The 90th Anniversary special issue of Commonweal is coming soon, but on the website we're providing a sneak peek at some of what's inside. First, the editors on the founding of the magazine and its guiding principle:

After [World War I] the United States enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, with its still largely immigrant Catholic community growing steadily in strength, confidence, and political and economic clout. Commonweal’s founders hoped that a journalistic and intellectual endeavor of quality would draw attention—and give expression—to the contributions Catholics were making to American society, and especially to the vitality of liberal democracy. To this end, in its first decade Commonweal explored the underappreciated Catholic wellsprings of the American nation. The editors insisted that a certain religious piety—an outlook rooted in a larger, transcendent hope—not only went hand-in-hand with democracy’s celebration of the common man, but was crucial to forging consensus about the common good in a pluralistic society. Our freedoms as individuals ultimately depended on the commitment of all to the institutions of democratic governance, not merely the pursuit of personal ambitions or the exercise of individual rights. As far as the editors were concerned, the Declaration of Independence’s bold assertion that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” rested on bedrock Catholic principle regarding the inherent value and dignity of every human life—and society’s duty to protect it. A democratic republic that honored that principle would flourish; one that neglected it would founder.
Then as now, this faith in democratic principles had to be defended against merely materialistic understandings of human life and purpose. In this spirit the magazine opposed communism and pseudoscientific notions about eugenics. It also opposed fascism (even where fascists were allied with the church) and condemned racial prejudice. Liberal democracy, very much in retreat between the last century’s two world wars, received little encouragement from the church in its struggles with authoritarian forces. Yet Commonweal refused to abandon its belief in either democracy or Catholic truth, consistently arguing that in the modern world the health of one was very much related to the health of the other.

Read all of "Two Faiths" here.
Also, Cathleen Kaveny reconsiders the church of the 1970s:

I belong to what many Catholics now dismiss as one of the church’s lost, post–Vatican II generations. Catholic prelates and internet pundits regularly scorn the fifteen years following the Second Vatican Council as the “silly season,” the era in which catechesis was evacuated of all substantive content in favor of supposedly trivial activities such as sharing, caring, and constructing felt banners. The catechesis of the 1970s became a cautionary tale, the model of what not to do in passing on the faith.
For many years, I was sympathetic to that analysis. But I am increasingly uneasy with the wholesale dismissal of the catechetical programs of my youth. First, the stock caricature of the period is unfair. The programs had far more content then they are given credit for. Second, the criticism only reinforces polarization within the church. Scapegoating 1970s religious-education programs fosters the illusion that the church’s problems can be fixed by going backward, by inoculating children with something like the simple question-and-answer method and content of the Baltimore Catechism. But the root problem facing the church, then and now, is not catechesis. The root problem is that Catholics didn’t have—and still don’t have—a way of dealing constructively with the substantial and irreversible changes in both the church and the culture. Those changes began before the council and only accelerated in its immediate aftermath. They show no sign of abating today, much less of being reversed. 

Read all of "That 70s Church" here. We'll be posting the full 90th Anniversary issue soon, so be on the lookout. And keep in mind that everything on the site is free for all registered readers through November 12; if you're not a registered reader, take a moment to register for free. Just visit our homepage

Also by this author

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.