Throwback Thursday: Happy Birthday, Commonweal!
Ellen B. Koneck November 14, 2013 - 3:20pm
This past Tuesday marked Commonweal's 89th birthday. We’re planning some bigger things to mark the big nine-oh in 2014, but for now we thought we’d celebrate at home (on the blog) with a few close friends (that’s you).
Back when we were young, we called ourselves “The Commonweal.” We produced a new issue each week and a subscription cost only $10. Our inaugural issue’s editorial—written by founder and editor Michael Williams with assistant editors Thomas Walsh and Helen Walker (and with the blessing of the seven-person editorial council)—was titled “An Introduction,” and it set out the distinctive mission and role of the new publication:
We believe that The Commonweal will be so fundamentally different to our contemporaries that in place of competition in an over-crowded field we shall occupy a position that hitherto has been left vacant. For the difference between The Commonweal and other weekly literary reviews designed for general circulation is that The Commonweal will be definitely Christian in its presentation of orthodox religious principles and their application to the subjects that fall within its purview: principles which until now have not, we believe, been expressed in American journalism except through the medium of the official organs of the Catholic Church and of the various other denominations.
The editors, after making it clear they were not speaking with authority in the Church (yes, an uppercase “C” was house style at the time), and explaining that a variety of opinions would be presented in “an open forum for the discussion of such differences in a spirit of good temper,” concluded with this declaration:
It is unquestionably a spiritual, moral, and patriotic duty for thinking people to at least make an effort to apply the conserving and regenerative forces of the fountain head of Christian tradition, experience and culture to the problems that today all men of good will are seeking to solve. As opposed to the present confused, confusing and conflicting complex of private opinions, and personal impressionism, mirrored in the so many influential journals, the editors of The Commonweal believe that nothing can do so much for the betterment, the happiness, and the peace of the American people as the influence of the enduring and tested principles of Catholic Christianity. To that high task The Commonweal is dedicated.
Read the entire editorial and let us know what you think—have we changed? Have we stayed the same? One thing that’s not up for debate: we know for certain we’ve gotten better looking with age.
About the Author
Ellen Bina Koneck is a graduate student at Yale Divinity School.