Instilling the Mind of the Church: An Unchanging Goal
Here at Trinity Communications, it seems like we are never quite ready for the Next Big Thing. But our core values haven’t changed. The relationship between the Next Big Thing and our core values came to the surface once again in a recent series of internal meetings on our plan to merge our two main websites, Catholic World News and CatholicCulture.org. I think this is worth explaining.
Merging the Sites
We had hoped to have CatholicCulture.org and Catholic World News merged into one by now. My last prediction was that it would happen by the end of June, but now we’re looking at early August. Things could get dicey for us if we don’t have everything ready by Fall, because that’s when it becomes possible to raise money effectively again after the Summer doldrums. So we have pressing reasons to make sure the remaining delays are minimal.
When the sites merge, the most obvious change will be for Catholic World News users, who will now find the entire news system along with everything else on CatholicCulture.org. The “look and feel” of CatholicCulture.org won’t change dramatically, but after the merger all of our resources will be together in one place—richer, easier to use, and completely free. Besides providing improved information and service to all users, the free availability of the news and various other features by email will drive new registrations, giving us a dramatically larger pool of potential supporters, and therefore spreading the financial load. At least that's our theory of the Next Big Thing.
After two days of meetings earlier this week among Phil Lawler (founder and Director of Catholic World News), Peter Mirus (Trinity’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer), Pablo Gomez (Trinity’s Chief Marketing Officer) and myself (Trinity’s founder, President, and resident complainer), we realized we still have at least a month of work to do before launching the new CatholicCulture.org. Hence my comment about never being quite ready for the Next Big Thing. But the other major change—and to me the most exciting change of all—will be the new site’s increased emphasis on Catholic commentary, which teaches a different sort of lesson altogether.
The Trinity Message
On the new site, Phil Lawler and myself will become major daily writers in an expanded Commentary section, along with Diogenes (from CWNews.com) and guests. Phil and I are both looking forward to this development, and it was in discussing the objectives of our expanded commentaries that we were reminded that, for Trinity Communications at least, some things never—and shouldn’t—change. The Next Big Thing remains the Only Big Thing.
When I started Trinity Communications in 1985, and when Phil started Catholic World News a few years later, we both had the same objectives in mind: applying Catholic thought to the issues of the day, inspiring a more vibrant Faith in our fellow Catholics and, perhaps above all, strengthening a struggling Church. Expressed another way, our goal was to help others to “put on Christ” (Rm 13:14) by adopting the authentic mind of the Church. This mind of the Church is not to be ascertained by what any given member of the Church says or does in his own person. Rather, it is the collective wisdom of the Church, distilled and clarified through Tradition, articulated and explained through the Magisterium, and exemplified in the lives of the saints, which is the clearest and most precise guide to thinking, acting and living according to the mind of Christ Himself.
Now within this very rich and powerful mind of the Church, it is not Trinity’s mission to promote any particular way, charism, personality, technique, system, procedure, set of activities, movement, or socio-political strategy. The sons and daughters of God will seize upon any number of such emphases and particular missions, as diverse, varied and free as only faithful members of the Church can be. No, Trinity’s goal is far more basic and far more important: to help people simply to be Catholic, to develop that all-encompassing virtue which we might describe as the Catholic “habit of being”.
Nor does one have to be a priest or a religious to foster this habit of being. In fact, with the Church in such a weakened state in our own time, it is often very difficult for those in official positions to fully and uncompromisingly express the mind of the Church. Well-formed laymen are in a unique position to do this without fear of being muzzled or marginalized by short-sighted pastors, bishops, religious superiors, or specific community cultures. Lay people are also more free to articulate the mind of the Church without tying it excessively to one particular charism, outlook or devotional form. Trinity’s mindset is simply Catholic: We seek to promote the authentic grace, truth and liberty of Catholicism as understood by the mind of the Church. As for specific groups, persons or programs, we endorse them—as we endorse ourselves—only insofar as they conform to the Church’s mind.
When Phil and I began the particular phase of Catholic apostolic work represented by CatholicCulture.org and Catholic World News in their current forms, the dearth of sound Catholic information was so great that each new document we could make available, and each news story we could publish, was a significant part of the effort to make authentic Catholicism more accessible to everyone. Each new item provided committed Catholics with something significant they could use to make their own contributions to the good of the Church and the world.
Over the past ten years, however, there has been an explosion of Catholic information on the web and elsewhere as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Catholic men and women have joined in making various aspects of Catholic life better known. Given that CatholicCulture.org already has 10,000 documents, that Catholic World News already has 50,000 news stories, and that contemporary search engines provide access to still more raw Catholic information, the value of each new document and news story has declined dramatically. Information is no longer the problem. The problem now is how to make quick and easy sense of it.
That’s why we will be expanding the Commentary section significantly when the two sites are merged this summer. All the depth and breadth of our resources will still be available as background, but Phil, myself and others will be playing a much larger role in putting everything together, making sense of it all, and helping users to get a Catholic perspective both on their own personal lives and on Church and world issues, as quickly as possible.
It’s that word perspective which brings us back to our mission. We all want to strengthen the Church and convert the world. So what are we to do? Are we supposed to tell you what organizations to join, what politicians to support, where to contribute your money, and how to spend your time? Should we identify the pro-life movement (or apologetics work, religious education, prayer, Catholic social involvement, or family activity) as the most important single key to making things better? Is it our task to favor some particular charism, insisting that the world can best be influenced by following this or that saint, this or that devotion, this or that spiritual regimen? Would we serve you better by filtering this or that aspect of Catholicism into our own desired container, in order to ensure particular results?
No, the dynamic energies of Catholicism cannot be harnessed in this way, and it would only undermine the purpose of Trinity Communications to attempt to do so. Instead, we want to touch frequently on all these things and countless more precisely to reveal the mind of the Church and to assist users in acquiring and developing the habit of Catholicism. The glorious grace and liberty of the Faith will do the rest, in as many ways as there are special charisms and special people. Rather than looking to us for one particular solution or one particular form of action, we actually want you to trust us not to have a particular agenda.
Christ alone is the Agenda (Jn 14:6). He is the Way; there is no other. The easiest and most complete procedure for following this Way is to adhere to the mind of the Church. And so we arrive once again at Trinity’s unchanging mission. Through CatholicCulture.org, we are dedicated to shaping the culture we find in the Church and the culture we find in the world into ever-greater conformity with the authentic mind of the Church. We seek to faithfully represent this mind of the Church to all who read our work. And despite both our varied interests and our many imperfections, we still hope nothing less than to inculcate in everyone who will listen the virtuous habit of thinking, living, and being Catholic.
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