Founded in 1920, the service covers Catholic news for diocesan publications and media outlets around the world. The USCCB announced that its domestic bureaus will close at the end of the year.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced on Wednesday that they will be shutting down the Washington and New York bureaus of Catholic News Service in an overhaul of its communications operations.
The UCCB’s head of communications, James Rogers told the newsroom staff the Washington, DC bureau would close by the end of the year, the Catholic News Service reported.
Founded in 1920, the Catholic News Service (CNS) serves as a source for news about the Vatican, and national and international news relating to the Catholic Church.
According to CNS, a majority of Catholic dioceses, along with media operations throughout the world, have paid subscriptions to the news service.
The Rome bureau of Catholic News Service will remain open and continue its coverage of the Vatican. This service will be available to dioceses for free beginning in 2023, reported the CNS.
A shift in USCCB resources
A statement from the USCCB indicated that the decision was based on financial concerns, and a recognition of changes that have taken place in diocesan communications.
“Over the next few months, the USCCB Department of Communications will undertake a significant realignment to better utilize the resources entrusted to the Conference by the faithful in a manner that fits the communications environment today,” read the statement.
“Sadly, this will impact a number of staff. We are grateful for the time and dedication of the committed team of communicators at the Conference who serve the Church; job transitions can be difficult, and as this is a personnel matter, further detail will not be discussed at this time,” the statement said.
The USCCB will also shut down operations of its publishing office, which holds the rights to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the U.S. Adult Catechism among other books.
Tough times for church newspapers
Some on social media have suggested that the decision to end the USCCB’s news service may have had something to do with the ongoing struggles of diocesan newspapers.
The pandemic has taken a toll on church collections in general. The annual collection for the Catholic Communication Campaign, a major source of funding for diocesan publications, was particularly hard hit, according to the USCBB.
In a statement announcing the annual CCC collection last year, the bishops called the situation a “perfect storm” :
“In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic presented the ‘perfect storm’ with increasing demand for support from the Catholic Communication Campaign while at the same time most parishioners were unable to attend Mass due to COVID-related restrictions the weekend of the collection. That situation resulted in a significant decline in giving to the CCC, which is trending down by more than half.”
Some publications have had it harder than others. The beginning of lockdown was the final nail in the coffin for The Pittsburgh Catholic, which had operated since 1844. The Diocese of Pittsburg was forced to shut down its newspaper’s operations in 2020.