I am happy to post a comment by Anne Steffens, Chief Communications Officer of the Archdiocese, that she submitted to my recent post on the St. Louis Review’s TLM article. Because that post has already rotated off of the front page of the blog, I thought it would be fair to post her comment here so that more people would see it.
Thank you for reading the St. Louis Review! So sorry for the delay in responding, but I wasn’t aware of your post regarding one of our articles until recently. I have to admit I was surprised to read your thoughts regarding the article titled “Latin Mass supported, one year after papal ruling”. I’ve never had anyone complain about positive coverage of anything on the front page of a newspaper, so I was caught a little off-guard.
Please allow me to address some of your concerns:
1.In a recent conversation I had with Father Lenhardt, he suggested an article on the first year anniversary of the Motu Proprio. It was our decision to put the story on the front page.
2.We thought that it was important to show the depth and the breadth of the support of the Latin Mass in the Archdiocese of St. Louis since His Holiness issued the “Summorum Pontificum”. Our readers would expect the TLM to be successful at St. Francis de Sales for several reasons: 1) All Masses there are offered in the extraordinary form, 2) Archbishop Burke designated the pastor of St. Francis de Sales as the Episcopal delegate for the implementation of the “Summorum Pontificum” and 3) St. Francis de Sales has received a great deal of coverage in the St. Louis Review.
We thought the best way to show the support of the TLM since the Motu Proprio was to write about all the other parishes that offered the Mass, and focus on one in particular that has been growing since the announcement. We also wanted to talk to a diocesan priest, again to show the depth and the breadth of the movement in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
3.Because Father Lenhardt was the Archbishop’s designate regarding the Latin Mass, we felt it was important to include him in the story. We did.
4.Regarding the photo, we chose that photo because we wanted it to tell a more personal story of a mother and her children attending the Mass. The point of the photo was not to show the numbers(we did that in the text) but to show the faces of a few of the people who attend.
We would have loved to have run multiple photos of all the different places that celebrate the TLM. However, our staff is small, our time is limited (we wanted to run the story near the time of the actual anniversary), our revenue is limited (our photographers are freelance and we would have to pay for their time and their photos) and our space in the newspaper is limited, as well.
5.In response to your statement “the Review’s treatment of other stories on the TLM, especially in the run up to, and coverage of, the motu proprio issued last year (…) has been lukewarm at best”,I decided to look up the number of times we’ve covered St. Francis de Sales since it was established in 2005. The St. Louis Review has written 37 articles (which comes to about one a month) in which the oratory or someone from the oratory was mentioned. The oratory has been the main focus in 17 of those 37 articles. There have been 16 In Brief or Calendar items about the oratory. We also had an online photo spread on the oratory/institute when they ordained two priests last summer. In an Archdiocese that has nearly 200 parishes, oratories and shrines, St. Francis de Sales has received more coverage than any other parish, shrine or oratory in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. To write that the coverage has been “lukewarm” would be inaccurate.
I’d also like to respond to some of the comments made by your readers. One accused us of having “false information” in the article, though didn’t specify what information was false. We are always open to hear from our readers and would be happy to talk with this person directly regarding any inaccuracies that are perceived.
Another comment indicated that “the set-up of the article…” was an indication that “St. Francis de Sales (was) the least important Latin Mass oratory”. We believe all our parishes, all our oratories, and all our shrines are of equal importance as they are all doing the important work of the Catholic Church.
Thanks for the opportunity to answer some of the concerns you and your readers have raised. Please feel free to contact me directly in the future with your thoughts regarding coverage. Again, thanks so much for reading the St. Louis Review!
Chief Communications Officer
Archdiocese of St. Louis
First, let me say how gratified I am that some people at the Archdiocesan Office follow the blog. I think it is a very hopeful sign in many ways, and shows that what the growing number of traditionally-minded faithful might think is a matter of some importance to them.
That being said, I think it is helpful to put my post in context. I had some problems with some aspects that I considered to be editorial issues, but overall I thought the story was good. My words from that post:
“The article is well-written by Jennifer Brinker and highlights many of the area’s Traditional Mass locations– the Oratory of Sts. Gregory and Augustine, Assumption Parish, other locations and finally St. Francis de Sales Oratory– the largest TLM-only community (averaging about 1200 people for Sunday Masses) and a kind of center for the Extraordinary Form in the Archdiocese.
