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).