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The Tablet, the 175-year British catholic journal.

Dublin, Brussels, December 7th, 2015 (SIGNIS /Irish Times /Sarah Mac Donald /CatholicIreland.net). One would think that the oldest catholic journal would be the one of the Vatican, Osservatore Romano, which was founded in 1861. But, in 1829 already, in the United States, The Pilot was published. It is the Archdiocese of Boston. In Ireland, The Tablet, the progressive Catholic weekly is the second oldest catholic journal in Great Britain, remarked journalist Sarah Mac Donald who works for the journal. Recently she published an article about the paper in The Irish Times.

The Tablet was launched in London by Frederick Lucas, a Quaker converted to Catholicism in May 1840. The offices of The Tablet moved from London to Dublin in 1849, and remained there until Lucas’s death in 1855. In 1852, the founder Lucas was elected Member of Parliament. A clash with the Irish bishops over the hierarchy’s instruction to clergy to abstain from nationalist politics prompted Lucas to appeal to Rome, in person, in 1854. Vatican indifference left him disappointed and he died the following year. It was not the first time that a member of the laity was shut out by the powers, observed Mac Donald in her article. In the mid-1850s the weekly was again published in London.

As part of the celebration the Tablet Literary Festival was organized in Birmingham and writers Antonia Fraser, David Lodge and Andrew O’Hagan, as well as the historian Roy Foster, debated faith and fiction.

“The Catholic media will not be credible if it does not confront sins, abuse, weaknesses and failings in the catholic community”

As to the future direction of The Tablet in this rapidly changing world of publishing and Catholicism, some guidance might be gleaned from Archbishop Martin in his 2013 address to the “Faith of Our Fathers” conference in Kilkenny. He warned against uncritical lovers of the Church who, out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, try to deny the existence of tensions and problems.

“The Catholic media will not be credible if it does not confront sins, abuse, weaknesses and failings within our community,” he warned. Respect for the readership is something the Tablet has always adhered to – a policy favoured by Pope Francis. Exactly a year ago, Pope Francis said: “Audiences have a right to be treated as people with both a brain and a heart, and to receive the information they need to make judgments about what is going on in the world.”

Tablet publisher and director Ignatius Kusiak told CatholicIreland.net “We express our connection with our core faith differently than in the past. The Church changes and at The Tablet we are always reminding the Church that it is not static, and it is also changing with the time, but it can only change when it is prompted, and Vatican II taught us that the Church is of the people and we are the people.”

As the onslaught of social media has caused the demise of some printed journals, The Tablet has gone online but Ignatius Kusiak told CatholicIreland.net that it is still a big challenge. “People are challenged for time, and therefore whilst we are a reflective journal and require you to think, people have become accustomed to instantaneous solutions and we can’t be about that because it would be contrary to our ethos.”


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