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Al Matt, Longtime Editor And Publisher Of The Wanderer, Dies

December 11, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By PEGGY MOEN

Born on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1931, Alphonse Joseph Matt Jr., The Wanderer’s longtime editor and publisher and father of the current publisher, died on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2019. He was 88 and had been suffering from age-related illnesses for a number of years. He was born and died in St. Paul, Minn., where he lived all his life.

After more than a decade in the business world, including eight years as a process engineer with 3M, Al Matt joined The Wanderer in 1965 as a business manager and editorial assistant. Eight years later, he became editor-publisher of The Wanderer following the sudden death of his father, Alphonse Matt Sr., who had been editor-publisher.

With that, Al continued a family line of Wanderer editors: Hugo Klapproth, a German Lutheran who converted to Catholicism, became the editor in 1878, 11 years after the paper’s founding. Klapproth’s son-in-law, Joseph Matt, took over in 1897. Joseph’s son, Walter, assumed the editorship in 1964, two years before Joseph’s death.

But Walter Matt resigned in 1967 to found The Remnant. Walter left The Wanderer over a dispute about the meaning of Vatican II. He saw it not so much as a reform and a renewal of the Church but as a revolution that threatened to undermine the Church herself. His brother, Alphonse J. Matt Sr., took over the reins at The Wanderer and reminded its readers that the real intent of the council was a renewed evangelization of the world for Christ and a personal renewal of every individual Catholic. Alphonse Sr. then took over as executive editor of The Wanderer, serving until his death in 1973 and his son’s assumption of the office.

al matt(pope)             Al Matt thus came into the business in the midst of the postconciliar changes and upheavals.

The revision of the rite of the Sacrifice of the Mass ordered by Pope Paul VI after Vatican II created serious divisions among Catholics, and while The Wanderer expressed serious reservations about the extent and character of the reforms, the editors insisted upon the right of Pope Paul VI to effect such changes.

In more recent years, The Wanderer has been a leader in promoting the reforms of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio allowing for wider use of the Traditional liturgy. The newspaper has also highlighted the Pope’s 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, providing personal ordinariates to enable Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church, and his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, which explains how charity in truth is at the heart of the Church’s social teaching.

Under Matt’s leadership, The Wanderer continually and forcefully defended Catholic teaching and discipline on marriage and the sanctity of life against the onslaught of critics, whether within or outside the Church. Throughout the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, The Wanderer espoused those Popes’ magnificent teachings on these vital issues.

Al Matt was a great admirer of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. On the day John Paul was elected Pope, October 16, 1978, Al was gathered around the radio with three Wanderer employees, listening to the announcement of the election of a new Pope. When the name “Karol Wojtyla” was announced, all four at The Wanderer were at first confused and didn’t recognize the name.

Then, Al slapped his knee and said, “Wojtyla! A good guy!”

Al was still active at The Wanderer at the time of the election of Pope Francis in 2013, and he remained so for a couple of years into Francis’ pontificate. Initially optimistic about Francis as Pope, over time Al grew more concerned about the lack of clarity coming from the Chair of Peter, and also dissatisfied with many of Francis’ appointments and other moves.

His concern is reflected in The Wanderer’s editorial stance down to this day.

Alphonse J. Matt Jr. attended Nativity Catholic School from kindergarten through eighth grade. He also attended St. Thomas Military Academy, St. Thomas College (now the University of St. Thomas), and the University of Minnesota. He served in the U.S. Naval Air Reserve from 1951-1955. He was a member of St. Agnes Parish in St. Paul for many years.

Alphonse Matt Jr. and his wife, Constance Angell, were married in 1953 and have six children and 20 grandchildren.

With his father and several associates, Matt was a founding member and director of Catholics United for the Faith, begun in 1968 to mobilize the Catholic laity against the assaults on the faith by dissident and rebellious Catholics following the issuance of Humanae Vitae.

He served on the board of The Wanderer Forum Foundation in a number of capacities.

In the early 1970s, Matt was a member of the first pastoral council established in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

As a member of the Catholic “loyal opposition,” Alphonse Matt Jr. served as a delegate to numerous national Catholic conventions organized by the modernist element within the Church, often with the complicity of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (later the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). Among the meetings were the ill-fated Consultation on a National Pastoral Council and the infamous Call to Action meeting of 1976.

He covered a number of synods in Rome for The Wanderer, including the 1974 synod on “Evangelization in the Modern World.” In an editorial in the November 7, 1974 Wanderer entitled “The Pope to the Rescue,” Matt reported that at that synod, “numerous bishops asserted the need for the Church to adapt itself to changing times.” Paul VI, however, insisted: “We could not allow false directions to be followed.” Matt concluded: “It is well to recall frequently during these confused times that the voice of the Holy Father is the one, sure voice that can be heeded with confidence.”

In 1988, he stuck to that same principle in refusing to follow Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in his split with the Catholic Church. The Wanderer didn’t back Lefebvre, who had incurred automatic excommunication under John Paul II for consecrating four bishops for his Society of St. Pius X. Hundreds of readers subsequently canceled their subscriptions.

Matt also covered the 1987 Synod on the Laity for The Wanderer, reporting at its end that “the campaign to feminize the Catholic Church in the United States received little support at the recently concluded Synod on the Laity despite the best efforts of the delegation of bishops from the United States” (issue of November 19, 1987).

Promoting orthodox catechesis and Catholic education was another theme of Al Matt’s Wanderer. The paper excoriated the old Dutch Catechism and its imitators and heralded the restoration catechisms, from Jesuit Fr. John A. Hardon’s Catholic Catechism to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Along with eulogizing the late Popes, Al also saluted other Church leaders upon their passing, including Msgr. Richard J. Schuler of St. Agnes Parish in St. Paul and pro-life leader Fr. Paul Marx, OSB. And he wrote obituaries for some noteworthy laymen, including Eugene Reber, a longtime Wanderer employee who died in 1993, and Thomas F. Roeser, a prominent Catholic layman and Wanderer columnist who died in 2011.

In 2008, the Society of Catholic Social Scientists bestowed its Blessed Frederic Ozanam Award for Catholic Social Action on Alphonse Matt.

At the beginning of Al Matt’s tenure as editor, The Wanderer occupied a rather lonely spot in its advocacy and defense of the Catholic Church and the papacy. Over time, that field expanded to include dozens of soundly Catholic newspapers, magazines, newsletters, websites, and television channels and radio stations. Al expressed his appreciation for the company.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Alphonse Sr. and Loretta, his brother John, who also worked at The Wanderer, and his son-in-law Dave Ternes.

Al’s funeral will be held at St. Agnes Church in St. Paul.

Visitation at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 16, with the funeral Mass following at 10:30 a.m.

May this servant of God rest in peace.

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