HARTFORD – Msgr. David Q. Liptak, executive editor of The Catholic Transcript since 2003, is retiring from that post effective Jan. 1, 2016, to assume senior priest status. Roberta Tuttle, managing editor, will assume most of his duties.
Shortly after his May 14, 1953, ordination, Father David Q. Liptak began a more than 61-year career as columnist, journalist and editor of the Transcript, concentrating on theology. He has served under five archbishops, including Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, who was installed in December 2013.
“Anyone who has a conversation with Msgr. Liptak will very quickly recognize that he is a man of great intellect, wide interests and a deep love of the church. In my experience of various diocesan publications over the years, The Catholic Transcript stands out, particularly for its editorial page, thanks to Msgr. Liptak,” said Archbishop Blair. “In the rapidly changing world of communications and print media, the talents of a writer and thinker like Msgr. Liptak are as important as ever. The archdiocese is blessed to number him among its priests, and to benefit from his continuing ministry in retirement. We all wish him many more happy and healthy years.”
Archbishop Henry J. O’Brien appointed Msgr. Liptak to the post of associate editor on June 17, 1954, when he began writing his “What’s Your Question?” column, which first appeared July 1, 1954, and ended in November 2015. It is arguably the longest-running newspaper column of all time by the same writer and for the same newspaper in America, eclipsing even Irving (“Kup”) Kupcinet’s 59-year “Town Crier” column that actually spanned two Chicago newspapers.
Father Philip L. Sheridan of Trumbull, whose memories of Msgr. Liptak go back to about the second grade, recalled that it was during a priest’s retreat held in the days when all of Connecticut formed one diocese that Msgr. Liptak was tapped to be on the Transcript staff.
“So I polished my one finger because he didn’t type at all,” said Father Sheridan, “and that’s how we typed out his first column.”
From 1981-2003, Msgr. Liptak continued as consulting editor at the Transcript, contributing theology-based columns while increasing his involvement with academia at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell. He was invested with the prelate of honor – monsignor – in December 2000, and in 2003 Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin appointed Msgr. Liptak executive editor of the Transcript. In that position, he has overseen the operations of the paper while delegating day-to-day management of it to Ms. Tuttle.
Archbishop Cronin said he first became aware of then-Father Liptak’s writing when he was the Bishop of Fall River, Mass., and the then-weekly Transcript arrived by mail.
Archbishop Cronin said that when he became the ordinary here in 1992, he was happy to learn that Father Liptak was still associated with the paper even though much of the priest’s work had shifted to teaching at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell.
“As time went on, it became necessary to appoint a new editor, and I thought that he would be a good choice,” the archbishop recalled. “I did not realize at the time that it would be not only a good choice, but a happy choice. He was very pleased because he had been with the Transcript so long, and this now gave him a chance to put his imprint totally on the paper.”
He praised the “theological acumen” and “the calm stability and the competent leadership” that he brought to the newspaper.
Throughout his career with the paper, Msgr. Liptak has researched and written thousands of editorials and columns, many of which have earned first-place awards from both Catholic and secular trade organizations.
In addition to “What’s Your Question?” and his editorials, Msgr. Liptak has penned for the Transcript column “Of All Life” (1964-76) and “Faith Perspectives” (1976-2015).
In 1996, for the 100th anniversary of the publication as the official newspaper of the diocese, Msgr. Liptak wrote a column titled “A Century of Journalism: Ministry of the Word.”
“My own association with the Transcript for four decades has been mainly in the ministry of the word,” he wrote then. “When I was first assigned to the Transcript as Associate Editor, I was asked by Archbishop Henry J. O’Brien to concentrate on sound doctrine and authentic theology in order to fulfill the fundamental meaning of a Catholic journal. …[I] have tried to cover the entire spectrum of the faith in a contemporary context and mode, always aware that my trust has been a grace as well as a task. Archbishop O’Brien’s request has been renewed and emphasized up to the present day…. I have never given in to the ‘trendier than thou’ theories and have carefully avoided even the semblance of ‘pop theology.’”
His current employees agree that his focus has not wavered since then.
Msgr. Liptak’s sister, Sister of Mercy Dolores Liptak, spoke along the same lines in an email. She is a historian who has written about the history of the Transcript, which was initially called The Catholic Press and was run by Hartford laymen in 1828, in her book Hartford’s Catholic Legacy: Leadership.
“All these many, many years, he aimed to be part of what a true Catholic newspaper should be: a chief educator of the faith [evangelization] and informer of the work of the members of the diocese to achieve that goal. A first-class, extremely well-written, pristine example of what a Catholic paper should be,” she wrote
She said no one else can claim longer ownership of the title “editor” at the Transcript than her brother, whether as associate editor, consulting editor or executive editor.
Msgr. Liptak’s association with the newspaper was never incidental.
“The [Transcript] meant EVERYTHING to him. It was, for him, the tool of evangelization that every priest dreams of having. It was his privilege to have that voice to use for the sake of the Church. He felt honored by that privilege and would never relent in being for the Church.... Yes, he was extremely faithful to the Church, pre- and post-Vatican II…. He recognized the many changes and he could understand fully where the truths of the Church needed shoring up. He wanted only to share that with as many as he could,” she wrote.
During his time as executive editor, his editorials and the Transcript received top awards from the Connecticut Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, New England Newspaper and Press Association and Catholic Press Association.
Archbishop Emeritus Henry J. Mansell offered the following reflection about Msgr. Liptak’s ministry via email:
“Msgr. David Liptak has established an extraordinary record of leadership and service at The Catholic Transcript for 61 years. It is not merely his length of time at the Transcript that is stunning, but also the highest quality of work he has provided over the years.
“Msgr. Liptak offers a winning combination of a terrific pastor and a most knowledgeable scholar. Steeped in profound awareness of history, faith, and culture, his writings and talks speak to the heart of people’s most profound aspirations.
“He has made a lasting impression here and across the country with the depth of his convictions and the excitement of his messages. He will be deeply missed, but I pray he will continue to have significant input as time goes on. May he also enjoy Multos Gloriosque Annos (Many and Glorious Years), in his blessed time ahead.”
Through the years, Msgr. Liptak has also authored or co-authored more than a dozen books; published essays, homilies, book reviews and encyclopedia articles; and taught at or conducted seminars, lectures and retreats nationwide.
At Holy Apostles College and Seminary, he was one of three co-founders of the Pope John Paul II Bioethics Center. The center’s Bioethics Resource Library was dedicated to Msgr. Liptak in January 2010.
His work at Holy Apostles was long and varied. He began as an instructor of modern philosophy in 1980, and in 1983 he co-edited, with Father Francis J. Lescoe, Ph.D., a volume of Perspectives in Bioethics, published by the Pope John Paul II Bioethics Center. In 1986 he became a professor, director of priestly formation and chair of Holy Apostles’ Theology Department. In 1988 he co-edited the seminary’s three volumes of the John Paul II Lecture Series in Bioethics. From 1991-93 he was vice rector. He continued teaching there until 2014.
In a citation for an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Holy Apostles in 2003, Basilian Father Douglas Mosey, rector, praised Msgr. Liptak’s “towering intellect and deeply rooted holiness.”
Msgr. Liptak also served as censor librorum for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
A native of Bridgeport, Msgr. Liptak has served at St. Augustine and St. Joseph Cathedral parishes in Hartford, St. Catherine of Siena in Broad Brook (as pastor) and at other parishes.
His love of both Catholicism and journalism arose early in his life, as evidenced by The Park, a hand-lettered journal he circulated beginning in 1939, when he was 11 years old. One of the earliest editions, dated April 3, 1939, featured the election of Pope Pius XII.