Therefore, I don’t want to be misunderstood about the quibble I am about to make. It is a molehill, not a mountain.”
Now this is hardly scathing. But it appears that a mountain is indeed forming from the molehill, which is unfortunate. Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know that I have been quite happy to defend Archbishop Burke from the unjust attacks he faced fairly regularly. They will know that I have promoted and encouraged the growth of a vibrant orthodoxy of the faith here in the Archdiocese. I have followed and given credit to the Review often.
My only two concerns with the article were that 1) there was a sparsely-populated photo on a back page (no photo on the front page); and, 2) that the largest Latin Mass Apostolate in the United States, and probably the world, that in many ways has helped to place St. Louis at the forefront of the liturgical restoration called for by Summorum Pontificum, was not discussed until the end of an article discussing the fruits of Summorum Pontificum.
The coverage to the other locations providing the extraordinary form was good, and I said so.
Ms. Steffens‘ comment uses terms like “we” and “our” to describe the process of deciding to run the story, how the story was written, what was included, etc. This suggest that Ms. Steffens was more involved in the assignment, editing and layout of the story than I think likely. She is not the Editor of the Review, and I suspect that Ms. Steffens is not responsible for the only two concerns I listed. If I am wrong, I trust she will correct me.
Now, regarding my remark that the Review‘s coverage of the “TLM” has been lukewarm at best. Ms. Steffens‘ response states she checked on the amount of times the Review covered “St. Francis de Sales”. These are not identical topics of coverage. And after reviewing her comments and my own previous posts, let me amend that remark to read that the Review‘s coverage of the TLM has been “uneven”. Let me explain.
First, I would agree that the Oratory has been covered more often in the last few years than many Archdiocesan parishes. The Oratory, of course, is not an Archdiocesan parish or oratory– canonically, it is an oratory of the Institute of Christ the King– and the Archbishop gave it an Archdiocesan-wide mission that exceeds the scope of any territorial parish. As such, it is not surprising that it is more often covered. Ms. Steffens states that it, or someone from the Oratory, has been the main focus of a story in 17 stories since 2005. This is roughly once every two months. And the material in the calendar and briefs sections of the Review are really advertising material. But this is a quibble; there has been a good amount of coverage, as she says.
However, the Review’s coverage of the TLM in general is a slightly different animal, and has been uneven– sometimes positive, sometimes negative or lukewarm. I ran a search of my blog with the parameters “latin mass Review”, and here are a few posts that frame the issue– examples of the good here and here, and the bad or lukewarm here and here. I will admit that in describing the coverage in my last post I have not given enough credit to the several excellent and positive stories the Review has written in that time.
Yet I have not hesitated to praise the Review whenever it has run a positive article on the traditional Mass. Most of the negative treatment has come through the slew of negative letters to the editor and through certain omissions in coverage. For instance, Ms. Steffens does not contest my point that when the motu proprio was promulgated there were no photos of any St. Louis location of the TLM, but rather one from Boston. Why would that be? Photo selection, editorial content and which letters to the editor that see print are editorial decisions.
And there have been instances of stories run in the Review which give orthodox Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese reason for pause. Two that immediately come to mind are 1) the scandalous article on Joe Biden that ran last month (an article about which Father Richard wrote to complain) and 2) the front page article last year that seemingly condoned the alarming trend of Catholic parents to delay their infants’ baptisms (and which caused the Review to run an editorial condemning the practice two weeks later). Every publication has its high points and low points; this blog is no exception.
Because I have been quick to praise the Review for its positive coverage, though, I hope to have earned the benefit of the doubt not to taken as a crank when I have some criticism that I think is justified.
Finally, concerning the comments made by readers of this blog, these of course cannot be attributed to me as my own thoughts unless otherwise stated.
I certainly don’t want to start a food fight with the St. Louis Review. The entire aim of my blog is to support the Catholic Church in St. Louis, to support the Archbishop and to support the Holy Father. I assume this is the aim of the Review also.
Thank you, Ms. Steffens, for reading Saint Louis Catholic. I hope you continue to do so; you are quite welcome here.