I am sometimes asked how we at Crisis go about choosing the articles we run. More often than not, the question is a kind of accusation—a nicer way of saying, “You must have been out of your mind when you decided to print that.”
Not surprisingly, in the past few months—with controversial articles on American imperialism, natural family planning, and military conscription—the question has come up again. Let me hazard an answer.
We are at a point in the history of our Church where many Catholics can no longer rely on their ecclesial institutions to provide them with orthodox spiritual and moral formation. Heterodox theology, still entrenched in too many seminaries and rectories, is largely to blame (though there are other factors as well). To address this problem, the first aim of Crisis is education. Often this takes the form of catechesis—articles that explain or expand upon some aspect of our Faith.
Of course, as necessary as that is, education cannot stop there. Catholicism, after all, isn’t merely a religion, it’s a worldview—a way of looking at reality. Indeed, insofar as its unique claims are true, it’s the only fully authentic way of seeing things. And so, Crisis doesn’t restrict itself to expositions on religious matters but looks at the wider world through Catholic eyes. There is much in secular culture that is contrary to our Faith. But there are hidden treasures there as well, and it’s to our great benefit to recognize them when they come. Catholicism has never been afraid to baptize the secular when the situation merits it.
All of this talk of educating the faithful is fine and good, but it doesn’t yet get at the matter of the occasional controversial piece. Why not just avoid them and stick with articles that elicit only agreement?
If we took that road, we’d certainly get a lot less angry mail. But Crisis would also be much less than what it is. There’s a reason why this magazine is so often at the center of debate among Catholics—and it’s more than just editorial clumsiness (though we’re sometimes guilty of that, as well). The fact is, there are many issues about which faithful Catholics may take quite different positions, and it’s good and healthy to discuss them. For this reason, we sometimes run articles that may provoke debate by exposing readers to arguments they may not have otherwise considered. I’m not referring here to anything that runs contrary to the teachings of the Church, that has no place in a faithful Catholic publication. But why not discuss the different allowable positions on hot-button issues? If the discussion leads to deeper thought and sharper argumentation, it can only be a good thing.
Contrary to what some assume, the staff of Crisis does not always share the views or positions communicated in our articles. Indeed, the note at the bottom of our masthead says as much: “Signed articles in Crisis reflect the views of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, Morley Publishing Group, Inc., or its directors.”
Is this just an easy dodge? A sneaky way to run controversial articles while weaseling out of the uproar that comes as a result? Not at all. The fact is, we’re careful not to let our own whims and fascinations drive the editorial content of Crisis—that would make for a very boring magazine. And so, we sometimes opt for pieces that do not wholly reflect our personal views but that we nevertheless consider valuable, thought-provoking, and deserving of attention.
To better encourage the exchange of views among faithful Catholics, we’re expanding our Letters section. Should you encounter a piece with which you disagree, please don’t hesitate to pick up the pen and throw your own hat into the ring. The magazine will be better for it.