How to Choose Catholic Books and Publishers


Following up on yesterday’s post about the anti-holiness kids book published by Paulist Press, I thought it might be helpful to go through the various publishers we deal with to help you make decisions as individual readers and also as Catholic store owners when you are trying to choose titles to carry.

This is very important to us because of our Good Faith Guarantee.

Basically, we divide our publishers into five groups:

  1. Pope Benedict’s Library. These publishers make a point of carrying books that promote and defend the Faith. You can pretty much order any book from them without worry that the content is questionably Catholic. These books are also distinguished by their substantial content - no fluff here.
  2. The University of Steubenville Library - Very good books for the most part with a few fluffy titles and possible a stray questionable title in the mix. Ninety-five percent of the time you can buy from them without a worry.
  3. The Parish Library - You can find some very good stuff here, you can find some very bad stuff here. It all depends on who the librarian was.
  4. The Matthew Fox Circle of Energy Reading Room - Don’t buy anything from this publisher unless you find it on our site. They don’t have any problem publishing heresy with a few stray orthodox titles that somehow got mixed in.
  5. The Marcus Aurelius Library - These are books from publishers that aren’t Catholic and the books may not necessarily be specifically Catholic but have a Catholic world view.

Before I actually provide the list, please be aware that we aren’t the arbiters of orthodoxy, we just go by what the Church teaches and make our own judgments based on that. If you happen to be a publisher and think you are being unfairly categorized please contact us so we can update our list. This list isn’t meant to be a blanket condemnation of any publishers either. There are always a few good books available from any of these companies and by buying those books you will encourage them to produce more good titles.

Pope Benedict’s Library

University of Steubenville Library

  • Catholic Book Publishing - The main-stay of Catholic Bibles, missals, liturgical books and the saints books you remember from your childhood. Some of their meditation books are pretty fluffy but all in all a great book list.
  • Emmaus Journey - Some good group Bible studies. Not anything very deep but good for small groups who want to do a Bible study but are intimidated by the prospect.
  • Loreto Publications - A very good publisher of old titles marred by its connections with the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart. The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart were excommunicated before Vatican II because of their understanding of “Outside the Church there is no salvation” which limited salvation to those who are formally part of the Catholic Church. They publish a magazine called “From the Rooftops” which promotes their views and also carry a couple of questionable titles including “The Dogma of Faith ‘Outside the Church there is no Salvation’ Defended against Right Wing Liberals”.
  • Our Sunday Visitor - A very large publisher with a great selection of titles covering every topic from prayer to family finances. They also have a great series of Catholic pamphlets. The only reason they didn’t make it into Pope Benedict’s library is the fluffy nature of their religious education material. Anytime I see a religious education program entitled “I Am Special” my gag reflex kicks in. We also found their “Big Book of…” series of kids activities to be lacking in their Catholicity. You can also bet that the Vacation Bible study they produce in conjunction with Sadlier is going to be light on content and heavy on silliness.
  • Oxford University Press - The Catholic study Bibles they have are very good. Just be aware that they print Protestant Bibles as well.
  • Pauline Books and Media - A large Catholic publisher with a combination of very good titles and a whole lot of fluffy stuff for kids. They also have a series called “Lights, Camera…Faith!” that tries to force Catholicism into movies. Much more in the vision of the USCCB movie review office than Steven Graydanus’ Decent Film reviews. They also have a few problematic titles including “Chocolate for Lent” which is a Lenten program based on the anti-Catholic movie Chocolat.
  • Servant Publications - A good publisher that was unfortunately purchased by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Most titles are great with a couple of Thomas Merton titles thrown in the mix.
  • TAN Books - A generally solid publisher of old Catholic titles. There are lots of books about saints and prayer as well religious education. There are a few polemic books on Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Mass in the mix but for the most part a great publisher.
  • USCCB - I’m probably going to get another letter about this. Most of what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is great stuff; whether it is encyclicals, or official documents from Rome. Where they fall down is on some of the official statements made by the conference and its various departments. Remember “Always Our Children?” It’s still in print in its revised form. The flawed voting guides that try to level the moral priority of some issues that Democrats don’t look favorably on? Check. How about the flawed “Built of Living Stones” church architecture document? Yep, it’s still there and soon to be joined by the flawed document they issued on sacred music.
  • Word Among Us Press - A publisher that primarily focuses on Bible study. Some light titles but for the most part good.

