Paul Baumann

Paul Baumann is the editor of Commonweal.

By this author

Steinfels, McKenna & Commonweal

George McKenna, then a political scientist at the City College of New York, wrote a terrific piece for the Atlantic in 1995, “On Abortion: A Lincolnian Position.” I recommended it to friends, both defenders and opponents of Roe, and quoted from it on occasion in talks. McKenna argued that Lincoln, although firmly opposed to slavery as a great moral evil, knew that it was politically impossible to abolish the practice where it already existed. The only tenable political position for those seeking to end slavery was to oppose its establishment in new territories and states. Once cabined in that fashion, slavery would eventually collapse on its own. McKenna drew a strong parallel between Lincoln’s position on slavery and the prolife cause. It was a long essay and a subtle argument, but McKenna summarized his proposed prolife strategy in the following phrase: “permit, restrict, discourage.” That position made a lot of sense to me, especially McKenna’s observation that “we must remember that [Lincoln] intended to conduct his argument before the American people. Lincoln knew that in the final analysis durable judicial rulings on major issues must be rooted in the soil of American opinion. ‘Public sentiment,’ he said, ‘is everything’ in this country.’”

Given my familiarity with McKenna’s Atlantic article, you can imagine my surprise when I read his criticism in the current issue of the Human Life Review of Peter Steinfels’s Commonweal essay on abortion, “Beyond the Stalemate.” Peter hardly needs me or anyone else to defend him, and he may respond to McKenna’s “A Bad Bargain” essay here at dotCommonweal or elsewhere at some point in the near future. But I will comment on what McKenna has to say about Commonweal and what he presumes motivates the “liberal or progressive” Catholic audience for which Peter is writing.

Limited & Proportionate

Contrary to the speculation in some quarters, there exists a spectrum of views on political as well as theological questions among Commonweal editors. In writing the magazine’s editorials, we strive for consensus, seeking to practice the habits of moral deliberation we urge on others. As the magazine’s very name connotes, one of our principal goals is to help forge a greater sense of the common good, both within the church and the larger culture.

What Douthat Misses

New York Times columnist Ross Douthats new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, has gotten a lot of attention. Peter Steinfelss review was predictably astute.

So's Your Mother

A number of commenters on our brief, initial response to the bishops statement Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, accused Commonweal of being partisan for warning that the bishops statement and initiative run the risk of making the church appear to be aligned with one politic

Take a Left at George Carlin

Theres a story in todays Times about the effort to rename 121st Street between Broadway and Amsterdam after the late comedian George Carlin.

Confusing Images

As he frequently does, Fr. Robert Imbelli had an admiring post last week about something Pope Benedict had recently said. Titled Images of Gratitude, the post linked to Benedicts remarks on the occasion of his being made an honorary citizen of Freising, Germany, where he had attended seminary in the years immediately after World War II. With a few exceptions, most of the comments on Fr.

A Refuge?

An amusing description recently appeared in the Times Literary Supplement regarding what talents and temperament an editor needs. “Rat-like cunning, a plausible manner, and a little literary ability,” went the quip.

Yes, Mr. President

“Apologies for the short notice,” began the e-mail I received late in the afternoon on Tuesday, June 30. It was from the assistant press secretary for foreign affairs at the National Security Council, asking if I could meet with President Barack Obama Thursday morning for a “roundtable” in advance of his meeting with the pope in Rome.

Yes, I replied, yes I can. No apology necessary.

The 'Weekly Standard,' Notre Dame & 'Commonweal'

The neoconservative Weekly Standard is best known as former vice president Dick Cheney's favorite humor magazine. And it is funny--truly. Who can forget those satirical pieces warning of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, or the one--written in code!--about demure, heavily mascaraed Iraqi and Al Qaeda secret agents canoodling while passing nuclear secrets over heavy pastry in Vienna? And then there was the wild Monty Python-like script for "democratizing the Middle East at gunpoint." The magazine's limericks are even better.

A Letter to Our Readers

Dear Commonweal Reader,