"Simply Catholicism."

That's a term that appears in the Cardinal George interview mentioned by Cathy Kaveny. It also came up during a 1999 symposium sponsored by Commonweal and held at Loyola University Chicago, "The Crisis of Liberal Catholicism." Speakers included Cardinal George, Peter Steinfels, E. J. Dionne Jr., John McGreevy, and John T. Noonan. We published their remarks in our seventy-fifth anniversary issue--and just made them available to subscribers and nonsubscribers alike.Here's how then-editor Peggy Steinfels introduced the package of essays.

As part of our anniversary celebration, Commonweal has been reexamining some of the magazines founding ideas, liberal Catholicism being a central one. We were prodded along in our resolve by a sermon that soon-to-be Cardinal Francis George gave on January 17, 1998, at Chicagos Old Saint Patricks Church. As it happened I was at the liturgy. Whats more, I was actually listening to his sermon. There came that now semi-famous moment when he said, "liberal Catholicism is an exhausted project."

There was a little buzz among the congregation, and then a little hum. It was like being back in second grade: You could hear people thinking, "Uh-oh, what does he mean by that?" Following a brief conversation after Mass, Cardinal George agreed to explain what he meant. And so he did at a Commonweal Forum held on Wednesday, October 6, 1999, at Loyola University (Chicago).

The forum was a sell-out event with more than three hundred people thoughtfully attending to the words of the cardinal, the second speaker, Peter Steinfels, and the three respondents, John Noonan, John T. McGreevy, and E. J. Dionne, Jr. Three hours later, everyone came out alive! Even a few liberals. The speeches and comments make up this special section.

For more than a decade as editor of Commonweal, I have struggled along with my colleagues to examine and, when necessary, reframe the kind of questions we ask in linking the Catholic tradition with the American political and cultural scene in which liberal values continue to play the dominant role. The clarifications and criticisms of this forum have contributed greatly to that effort. We look forward to the responses of our readers in continuing this important conversation.

Grant Gallicho joined Commonweal as an intern and was an associate editor for the magazine until 2015. 

Please email comments to letters@commonwealmagazine.org and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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