The National Catholic Review
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For several weeks, America has been the subject of much conjecture. Many people have commented on the magazine’s identity, what we have been and what we will become. Some have laid upon us their hopes and fears for the church; others have chided us for not adhering to their views of what it is to be Catholic and Jesuit. In this issue we speak for ourselves, taking as our theme the ancient maxim In essentials unity, in nonessentials diversity, in all things charity.

The ministry of the word we exercise at America is a distinctive one. We are neither an official nor a semi-official review; neither a scholarly periodical nor a catechetical one. We are a journal of Catholic opinion. We serve educated Catholics and other readers interested in intelligent examination of church and world affairs, seen through the lens of the Catholic faith and with the eyes of catholic reason. As Jesuits, we will continue to carry out our mission with fidelity to the Petrine office, to Pope Benedict XVI and to his fellow bishops.

The late Pope John Paul II urged the church of the 21st century to heed the advice of St. Paulinus of Nola: Let us listen to what all the faithful say, because in every one of them the Spirit of God breathes (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, No. 45). In this spirit we have welcomed among our authors many lay people, clergy, religious and members of the hierarchy. Our presentation of their views has not been, and will not be, narrowed to any pre-selected group. Promoting the unity of the church requires drawing on the faith, the learning and the pastoral wisdom of the whole church, not favoring the views of one party to the exclusion of others. Without legitimate diversity, ecclesial unity risks collapsing into forced conformity.

Since Paul confronted Peter, the church has known diverse tendencies within it: Jews and Greeks, Alexandrians and Antiochenes, Greeks and Latins, monks and Scholastics, Franciscans and Dominicans, Rahnerians and Balthazarians. The Catholic tradition has been enriched by all of these. Sometimes they have grown so fractious that popes and councils have had to settle disputes among them. Within the discipline of the church and the bonds of charity, however, different schools of theology, traditions of spirituality and Catholic social movements should thrive. Faith and Christian freedom should nourish each other.

Theological argument and moral reasoning are integral to the Catholic way of being Christian. Catholics believe that faith and reason are compatible. Christians in other traditions look to us because of our historic respect for intelligence in the service of faith. Unfortunately, there are some in the church who would reduce the faith to pious simplicities and partisan political slogans. But slogans are no substitute for genuine doctrine, and litmus tests function only as polemical weapons, not as instruments of faith-filled inquiry. They are the war cries of a spurious orthodoxy, advanced by religious controversialists, uninterested in Catholicism’s rich complexity.

At America we will continue to promote the exchange of ideas among thinking Catholics. With a Catholic both/and, we will be faithful to authentic Catholic teachings and committed to airing legitimately diverse views. Because we appreciate the relation between the foundation of the Christian faith and the hierarchy of truths (Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism), we will neither mistake diversity for dissent, nor do the opposite. With the great English Dominican Thomas Gilby, we believe that church and world both benefit when civilized people are locked together in argument.

Mindful, with Pope John Paul II, of sins committed in the service of truth (Day of Pardon, 2000), we shall resist pressures to divide the church into opposing parties, and we pray others will too. As St. Paul urged the Corinthians, Let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas...all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God (1 Cor 3:21-23). Neither ideas, nor politics, nor pastoral practice need divide us. In no case should they be reason to lord it over one another.

The unity of the church is grounded in unaffected charity. If we would be a spectacle to the world, let it be the spectacle at which the pagan Romans wondered: See how these Christians love one another. In that spirit, we are pledged to the habits of civility and fair-minded reasonableness that have marked America for nearly a century. We hope that those who believe in the supreme importance of charity as well as of truth will join with America’s circle of readers, contributors and supporters, seeking with us to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

