Headlines and blogs are full of the story about the Rev. Thomas J. Resse resigning as editor of the the Jesuit magazine America. I find it interesting that this story is getting the amount of national publicity that it is. That a magazine that the large amount of people have never even heard of is a headline on Drudge. It is obvious of course that the reason this is is that the story is really framed about the hidden hand of Pope Benedict XVI forcing him to resign. That the inquisition has started and that this is the first head to roll. This view is rather silly to infer that the Pope looked at the world and then saw the editor of a magazine with a circulation of 48,538 needed special attention. What actually appears to have happened is that some American Bishops had written complaints to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over the tenor of many of the articles that had appeared in the magazine. Maybe the most surprising aspect of the story is that come bishops actually complained. This is always a fairly slow process and it might appear that in this case after many years that these complaints were sent to Jesuit superior general in Rome and that Fr. Reese was asked to resign. What actually happened is difficult to know since the reporting of this has been in the NYT and National Catholic Reporter – unreliable sources to say the least. We do know that the Church through the CDF has been very deliberate in its investigations allowing adequate time for responses by anybody being investigated for going outside Church’s teaching. Looking at the list provided by the National Catholic Reporter of then-Cardinal Ratzingers tenure at the CDF we see a very short list of Catholic theologian who had in fact been disciplined. You would think by the tone of the NYT article that the Pope has transferred his personal Iron Maiden and rack to the papal apartments.
The story is also framed that it is about the elimination of healthy intellectual debate and will have a chilling effect on "critical questions." The problem is actually that the editorials in America magazine did not confine themselves to unsettled theological questions, but also presented debates on settled questions in Catholic theology. Dissenters often want to cover themselves with the words, debate, dialogue, presenting both sides, etc. Though of course the articles never debated racism or caring for the poor. Rightly they would see that presenting both sides of racism as ridiculous and out of the range of true debate within Church teaching. Yet they do not understand this when it comes to settled questions such as women’s ordination, same-sex marriage, and stem-cell research that involves the destruction of embryos.
There are so many mysteries of the faith and we can never intellectually exhaust them Yet our human intellects can advance further into these deep mysteries and that should be the task of all of us and especially the Church’s theologians. To further map out the depth of mysteries instead of coming up with contrary opinions to Church teaching. There are many unsettled theological questions that need to further explored and to waste time being apologists for homosexual marriage is a waste of intellectual abilities.
I have often wondered why a Jesuit Magazine choose the name America? Their site only mentions that it was suggested by Thomas J. Gannon, S.J. in 1909. Whatever the initial rationale was it is now indicative of what the magazine became. That they narrowed the universatility of Catholic truth to a very regional understanding and AmChurch view of what the Catholic Church should teach.
Diogenes at CWN said:
The point is that America’s notion of what counts as a hot topic is selective and ideologically slanted against the Holy See. The true contrast is not between openness and dogma, but between rival systems of dogma: a public one (Catholic), versus a clandestine one (behind or beneath America). And remember that America is not a secular journal of ideas but is trading on the ecclesial prestige accorded its Jesuit sponsorship. That means, when it’s Catholic doctrine that’s under assault, it’s not really even-handed — as would be the case for The New Republic — to give space to a professor to attack the doctrine and equal space to a Vatican official to defend it. Simply by presenting the disputants as representatives of different opinions the doctrine is viewed as up for grabs, i.e., as something less than doctrine. The net result is almost always erosion of Catholic belief.
Amy Welborn also posts mentioning a variety of information on the coverage and also want to know what really happened.
The Anchoress also sees the faintly veiled attempt at the story being about the Pope forcing the editor out of the job.
But this story is trying very hard to suggest that the editor of America Magazine, Rev. Reese, is being forced out of his job by the new pope. They can’t quite pull it off, as they are bound to report that the impetus for his resignation has less to do with Rome and more to do with the fact that Bishops right here in America had expressed concerns about the content of the journal. And they are also bound to mention that Reese left Rome, after the election of the new pope, “with the idea that he would be resigning…”
The assistant editor Fr. Christiansen is going to take over as the editor of the magazine and as Patrick Madrid said:
Let’s pray for Fr. Christiansen. He has a big challenge handed to him. I hope he’s up to it.
Jeff, we have been living through decades now where the Left and Catholic liberals (aka, progressives) have seen the hand of Torquemada whenever Church doctrine and teachings are correctly applied. It’s the religious arm of the Great Right-Wing Conspiracy that mirrors the mysterious doings of Opus Dei. I don’t wish to be cruel and deprive these folks of the only excitement that they get out of life.
And I pray that the Lord grants the Holy Father an especially long life so that our “progressive” Catholic sisters and brothers, along with their assorted allies in the secular media, will have numerous delusions of paranoia to occupy them.
I would not count on “America” losing its leopard spots too abruptly. But it may become as they are wont to say on Fox, a bit more, fair and balanced. Then again, that might reduce their circulation rate.
Rev. Reese was on television a ton during the conclave.
He should of stay “under the rock”, now he has to be removed by it.
I went to their web site and clicked of links. I foud this, and I was SOooo surprised:
Call To Action
Call To Action is a national Catholic organization of 25,000 laity, religious, priests and bishops. It advocates for reforms in the Catholic Church such as the ordination of women, optional celibacy for priests, more focus on the church’s social justice teaching, and consultation with the Catholic people on church decision-making..
I always go to links first. What you see or don’t see says a lot. Politics and the church meet in the links. Maybe links should be called the back scratching department.
