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Painful changes for Catholic News Service as domestic operations to close

Kevin J. Jones By Kevin J. Jones for CNA

Pope Francis speaks with representatives of Catholic News Service at the Vatican, Feb. 1, 2020. Credit: Vatican Media.

Denver Newsroom, May 4, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic News Service, the news agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will end domestic operations at the end of the year. The U.S. bishops’ conference characterized the changes and office closures as a “significant realignment.”

“Catholic News Service offices in New York and Washington will be closed at the end of the year, as will the USCCB Publishing Office,” the U.S. bishops’ conference said in a May 4 statement sent to CNA. “These changes, although painful, will allow the remaining functions — including the Catholic News Service Rome Bureau and the Office of Public Affairs — a more sustainable foundation upon which to do their work.”

“Sadly, this will impact a number of staff,” the statement continued. “We are grateful for the time and dedication of the committed team of communicators at the conference who serve the Church; job transitions can be difficult, and as this is a personnel matter, further detail will not be discussed at this time.”

The changes mean 21 employees will lose their jobs, including those in public affairs, creative services, and marketing and episcopal resources, according to Catholic News Service.

USCCB Publishing will cease its publishing operations at the end of 2022. This division holds the rights to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the U.S. Adult Catechism, and other publications.

The news service dates back to 1920. It has long provided news and other media content to dozens of diocesan publications and other paid subscribers across the country. The news service will stop charging clients who carry its coverage on Jan. 1. Starting in 2023, CNS’ Rome coverage will be available to U.S. dioceses at no charge.

In the next few months, the communications department at the U.S. bishops’ conference will “undertake a significant realignment to better utilize the resources entrusted to the Conference by the faithful in a manner that fits the communications environment today,” the USCCB statement said.

Greg Erlandson, CNS editor-in-chief, said he was “profoundly saddened by this decision.”

“For more than a century, Catholic News Service has served the local, national and international Catholic press. I am proud of the professionalism of our staff of editors, journalists and photographers and of all that they have accomplished,” he said, according to CNS.

Some CNS staff took to Twitter to react to the news and to share expressions of support.

“THANK YOU for your messages regarding the closing of U.S. operations for Catholic New Service,” CNS reporter and editor Rhina Guidos said. “I think we’re more concerned with the state of Catholic media, (and) the future for our amazing and brave clients, than with ourselves. Each day in journalism is a privilege.”

Catholic News Service is distinct from Catholic News Agency, which is under the lay Catholic-run EWTN Global Catholic Network.

Catholic news media has suffered some of the same pressures as other forms of journalism, as well as financial pressures unique to contemporary American Catholicism.

Many diocesan newspapers were once a center for community news and information. Like their secular counterparts, they have faced significant pressure from competing media and losses in ad revenue with the rise of the internet.

Some Catholic newspapers have cut back their publication frequency or have gone online entirely.

In March 2020, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s newspaper the Pittsburgh Catholic saw all of its positions terminated and suspended operations for six months, after which it returned in an online-only format.

The diocese’s financial strains pre-dated the pandemic and were further compounded by a drop in Mass attendance and offertory donations following the August 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report on allegations of sex abuse by clergy. The diocese’s compensation fund for abuse victims also received an unexpectedly high number of filings for compensation.

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  1. Possibly for the first and last time, I visited the site. Among the ten or so features: “Pope Francis and the sacred right to lodging.”

    Jesus, born in a stable, did say that he had no place to lay his head. Yet Jesus never spoke about anyone’s right to lodging. Let alone a ‘sacred’ right to such a thing.

    • “When o lord, were you there to ask us for lodging? We would have gladly complied, after a quick background check.”

      • Matthew 25:1ff
        At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him! Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

        Let those with ears hear.

  2. Another article (I went back for a second look) carried this title tag: “Outside the Supreme Court, Catholics join diverse chorus on abortion.” The story contained quotes from two Catholics, one pro and one con life. It also contained this quote:

    A Pew Research Survey from 2019 revealed that 56% of U.S. Catholics said “abortion should be legal in all or most cases,” even as it goes against church teaching,

    The article contained nothing about church teaching. Nothing. As if it didn’t exist. RIP, CNS. It’s been a pleasure not to have known you. Opportunity Lost.

    • No but we, all too often, do not get the complete truth in our homilies. One issue is with the proliferation of on-line , not-for-profit, even fee based journalism the people have more sources for the news while consequently their view of the official channels of the administrative church with skepticism, if not outright distrust, as for as much as it doesn’t share as it does share. The historic question “is the Pope Catholic?” use to be a rhetorical question, not so much now. Thankfully the Holy Spirt works in mysterious ways in enlighten the sincere seeker to best appreciate the Word.

  3. This reminds me of the bishops’ venture into television, CTNA, which also folded while EWTN flourished. CNS wasn’t on my daily go-to list for Catholic news, so I guess I’ll manage.

  4. CNS never achieved the popularity, clarity and level of quality journalism that rival Catholic news agencies like CNA and EWTN (not to mention independent news outlets like the Pillar) are known for. They simply could not compete.

    • Agreed. One wonders why. Is it that people trusted Mother Angelica more than they trusted their bishops? Is that because bishops deceptively hid and then lied about the homosexual priest abuse crisis building to climax in 2002? Is it because people came to understand the deceptive hiding and lying behind the homosexual EPISCOPATE abuse crisis? The people have seen the episcopacy and cardinalate remaining exempt from accountability while the Church has bleed millions. Who paid for that, pray tell. My diocese claims it was the INSURANCE COMPANY! Well, blow me over with another disingenuity! And who paid the insurance company, pray tell?

      Does the lack of lay trust for USCCB perhaps stem from their forcing Mother Angelica to publicly apologize to the likes of Mahoney in order to save the only Catholic TV news outlet the laity had come to trust? If that wasn’t just one more example of a harsh, non-pastoral, punishing, humiliatingly coercive abuse of church authority, what could be?

      Despite the attitude conveyed by many clerical ‘elite’ that the man in the pew deserves not much more concern than a stupid dirty sheep, the clerical elite apparently failed to learn enough zoology to know that sheep can smell wolves no matter their obsequious, oleoginous changes of costume.

      I’d guess also that the bishops news service budget likely surpassed Mother Angelica’s.

      Who can BELIEVE ANYTHING most bishops could say at this point? When have they clearly and boldly and devoutly taught and themselves practiced the truth of Christ and His perennial Church? What smart lay person anticipates that they can be trusted to tell the truth? The few among them who retain credibility we count on few hands.

  5. There must be other places to make economic cuts. The last place to be eliminated in this cultural war on religion should be the source of information for Catholics. It should be preserved and strengthened at all costs.

  6. Would the faithful miss a complete disbanding of the USCCB? I don’t see the contribution. Catholic Charities, CCHD (aka George Costanza’s “Human Fund”), all the other Federal-like alphabet offices, would they be missed as currently configured? Much of what the USCCB does is secular and political. The meetings are expensive and decadently provided for; certainly the real estate is in a prohibitively expensive neighborhood. The conference is essentially a lobbying group for federal funds that continue to compromise the faith and the mission. Even the Wall Street Journal has observed that the DC offices are in conflict with each other regarding the teachings of the Church, If we can’t afford to provide charity from the Church herself, then we must confront that reality. The strings are not merely attached, they are pulled.

  7. I was not particularly aware of CNS. I think I’ll get by with Catholic World Report (including Catholic News Agency), Catholic Culture, EWTN, The Catholic Thing and Pillarcatholic and sometimes Crux Now.

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