Wednesday, February 20, 2013


It is with a very heavy heart that we write that today we received in the mailbox the final issue of perhaps the finest Catholic journal produced in the English language, Apropos, edited by Scotsman Tony Fraser.  To say that the absence of this publication will hurt the cause of printed truth would be a distinct understatement.  Of the tiny handful of publications still in print that had a sensus Catholicus Fraser's Apropos was head and shoulders above the rest.

When Tony's father, the great Hamish Fraser, died in 1985 many in the Catholic world, including this writer, felt orphaned.  Hamish had been publishing his invaluable publication Approaches for over twenty years, providing English-speaking readers with the cream of European Catholic analysis and in so doing kept us informed and in a fighting spirit ("Keep on praying and punching", was one of his oft-heard endearing remarks).  Hamish tackled issues great and small with that uncanny sense of what was the most important thing to talk about at that particular moment.  He didn't merely react to events in Church and State and then write about them; he wrote about things long forgotten which he brilliantly showed were still relevant to what has happening in the here and now.  A former Communist who had a famous conversion he became so thoroughly Catholic that it was astonishing.  To read him and learn from him was to become a better Christian.  It is one of my joys in life that I had the honor to know him fairly well during the last half-dozen years of his life, even having the pleasure of hosting him in my own home on one of his American visits.   His Catholicity, his erudition, his delightful sense of humor made him more than a journalist covering the most important issues of the day; it made him our second father.

Hamish Fraser
Every ninety days a new issue of Approaches would arrive and all other matters were put on hold.  I had to read it through from cover to cover, with all the additional supplements therein.  Hamish brought us English translations of brilliant thinkers such as Jean Madiran, Arnaud deLassus and the best of Italian,Polish, indeed worldwide Catholic thought.  Insights from Geoff Lawman, Michael Davies, Fr Hugh Thwaites, B.A. Santamaria, Victor Kulanday were found in Approaches.  Catholic news from Australia, Italy, England, Japan, India, the US, Germany, Russia, Ireland and of course Scotland filled those wonderful pages.  But God took Hamish Fraser from us on the Feast of All Saints, an appropriate day in my opinion, and his publication ceased.  The void left was a terrible one.

Thankfully Hamish's son Tony took over shortly thereafter and continuing his father's sterling journalistic efforts called his publication, Apropos.  Tony did yeoman work over the next quarter century taking over the work of his father.  With each issue it grew in stature, and in a short few years was on a par with the excellence of his father's great work.  Tony continued to bring us the best of European, indeed worldwide Catholic opinion, something lacking in every other Catholic publication.  Most journals that take a serious look at the state of the Church tend to concentrate only on their own countries, the American ones being the worst offenders...offenders in the sense that they tended to concentrate only on what was happening in America, important to be sure but not the be-all and end-all of the discussion.  This aspect of both Hamish Fraser's and Tony Fraser's work was perhaps the most important.  In their publications you found opinions and evaluations you found nowhere else, thanks in large part to their indefatigable translation efforts.  If you wanted an accurate view of what worldwide Catholic opinion was, you read Apropos.

But time, the horrendous economy and the internet eventually began to take their toll and it became harder and harder for Tony to continue on.  Readers became more comfortable with instant internet news and less enamoured of careful, thoughtful analysis provided by the printed page.  While the printed page is not going to go away, because there will always be people who want to slow down and reflect upon what they are reading, too many people opted for the internet and that, combined with outrageously rising costs, sealed the doom of this small but vital publication.   We can only hope that Tony Fraser's fine mind will still contribute to the discussion of all things Catholic on his website.  If the prodding of this writer has anything to do with it, please God he will.

We can only lament the loss of something so valuable.  But while lamenting I would recommend to every Catholic, or non-Catholic, reader to write to Tony for back issues.  I have a complete collection of them and I can assure you that there is in those pages an astonishing array of exceptional articles, particularly those translated from other languages.  You will find in them an excellent resource of sound Catholic thought.

I regret that I have to be writing these words.  I had hoped that this day would never have come.  Tony Fraser's publication helped Catholics like myself keep sane and calm in a world of chaos.  The internet, important as it is, has not yet matched what was found in the work of the Frasers.  With the loss of Apropos there is now one less crucial voice represented on the printed page.  Are there any other publications we can support out there that face Catholic issues honestly and without sentimentality?  Yes, there is still Christian Order out of London which is another English language publication of high excellence, edited brilliantly by Mr Rod Pead.  Subscribe to the printed version, please.  We need to support them.  The internet has much of interest but much more of outright junk.  The guiding hand of a level-headed editor is needed to sort out the good from the bad.  It may sound hypocritical to single out for criticism the Catholic blogosphere, which is loaded with poorly-reasoned, emotional, dare I say "reactionary" writing, much of it on a childish level.  The amount of bad Catholic thinking out there is astonishing.  There are Catholic Republican blogs, there are Catholic "this-is-how-I-feel-today" blogs, there are Catholic Zionist bogs (an oxymoron if ever there was one), there are flippant blogs, Catholic Democrat blogs, everything under the sun.  Many are nasty or snotty or supercilious.  They seem, alas, to outnumber the sound and sensible ones.  This is yet another reason why we must lament the loss of printed publications like Apropos, and why we must support great ones like Mr Pead's Christian Order.

I salute Tony Fraser for what he has done.  I encourage him not to ever put down his pen.  And I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

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