John Cort, R.I.P.

When John C. Cort, the writer, editor, activist, husband of sixty years and father of ten, and self-proclaimed Christian socialist died last month in Massachusetts at the age of ninety-two, his family included in the Mass program an illustration of John as Don Quixote. The image had appeared in the January 1991 El Ciervo, the Spanish equivalent of Commonweal published in Barcelona, and it captured John’s idealism, his tenacity and devotion to justice, and his ability to take a self-deprecating swipe at himself.

In 1936, John heard Dorothy Day speak in Boston, and it changed his life. A recent Harvard graduate and convert to Catholicism, he moved to New York to join the Catholic Worker but never completely bought the movement’s party line, particularly its agrarianism and anarchism. The following year he branched out, helping to found the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists (ACTU). For decades thereafter, he tirelessly applied the papal social encyclicals by assisting and organizing workers and by editing ACTU’s paper, The Labor Leader. He began writing for Commonweal in 1939, and joined the editorial staff in 1943, serving in one capacity or another until 1959. Historian Rodger Van Allen has written that John was part of a subtle but substantive shift that took place at the journal during that period: it was no less intellectual but it became more issues-oriented and activist. John contributed nearly four...

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About the Author

Patrick Jordan is a former managing editor of Commonweal.