Catholic press loses one of its own

Morriss was editor of Denver Catholic Register, National Catholic Register, Wanderer

February is Catholic Press Month, a time to highlight the vital work of Catholic media. Below is the obituary of respected newspaperman Frank Morriss, who worked for the Catholic press for nearly six decades.

Frank Morriss had a doctorate degree in law, but chose instead to pursue a career as a Catholic journalist through which he promoted and defended the faith. He worked for the Catholic press—including the Denver Catholic Register, the National Catholic Register and The Wanderer—for 58 years.Frank Morriss served the Catholic press for nearly six decades. He died Jan. 25 at his Wheat Ridge home.

Morriss served the Church with distinction as an editor, journalist, author and founder of a private parochial school. He died at his Wheat Ridge home on Jan. 25. He was two months shy of his 91st birthday.

Born March 28, 1923, in Pasadena, Calif., to B.G. Morriss and Regina Spann Morriss, he spent most of his life in Denver after moving here with his family from El Paso, Texas, in 1937.

Morriss attended Cathedral High School then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and literature from Regis College (now University), where he graduated magna cum laude. He then joined the U.S. Army Reserve Corps and served as a staff sergeant in active duty during World War II from 1943-1945. He fought in the South Pacific and in Japan and was awarded numerous medals and a Bronze Star.

After his military service, he earned a doctorate in law from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

He married Mary Rita Moynihan on Feb. 11, 1950. They had three daughters and a son.

His career with the Catholic press was recognized with an honorary doctorate in journalism from the Register School of Journalism, which was established by the legendary Msgr. Matthew Smith, longtime editor of the Denver Catholic Register and founder both of its national edition, the National Catholic Register, and of the Register System of Newspapers. It was perhaps the degree he most prized.

“He was very proud of that,” said Patricia Morriss Bateman, 62, of Wichita, Kan., Morriss’ eldest daughter.

His journalism career started in 1949 when he joined the editorial staff of the Denver Catholic Register, which was still led by Msgr. Smith. At the time, the DCR and the National Catholic Register were the nucleus of the Register System of Newspapers, which reached peak circulation in the 1950s when the national edition and some 35 client editions were sent from Denver to more than 850,000 homes weekly. Morriss served as an editor with the DCR and NCR until 1961.

From 1961-1963, he served as associate editor of the Vermont Catholic Tribune in Burlington, Vt.  He was also the founding editor of Twin Circle, a national Catholic newspaper established in the late 1960s.

Morriss was perhaps best known for his 40-year stint as contributing editor, from 1967-2007, of the national Catholic newspaper The Wanderer headquartered in St. Paul, Minn. He was also active on the board of the Wanderer Forum Foundation, now the Bellarmine Forum, and served as a policy expert for the Heritage Foundation.  He twice won awards from the Freedoms Foundation for his newswriting and in 2003 he also received the Frederic Ozanam Award from the Society of Catholic Scientists for “vigorously defending the faith by the written and spoken word.”

In addition to his journalism career, Morriss taught at several colleges for more than 25 years and taught religion to children for 30-plus years at Colorado Catholic Academy, which he started in Denver in 1970.

A prolific author, he wrote a number of books for children as well as many for adults, ranging from poetry to analysis.  Among his works are “Francis Thompson:  A Reflection on the Poetic Vocation,” “The Divine Epic,” “The Catholic as Citizen,” “A Little Life of Our Lord,” “The Divine Epic,” “Saints in Verse” and “Two Chapels,” a treatment of Blessed Cardinal Newman and the Oxford Movement.

“It was an adventure in Catholicism being raised by my dad,” said Gerard Morriss, 56, of Denver. “He went to Rome a couple of times to cover sessions of the Second Vatican Council.”

“That was really a highlight for him,” added Bateman. “He had a great love of the Catholic Church. We grew up with that.”

Her father, Bateman said, “was a poet at heart.”

Morriss finished his last manuscript just last year—pounded out on a typewriter as he never embraced computers—called “Memoirs of a Reluctant Soldier,” it recalls his time in the military.

“He was writing till the very end,” Bateman said.

Morriss was preceded in death by his wife and by his daughter Franciscan Sister Mary John (formerly “Regina”) Morriss.  He is survived by his children—Patricia Bateman (and husband Louie) of Wichita, Kan.; Mary Ellen (and husband Jeff) Hill of Denver, and Gerard Morriss of Denver—and his grandson, Lee Francis Hill of Denver.



COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash