Returning to the Field

It was not so easy for a Catholic in the early 1980s to advocate for a free society. While much of the nation welcomed the conservative shift President Reagan brought to U.S. policy, the American Catholic bishops were not among them. Those Catholics whose common-sense politics leaned right found themselves isolated in their larger faith community and were frequently treated like dissenters from doctrine, with the kind of episcopal enthusiasm one would have liked to see aimed at real dissenters.

Catholic philosopher Ralph McInerny and theologian Michael Novak would have none of it. In November 1982, from a small office on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, they released the 16-page first issue of Catholicism in Crisis: A Journal of Lay Catholic Opinion.

In the opening editorial, signed by “Acton,” they wrote:

The crisis in the Catholic church of 1982 is that the church seems in danger of losing its true, original, and profound identity, in order to become what it is not, an instrument of temporal power. Nearly always today, this temporal assertion of the church is leftward in its force, as in former times it was often rightward. Yet whether tilting to the left or to the right, the fundamental theological error is the same.

We do not wish merely to mourn the passing of the liberal Catholic tradition; we wish to breathe life back into it. Many battles must be fought, both to our left and to our right. We are, first of all, Catholic — our faith is dear to us. To be “Catholic” means to have a sense of community, of tradition, of faith and prayer and contemplation, and perhaps of tragedy (as in the crucifixion and death) not common to those who are “liberal” in other ways.

But we are also “liberal” in the sense that not all Catholics are. We are neither socialists nor traditionalists. Our vision of the temporal order is rather like that of Jacques Maritain, from whose Center we publish. We believe that history has a narrative form; that social progress, though difficult and reversible, lies within human possibility; and that the liberal society is an authentic, although imperfect, expression of the Gospels in political economy, made possible by the long leavening of human cultures with the faith of Judaism and Christianity.

We dread the “great, climactic battle” which Solzhenitsyn predicts on the horizon. We resist the flirtation of so many in Church with ideas of political economy certain to diminish both liberty and productivity. We look for a return of American laymen and laywomen to their full responsibilities in the Church. We expect a “new spring,” after the present critical years.

The American Catholic Church in 2011 is in better shape — and is better led — than the one Ralph and Michael contended with in 1982. Theological sanity returned through the pontificates of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and the temporal assertions of the Church are no longer reliably leftward. The liberal Catholic tradition they helped foster has grown vibrant, in no small part due to the influence of their upstart journal. Two decades later, the magazine — through the leadership of Deal W. Hudson — would be credited (or blamed, depending on the source) with the election of a U.S. president.

But not everything has changed. In the name of Catholic Social Thought, many in the Church continue to promote ideas of political economy that would hurt the very people they intend to help, and often do so with the suggestion that their policies are required of the faithful. With the economy as it is, and Americans looking for the cause, this effort has only increased — as has its effectiveness.

And that’s why we’ve returned. In the days and months ahead, we will lay out a cumulative case that the principles of Catholic Social Teaching are best achieved through democratic capitalism, and that the rapid growth of the state is their greatest obstacle. Our government has achieved a size and power that would have horrified most Americans thirty years ago, Catholic or not. The rise of the Tea Party movement and the popular revival of the ideas of liberty stand as two hopeful responses. With the return of Crisis Magazine, we offer another.

*          *          *

An item of business: We’re in the process of transferring the comments from the old InsideCatholic site to this one. We’ll have that done over the next couple days and appreciate your patience. We’re also in the midst of going through and reformatting our older articles. For the moment, if you dig back through the archives deep enough, you’ll encounter some odd fonts and line spacing. We’ll get to that.

Brian Saint-Paul


Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

  • Looking forward to the new direction.

    Question: I was subscribed to the InsideCatholic blog posts, but so far I don’t see any blog category. Are those done away with?

    • Hi Devin,

      The old IC blog posts can be accessed through the individual author pages (click on an author’s name). However, when we brought over the posts, most of the older ones lost their author tags. As a result, we’ll have to sift through them, correcting the author names and uploading the entries as we go.

      However, you’re right that we’ll no longer have a formal blog. The Counterpoints section — which fisks through errors in the media, on prominent websites, and in other publications — has replaced it.

      • Brian,

        Thanks for the info. I subscribed to the main RSS feed. Is there a different feed for the Counterpoints or is that rolled into the main feed?


        • Hi Devin,

          The feed should be comprehensive, so you’re good to go.

  • Mike S.

    One question for clarification: when you wrote, “with the return of Crisis Magazine” – did you mean to say that the print edition is returning?

    • Hi Mike,

      Sorry, I wasn’t very clear on that. We won’t be reviving the print version of the magazine — that industry is dead. However, we’re developing a digital version for mobile devices and hope to release the iPad edition in late June.

