A Brief History of Commonweal

Founded in 1924, Commonweal is the oldest independent lay-edited Catholic journal of opinion in the United States. The magazine has an ongoing interest in social justice, ecumenism, just-war teaching, liturgical renewal, women’s issues, the primacy of conscience, and the interchange between Catholicism and liberal democracy.

2010s

In the face of growing polarization within the country and the Church, Commonweal reasserts its founding principle: that Catholic Christianity is compatible with liberal democracy. 

Throughout the second decade of the twenty-first century, Commonweal warned about the dangers of the American Church—and, in particular, American bishops—growing too close to the Republican Party. Responding in 2012 to the bishops’ dramatic warnings about threats to “religious liberty” posed by the Obama administration’s health-care laws, Commonweal noted that “in their simplistic rhetoric, the bishops sound more like politicians than pastors.” 

Dominic Preziosi

In an editorial on the occasion of Commonweal’s ninetieth anniversary in 2014, the editors reminded readers of the magazine’s continued commitment to what they called its “two faiths”—in Catholic Christianity, and in liberal democracy: “The church has something to learn from American democracy about institutional accountability, but Catholicism still has much to teach the modern world about justice, the limitations of individualism, and the sanctity of life.”

Dominic Preziosi succeeded Paul Baumann as editor in 2018, and in the following year Commonweal became a monthly magazine, with an expanded number of pages and a thorough redesign. By the end of the decade, print circulation had shown an increase for the first time in many years, while Commonweal’s digital readership (via its website, podcast, and social media) reached a far larger audience than at any point in its history.

2019 magazine redesign, “Two Faiths” by The Editors, 2018 staff photo