How the Church Is Doing in Publishing (Part 2)

Author Matt Pinto’s Advice for Veterans and Beginners

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SANTA PAULA, California, FEB. 13, 2003 ( The Catholic Church needs to learn to beat MTV at its own game, says an author and magazine co-founder. And a new generation of Fulton Sheens wouldn’t hurt either.

Matt Pinto, founder and president of Ascension Press and co-founder of Envoy magazine and, shared his ideas about how the Church is doing in evangelization through the media.

Pinto, a best-selling author of Catholic books, was an award recipient at Thomas Aquinas College‘s annual Writers’ Conference here.

The first part of this interview appeared Wednesday in ZENIT.

Q: In general, have Catholics found their sea legs in the media? Or are there still gaps?

Pinto: Despite the almost miraculous effort of EWTN — started 20 years ago by cloistered nuns and now one of the largest TV networks in the world — full-time Catholic communicators proclaiming the Gospel are well behind those of the secular world.

In many ways, we are barely in the race. We have virtually no influence on the secular media. Our books rarely get reviewed in regional newspapers, let alone by the national press. We have only a handful of radio stations compared to the Protestant and secular world.

We need to learn so much — from things as basic as creating good press kits to as grand as producing world-class movies.

Again, we are now making strides. It will be very interesting to see how the media powers respond to Mel Gibson’s forthcoming movie, “Passion,” which is being produced on a grand scale. It is very possible that this may start a small renaissance. There is also a new organization called Act One, which is helping Christians improve their skills in order to meet and exceed movie industry standards.

In radio, we have seen the recent resurgence of groups like Starboard Broadcasting, Ave Maria Radio, and WEWN, but we still have far to go. For example, we need to create TV shows that have the same appeal as those on MTV.

We need to produce books imbued with Catholic values that make the best-seller lists. We need to support our Catholic newspapers so they can support themselves and, in return, support our faith. We need to find not one new Fulton Sheen, but 10.

Q: Logic, depth and simple modesty often seem in short supply in the secularized media — note the rise of celebrity news, the racy newsweekly magazines, the thin debates over life issues such as human cloning, etc. What can the Church contribute at this moment?

Pinto: The lack of substance in much of our media is a real problem. Our media entertains at the expense of really informing us.

I just read a recent transcript from a popular American talk show. The subject was “teen chastity” and the show had several guests who represented solid Christian and natural law positions. However, the broadcast forum itself was not conducive to serious debate. It was a three-ring circus. Each participant could barely make a point without being interrupted. Yet, we still needed to be present on that show. We had to offer some virtuous message in spite of the shortcomings of the forum.

The Church needs to learn to play in the secular ball field because these media forums are not going to change anytime soon. Jesus spoke in parables, a common teaching method of his era. We need to speak in the method of our era, such as speaking in sound bites for those media that require it.

Is this the ideal? No. Is it necessary in this day and age? I believe it is. We also need to understand that many people make decisions based solely on sentimentality. Therefore, whether we like it or not, we need to learn how to tell our true stories in a way that appeals to the heart, not just the head.

Q: What is the biggest growth market for Catholic literature?

Pinto: We need better catechetical materials — resources that feature both a clear presentation of doctrine as well as a good pedagogy.

We are competing against CNN and the Fox Network whether we like it or not. We need to capture the hearts and minds of our audience using solid content that is presented in a dynamic way. We also need more “life application” books, which make the faith relevant to a person’s everyday life.

In addition, we must place a greater emphasis on producing literature that is faithful to the Catholic tradition. Theological fads come and go — they may indeed tickle our ears for short periods of time — but it is only dynamically orthodox materials that will ultimately lead people to the level of conversion needed to survive and thrive in this challenging age. The future Church is one that is orthodox in its content, charitable in its presentation, and dynamic in its application.

Q: What three things would you recommend to young, aspiring Catholic writers?

Pinto: First, look at what people need, not simply at what you want to say. People get inspired when you strike a chord in their heart. They respond when you speak to them, not at them. Also, tell stories. People like stories. They can relate to them.

Second, fill your writing with a strong sense of hope. Christ has won the battle. Even though it is comprised of sinners, the Church is the Bride of Christ that will speak and teach with vigor and faithfulness until the end of time. The fullness of truth subsists in the Catholic Church. Founded and guided by Christ, the Church is the only hope for the world. Therefore, we Catholics should be people filled with hope.

Finally, one must continually pray for wisdom, holiness and purity of heart. We should also ask God to use us in a powerful way to advance his work here on earth. Prayer is the fuel that will sustain you.

We must go into battle spiritually prepared. In other words, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit. If we are so filled, the life of the Spirit will burst through the darkness and shine a light that will attract many to the Source of Life itself.

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