This Reese story sounds very suspicious to me. I don’t buy the Pope Benedict crackdown theory. Nor do I give any credence to US Bishops’ complaint theory. Maybe there is some other reason for the change. Maybe Reese is stepping down for personal reasons. But since they cannot help but be Jesuitical, the America staff is adroitly using the Ratzinger Insquisition framework to cover up the real reason.
It even made the Radio 4 news on the BBC last night – the tail end of British media interest in Benedict, I suppose, but very odd. The mag was described as a ‘moderate to liberal Catholic magazine’. I’m not sure what this means, and I don’t think it would have been very informative for the average British listener… except (cynicism coming up) that ‘moderate’ and ‘liberal’ are obviously Good Things, so whoever in the Vatican moved against it must be a Bad Thing. Looked to me like a very thinly veiled agenda there. Sigh. Or of course it may have been not very well informed reporting, which is better I suppose.
I agree that Reese should have lost his position, whether by his or someone else’s choice. Catholics who go to ‘Church magazines’ have a right to find there Catholic thought, and the Church has no obligation of any kind to print the opinions of her opponents.
I am an orthodox Catholic who is elated at the choice the cardinals recently made in Rome. As I read your posts, though, I am disturbed by the frequent use of political tags, things like “leftists,” “liberal,” and “conservative.” In my view, such secular language does great violence to debates in the Church.
For instance, while I oppose the Call to Action types, think the notion of ‘ordaining’ women simply an insane impossibility, and would relish seeing our bishops display some backbone with people like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, I cannot in good conscience endorse the soi-disant conservative in the White House. He has clearly ignored the just war teachings of the Church with his aggression against Iraq, and his policies concerning nuclear weapons (those in our possession) are on a collision course with the thinking of Benedict XVI. And Bush’s approval of capital punishment contradicts the whole thrust of Church thinking in recent decades.
The dissenters are wrong, both those who have adopted the Bill of Rights as their as their gospel and those who seem to think a US Marine is some kind of secular priest. I say a plague on both their foul houses.
I agree that some news reports of this event have tried to paint it as a story of the new Pope, the old Ratzinger!, trying to crush dissent, debate, freedom. One would expect that almost, as unfortunate as it is.
But I detect a similar dynamic from the “orthodox” side – and frankly I like this even less because unlike the NYT we are supposed to know better and, yes, do better. It has become an opportunity in some case for “piling on”. Throw in words like “progressives”, “liberals”, and of course “Jesuits!” and they can mean whatever anyone wants them to mean. I sometimes get the sense that traditionalists do not want to include the actual tradition in their traditionalism. What grievances are expressed, and what they want seem also to me to be private as opposed to public and Catholic.
Let’s stay with the facts of the case so far as we know them. There were complaints. Father Reese is a Jesuit. He ran a magazine. He has resigned. His assistant will take over.
The first thing to note is that Father Reese is a Catholic who became a Jesuit to “work out his salvation” and serve God and the Church. He wasn’t born a Jesuit. He was raised in the basic parish church we all were. There is no evidence that he ever was trying to do anything other than a good job in service. If he was not perfect, he can get in the long line with the rest of humanity.
The second thing to note is that in any public statements about the resignation, Father Reese and his Superiors have had no negative words to say. However the decision came down, Father Reese has been obedient. We do not know what happened in the private forum. That is why there is a private forum. We know the public forum, and we can see by the words and actions that Father Reese has done the right thing. But why do I get the feeling that some people want to examine Father Reese’s conscience for him, and make judgements about his right and wrong? That has been done, is being done. In the private forum. Between Bishops, Superiors, Father Reese – where it belongs.
We are going so far to even impute some vaguely evil intent to the name of the magazine! Magazines must be called something. It is not a certain fact by any stretch of the imagination to infer that the choice of the name “America” was an attempt to undermine the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church! That is, to my mind, ridiculous, absurd.
Notice: We are looking for evil intent in the soul of a Catholic Priest and a Catholic religious order (with 500 years of great history behind it). Isn’t our first move to look for the good? And only then, if there are problems, to work them out? But this seems to be what the Bishops, Father Reese and his Superiors did. And both sides managed to not impute evil to the other.
Surely we can at least follow their example.
Not having read every story on this, I still haven’t seen actual evidence of Vatican involvement. What strikes me as most likely is that the Jesuits wanted to make a change. It is very difficult for a non-commercial publication to removed an editor, which most outsiders believe is an honorary position but in fact it a managerial position that some do well and others do not. I’m guessing that there were other reasons for the change, and the Jesuits were not unhappy to have the attention turn to the Vatican as the responsible party. Good timing. In any case, it certainly doesn’t seem to be motivated by theological-ideological issues. A quick look at the successor editor’s bio reveals the predictable and boring lefty special-interest stew of positions.
Fr. James Reese SJ may be an ordained catholic priest, but that does not make him Catholic. Fr. Reese was a one man army doing his best to hatchet the catechism. I have searched many artcles written by Fr. Reese SJ, and none inspire or draw one closer to God. Fr. Reese should just quit the priesthood and go work for the Commonwheel where he can continue his ministry against the Catholic Church.Fr. Reese forgot he joined an order to refute the lies of the Reformation, however it seems that he has joined them. Fr. Reese seems to have wasted his vocation, however he has drawn out his Legion so that they might expose themselves for us to see. The story of the disgruntled Fr. Reese is not over yet.Stay tuned to more filth from him and his hatchet men.