Remembering Cardijn's publisher, Geoffrey Chapman

posted 7 Jul 2010, 07:37 by Stefan Gigacz
Brought up as a Catholic in Melbourne, Geoff Chapman lost his father in a plane crash aged four. His student years at the University of Melbourne coincided with the rise of the French worker priest movement and brought him into contact with Joseph Cardijn's class-based teachings on the social apostolate. He was captivated by what reached him of the intellectual ferment in Catholic thinking in post-war France. 

This passion for the "new theology" coming out of Europe accompanied skills as a glider pilot, skier, swimmer, and then accomplished yachtsman, competing in two Fastnet races. Newly married to Suzanne James, he wanted to get nearer to the intellectual action; this, and a love of travel, drew him from Australia to Britain in 1954 and to a career in Catholic publishing. 

He began publishing under the auspices of the Young Christian Workers: a collection of Cardijn's writings and speeches and the Pastoral Letters of Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard, wartime Archbishop of Paris. His publishing education was acquired by spending a couple of months with FIDES Publishers in Chicago, sleeping in a bunk at the Notre Dame University Fire Brigade. 

In 1957, with £1,000 from an English aristocratic businessman, Dermot de Trafford, Geoffrey Chapman Ltd, publishers to the Social Apostolate, got off the ground. Authors and books were chased in Paris, where on his first visit he slept rough under the Pont Neuf. By the time the Second Vatican Council opened in 1962, many of the thinkers and theologians who were breaking new ground were coming out under the Chapman imprint. 

His best known coup was Pope John XXIII's Journal of a Soul. He was up in a glider when the significance of a phone call from a journalist friend in Rome hit him. Pope John had left a diary. He hastily landed, caught the next plane to Rome, saw Pope John's former private secretary, Monsignor Loris Capovilla, tracked down the Italian publisher and signed up for the English language rights on the spot.

- Ian Linden

FULL STORY AND SOURCE

Geoffrey Chapman: Publisher who transformed the market for Catholic books (The Independent)
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