Comments

Harold Frost, III | 3/27/2012 - 10:32am
I am a new registrant to America online.  As a first task, I read the statement of mission by the editors of this magazine.  It resonated within, such as its sentence, "The late Pope John Paul II urged the church of the 21st century to heed the advice of St. Paulinus of Nola: “Let us listen to what all the faithful say, because in every one of them the Spirit of God breathes” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, No. 45)."  I am one of the faithful, seeking interaction with my brothers and sisters in the faith that animated Blessed John Paul II of beloved memory and animates us all.  Thank you for letting me come on board, then.
Ed Roane | 4/9/2009 - 5:38pm
Well, I agree that we all should be speaking truth in love. We must insist that the truth of this world is Our Lord and Savior. The protector of truth in this world is Mother Church. What is your debate about, really? Perhaps the author of this article should "Listen to the Truth in Love". Amen.
Anne Danielson | 1/22/2008 - 4:31pm
The Truth is where you hope to arrive after the debate. We have been given the gift of Divine Truth through the Life and Death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Only His Sacrifice has the power before God, The Blessed Trinity, to forgive sins and lead us to Salvation. The purpose of Catholic Theology is to confirm and explain the Divine Truth of The Word Made Flesh as revealed in the Trinitarian relationship of Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and Magisterial Teaching. There is no conservative or liberal view of The Truth. The Truth is The Truth is The Truth.
John Blakeney | 6/16/2005 - 8:46am
In response to "Speaking the Truth in Love", I hope that you hear one loud, ear-shattering, resounding AMEN!!! This is the vision of literary integrity that AMERICA readers have come to know, love, respect, and expect!

William Ulwelling, MD | 6/13/2005 - 10:00pm
I have read all the letters and editorials in America about the resignation of Father Reese. Perhaps it’s just me, but there seems to be a noticeable missing band in the full spectrum of diverse opinion on this matter. Cannot “speaking the truth in love” include, at times, outrage? Jesus was outraged on occasion. John 2:17 records the time in the temple when “zeal for your house will devour me.” The first part of this sentence, drawn from Psalm 69, reads, “It is for you I am putting up with insults that cover me with shame, that make me a stranger to my brothers.” What happened to Father Tom Reese was not right.

Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 6/21/2005 - 4:34pm
James Cooney's pointed remark that "some claim, wrongly, that the Catholic faith requires lock step agreement with old ideas" reminds me of the number of so called right-wing Catholics and church functionaries, not only in Rome but also here, whose ideal it is that all Catholics should think the same. But where everyone thinks the same, like in Hitler's Germany or in Stalin's Russia, anyone who does some thinking is a traitor.

James P. Cooney | 6/11/2005 - 3:31am
To the Editor:

Though educated by Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (13 years), diocesan seminary priests (1 year) and Jesuit priests (3 years), my faith has been shaken often over my sixty years--as I have struggled to be honest with myself and others.

Your piece, "Editorial: Speaking the Truth in Love," restored my faith and reinforced my conviction to continue thinking and speaking the truth as I see it.

Some claim, wrongly, that the Catholic faith requires "lock step" agreement with old ideas.

Some of those ideas were originally developed by men who lacked the confidence and dispassionate committment to honesty that many of us have absorbed from America and the best thinkers, teachers, and writers of our Roman Catholic faith tradition.

After reading your editorial, gentlemen, I feel truly "born again" in the one true faith.

Thank you.

Jim Cooney

Catherine Wolff | 6/10/2005 - 4:00pm
To the Editors,

It was with great relief that I read in your June 20 issue both James Martin’s appreciation of Fr. Tom Reese, and your editorial “Speaking the Truth in Love.” I have been related to, educated, and employed by Jesuits, and over the past quarter-century have been a devoted reader and America Associate. During these years I have gone from being a disgruntled but faithful Catholic, to a heartbroken yet stubbornly faithful one. Whatever faithfulness I have retained has been in no small part due to the lively and open treatment of Church affairs and teachings which has for so long characterized your magazine. The publication of different viewpoints has always been carried out in an atmosphere of respect for the sincerity of your contributors and their ideas, and for the capacity of your readers to use their intelligence and faith in considering a variety of perspectives.

Having been greatly dismayed, along with so many others, upon learning that Fr. Reese had been pressured to resign, I am very grateful for your frank and charitable statement of intent. You have reaffirmed your long tradition by resisting calls to limit intellectual exploration and debate, without succumbing to divisive, polemical statements. There could be no finer demonstration of your commitment to “speak the truth in love.”

Blessings on your future!

Catherine Wolff

Robert Stewart | 6/15/2005 - 5:31pm
Dear Editor:

Your editorial, Speaking the Truth in Love, is a statement that needed to be made, and it brought, I think, some clarity regarding the meaning of fidelity, although my first reading of the editorial did not bring me to that conclusion.