      You’ll find a few more details here, along with a screenshot of the iPad magazine:

  • TH2

    Will articles from the old, hardcopy Crisis Magazine eventually be included in your archives?

    • Yes, we’re going to upload one a day. You’ll find them in the CLASSICS section.

  • Wilbur M Bolton

    I am old enough to realize that government is run for the benefit of government employees; and this is also true of programs that the government runs, supposedly to benefit the poor. The requirement of welfare programs that an adult male NOT be part of a family receiving welfare has led to the break-up of many minority families, thereby increasing the number of women and children living in poverty. I believe that Sen. Pat Moynihan (Dem., NY) was one of the first national figures to realize this unintended effect of the welfare programs adopted under LBJ’s administration in the 1960s. The result of the “war on poverty” was an increase in the number of women and children in the USA living in poverty.
    One would think that members of the USCCB would become aware of this characteristic of government programs. Further, the larger the organization that adopts a program (Federal vs. State vs. County or City), the more difficult it is to correct the unintended effects of a law, once enacted.


  • Welcome back!

  • j

    Looks good, but really miss the scroll of posts at other sites, which somewhat captured the range of viewpoints under our very big tent.

  • Tim H

    I appreciate the candor and the position your new site is taking. I hope we can still see some of the content that isn’t always so oriented to political economy as well.

    But I would also really hope to have lively discussions here. I do not know all the history of Crisis magazine but I am familiar with the wars on the right. I would hope we can make room for critiques of the classical liberalism of Acton et al. While I understand that the left is a brutal and threatening enemy, we can’t give ourselves over to corporatism either.

    In another periodical I once read that we must find the way to

    Resist Jihad without becoming the tools of McWorld.

    (The Jihad has two fronts: Fundamental Islam and rabid
    secular Leftism.)

    The quote might not provide enough of a positive basis for our life (surely more than struggle against darkness), but for the things we do fight against, I think it helps focus one.

  • Bender

    Oh, great!

    I see you even are using that web platform that I despise with a passion. Cumbersome, user unfriendly, slow, annoying. Well, that is one way to get Bender to shut up with his comments.

    • Really? We switched to WordPress from Joomla, and absolutely love it. Between the two, there’s no competition, at least as far as we can see.

    • I also like the new look. I administer both Joomla and WordPress sites and WordPress rules in every way. Joomla is the one that is more cumbersome, user unfriendly, etc.

  • Brian F

    You mentioned that you are developing a digital edition for the iPad. Would you also consider an edition that could be read on the Nook Color? It has over 130 digital magazines, few of which interest me much. But, Crisis would be an excellent addition.

    • Hi Brian,

      We’re looking into something very much like that. Stay tuned…

  • I like the look of your website.

    Simple, easy to navigate, and it isn’t cluttered.

    Interesting that you all moved from Joomla to WordPress.

    . . .and easily distinguishable from all of your competitors.

    Great job Brian!

    • Thanks, Tito.

      We try to keep it clean and aesthetically pleasing — that contributes greatly to one’s reading experience.

      Yes, we left Joomla behind, and I’m sorry we didn’t do it sooner. WordPress has been much easier to work with.

  • Carl

    I like being anonymous. I like battling it out over words, ideas, and discussing faith.
    I learn so much and it’s not about me or you.

    When people post too much personal information I try to block it out the best I can.

    Personal photos are much the same to me. It smacks of Facebook, “look at me!” Which I abhor. While I do admit being anonymous lends itself to slip into a more disrespectful discourse—it can always be corrected or explained better.

    But having someone’s picture posted numerous times no matter how well that go-tee looks I just find it very annoying!

    • My Name Here

      Carl…great point. Brian’s picture makes us all long for anonymity.

    • The goatee felt it was being ignored, and demanded more air time.

  • Carl,

    You have me convinced.

    Your comments on humble you are for not posting, ie, bragging, about yourself with a photo pic and how great you are for that decision has given me second thoughts.

    That I just wasted a few seconds of my life reading your dribble.

  • Hugh E. GalvinIII

    Hi Brian: God Bless you. Welcome back

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  • Good news indeed, thanks.

  • Michael W


    This is very good news.

    I was attending Boston College (in 1982) when the first newsprint copies of “Catholicism in Crisis” arrived in the mail. They were unsolicited and at first I assumed the sedevacantists had somehow got my address. However, it took only minutes to realize that Ralph McInerny and Michael Novak were at the helm. I’ve been on board since.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Tell me how to sign up and what donation is required.
    I will more than meet that. I pay only by check since weakileaks. So I need your address to send a check.

    I used to subscribe years ago.

    Chuck Johnson