Catholic Herald is the best Catholic paper in Britain but this week I felt that it had excelled itself. The banner headline "Benedict XVI: the inside story" was exactly right with an excellent summary article by Anna Arco who confessed on Facebook on Tuesday "Grrrrrr. Press day = stress day" I imagine it must have been particularly stressful this week since as well as the front page article, she has several others on pages 2-3 on which she and and colleagues provide good, accurate and concise summary and comments on Light of the World. Following the Herald on Twitter, I learned that Anna had also got hold of a copy of the German edition. This illustrates the kind of attention to accuracy and detail which puts the Herald out in front.
Ronald Knox once quipped that a typical headline in the Catholic papers was "Nun stung by bee on way to Benediction". I remember once at Oxford when this quote was doing the rounds, that a Catholic paper had the headline "Vicar sends Pope a pair of socks." Therefore it is perhaps in the genre for the front page to include "Pope give £85,000 truffle to homeless" (to avoid any silly outrage on this matter, let me hasten to add that the truffle in question had been donated to the Pope by an Italian businessman who paid 100,000 euro for it at a charity auction.)
Of course there is "other news" this week and the paper covers the Bishops' Conference, focussing particularly on the setting up of the Ordinariate, it has two good articles on the consistory, and covers the illicit episcopal ordination of Fr Joseph Guo Jincai in China.
The feature articles complement this week's issue with a piece on Dorothy Day and a fascinating article by Sister Janet Fearns with testimonies from the five seminarians at the Phnom Penh seminary in Cambodia. Verbum Domini has not been forgotten: Fr Adrian Graffy has a piece in the prime slot on the Comment page. Opposite that, the letters page this week is particularly good: opening slot is given to the great Fr Hunwicke who gives a fascinating account of the background to Graham Leonard's conditional ordination and the Anglo-Catholic reaction to Apostolicae Curae.
The Catholic Life section is sometimes referred to whimsically as the herald's "Hello" page but I think it has served a good purpose in highlighting local events without becoming ludicrously parochial. For example this week as well as the Passage "Night Under the Stars" concert with various celebrities pictured, there is a photo of the Pilgrimage from Ryde to Quarr and a spendid photo of pupils from the Oratory School on the occasion of their annual Requiem.
The Reviews in the Herald are always of good quality. Although some of them on music and theatre go above my head, when I do know a little about the subject, I normally find them well informed. For instance this week there is an intelligent review by John Jolliffe of Laszlo Dobszay's The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite. That is a fascinating book, by the way: a real contribution to the debate on the Liturgy.
When reading the Herald, I always look forward to some light-hearted banter from Stuart Reid on the back page. If someone else is doing the column I am a little disappointed. However Robin Baird-Smith's piece this week, "Running from silence" is very good indeed, combining personal experience and humour while making a serious point about the abhorrence of silence in today's society.
Quite a bit of the paper's content can be read at the Catholic Herald website and you can get some good snippets as things are being prepared on the @catholicherald Twitter feed, but editor, Luke Coppen, reminds us regularly on Twitter that you need to get the paper to read it all. My own business model would be to put the whole lot on the internet and take a bit more advertising online to boost both revenue and circulation; but then I am a priest and not a businessman.
Someone may of course say "You reptile - you are puffing the Catholic Herald because you write for it and you have a financial interest!" Well it is true that I write a small column (350 words) called "Catholic Dilemmas" but, frankly, it is not a massively significant part of the paper and whether it is accepted or not, my motive in writing in this way on the blog is simply to give credit where credit is due. Bloggers (myself included) are quick to lay into the "dead tree media" so I think that something as good as this week's Herald deserves recognition. We often feel compelled to say negative things on blogs and it is nice to be able to write something positive.
(By the way, the image above is not this week but an old image. I found it on google and thought it was fun.)