The Forty Year Impact of Crisis Magazine

Writers past and present reflect on the impact of Crisis Magazine over the past 40 years.

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[Editor’s Note: In honor of our 40th anniversary, we asked our writers from today and years past as well as other prominent Catholics to write a paragraph or two on the importance and impact of Crisis over the years and today.]

Crisis first hit the press when I was returning from studies in Rome. Recollection of its printing is not a mere figure of speech because back then it was published in hard copy. Some of the names first associated with it are now inscribed in the larger life. Many of their anticipations of the state of the Church and the world in general, have been realized both happily so and unfortunately so. The promises and warnings on the pages of Crisis have had an immeasurable influence, and I like to think that such commentary will be a trusty guide to many more.
Fr. George Rutler, contributing editor, Crisis Magazine

Connie McInerny, Ralph McInerny’s wife, used to say that Ralph (eminent Thomist and defensor fidei) not only came to breakfast with a new big idea nearly every day, he also acted upon it. The initial Catholicism in Crisis was a “rag” publication—nothing glitzy about it but a very much needed avenue for combatting the dominance of dissent. His co-editorship with co-founder Michael Novak, both respected academics, allowed many voices otherwise excluded from having a public voice to be heard—now an abundant opportunity on the internet but then rare.
Over the decades Crisis has featured both well-known and up-and-coming authors addressing a wide variety of issues, eccelisial, cultural, and political. It is fantastic that Crisis is a prominent voice that wears the label of fidelity to Church teaching but within that parameter invites a wide range of voices. I am so happy that 40 years later, I am still writing for Crisis, a vibrant, meaningful, influential publication. So glad this (among so many) of Ralph’s projects came to fruition.
Dr. Janet Smith, retired professor of moral theology

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I began reading Crisis Magazine in the 1990s. It was founded in 1982 by my late friend and colleague, Michael Novak, whom I knew very well. Michael was proud of the magazine and what it had accomplished. I’m proud to write for it and serve Crisis as a contributing editor. I dare say that Michael would also be proud of the magazine today and its excellent leadership under Eric Sammons. The magazine remains an unflinchingly bold witness to the truths of the faith, unafraid to resist a culture that has gone barking mad. We lost Michael in 2017, but fortunately we have not lost Crisis Magazine. It remains a stalwart fighter for truth.
Dr. Paul Kengor, Professor of Political Science, Grove City College

As an author, theologican, professor and pro-life activisit leader it has been an absolute honor to be published in the pages of Crisis Magazine. My contributions go back to the late 1980s when Dinesh D’Souza was the editor! This was in the days of the print edition. One of my first articles had to do with a pro-life rescue we conducted at the Bread and Roses Women’s clnic in Milwaukee—and indeed a photo of that rescue was on the front page! Since then I have been privileged to be published in Crisis on a wide variety of subjects—including my many film reviews.
Crisis Magazine was founded by the great Ralph McInerny, when as a professor at Notre Dame and founder and Director of the Maritain Center. I will always be grateful to Professor McInerny for publishing my book The Authority of Women in the Catholic Church through Crisis Books of which he was also the founder. Naming the magazine “Crisis” McInerny intended for this journal to be a voice of truth, logic and fidelity to the Church literally in a time of crisis for the Church and for the world—a time of upheaval, change (not always for the better) and serious moral, spiritual and philosophical confusion! Crisis is thus a true platform from which clarity, reason and truth is spoken, made available and by shifting to the online edition—so easily and necessarily disseminated! Furthermore—the vision was to, in a sense, create a crisis—by creating a crisis for the darkness—exposing the darkness and leading readers out into the light! May it please God that the light of Crisis Magazine continue for another 40 years!
Dr. Monica Miller, Director, Citizens for a Pro-life Society

Crisis has been a constant in my adult life. I wrote for the magazine before I was a Catholic, became its de facto lead book review editor for a while, and even now, in my dotage, I still turn up with an occasional short essay. Crisis also made me notorious. To this day, people come up to me, slap me on the back, and say, “You’re the guy who wrote that piece about NFP in Crisis, aren’t you? By the way, my wife and I now have [fill in a number between four and twelve] children.” So, I guess, in some way, my relationship with Crisis has been good for the country.
H.W. Crocker III, historian and novelist

