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The National Catholic Register: Formative and Informative
An Interview with Father Owen Kearns, LC

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This interview was originally published in the winter 2008-2009 edition of LeCristo Magazine.

January 5, 2009. North Haven, CT. LeCristo Magazine recently ran a feature article on the National Catholic Register, which has been owned and published by the Legion of Christ since 1995. The following interview with publisher and editor-in-chief Fr Owen Kearns, LC, gives a glimpse of what this Catholic newspaper is contributing to Catholic media and what it aims to achieve in the future.


Father Owen Kearns, LC, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of the NATIONAL CATHOLIC
weekly newspaper. Ordained in 1983, Father Owen is encouraged by the vitality
of so many American Catholics and their desire for news to help them become better and more informed Catholics so they can engage the secular culture more confidently. We spoke with Father Owen at his office in North Haven, Connecticut.

Last year the National Catholic Register celebrated its 80-year anniversary. Tell us about its history.
In 1927 Msgr. Matthew Smith founded the Register in Denver as a very “newsy” paper. In 1970 Patrick Frawley brought it to Los Angeles where it became an in-depth review on culture, politics and the Church. In 1995 the Legionaries of Christ brought it to Connecticut. We restored its “newsy” quality without abandoning the in-depth analysis. I became the full-time editor-in-chief in 1997.

Is the design important to convey your message?
In 2007 we launched our redesign, based on a combination of the
The Register was redesigned in 2007 for a new look that is both classic and classy.
classic and the classy. The classic element reflects its prestigious history, and conveys a sense of seriousness and depth; doing that in a classy way prevents it from being dull. The classy element expresses the vitality, joy and exuberance of the faith; doing that in a classic way prevents it from being gaudy or cheap.

What does the Register logo convey?
At the center of the National Catholic Register flag (logo) are three symbols: the papal tiara, the keys of St. Peter and the rays of light. This particular papal tiara is the one Paul VI gifted to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., so it represents the link
between the Vatican and the Catholic Church in America.

The keys of St. Peter represent our fidelity to the Holy See and our communion with the teaching of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him.

The rays of light reflect the splendor and vitality of the faith — many readers comment that what the Register brings is hope and the affirmation of their Catholic identity.

Does the Register have a distinctive approach to reporting the news?
We follow journalistic standards. That’s not a given anymore. We double-check our facts, and we always speak to the opposing side and then give the Church’s response.

We also have our own style of journalism. The paper opens its stories differently. Typical journalists open with a summary, answering who, what, where, when, why and how questions. Our opening paragraphs answer the question “Why
Fr Owen outside Circle Media
The Register has pioneered a style of covering secular news by quoting Church documents that bring wisdom to bear on contemporary issues.
is this important for you to read?” The paper ends its stories differently. Most journalistic stories peter out at the end, often with related trivia. That’s like punishing the reader for reading to the end. The Register ends stories with flair often with a great quote that goes to the heart of the matter. The paper treats its stories differently. It has pioneered a style of covering secular news by quoting Church documents that bring wisdom to bear on contemporary issues.

Does the Register cover just Church events?
No. We have had quite a few scoops over the years. We interviewed two archbishops in Baghdad hours after the 2003 invasion of Iraq began, before the phones went dead. We had the last interview with Father Timothy Vakoc before he was silenced by roadside bombs in Iraq. He was a chaplain there, distributing the Register’s Guide to the Rosary. We had a reporter, James Brandon, kidnapped in Iraq while on assignment for us and others. We broke a major story about Vatican intentions regarding seminaries. Our coverage of bio-technological developments has been followed by The New York Times.

What are your goals for the future of the Register?
We would like to
Fr Owen with Tom Hoopes
Fr Owen Kearns, LC and Tom Hoopes, Executive Editor, review a current issue of the Register in the office’s North Haven library.
reach everyone who should be a Register reader. More specifically, we would like to establish relationships with all Catholic organizations that promote the New Evangelization originally called for by Pope John Paul II.

We are also developing more Internet content. We recently established a daily blog at that posts a minimum of five stories a day. This is free to anyone. Subscribers can read the Register from their computer and search articles from 2000 to the present.

How can readers of LeCristo help to promote your work?
They could subscribe, for starters! Gift subscriptions make great Christmas presents that people will enjoy all year round. We also offer four free trial issues at or 800-421-3230.

If they meet someone who would like to try the Register, tell them “I’ll get you started.” Send us their name and address (Don’t leave it up to them to do that) and we’ll take it from there.

If someone wants to raise money for their parish or organization, they can call for details about how to offer subscriptions to the Register as a unique fundraiser.



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