Throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century, there was a noticeable decline in the influence of two major players in twentieth-century American life: Roman Catholicism and the mass-market newsweekly. Beginning with the clergy sexual abuse crisis in 2001, the Roman Catholic Church suffered a blow to its credibility as never before experienced. For a third of the nation's history (from the founding of the first newsweekly in the 1920s through the alleged end of the era of the newsweekly in 2010), the covers of the most influential magazines—Time, Life, and Newsweek—acted not only as windows into the soul of the nation but also as the stained glass of the newsstand. The place of religion in these peculiar products of American media is noteworthy in general. Despite the newsweeklies' eagerness to exploit the church's fall from grace, they have been slow to recognize that the mass-market media has suffered potentially fatal wounds from the same slings and arrows endured by the church.
Denise P. Ferguson
Vatican II, with its updated approaches to ecumenism and religious liberty, church governance and structure, liturgy and laity, brought profound changes to Catholics and to the Catholic press. To appreciate the role of the Catholic press today in the life of the church, the laity, and their interaction with the world, one must understand the history of the diocesan and independent publications, the role of the press in coverage of Vatican II and post-Vatican II Catholic life, and the role of Vatican II in the development of the Catholic press. The Catholic Press Association and the National Catholic War Council, both established in 1911, were two of the milestones in early institutionalized Catholic press history. This article discusses the independent Catholic press and Vatican II. After providing an overview of the Second Vatican Council, it examines liberation theology and the Catholic Church in Latin America and concludes with a discussion of Catholic press in the twenty-first century.