Sunday, June 7, 2015

Commonweal is an American and liberal journal of opinion, edited and managed by lay Catholics, headquartered in The Interchurch Center in New York City. It is the oldest independent Catholic journal of opinion in the United States.


Founded in 1924 by Michael Williams (1877â€"1950) and the Calvert Associates, Commonweal is the oldest independent Catholic journal of opinion in the United States. The magazine was originally modeled on The New Republic and The Nation but “expressive of the Catholic note” in covering literature, the arts, religion, society, and politics.

Since its founding the magazine has been liberal in temperament. It has, however, taken controversial positions, going back to its neutral stance on the Spanish Civil War in 1938, when circulation plummeted by 20 percent. The editors condemned the firebombing of Dresden and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both during World War II. In the decades that followed, the magazine criticized American racism, the anti-Semitism of Father Charles Coughlin, and the tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy; supported resistance to U.S. involvement in Vietnam; and took issue with the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae vitae but also the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

Commonweal has published the writing of François Mauriac, Georges Bernanos, Hannah Arendt, G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Jacques Maritain, Dorothy Day, Graham Greene, Emmanuel Mounier, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Thomas Merton, Wilfrid Sheed, Paul Ramsey, Joseph Bernardin, Abigail McCarthy, Christopher Lasch, Walter Kerr, Marilynne Robinson, Luke Timothy Johnson, Terry Eagleton, Elizabeth Johnson, and Andrew Bacevich. It has printed the short fiction of Evelyn Waugh, J. F. Powers, Alice McDermott, and Valerie Sayers; the poetry of W. H. Auden, Robert Lowell, Theodore Roethke, John Updike, Les Murray, John Berryman, and Marie Ponsot; and the artwork of Jean Charlot, Rita Corbin, Fritz Eichenberg, and Emil Antonucci.



The journal, tagged as "A Review of Religion, Politics, and Culture." is run as a not-for-profit enterprise and managed by an eighteen-member board of directors. The word "commonweal" is a reference to an important term in the political philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, who argued that legitimate leaders must prioritize the "common good" of the "commonweal" in making political decisions.

Commonweal publishes editorials, columns, essays, and poetry, along with film, book, and theater reviews. Twenty issues of Commonweal are released each year, with a circulation of approximately 20,000. In 1951, Commonweal was hit by financial troubles and almost shut down because of a loss in subscribers.



Although Commonweal maintains a relatively strong focus on issues of specific interest to liberal Catholics, this focus is not exclusionary. A broad range of issuesâ€"religious, political, social, and culturalâ€"are examined independent of any relationship to Catholicism and the Church. Commonweal has attracted contributors from all points of the mainstream political spectrum in the United States.

Commonweal published several articles in support of censured theologian Roger Haight in 2001, 2007, and 2009.



As of 2014, Commonweal's staff includes:

  • Editor: Paul Baumann
  • Associate Editors: Matthew Boudway, Grant Gallicho, Mollie Wilson O'Reilly
  • Poetry: Rosemary Deen
  • Screen (review): Richard Alleva, Rand Richards Cooper
  • Editorial Assistant: Maria Bowler
  • Publisher: Thomas Baker
  • Marketing Coordinator: Kaitlin Campbell
  • Production: Tiina Aleman
  • Digital Editor: Dominic Preziosi
  • Business Manager: James Hannan
  • Stage/Media/Television (review): Celia Wren
  • Columnists: E. J. Dionne, Anthony Domestico, John Garvey, Cathleen Kaveny, Jo McGowan, Mollie Wilson O'Reilly, Charles R. Morris, William Pfaff, Margaret O'Brien Steinfels

Previous editors of Commonweal have been Michael Williams (1924-38); Edward S. Skillin (1938-67); James O’Gara (1967-84); Peter Steinfels (1984-88); and Margaret O’Brien Steinfels (1988-2002).

See also

  • America
  • The Catholic Worker
  • Faith & Family Magazine
  • National Catholic Register
  • National Catholic Reporter
  • Zenit News Agency


  1. ^ Commonweal History
  2. ^ See e.g., Summa Theologiae, I-II, Q. 97, A. 1
  3. ^ Commonweal & Woe
  4. ^ Haight on trial - Catholic theologian Roger Haight
  5. ^ Not so heterodox: in defense of Roger Haight
  6. ^ The Vatican levies further penalties on Roger Haight

Further reading

  • Rodger Van Allen, The Commonweal and American Catholicism: The Magazine, the Movement, the Meaning, Philadelphia: Fortune Press, 1974
  • Rodger Van Allen, Being Catholic: Commonweal from the Seventies to the Nineties, Loyola University Press, 1993
  • Patrick Jordan and Paul Baumann, Commonweal Confronts the Century: Liberal Convictions, Catholic Tradition, Touchstone, 1999
  • Robert B. Clements, Ph.D. (1972). "The Commonweal: The Williams-Shuster Years". http://proquest .umi .com/pqdweb ?did=760722021 &sid=1 &Fmt=1 &clientId=12010&RQT=309 &VName=PQD

External links

  • UNZ archive of Commonweal 3,067 Issues, 48,742 articles, 83,047pp / Nov 12, 1924 to Dec 21, 2001
  • Commonweal website

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