By Lara Pickford-Gordon,
Delving into the early history of the Catholic News, one can see clergy were expected to do their part to ensure continuity of the paper through assisting with sales and promotion. Parishes also gave financial support to the paper.
A letter to clergy from Archbishop Patrick Vincent Flood, April 28, 1902, mentions a “tax levied on parochial funds for some years back” to support the Catholic News. It stated, “Although this tax did not affect the monthly allowance of our Priests in any way, we have come to the conclusion that it must be abandoned”.
The tax was taken from “pew-rents” or Sunday morning collections but the Archbishop’s letter instructs “in view of the recent great reduction of the Grant and of the recent *legislation unfavourable to our schools, all Church monies must be kept exclusively for Church and school purposes”.
The grant, a sum given to parish priests, was reduced to $40 monthly. It was subsidised by laity of the colony, and the Archbishop mentions a letter previously disseminated appealing for parishioners “to make up, by voluntary contributions, the diminution of the Grant” for the maintenance of priests.
The abolition of the tax on parish contributions took effect from April 1, and Archbishop Flood’s correspondence voiced concerns about the future of the Catholic News— “What then is to be done with the Catholic News? Is it to be abandoned after so many years of existence?”
The tax, he continued, “would never have been levied, if all our Priests who encouraged us by an unanimous vote to publish the newspaper used their influence to support it, and obtain for it a wider circulation.” Archbishop’s House kept abreast of the parishes’ contribution and the Archbishop stated that more had to be done.
According to the letter, “We have before us an account of what each parish did for the Catholic News during the year 1901, and it is a sad record of many of them. Some indeed of even the small parishes are beyond all praise for the help they have given the undertaking but others have hardly given any help at all, while some have ignored the existence of our Diocesan paper entirely.”
Moral suasion was used to spur buy-in for the paper and it is interesting to note that the paper was not welcomed by all. Archbishop Flood mentioned that on many occasions at diocesan conferences, clergy were exhorted “to help us make successful a work undertaken at their own request ; but we have received neither help nor sympathy from many of them, and their parishes we may say, remain hermetically sealed against the entrance into them of the Catholic News.”
In order to maintain the running of the paper a decision was taken to reduce the cost of publication. Unfortunately having examined “the items one by one” the conclusion was reached that only one area could be touched. The letter explained, “Under all heads the strictest economy being practised. We can only suppress the monthly salary of the Editor. We regret very much being forced to take this step.” The “valuable services” of the Editor (Mr Bernard) was commended but the Archdiocese was “constrained to sever his connection with it as its paid Editor”.
Fr Michael O’Bryne OP, Parish Priest of St Ann’s would take over as Editor from June 1. The priest had offered his service “gratuitously” thereby allowing for a “very large saving” in expenses of publication.
It was hoped with increased circulation the paper would make up the balance. An appeal was made to priests to help and a reminder given “you have time before the 1st of June to send your orders to the Office, to forward more copies to yourself or directly to parishioners whom you have induced to become subscribers”. Some clergy informed the Archbishop that they paid “boys 3d/dozen” to help sell the paper; an arrangement was made so they did not have this expense in the future. Parcels of the paper were to be sent prepaid “as usual” and a rate of “9d per dozen” charged from June 1.
The correspondence concludes, “We consider, by these arrangements that we have done all in our power to secure the continued existence of the Catholic News; the rest depends on the clergy of the Archdiocese”.
SOURCE: Archdiocesan Archives – Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port of Spain