VATICAN CITY—The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Italian episcopal conference have issued several warnings to the Pauline editorial group—one of the largest Catholic communication holdings in the world—for what they see as a lack of prudence in handling some moral and doctrinal questions in their magazines. At the center of the quarrel is Famiglia Cristiana, which has a weekly circulation of 1.5 million copies. The influential publication has the largest circulation in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. Other Pauline publications involved in the flap are Famiglia Oggi and Jesus, a monthly on Catholic culture. Among the topics handled in a questionable manner by the magazines: A mother's inquiry about how to handle her son's apparent homosexuality and another about masturbation.

The Italian news agency Adista recently published a letter from Father Pietro Campus, general director of St. Paul, addressed to the editorial committee of the publications. In it he reveals that he received Vatican instructions to review the content of Pauline's magazines more carefully. The director assured the committee that he has no intention of honoring the request.

The letter, dated Oct. 25, explains that last July the superior general of the Society of Saint Paul (the Paulines), Father Silvio Pignotti, met with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and with Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Italian episcopal conference, to review five articles published in the company's magazines that, officials contend, offered answers contrary to Christian morality.

Meeting with the cardinals, Father Pignotti reportedly defended the editorial autonomy of the magazines'editors. Later that month, Cardinal Ruini wrote another letter in which he made two requests: that the magazines publish the “observations made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the themes dealt with in the articles cited,” and that “a group of experts in theology would be formed to approve [articles dealing with moral or sexual issues] of publications beforehand.” The Order has rejected the proposal.

This is not the first time differences have arisen between the Paulines and the Holy See. Social communications are the apostolate of the Society of Saint Paul, founded in 1914 by Don Orione (who is now in the process of being beatified).

In 1986, John Paul II urged the company officials “not to let themselves be confused by the ideologies going around the modern world” and urged them to “feel strongly the duty to always enlighten souls, to never instill doubt, and to never spread confusion.”

In 1989, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, criticized a Pauline project to publish the Koran for educational purposes, and make it available on video and in cartoon form.

During the recent synod on religious life, Cardinal Camillo Ruini addressed the problem of Catholic publications that diverge from Church teaching. Although the cardinal did not mention the Paulines by name, observers saw a clear reference in his speech to Pauline publications.

Then just last year, a conflict arose among the Religious of the Society of Saint Paul regarding the direction of the Pauline editorial group. To resolve the conflict, the prefect of the Congregation for Religious, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, had to intervene. He asked Cardinal Vincenzo Fagiolo, former president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, to act as mediator. The mediation effort eased the conflict, but failed to produce a long-term solution. (J. Colina DÍez)