Writing a Letter to the Editor

Marty Barrack

Marty Barrack

The letter-to-the-editor is by far the easiest way for a Marian Catechist to publish. Father Hardon insisted again and again that Marian Catechists, whatever else they do, should write letters to the editor at every opportunity.

Most magazine and newspaper publishers these days have literally no devout Catholics on staff. Often their reporters interview heretical Catholics for information because they’re colorful, and because they have no clue that they are renegades. Only if they get a battery of letters after each article on a Catholic issue, explaining what the Church really believes and how they can find out for themselves, will it occur to them to try a different source.

Letters on Catholic subjects should of course be precisely consistent with the Magisterium, but simple enough for most readers of the publication to understand. Letters should be appropriate for the publication. A letter to be published in First Things will be written at a higher level than a letter written to the New York Post.

Marian Catechists are always invited to write letters to the serious Catholic magazines. However, I think we get the most bang for the buck by writing letters to three broad categories of publications:

The first category is mass market secular magazines. They get a lot of letters and so the odds of being published are small, but if they get enough letters from a Catholic perspective they may print one or two which will reach a lot of people who know little or nothing about the Catholic faith.

The second category is “American Catholic” magazines. They will generally not be receptive to the Magisterium, but if they get enough letters maybe they will print one or two, and maybe we will even convince someone.

The third category is magazines of other religions. Broadly, we can peruse these; when we see that they are addressing a Catholic issue, we look more closely and see whether some correction would be appropriate.

Once we’ve identified a magazine and decided to write a letter to the editor, the first thing we do is try to find its criteria for letters. Usually, they are printed at the end of the "letters" section. Most important is the word limit. If the journal or newspaper says the maximum is 300 words, then we use our word processor’s "word count" feature to make sure we’re within the limit.