( Catholic publishing is doing OK. But it should be doing a lot better, says an author and magazine co-founder.

Matt Pinto, founder and president of Ascension Press and co-founder of Envoy magazine and, thinks that the Church could do more in the media, given the large numbers of the faithful.

The author of “Do Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons?” and other Catholic books was an award recipient at Thomas Aquinas College‘s annual Writers’ Conference here recently.

Here, Pinto shared his views about publishing with ZENIT. The second part of this interview appears Thursday.

Q: What is the state of Catholic publishing today?

Pinto: Catholic print and Internet publishers, as well as broadcast producers, are having some small successes, but far less than we should have at this point in Christian history.

It is true that in the recent years tens of thousands of Catholics have come to a stronger faith due to the growth of apologetics literature, and thousands have come back to the faith. This, of course, is a beautiful thing — but these numbers are still very small when you consider the size of the Catholic population in the Western societies, let alone the size of the secular population, which needs to be evangelized as well.

I do sense, however, that things are changing for the better. In the last five years, for example, Catholic publishers have become clever in their title selections, marketing and book packaging.

We are also now starting to place our books and products in the major secular chains, which is vitally important because this is where most of the population — Catholic and non-Catholic — search for their reading material. We are starting to think outside of the box, reaching beyond “the choir.” These efforts will yield great fruit.

In addition, it has been nearly four decades since Vatican II, but lay Catholic communicators are just now becoming comfortable with the techniques and strategies employed by secular communication professionals.

I love Pope John Paul II’s words given on World Communications Day in the year 2000. He said, “Catholic communicators must be bold and creative in developing new media and methods of proclamation.” There were times in the past when the Church led the way in supporting or even developing new technologies. Religious and laity alike were bold and creative. We have lost much of this spirit in the recent years.

Despite our limited successes thus far, I do believe we are getting close to pulling off some major evangelization efforts using the various means of social communications.

For example, we are now making some Catholic-based movies in Hollywood, a new apostolate called the New Evangelization of the Americas, NEA, is doing great work, and the Church now has a prominent television show hosted by Father Alberto Cutié on secular television. For these reasons and others, I sense that something on a grand scale is in our near future.

Q: What are the strongest points of Catholic publishing?

Pinto: Catholic publishing’s strongest point is that its “product” — eternal truth — speaks to the heart of man. Deep down, every person in the world desires the Catholic message, although most may not know it.

As Catholic communicators, we need to present this truth in its fullness, but also in clever and well-packaged ways. We are attempting to reach the TV generation and a community of people who are saturated with information. Therefore, we need to learn how to use the media in a way that is familiar to a modern individual’s experience.

In addition, a well-trained Catholic writer or knowledgeable Catholic publisher understands the value and necessity of inculturation. We need to see what is good and true in a particular culture, and then embrace and use these truths for the sake of the Gospel.

With every new generation comes a new culture. The Catholic Church is at its best when it transmits the timeless truths it has received from our Savior to the culture in a manner in which it will be well accepted. This does not mean, of course, that the truth ever changes. It does not. The truth is, however, presented differently from one age to the next.

Q: What are some of the weaknesses?

Pinto: The first is a subconscious fear that many Catholics have toward using modern means of communication and secular marketing techniques.

We sometimes think that secular marketing and advertising are somehow “dirty” — that we are caving in to the culture, or that these methods are not good enough for the Gospel. I could not more strongly disagree. If people can use the latest in advertising to promote something as basic as Amway, we can surely use these same skills to promote something as important as Yahweh.

This suspicion about whether we should use modern media seriously limits our ability to share the Gospel with a world in desperate need. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in “Inter Mirifica” said: “The Church recognizes that the media, if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind, since they greatly contribute to men’s entertainment and instruction as well as spread and support of the kingdom of God.”

In addition, there are those who work for the Church who lack the necessary skills for mass communication. This is why new trade associations like the Catholic Marketing Network, based in the United States, and writing workshops — like the one held in January at Thomas Aquinas College in California — are so vital.

We need to learn how to get articles imbued with wholesome values published in secular newspapers. We need to learn better advertising skills. We need to learn how to write good movie scripts, to offer ideas that get the attention of Hollywood producers.

Lastly, we need to learn how to be relevant without compromising the truths of the faith. We must trust that if we present Catholic teaching in its fullness — yet with love and in a way that the current age can understand — it will be compelling and attractive.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation