CATHOLIC WRITERS Clerical "Blacklegs"
SIR,—As far back as 1929 I had occasion to write in one of our Catholic contemporaries much as Miss Curtayne wrote a few weeks ago in the Catholic Herald. and thereby let loose about my innocent head a swarm of stinging bees, the hum of which
I still occasionally hear echoes.
1 still hold to much of what I wrote at that time concerning the remuneration received (or not received) by Catholic writers; but I do think an honest effort is being made to improve matters now, and that the Catholic writer is not so badly off as he used to be.
Since those early days of my violent enthusiasm and outburst against the Catholic Press, I have been silent, but all the time following its progress with interest, and I have come to the conclusion that, after all, Catholic journals (with few exceptions) not carrying the advertisement matter, and, therefore, not being as well-off as the majority of secular papers, cannot be expected to pay very high rates of remuneration to their contributors. But they can, at least—as I have no doubt the majority of the more important endeavour to do— pay their writers an honest and fair wage, and thereby leave no cause for complaint.
With the secular papers payment is always to be expected on a certain date. With some of the Catholic papers, this is far from being the case. In some offices it has been " overlooked," or " delayed," or " mislaid," and this sort of thing gives rise to a great deal of heart-burning among Catholic writers. If the authors were to act in the same way with commissioned articles and general literary fodder, there would be an immediate outcry. Editors and publishers rightly expect authors to be business-like, and the more they are so the more they are liked. Of course, we all know that editors and publishers do not always get what they expect from authors, but authors get it even less—at least, Catholic ones.
However, as I have observed, I think the business side of the Catholic Press is on the improve, and now that a Society of Catholic authors and journalists has been solidly founded, we may hope even for better things. And 1 think the majority of professional Catholic writers are with me in asking no more than a decent wage for a job well and truly done. They neither ask nor expect to be over-paid, as secular writers of useless rubbish so often are (one of them recently had the grace to confess as much). The Catholic writer just asks for fair recognition and fair return.
By training and instinct, the Catholic writer often finds it simply impossible to write the sort of thing that would quickly swell his bank account, hence the profession of Catholic letters is often a blind alley occupation, and hence the more reason for ceaseless endeavour to better the conditions —unless we want our young writers to come to the conclusion that the game is not worth the metaphorical candle and proceed to go to the dogs.
With few exceptions—and they are, as a rule, a generous few—priests and nuns, as one of your readers suggested, undoubtedly hamper the efforts and expectations of Catholic lay writers, by offering their work for nothing. And editors and publishers would not be human if they did not avail themselves of the advantage thus gained.
But, acting like this, such priests and nuns are in the position of blacklegs, and, in a sense. are robbing the struggling writer of his daily bread. if they write, at least let them do it on the same terms as the lay writer, and, by demanding a fair wage for their work, which, even if they have no use for it themselves, might be used to swell the funds of the Catholic Writers' Guild, enter the .field on an equal footing and let the winner have his fair due.
MARIE M. HUGHES.
87. Warwick Street, Middlesbrough, Yorks.
[We have not noticed any particular enthusiasm on the part of priests and nuns to write for us gratis. It sometimes happrT1S that laymen and priests waive their right to an honorarium., but, if they do this, it is an act of charity of exactly the same nature ae if they were to send an alms to what thy believe In be an apostolic work. From the business point of view it would be very short-sighted on the part of editors to accept such volliti eured articles unless they reiteh the required standard—nor do those who send then, in take any offence when they are declined with thanks.— Encioa.]