Blessed James Alberione

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The press apostolate does not restrict itself simply to produce works in accord with its specific purpose. One task, which it assumes among others, is to guide the minds and consciences of people concerning what is produced at international, national and local level. To this end it sets itself a twofold aim: to condemn the bad press and to uphold the good.
This is necessary because it is well known that hundreds and thousands of books and magazines are published daily in the five continents: hundreds and thousands of teachers who teach good or evil, truth or falsehood, depending on whether they are good or bad teachers, true or false teachers.
The teaching Church is unable to check and pass immediate judgment on such an immense production. It cannot and does not wish to.
But the apostle, with the support of and dependent upon the Church, can do so.
The means best suited to this end are the bibliographical magazines for international and national works and critical reviews for particular works.
Putting aside the subject of critical reviews until the next chapter we will deal here with bibliographical magazines and suggest two types: a general one for international works and particular ones for national and local works or for dealing with a particular genre and author.

General magazine
Its purpose should be to act as a guide for people's minds and consciences regarding press products worldwide (at least the more influential ones). Hence, it is to pass an authoritative judgment on such products on the basis of Christian principles. It has then to bring it to the notice of all, in particular to those in the Church and in society whose role is to guide the great mass of people and readers.
It is easy to see how a magazine of this kind has a quite broad yet very delicate mission. In particular what it proposes is:
1. to survey all that is undertaken in the field of the press and to judge it in accordance with the Gospel's Christian and Catholic principles;
2. to offer the necessary theological insights, indicate the right direction, distinguish true knowledge from false knowledge, cast the light and reflection of revelation on the natural sciences, apply Catholic doctrine to the new needs;
3. to indicate the best books and magazines in order to know the state of present-day knowledge, to mention those matters still subject to controversy and those now settled;
4. to enlighten and guide writers, publishers, booksellers and promoters about the subjects and works to be excluded, while emphasizing those of a more invigorating and noble nature which should be taken up and distributed;
5. to put people on their guard against poisonous springs, against teachers of error and immorality;
6. to direct readers to the pure springs of Christian knowledge and to holiness of life;
7. to invite all those who want the best for themselves and for others to employ the press in order to enlighten, to help and to save others.
To edit a magazine of this kind it is not sufficient to have one person or several people working separately. What is needed is a group of competent writers who can examine and pass judgment in an authoritative, precise, clear, timely and impartial way. It means examining and judging the whole book-selling output published every day in the world - all the sciences, all the various forms and kinds of literature.
Particular magazines
These can be in the style of a magazine or a review. They are quite useful and sometimes quite essential. They have a practical purpose inasmuch as they act as a guide for writers, printers, booksellers, promoters, and especially for those with responsibility roles: parents, teachers, librarians, pastors.
There is a magazine of this kind, in Italy, called Rivista di Letture by Casati.1 Its purpose is to judge the content of books for popular reading, especially from the religious and moral perspective. It sets out practical guidelines for those who have to supervise popular reading; it classifies the books to be read with circumspection, that is, those reserved for adults or for special groups of readers, and those to be stocked in Catholic libraries.
This magazine is the outcome of long and patient work. Its aim is to preserve the inexperienced from the grave pitfall of dangerous books; it indicates the books that are inspired by wholesome principles; it is a practical and sure guide for parents, librarians, teachers and spiritual directors.
The example of this zealous Italian priest in the religious and popular field should be imitated in every country and for products of all kinds, whether their purpose is intellectual, moral, financial or recreational.
The particular magazines must have the same purpose as the general magazine and have those same attributes. These are:
Authority: so that writers, publishers, booksellers and readers experience having unequivocal support and guidance.
Precision: diligent examination, and judgments that conform to objectivity.
Clarity: a balanced, precise and sure judgment regarding the book's doctrinal, moral and artistic merit. In practical terms this appears to be its most important characteristic that could perhaps be better defined as a pastoral and objective characteristic. (Thus, not a show of unfathomable words, or vain praise; nor humiliating or sarcastic condemnation, nor simply a literary critique, but a balanced, objective judgment.).
Timeliness: so that readers are informed well in time [of the new publications] and know what line to take when they receive the new title.
Impartiality: this will insure the esteem and the consequent spread of the magazine. It must not, so to say, "sell its soul" to any author or publisher, movement or party.
The times and the circumstances will suggest the title, the number of issues and its particular characteristics.

1 * Giovanni CASATI (1881-1957), a Milanese priest, journalist and social animator, took over the Rivista di Letture in 1912. It began in 1904 as the Bollettino delle Biblioteche Cattoliche, an organ of the Federazione Italiana delle Biblioteche Cattoliche Circolanti. (This was an initiative that inspired Fr Alberione to found the "Associazione Generale Biblioteche" in 1921.) In 1946 Card. Schuster ceded the magazine to the Jesuits of San Fedele. Its new title is Letture, published by the San Paolo Periodici since June 1994.