The editorial speaks of continuing "to carry out our mission with fidelity to the Petrine office, to Pope Benedict XVI and to his fellow bishops"; however, this is a line causing me to pause. When reading anything appearing to imply that fidelity to a pope or a bishop can be equated to fidelity to the Lord, I have become very uneasy. The Catholic hierarchy has impressed upon the faithful for some time, at least since the reform of Pope Gregory VII in the 11th century, that the voice of the Holy Spirit is mediated through the pope; ergo, to be faithful Catholics, requires fidelity to the pope, now Benedict XVI. I have never bought into that theology, and think it has nothing to do with authentic faith, since many of the utterances that have come from popes and bishops have seemed to be no more than opinions, judgments neither inspired by the Holy Spirit or the good sense that comes from a serious study of theology.

However, the editorial quickly balances all this, the fidelity to the Petrine office, with a quote from Pope John Paul II: "Let us listen to what all the faithful say, because in every one of them the Spirit of God breathes." That brought me some comfort. The editorial staff of America is, I believe, assuring us that when it comes to mediating the Holy Spirit, they do not believe that the pope or the bishops are the only mediators of the Spirit, and that voices other than those of the hierarchy merit attention, and we will be allowed to hear those voices on the pages of America.

As one who in the past has contributed financially more than the subscription rate to insure the viability of America, I pray that I have correctly interpreted the drift of your June 20 commentary. I detest the thought of possibly having made a bad investment.

Regards,

Robert Stewart 13576 Melville Lane Chantilly, VA 20151-2492

vincent poirier | 6/10/2005 - 1:51pm
My response to this editorial? A rousing bravissmo!! There has been precious little these many months past over which one can exult. The words and sentiments of this editorial deserve to be read in accompaniment with Handel's "Alleluia Chorus". Once again AMERICA speaks with an authentic Christian voice. And the words are sweet, indeed.

Thank you!

Fr. Vincent Poirier

Matthew Briggs | 2/16/2007 - 3:40pm
A hundred years ago our ideas about the truth took a relentless beating (6/20). Freud peeked rudely under our civilized gowns of reason, Einstein upended our “common sense” about the universe, and World War I sank naïve positivism faster than the Titanic. For many, Auschwitz and Hiroshima settled the issue for good: truth itself, like Nietzsche’s God, was dead. Only power remained.

The result among the educated elite was a kind of undeclared civil war of relativism. The left openly renounced transcendent truth, attempting a shaky new compromise for egalitarianism based on social science and personal fulfillment. Postmodernism and identity politics are the paltry end results. On the right, a growing number of thinkers and activists privately conceded the absence of truth, but anticipated toxic consequences for the growing awareness of meaninglessness among ordinary people. Would the ignorant masses, once robbed of their essential illusions, endure menial labor or die to protect the empire? In the end we would surely disintegrate or be destroyed. The right’s smug solution was the “noble lie” of neoconservatism. Ordinary people need a nationalist-religious mythology. The solemn obligation of the ruling class is to produce it for them.

For now, the neoconservatives have won this civil war in the United States, and we are moving perilously close to a real, homegrown dictatorship of relativism. As Christians, we must resist, beginning with an unashamed confession of faith in the power of the truth and an unequivocal rejection of the truth of power. When we resort to force of any sort—whether violence or censorship or authoritarianism—we tacitly betray our fear that our faith is indeed just one ideology among many, and, in the name of “orthodoxy,” we pour gasoline on the very flames of relativism we would claim to douse. The Holy Spirit is our master and teacher, not some fragile treasure in our pocket. Our Lord needs no bodyguards. This is his power and our hope.

Robert Stewart | 6/15/2005 - 5:31pm
Dear Editor:

Your editorial, Speaking the Truth in Love, is a statement that needed to be made, and it brought, I think, some clarity regarding the meaning of fidelity, although my first reading of the editorial did not bring me to that conclusion.

The editorial speaks of continuing "to carry out our mission with fidelity to the Petrine office, to Pope Benedict XVI and to his fellow bishops"; however, this is a line causing me to pause. When reading anything appearing to imply that fidelity to a pope or a bishop can be equated to fidelity to the Lord, I have become very uneasy. The Catholic hierarchy has impressed upon the faithful for some time, at least since the reform of Pope Gregory VII in the 11th century, that the voice of the Holy Spirit is mediated through the pope; ergo, to be faithful Catholics, requires fidelity to the pope, now Benedict XVI. I have never bought into that theology, and think it has nothing to do with authentic faith, since many of the utterances that have come from popes and bishops have seemed to be no more than opinions, judgments neither inspired by the Holy Spirit or the good sense that comes from a serious study of theology.

