By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Digitising 125 years of Catholic News is “a remarkably, extraordinary and wonderful achievement…it is an absolute gift to the nation,” said Professor Emerita Bridget Brereton, at the Catholic News’ symposium The Pursuit of Truth in the Age of Fake News November 18 at the Auditorium, St Dominic’s Pastoral Centre.
In presenting ‘An Historical Perspective’, Brereton focused on two issues covered by the paper — the labour protests of 1937 during colonialism and the Black Power movement 1970 post-Independence.
She examined Catholic News stories June to August 1937, and January to June 1970. Brereton observed “very little comment about the riots and protests” in 1937. Instead there appeared to be an “obsession” with communism, atheism and anti-clericalism in other countries and especially in Europe.
Prof Brereton commented the Catholic News was on the “wrong side of history when it came to 1937 strikes and riots”. She noted the position taken by the paper was not too surprising given the preoccupation with communism and secularism, events going on in Europe, and the nature of the colonial Catholic Church and “who had the most influence”.
She noted the paper’s handling of the Black Power movement and the crisis of early 1970 was dealt with in a “responsible, fair-minded manner and at times surprisingly open and radical way”. There were articles with Archbishop Anthony Pantin’s response to events including the protest at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
A March 14 report carried the Archbishop’s appeal for “sanity, reason and a constructive approach” to the problems affecting the society. Archbishop Pantin offered his and the Church’s service and welcomed any meeting and discussion with the leaders.
Prof Brereton said, “This was an extraordinary intervention by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port of Spain.” She highlighted the columns of Boyd Reid, the chaplain at the seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs. His March 14 commentary stated the Catholic Church must support the aims and ideals of Black Power movement if not always the methods.
Agnes Murray, “a very rare female voice”, contributed two articles on Black Power and the Church. Her second, ‘Postmortem of a Crisis’ urged Catholics to pursue the positive aspects of Black Power.
Five articles on unemployment were published in the first six months of 1970. “These pieces show sympathy for the unemployed and support for the role of Trade Unions on workers’ rights reflecting a social justice agenda of the post-Vatican II church worldwide”.