The independent Catholic press, health-care reform

Slave or free?

It’s clear that John Wilkins holds the independent Catholic press in high regard (“The Tightrope,” November 6). The word “independent” appears in his piece more than a dozen times. But how independent is it, exactly? Are editorial decisions not influenced by the fear or favor of subscribers, or, for example, the Henry Luce Foundation? Not even a little? As Bob Dylan says, “You gotta serve somebody.” Even if your editorial decisions are based on the most pristine motives, aren’t we left with, on the one hand, publications “dependent” on the church’s teaching authority, handed down through the ages by the Apostles under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and, on the other hand, publications “dependent” on the current state of the conscience of the current editor on the current publication date? Viewed that way, it’s hard to see the “different dependence” as a terribly strong selling point.

Not that there’s no value in the Catholic press—I’ve been a subscriber to Commonweal for a number of years because I see its value. Count me as one of those much more conservative Catholics Paul Baumann mentions—people sufficiently invested in Catholicism to make their way through an issue of Commonweal. But the magazine’s value is greatest not when it sounds discordant notes, but rather when it complements the other sections of the orchestra—when it thinks with the maestro, not around...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.