BY Amanda Connelly | July 6 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


How the CTS became our most constant companion

In the last of a two-part series AMANDA CONNELLY speaks to Fergal Martin, the man at the helm of the Catholic Truth Society, as the publisher marks 150 years of keeping the faithful informed

Delving into the history of the Catholic Truth Society has been a fascinating journey, revealing how its publications have stood the test of time and why they remain ever popular with Catholic and non-Catholic readers across the world.

150 years is several lifetimes, and during that time our world has been continually changing, but CTS literature has remained steadfast in its appeal to its wide and varied audiences.

CTS general secretary Fergal Martin has been with the organisation for the past 22 years, after working as a legal publisher with Cambridge University Press. Mr Martin described working for CTS as a ‘privilege’ and said he has ‘never looked back’ since joining in 1995.

“For me particularly, it’s a privilege to work for an organisation that promotes the Faith,” he said “To be so close to what the Church is doing—I like that personal reward I get from it.

“I find such joy and such meaning in what I do,” he added, also citing the ‘brilliant’ staff and writers who work in parishes to represent CTS.

“They’re an amazing bunch of people; they do everything with such dedication and professionalism,” he added. “Nobody’s in it for the money; we all want it to work. Nobody’s trying to feather their nests. It’s a lovely atmosphere to work in.”

What is it, then, that has allowed CTS’ works to stand firm against the tide of change after all these years?

“If CTS kind of dropped dead and disappeared, I’m pretty sure that within about 12 months, another version of it would appear,” Mr Martin said. “I think the appeal, in a nutshell, is that we’ve always tried to tell the story of the Faith as it is.

“In other words, what’s the teaching of the Church? What does the Church teach or think? How do Christians, Catholics, practice their Faith? What’s the middle road, what is it that Christians have always done, what is it that the Church believes?

“Where there’s any grey areas, we just say there are grey areas. Until the Church starts proclaiming about that, we don’t start engineering things ourselves. In other words, we’re not a lobby group and we’re not trying to offer a kind of reasonable critique of the Church all the time. I think the appeal is that they rely on us. They know that if it’s from CTS, it’ll be pretty much straight down the line.”

Mr Martin also spoke about how for CTS, writing in a style that’s readable and accessible for all is important.

“The rule of thumb here used to be, and it still largely is, is that if you can write for a first year Sixth former, you can reach anybody,” he explained. “It’s accessible.”

He added: “It’s very easy to produce books about why this is all wrong or why that’s all wrong, whereas we say that if you really want to understand the thinking behind it, we’ll explain it to you and you can agree or disagree; it’s up to you. So I think that’s more or less the appeal.”

He also praised CTS’ high quality standards, and its inexpensive pricing.

“I think also the quality of writing has been good, that’s another thing,” he said. “We’ve always tried to keep that up, the quality of writing. And also because it’s fairly cheap.

“You don’t have to spend big money on a little booklet, and they’re usually kind of introductions. People don’t want to sit down and read a great big tome about whatever it is; they just want to get maybe half an hour, read a quick introduction into something and begin to see the landscape.

“Then we try to give further reading, so people can read their way on in.”

Mr Martin spoke too of the place that CTS has in today’s world, noting that they have a ‘constituency that practices the Faith,’ who are a group that is ‘very important’ to the organisation, but added as well that there are other audiences who are ‘much more on the edge,’ including Catholics who are ‘a bit more removed,’ as well as people from no particular Faith background who have big questions.

He also added that CTS have done a lot of work with students in recent years, speaking of how young people are ‘very open’ to people from any background, and to talking about Faith and science, and open to being convinced.

Mr Martin said that one of the big questions, in particular for younger people, is ‘what’s the purpose of it all, what’s the meaning of it all?’

“They’re quite willing to looking at sensible arguments and rational, sensible presentation,” he said of young people. “And actually even more than that is they’re very willing to look at authentic witnesses, you know, ‘how come your life works for example, but mine doesn’t, but you seem to have 10 times more problems that I’ve got, or exactly the same problems that I’ve got, but you seem happy, you seem to face them just because of your Faith. So what is it you believe, because that seems to make you happy?’”

In a world that has developed a disposable attitude, where things are so often replaced and change all the time, it is refreshing to see CTS’ continual literary presence for Catholics and non-Catholics alike throughout the changing times.

From its early beginnings as an idea in the mind of one Catholic priest, to the global publishing society it is today, CTS’ 150th birthday is not just a milestone celebration of its previous wonderful and fascinatingly insightful publications, but also too a celebration of its continuing growth and legacy, a society that will hopefully continue to enlighten its readers for the next 150 years to come.

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