History of the Catholic Register

  • September 25, 2006
The Catholic Register, Canada's oldest English Catholic weekly in Canada, traces its roots back more than 170 years to 1830 when Ontario's pioneer bishop,  Most Reverend Alexander Macdonell, started The Catholic at Kingston. That paper was followed by The Canadian Freeman.

A second strain of history for The Register began in Toronto with the original Catholic Register of 1893. This paper was taken over in 1909 by the Catholic Church Extension Society.

The first P.F. Cronin. That day, two previous Catholic papers - The Catholic Weekly Review and The Irish Canadian - folded to make way for the newcomer which was to provide a more Canadian, less ethnically partisan journalism.

In 1942, the Kingston and Toronto papers joined a number of other diocesan journals to form the Canadian Register. Its role was to provide a larger, more uniform and high quality journalism and be a forum for the defence of the Catholic Church in Canada. The paper's name was changed back to its original in the 1960s.

Over the decades, the Catholic Register has been in the forefront of public debates concerning the Church. Whether it be education, military conscription in wartime, the battle against poverty or human rights, Register pages have been a forum for discussion and presenting the Catholic viewpoint.

The bishops of Ontario have played a vital role in the history of The Register, at times sponsoring it in their own dioceses. They also bought a new press for the paper. The press was brought from England and placed in a renovated two-storey plant at Kingston, Ontario, which served as main printing plant and headquarters of the Catholic press in this province for several decades.

Over the years, the newspaper has changed its ownership structure several times. Currently it is owned by the Bullet9 Archdiocese of Toronto.

Looking back at Catholic papers over the years, one can see that styles and formats have drastically changed. Layouts of early papers would be considered rather heavy and dull by today's standards. Quite often the papers were one-man publications, the editor depending on mail and slow couriers, and using brush and glue to advantage in borrowing from other papers. Compare this with today's Register which gets its news by internet from distant parts of the globe.

In the early papers, there were small headings and long columns of type rarely broken by photos. News writing could hardly be distinguished from opinion pieces. At times there were strong defensive attitudes in the opinion columns.

With a change in the social attitudes in Canada, the Catholic papers have developed with a more open, confident look and stance.

A significant change in the direction of the Catholic press came with the Second Vatican Council, which further reflected openness, optimism and ecumenism. In the 1960s and 1970s, a time of enormous upheaval in the Church, the Catholic press often came under sharp attack, even when only reporting storms in the Church. Today The Register tries to present a broad spectrum of views from within the Catholic community, as well as views from those outside the faith which would, in the opinion of the editor, help Catholics better understand their world.