However, the editorial quickly balances all this, the fidelity to the Petrine office, with a quote from Pope John Paul II: "Let us listen to what all the faithful say, because in every one of them the Spirit of God breathes." That brought me some comfort. The editorial staff of America is, I believe, assuring us that when it comes to mediating the Holy Spirit, they do not believe that the pope or the bishops are the only mediators of the Spirit, and that voices other than those of the hierarchy merit attention, and we will be allowed to hear those voices on the pages of America.

As one who in the past has contributed financially more than the subscription rate to insure the viability of America, I pray that I have correctly interpreted the drift of your June 20 commentary. I detest the thought of possibly having made a bad investment.

Regards,

Robert Stewart 13576 Melville Lane Chantilly, VA 20151-2492

vincent poirier | 6/10/2005 - 1:51pm
My response to this editorial? A rousing bravissmo!! There has been precious little these many months past over which one can exult. The words and sentiments of this editorial deserve to be read in accompaniment with Handel's "Alleluia Chorus". Once again AMERICA speaks with an authentic Christian voice. And the words are sweet, indeed.

Thank you!

Fr. Vincent Poirier

John Blakeney | 6/16/2005 - 8:46am
In response to "Speaking the Truth in Love", I hope that you hear one loud, ear-shattering, resounding AMEN!!! This is the vision of literary integrity that AMERICA readers have come to know, love, respect, and expect!

William Ulwelling, MD | 6/13/2005 - 10:00pm
I have read all the letters and editorials in America about the resignation of Father Reese. Perhaps it’s just me, but there seems to be a noticeable missing band in the full spectrum of diverse opinion on this matter. Cannot “speaking the truth in love” include, at times, outrage? Jesus was outraged on occasion. John 2:17 records the time in the temple when “zeal for your house will devour me.” The first part of this sentence, drawn from Psalm 69, reads, “It is for you I am putting up with insults that cover me with shame, that make me a stranger to my brothers.” What happened to Father Tom Reese was not right.

Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 6/21/2005 - 4:34pm
James Cooney's pointed remark that "some claim, wrongly, that the Catholic faith requires lock step agreement with old ideas" reminds me of the number of so called right-wing Catholics and church functionaries, not only in Rome but also here, whose ideal it is that all Catholics should think the same. But where everyone thinks the same, like in Hitler's Germany or in Stalin's Russia, anyone who does some thinking is a traitor.

James P. Cooney | 6/11/2005 - 3:31am
To the Editor:

Though educated by Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (13 years), diocesan seminary priests (1 year) and Jesuit priests (3 years), my faith has been shaken often over my sixty years--as I have struggled to be honest with myself and others.

Your piece, "Editorial: Speaking the Truth in Love," restored my faith and reinforced my conviction to continue thinking and speaking the truth as I see it.

Some claim, wrongly, that the Catholic faith requires "lock step" agreement with old ideas.

Some of those ideas were originally developed by men who lacked the confidence and dispassionate committment to honesty that many of us have absorbed from America and the best thinkers, teachers, and writers of our Roman Catholic faith tradition.

After reading your editorial, gentlemen, I feel truly "born again" in the one true faith.

Thank you.

Jim Cooney

Catherine Wolff | 6/10/2005 - 4:00pm
To the Editors,

It was with great relief that I read in your June 20 issue both James Martin’s appreciation of Fr. Tom Reese, and your editorial “Speaking the Truth in Love.” I have been related to, educated, and employed by Jesuits, and over the past quarter-century have been a devoted reader and America Associate. During these years I have gone from being a disgruntled but faithful Catholic, to a heartbroken yet stubbornly faithful one. Whatever faithfulness I have retained has been in no small part due to the lively and open treatment of Church affairs and teachings which has for so long characterized your magazine. The publication of different viewpoints has always been carried out in an atmosphere of respect for the sincerity of your contributors and their ideas, and for the capacity of your readers to use their intelligence and faith in considering a variety of perspectives.

Having been greatly dismayed, along with so many others, upon learning that Fr. Reese had been pressured to resign, I am very grateful for your frank and charitable statement of intent. You have reaffirmed your long tradition by resisting calls to limit intellectual exploration and debate, without succumbing to divisive, polemical statements. There could be no finer demonstration of your commitment to “speak the truth in love.”

Blessings on your future!

Catherine Wolff

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