Half an Anniversary

It is coming onto a year since we first began to talk of founding Catholicism in Crisis. The thought originated with Michael Novak, he circulated it among a number of people, and quite early on we began to explore the possibility of a dual base for the journal.

On the one hand, the Washington-New York corridor was attractive: so much of what is critical for Catholicism, and other things, e.g. the survival of the species, arises there or is discussed there and is sometimes even decided there.

On the other hand, the attraction of the heartland of the nation, i.e. the University of Notre Dame, was obvious. If that eastern corridor is important, it also distorts. Returning to the midwest — or the south or the west — sojourners in the east have a sense of decompressing, of a salutary slowing of pace, of an atmosphere conducive to thoughtfulness.

We want both. And we have ended up, we hope, with something of the best of those two worlds. From the beginning we have made use of word processors and personal computers. Not only has this enabled a very small number of people to do what would otherwise have taken dozens, it also permits immediate communication between our Washington and Notre Dame offices. We even use the mails. It is amazingly easy to produce a journal like this one.

“Who would have thought it hard?” the cynic might inquire. I refer, of course, to the physical task. The cynic might have in mind the contents of the journal. Even physically, typographically, we have a way to go. The 6th number came closest to the format we have been looking for.

It is easy to produce such a journal as this — if you have the money. When we came out with our first issue in November, 1982, the money was provided by Michael Novak and myself. We had no assurance at all that we would be able to come out with a second issue. It has been pretty much hand to mouth through the early months of the journal. We are just coming onto a plateau of economic predictability. There have been generous donations all along, ranging from twenty dollars to two thousand dollars. Now we are close to having our basic costs underwritten for a time during which we can concentrate on increasing our list of subscribers. In the next issue we will make something in the nature of a financial report.

The make-up of the journal that has emerged is: (1) missives from the editors, in propria persona or otherwise; (2) letters; (3) shorter pieces; (4) documentation; (5) articles and (6) book reviews. It is our hope to add several departments in the near future: a Letter from the Hill; perhaps From the Third World. A television section may also be introduced as well as a review of the Catholic press. Furthermore, we shall be running advertisements, classified and others.

These housekeeping matters are of fundamental importance since ideas need carriers, thought must have an embodiment. Catholicism in Crisis is now a real garden into which to put our imaginary frogs, rather than, as it was at the beginning, the reverse.

That our editorial offices should be at Notre Dame seems particularly fitting. Rightly or wrongly, Notre Dame is taken to be in the vanguard of efforts to maneuver through the difficult waters in which the Church now finds Herself. Between the Scylla of reaction and the Charybdis of unanchored radicalism the Bark of Peter must go. Our association with the Jacques Maritain Center is another symbol of our intent to occupy the broad sane center of Catholic thought.

We trust that those who at the outset of our venture were alarmed because of the direction they imagined it would go are now comfortable with Catholicism in Crisis. Well, not comfortable. But at least no longer fearful that we are an ad hoc effort to represent the Reagan Administration on matters nuclear to unsuspecting coreligionists.

The nuclear issue has loomed large in our first half year. How could it be otherwise, given the incessant drumbeat from the USCC, NCCB and other dubious places. Nonetheless, from the beginning there has been a variety of topics discussed in the journal. Doubtless the variety will be even more striking in the future.


  • Ralph McInerny

    Ralph McInerny was a popular writer, philosopher, and teacher, as well as the co-founder of Crisis Magazine. He passed away on January 29, 2010.

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