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Where are the Commonweal Catholics?

This blog is a great idea. Anything that extends the discussion among thoughtful Catholics is to be welcomed in these difficult times. It is particularly welcome to see a blog that will be informed by the Commonweal tradition. Mentioning that tradition, however, raises the question -- just what is it? Or, more precisely, what's left of it? At one time, the phrase "Commonweal Catholic" had a precise meaning, and was used proudly by those who identified with it. While not entirely coextensive with the phrase "liberal Catholic," it obviously resonated in those precincts. The Catholic conversation today, however, seems to be less of a conversationthan a competition of monologues from what can be called left and right, faute de mieux. The general media, furthermore, tend to turn to voices on the extreme right and, paradoxically, to Catholics with highly agonistic attitudes toward the Church for "authoritative" voices. Where is the voice of liberal Catholicism in the fray? Does its relative absence reflect a crisis of confidence? Is liberal Catholicism an "exhausted project" or a contradiction in terms as some critics argue? Does it have intellectual coherence, moral integrity and political relevance both in the Church and the public square? I'd be interested in my co-blogista's thoughts on these questions -- as well as our readers' thoughts.

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A suggestion for dotCom's bloggers: whoever among you is bold enough to take up Mark's questions, create new posts. Don't keep your answers under the combox bushel.

Mark, on your questions ...The voice of liberals just doesn't sell product, which is why you won't find much of it in the general media. I can't speak for others, but I'd have to say I've given up on it and would prefer to move the discussion to the blogosphere. I'm not sure it's a question of confidence crisis so much as getting heard.Commonweal was one of the first to initiate the discussion of Cardinal George's so-called "exhusted project." That's a discussion I think that's worth having. I've explored it a bit in the past on my own site, but I have to say I've barely scratched the surface. Suffice it to say, I think his position is intellectually weak, and I'm surprised Commonweal didn't bring more strength to bear in addressing his arguments. What do the Commonweal editors have to say about it?One point I've not seen discussed much is the notion of semper reformanda as it applies to every aspect of the Church, not just the ones we don't care for. Have the liberals of the 90's and the new century taken advantage of the advice they'd be so willing to give to others, namely to reform and renew? I'm not always sure. Liberal Catholics embraced reform and renewal in the 60's and 70's, and thus young people in great numbers gravitated to them rather than the frowny-faced schismatics rallying around the banners of Trent. I'm not convinced today's generation is any more amenable to conservativism. Except maybe that conservatives have done a better sell-job on it.The critique that liberal Catholicism is geting old must be grappled with: addressed if true, and refuted where it's not. My sense is that Commonweal liberals have been non-inclusive with folks from about my age (40's) and younger. Lots of good talk about mentoring and modelling, but it doesn't always get put into practice.That's enough for now. Good work on the new blog, and good work in landing Peter on your blog staff. I look forward to his input.

Mark,I wonder about your conclusion that liberal Catholics are not heard today. Certainly, there is not the forum that existed in the post council days where Kung, Haring, Rahner, Schillibexx, Murray and Congar informed the order of the day. That forum was silenced by John Paul II and the now B16. Yet the Liberal Catholic is still really all quite well whether in universities, the we are the church movement and many others. Why else would the Vatican come out with "Ex Corde Ecclesia" if it was not afraid of that powerful liberal voice. You will recall that the executioners of Ex Corde were held back by something called the Pedophilia scandal. Yet that Vatican attitude is why some liberal voices are quiet. At the the same time don't the voices of Richard McBrien, Andrew Greeley, Donald Cozzens, Luke Timothy Johnson, Roger Haight, Robert Kaiser, the Seinfels, Komonchak or a host of others count? Or am I missing your point. I understand that we have a fundamentalist president in the largest bully pulpit. But should we not remember that if you change Florida (or count it) this whole conversation is different. My question is, therefore, are you looking at the sound bite or the reality?