Commonweal in the 1940s
By its third decade in publication, Commonweal was growing accustomed to being, "as in every period... criticized by both the Left and the Right," according to Rodger Van Allen, author of The Commonweal and American Catholicism. Castigated for the "anaemic brand of Catholicity served up by the Skillins, the Maritains .. and their lily-livered ilk;" for being "the sole consolation of the Anti-God forces" and soft on Communism; and for being an outstanding example of the "war-mongering Catholic press" (Pravda), the magazine was actively engaging such issues of the day as race and racism, social and criminal justice, and culture—even as then-special editor Michael Williams encouraged an editorial policy that avoided "the brand of partisanship he saw in most Catholic publications."
As we continue to mark our ninetieth year in publication, we're focusing on a different decade every month through November. Below is a selection of stories, interviews, and editorial notes that appeared in Commonweal in the 1940s; make sure to visit this page in coming days, as we'll be posting more from the 1940s through the end of May.
One great writer on another: J. F. Powers comments on the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Also, Dorothy Day pens an appeal on behalf of three men wrongly convicted of a murder in California, and Ellen Tarry (the first African-American picture book author) writes of her disappointment that "in Catholic circles many have lamented the fact that the Negro writer [Richard Wright] who has arisen as the spokesman for his race should be a communist." And, Luigi G. Ligutti Térèse looks at the history of popes and agriculture in the context of the rural life movement.
Robert Penn Warren contributes a remembrance of Commonweal contributor Paul Rosenfeld, while Thomas Merton considers the deeper meanings of "the contemplative life." And, the editors write movingly in response to the decision by the United States to use atomic weapons against Japan.