Congratulations to Crisis on forty years. Editor Eric Sammons has one enviable rolodex. It includes the giants—Anthony Esolen, Anne Hendershott, Joseph Pearce, and the Martins, Regis and Ralph—whose sparkling prose and provocative insights delight and inspire. Every bit as important, however, it also includes the rising stars. I think of Michael Warren Davis and Casey Chalk, for example, lively writers devoted to the craft. Such first-rate minds will see this journal well along through the next forty years.
Christopher Check, President, Catholic Answers

When I took over Crisis in October 1994 it was still a “journal,” but soon it became a full-colored magazine with robust coverage of the arts, especially music and film, in addition to the magazine’s monthly fare of theology, spirituality, politics, and the Church.
We had about 6,000 active subscribers in 1994 and eventually reached a pinnacle of about 33,000 in 2003. It took a while to put together a reliable and creative staff. Eventually our team was assembled, and among them were: Brian Saint Paul, Zoe Romanowsky, Ann Waterman, Margaret Cabinnis, Matt Wray, Elena Luther, and Christina Jopson. We are good friends to this day, and I am grateful to them above all for making Crisis a magazine of substance and influence.
Deal Hudson, former editor, Crisis Magazine

I vividly recall receiving my first issue of Crisis. It featured an eloquent defense of the morality of capital punishment by Michael Pakaluk. His arguments are as relevant today as they were decades years ago. Crisis has provided timely and courageous analysis of the problems facing the Catholic Church in the post-conciliar period. The defense of Catholic truth necessarily involves engaging in polemics with those who propose radical departures from Christ’s teaching. Catholicism is always under attack by those who find its teachings intolerable. Crisis has for 40 years provided a platform for those who take up the pen to defend the Faith handed down from the Apostles. Congratulations for 40 years of fighting the good fight of faith in defense of the truths of the Catholic Faith.
Fr. Gerald Murray, author, Calming the Storm: Navigating the Crises Facing the Catholic Church and Society

I have followed Crisis Magazine in both its print and online form for perhaps twenty-five of its forty years. The quality of the writing, combined with its forthright and faithful orthodoxy, has ever been a source of strength and encouragement in my own journey of faith. It is, therefore, a true honour to be able to count myself among the very fine team of writers who contribute regularly to Crisis Magazine‘s powerful and much-needed voice and presence in our besieged culture. Well might we hope and pray that this voice and presence will still be a force for good and a light in the darkness forty years from now.
Joseph Pearce, author and editor, St. Austin Review

Indeed the Church and society have been in crisis for at least the last 40 years. S, we remember with fondness the founding of Crisis Magazine by Michael Novak and Ralph McInerney forty years ago in 1982. We remember the fine editors who have run this publication since then, an unbroken thread of clear-eyed orthodoxy. Since that time, Crisis has published invaluable stories and essays that have helped devout Catholics understand the issues vexing us as Catholics and as Americans. It has been a dream come true for me as a writer to be a regular contributor to this vital effort for the past decade.
Austin Ruse, president, Center for Family and Human Rights

How exactly does one measure the fall of a civilization? Is there a moment when everything good ends and barbarism begins? When there is so little decency left that depravity takes over? Albert Jay Nock thought he knew. It will happen, he said, when all the lights go out and nobody notices. He may be right. But don’t bet on it. Not if Crisis Magazine has anything to say about it. For forty years and counting it has offered a witness, both clear and compelling, of an alternative to the darkness, a searchlight to help Catholics find their way back to sanity, to a standard of tradition and truth upheld by twenty centuries of Church teaching. I am proud to have been part of that effort and grateful to the work of its editors for keeping the tablets burnished and bright.
Dr. Regis Martin, Professor of Theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville

In the last forty years, Crisis Magazine has been served by a dozen editors, including Michael Novak, Dinesh D’Souza, Philip F. Lawler, and Deal Hudson. I’m awed and humbled to be named among such men, each of whose faith and intelligence dwarfs my own.
If the twelve of us could have gathered in a single room, I doubt we would have agreed on anything, except this: that the first duty of a Catholic journalist is to defend Holy Mother Church from her enemies, both within and without. That is the reason Crisis in Catholicism was founded in 1982. It is the reason she has survived these last four decades. And it’s why Crisis will remain an indispensable force for many, many years to come.
Michael Warren Davis, former editor, Crisis Magazine

