Paul Moses contributed a moving reflection in Friday's Wall Street Journal (unfortunately, access only to subscribers). The title they gave it is "A Liberal Catholic and Staying Put." Followed by the subtitle: "Why I won't heed calls from the left and right to leave the church."

But the heart of the piece is Paul's moving reflection on the death of his father last year, and the support and sustenance he received from members of the church, priests and people, who were present and bearers of grace in his time of grieving.

He sums it up by writing:

I saw a theological term made real – that God's people make up the body of Christ, a mystical concept of church that encompasses the living and the dead, the visible and invisible, my deceased father and me.

I have been pondering the past few days the recent Commonweal editorial – "dialoguing" with the "Mission Statement" published by America's new editor, Matt Malone.

Last Spring Boston College's "Church in the Twenty-First Century Initiative" sponsored a panel on the Catholic Press, featuring the editors of America, Commonweal, and U.S. Catholic. It was a fine afternoon (followed, I confess, by an even more mellow dinner). For myself personally it was exhilirating to witness the respectful discussion among three editors clearly committed to "the Catholic thing."

The only "lack" (in my view) was that there was not too much exploration of what constitutes the Catholic thing. It seemed something bred in the bones, taken for granted, rather than theologically probed (at least on this occasion).

In light of Paul Moses' reflection, I'd love to participate in a further discussion among the same trinity of editors regarding what implications for editorial mission, choice of contributors, even use of language ("liberal"/"conservative") the realization of the church as "the body of Christ" makes. Does it remain only a notional term? or has it been made "real?" And with what practical consequences?

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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