The press has grown so omnipresent nowadays that there is no escape from it. It is therefore important to know exactly how to steer our course amidst the many perils that beset Catholics on this score. How then are we to distinguish between journals that merit or do not merit our confidence? Or rather, what kind of journals ought to inspire us with very little and what with no confidence? In the first place it is clear that such journals as boast of their Liberalism have no claim to our confidence in matters that Liberalism touches on. These are precisely the enemies against whom we have constantly to be on guard, against whom we have to wage perpetual war. This point then is outside of our present consideration. All those who, in our times claim the title of Liberalism, in the specific sense in which we always use the term, become our declared enemies and the enemies of the Church of God.
But there is another class of journals less prompt to unmask and proclaim themselves, who love to live amidst ambiguities in an undefined and indefinite region of compromise. They declare themselves Catholic and saver their detestation and abhorrence of Liberalism, at least if we credit their words. These journals are generally known as Liberal Catholic. This is the class which we should especially mistrust and not permit ourselves to be duped by its pretended piety. When we find journals Catholic in name and in profession strongly leaning to the side of compromise and seeking to placate the enemy by concessions, we may rest assured that they are being drawn down the Liberal current, which is always too strong for such weak swimmers. He who places himself in the vortex of a maelstrom is sure in the end to be engulfed in it. The logic of the situation brings the inevitable conclusion.
The Liberal current is easier to follow. It is largely made up of proselytes, and readily attracts the self-love of the weak. The Catholic current is apparently more difficult, it has fewer partisans and friends, and requires us to constantly row against the stream, to stem the tide of perverse ideas and corrupt passions. With the uncertain, the vacillating and the unwary the Liberal current easily prevails and sweeps them away in its fatal embrace. There is no room, therefore, for confidence in the Liberal Catholic press, especially in cases where it is difficult to form a judgment. Moreover in such cases its policy of compromise and conciliation hamper it from forming any decisive or absolute judgment, for the simple reason that its judgment has nothing decisive or radical in it; on the contrary it is always overweighed with a preponderating inclination towards the expedient. Opportunism is the guiding star.
The truly Catholic press is altogether Catholic, that is to say, it defends Catholic doctrine in all its principles and applications, it opposes all false teaching known as such always and entirely, opposita per diametrum, as St. Ignatius says in that golden book of his exercises. It places itself on the frontier arrayed with unceasing vigilance against error, always face to face with the enemy. It never bivouacs with the hostile forces, as the compromising press loves to do. Its opposition is definite and determined, it is not simply opposed to certain undeniable maneuvers of the foe, letting others escape its vigilance, but watches, guards, and resists at every point. It presents an unbroken front to evil everywhere, for evil is evil in everything, even in the good, which, by chance, may accompany it.
Let us here make an observation to explain this last phrase, which may appear startling to some, and at the same time explain a difficulty, entertained by not a few.
By journals, [we include doctrinally unsound journals under this head] sometimes contain something good. What are we to think of the good thus embedded with the bad in them? We must think that the good in them does not prevent them from being bad, if their doctrine or their character is intrinsically bad. In most cases this good is a mere artifice to recommend or at least disguise what in itself is essentially bad. Some accidentally good qualities do not take away the bad character of a bad man. An assassin and a thief are not good because they sometimes say a prayer or give alms to a beggar. They are bad in spite of their good works, because the general character of their acts is bad as well as their habitual tendencies, and if they sometimes do good, in order to cloak their malice, they are even worse than before.
On the other hand it sometimes happens that a good journal falls into such or such an error, or into an excess of passion in a good cause, and so says something which we cannot altogether approve. Must we for this reason call it bad? Not at all; and for a reverse reason, although analogous. With it the evil is only accidental; the good constitutes its substance and is its ordinary condition. One or several sins do not make a man bad-----above all if he repent of them and make amends. That alone is bad which is bad with full knowledge, habitually and persistently. Catholic journalists are not Angels, far from it; they are fragile men and sinners. To wish to condemn them for such or such a failing, for this or that excess, is to entertain a pharasaical of Jansenistic opinion of virtue, not in accord with sound morality!
To conclude: there are good and bad journals; among the latter are to be ranked those whose doctrine is ambiguous or ill-defined. Those that are bad are not to be accounted good because they happen to slip into something good; and those that are good are not to be accounted bad on account of some accidental failings.