The importance of Crisis cannot be understated. In a world bereft of literary wit and style, something that was embodied in the glory days of the press in the English-speaking world so many decades ago, Crisis allows the author and the reader to engage in that battle for truth that encapsulates Catholic intellectual history.
Where else can we wander and engage in the Great Western Conversation with the assurance of honesty and a symphonic diversity of opinions? If there are to be found Chestertons, Bellocs, and Lewis’ in our day, you can be sure that you will not find them far from this publication.
Kennedy Hall, author

“Politics, culture, and the Church.” I think that was the selling line of Crisis Magazine in its print days. Nowadays, print is on life support but the crises in politics, culture, and the Church are healthier than ever and pressing on good folk from all sides. Of course, as Deal Hudson or someone explained to me back then—sometime before Crisis’s New Coke phase as InsideCatholic—we are to read “crisis” not as a call for panic in the face of perpetual disaster but, closer to its etymology, as a call to decision in a key moment. To distinction. To separating out truth from error with a bright lamp or testing flame.
Todd Aglialoro, Director of Publishing, Catholic Answers

The Thursdays of my boyhood were spent reading every article in the Sports Illustrated that arrived as treasure in the mail. In the early-‘80s, when mom, a prophet and saint, knew her brood of children were growing up in an age of post-sexual revolution, vanilla Catholicism, a new magazine called Crisis began arriving with my SI. Because as a 13-year-old I was drawn to the power of story, I began to read pieces in Crisis, many of which were above my level of comprehension. But it was through these articles that I knew mom loved me. She knew in this magazine were writers, perspectives, and straight answers that could help her and my dad to steer and protect her children through the mist of the times.
Kevin Wells, author and speaker

Crisis Magazine was started when I was about 11 years old. I vaguely became aware of it as I began to take my faith more seriously: it was “one of those publications” that the serious people read. When Crisis shifted online—which was experienced by lovers of books and magazines as yet another example of how the internet was gobbling up civilization—paradoxically I paid more attention to its authors, perhaps because it was within easier reach of any inquisitive reader.
Over time I couldn’t help noticing that, ever so slowly, Crisis was following a path of development similar to my own, from a foursquare conservatism of sometimes conventional pieties to a bolder and more capacious Catholicism. In short, it reflected the real process—not, in other words, a prefabricated process, call it synodal or what you will—that many thoughtful practicing Catholics have followed from the dawn of Summorum Pontificum to the nightfall of Traditionis Custodes. It is precisely when “the crisis” has intensified to a degree unimaginable 40 years ago that this reliable, consistent, and determined publication has reached its hour of greatest need and greatest service to the Church.
Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, author and speaker

Finding shelter from the Modernist debris shower unleashed by the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ was no mean task. One of the safest refuges was Crisis Magazine, the bold brainchild of the brilliant and ever-resourceful Ralph McInerney. He was able to collect some of the finest Catholic minds in the English-speaking world to reassure suffering Catholics that the barque of Peter was not sinking. Like thirsty men awaiting a glass of cold water, thousands of readers would camp out at the mailbox each month for their copy of Crisis. As a young priest, Crisis was my mainstay. It not only articulated the beauty of Catholic doctrine and tradition but bravely took on any voice eager to tarnish it. Congratulations Crisis for 40 years of keeping Catholics safe. And congratulations to its current on-line iteration. You would have made Ralph McInerney proud.
Fr. John A. Perricone, adjunct professor of philosophy, Iona College

There has never been a time when Crisis—and especially now Crisis online—was not at the top of the “pile” of my reading. Now that it has gone from a monthly magazine to a daily event, Crisis is able to provide readers (who get it for free—welcome to the 21st Century) with analysis of all matters Catholic. It misses practically no aspect of Church life over any given two-week period, not excluding “spiritual trends”…many key books…major young Catholic figures…the older ones who for better or worse are running the Church…and so importantly, the traditionalist movement, whose growth is owing to two basic elements: encouragement from the vicar of Christ in the form of a truthful pope who then quit, and a living faith in young and older Catholics alike. Crisis is too obvious a daily reading choice to skip.
Roger McCaffrey, Publisher, The Traditionalist


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