About Russell Shaw
Russell Shaw was born May 19, 1935, in Washington, D.C., the second child of Charles Burnham Shaw, a non-Catholic New Englander and career army officer who enlisted in the army in World War I and many years later retired with the rank of colonel, and Mary Russell Shaw, a devout Catholic from the Midwest whose enthusiasms were her family, her Church, and her cats.
He grew up uneventfully in Washington, where he attended public and parochial school, Gonzaga High School, and Georgetown University. He received a B.A., summa cum laude, from Georgetown in 1956 and an M.A. in English literature, also from Georgetown, in 1960.
In 1958 Shaw married Carmen Carbon, a Dunbarton College graduate, schoolteacher, and singer with amateur choral groups. The Shaws have five children and ten grandchildren, and reside in Washington, where they are members of Our Lady of Victory parish. They celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 2008.
Soon after leaving college, Shaw went to work as a reporter at the newspaper of the Washington archdiocese, The Catholic Standard. He stayed there a year, then joined the staff of what at that time was called the NCWC (i.e., National Catholic Welfare Conference) News Service (later, the National Catholic News Service and now known as CNS). He remained with the NCWC News Service for nine years, covering the Supreme Court and other beats and working on the national news desk.
In 1966 Shaw became Director of Publications and Information of the National Catholic Educational Association. In 1969 he joined the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference—the post-Vatican II successor to the NCWC—as Director of the National Catholic Office for Information. He continued at NCCB/USCC for eighteen years, successively holding the titles Associate Secretary for Communication and Secretary for Public Affairs.
With NCCB/USCC he was responsible for directing the media relations activities of the twin organizations, provided public relations counsel to bishops and staff, and did extensive ghostwriting, including being principal writer of three collective pastoral letters of the American hierarchy. He served as press secretary of the U.S. delegations to world Synods of Bishops held in Rome between 1971 and 1987 and as press secretary to the American cardinals taking part in the two papal election conclaves of 1978. In 1979 and 1987 he was national coordinator of media relations for Pope John Paul II’s pastoral visits to the United States.
From 1987 to 1997 Shaw was Director of Information of the international Catholic fraternal benefit society the Knights of Columbus. Since resigning from that position, he has worked full time as a freelance writer—work he’d done on a moonlighting basis for many years before then. He also lectures occasionally and is often contacted by journalists seeking comment on ‘Catholic’ stories of many kinds.
Shaw is the author or coauthor of nineteen books, with a twentieth scheduled for publication later this year (2009). His published work includes three novels and volumes on ethics and moral theology, the Catholic laity, clericalism, the abuse of secrecy in the Church, and other topics. He is editor of a one-volume encyclopedia, Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine, published in 1997, has co-edited other books, and has contributed chapters to still others. His work has been published in Great Britain, Spain, Germany, and the Philippines as well as the United States.
He has published thousands of articles, columns, and reviews in U.S. and other periodicals, among them The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, L’Osservatore Romano, America, Crisis, Catholic World Report, The National Catholic Reporter, and many others. He is a contributing editor of Our Sunday Visitor national Catholic weekly and American correspondent of Palabra, a monthly newsmagazine published in Madrid. Shaw writes a biweekly column appearing on the Catholic Exchange website and in several Catholic newspapers and a monthly column for the Inside Catholic website. He is a contributor to the Encyclopedia Americana, the New Catholic Encyclopedia, and the Catholic Social Sciences Encyclopedia. From 1998 to 2005 he was editor of the documentary publication The Pope Speaks.
Since 1996 Shaw has been an Adjunct Professor of Communications at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome. He is currently serving his third term as a Consultor of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, having first been appointed to that position by Pope John Paul II and reappointed by Pope Benedict XVI. He serves on several boards and is Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Catholic Distance University.
He is a recipient of the Frederic Ozanam Award of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and the Pro Vita Award of the Diocese of Brooklyn, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the Knights of Columbus, the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, and other groups, and is listed in Who’s Who in America.