The Parish Library

  • Angelus Press - This is the official publisher for the Society of St. Pius X. They are currently in some sort of schism with the Church. With that warning kept in mind, most of their titles are wonderful and solidly Catholic. As long as you stay away from their apologetics for Bishop Lefebvre and condemnations of the Novus Ordo Mass, you can get some very good things here.
  • Liguori Publications - A publisher with many good titles that is marred by books by Joan Chittister and some very fluffy religious education materials.
  • Image Books - This is a revived imprint for Random House that separates the Catholic titles from their other titles. Many of the titles are good but they also carry Fr. Rolheiser who has some questionable things to say about the Eucharist.
  • Loyola Press - Why can’t publishers just stick to publishing good books? There is plenty here to be happy about but then you find books like “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?”, books by the associate editor of America magazine, a book by Cardinal Bernardin and the yearly Best of Catholic Writing which always includes dissident authors.
  • Paraclete Press -This is an ecumenical publisher in the Benedictine tradition that has some good books and cds on chant as well as some reprints of Catholic classics. Most of their stuff, however, leans towards Methodism.
  • Queenship Publishing Company - This publisher focuses primarily on apparitions and the end times. Unfortunately, there is a big focus on unapproved apparitions such as Medjugorge and visions by various seers that haven’t been vetted by the Church.

The Matthew Fox Circle of Energy Reading Room

  • Crossroad Publishing Company - This used to be a solid company but went wrong after Vatican II. A sampling of titles: “The Reform of the Papacy” by Bishop Quinn of San Francisco fame, “The Rule of Benedict” by Joan Chittister, “She Who Is - the Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse”, numerous titles by Richard Rohr and Joyce Rupp. In spite of this you still have great books by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, Pope Benedict, and the must-have title “The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Wine, Whiskey and Song“.
  • Liturgical Press - One of the largest publishers of liturgical education and worship material in the US most of which is largely responsible for the current wreck the liturgy is in. If you want 70’s style Lectionaries or are interested in “Creating Uncommon Worship” where everyone stands in a circle around a table in a gym or “A Liturgist’s Guide to Inclusive Language” or perhaps how to go about “Re-pitching the Tent” in case your church still looks like one, then this is the publisher for you. They do have some good books mixed in with all this stuff but for the most part you will need to check each book for orthodoxy.
  • Liturgical Training Publications - The former official publishing arm of the Archdiocese of Chicago under Cardinal Bernardin is basically a sister publisher to Liturgical Press. If you want to know why your parish music is so bad or why your priest wears burlap or why your church looks like a gym, you can bet that the ideas came from here. In spite of this, there are some gems in their book list including the RCIA program that I think is a stealth project of Franciscan University of Steubenville and some good books in their Hillenbrand Books imprint.
  • Paulist Press - Apart from “Elizabeth is NOT a Saint” mentioned before, the Paulist catalog is riddled with other Faith-destroying books including Teilhard de Chardin spirituality, Hope For the Flowers - a classic of relativism, a series of Classics of Western Spirituality that includes Protestant and non-Christian writings, Bible studies by Lawrence Boadt and a backlist of questionable titles.
  • St. Anthony Messenger Press - They recently purchased Servant in order to have an orthodox line of books. Their titles include authors such as Andrew Greeley, Richard Rohr, (a lot of Richard Rohr), a Retreat series including a title called “Black Elk - Living in the Sacred Hoop” and Raymond Brown. Their audio book selection includes titles by Andrew Greeley, Richard Rohr, Joan Chittister and Joyce Rupp. They also publish bulletin inserts that occasionally are hazy on their orthodoxy. The do have some good titles from Scott Hahn and others in the mix.

The Marcus Aurelius Library

  • Bethlehem Books - A publisher of children's literature that isn't always specifically Catholic but always has sound moral principles. These books are great to add to your grade school reading lists.
  • Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) Books - A conservative secular publisher that has some very good books on the family, the collapse of classical education, architecture and natural law.
  • Memoria Press - A publisher of homeschool materials to aid in a classical education with a heavy emphasis on Latin studies.
  • Spence Publishing - A small conservative publisher with good books that come from a natural law perspective and have a Catholic outlook on the family and society.

There are also several publishers that we know of but deal with so little that we can’t make an educated assessment of their products. These include:

  • Alba House
  • Ave Maria Press
  • Lepanto Press
  • St. Mary’s Press
  • Thomas More / Resources for Christian Living

There are also numerous other small publishers that we didn’t mention here but you are welcome to add comments on our blog. Please provide contact information for any publishers you add. We may be interested in adding their books to our site.

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