[Marxism] Media censorship spreads--Vatican forces editor of Jesuit 'America" to quit

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed May 11 04:32:51 MDT 2005

National Catholic Reporter
Posted Friday May 6, 2005 at 4:15 p.m. CST
Editor of Jesuits' America magazine forced to resign under Vatican
By Tom Roberts and John L. Allen, Jr. 
Kansas City, Mo. and Rome 

Jesuit Fr. Thomas J. Reese, editor for the past seven years of America
magazine, a premier publication of Catholic thought and opinion, has
resigned at the request of his order following years of pressure for his
ouster from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

The resignation caps five years of tensions and exchanges among the
congregation, which was headed at the time by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,
now Pope Benedict XVI, the Jesuits and Reese, according to sources close
to the magazine who asked not to be identified. 

A release from the magazine May 6, which did not mention the forced
ouster, announced that the new editor is Jesuit Fr. Drew Christiansen,
who has served as associate editor. 

Ironically, Reese received the news that the Jesuits found the debate
"unwinnable," according to one source, when he returned to the
magazine's New York headquarters from Rome, where he had covered the
conclave that elected Ratzinger as pope. 

Contacted on background, a Vatican official said he could not discuss
the case. 

Over the course of a five-year exchange between the doctrinal
congregation and the Jesuits, the Vatican congregation had raised
objections to various editorial choices at America under Reese's
leadership, including: 

An essay exploring moral arguments for the approval of condoms in the
context of HIV/AIDS; 
Several critical analyses of the doctrinal congregation's September 2000
document Dominus Iesus, on religious pluralism; 
An editorial criticizing what America called a lack of due process in
the congregation's procedures for the investigation of theologians; 
An essay about homosexual priests; 
A guest essay from U.S. Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, challenging
suggestions that the church should refuse Communion to Catholic
politicians who do not vote as a number of bishops believe they should
In every instance, however, the pieces represented just a portion of
coverage of the subject in America, which always published opposing
points of view. 

According to one source, the communication about Reese's fate was
carried on between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and
the superior general of the Jesuits, Dutch Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach,
with the content then relayed to Reese's Jesuit superiors in the United
States. Although critics of Reese both in the United States and Rome
have occasionally accused him of an anti-hierarchical mentality,
supporters noted in their responses to the congregation that over his
seven years as editor, America routinely published weighty pieces by
prominent members of the hierarchy, at one stage including Ratzinger

In February 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
proposed creating a three-member commission of censors for the magazine,
though the idea was never implemented. According to sources, the
congregation told the Jesuits that the action was in response to concern
from bishops in the United States. 

Sources said no bishops were identified by name and that Reese was never
directly contacted. According to a source close to the magazine, Jesuit
superiors said some bishops were upset that Reese often commented on
church matters for general media and that such commentary should be
solely the province of bishops. 

Reese often made himself available to media during the bishops' meetings
and other special church events to explain aspects of church life and
the intricacies of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the
author of three highly respected studies of the Catholic hierarchy:
Archbishop, Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church;A
Flock of Shepherds: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops; and
Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic

The entire matter of his disciplining was handled "by chain of command,
and the Jesuits were able to hold off for five years, but in the end,
saw it as unwinnable. It was either Reese goes or they would appoint a
board of censors," said one source. 

America, though clearly left-leaning in some of its editorial stances,
was widely viewed as a moderate publication that gave vent to a wide
spectrum of views. Among its contributors were top theologians, a number
of bishops, and, in one instance, Ratzinger himself in an article
published in dialogue with Cardinal Walter Kasper, another German
cardinal. Over the years, the magazine has also published dozens of
articles by noted conservative Cardinal Avery Dulles. 

Though pressure for Reese's ouster clearly came from the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, to what degree Ratzinger was personally
involved in the decision is not known. 

In the May 6 release, Reese said, "I am proud of what my colleagues and
I did with the magazine, and I am grateful to them, our readers and our
benefactors for the support they gave me. I look forward to taking a
sabbatical while my provincial and I determine the next phase of my
Jesuit ministry." 

Christiansen, an accomplished educator, writer and editor, previously
was a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown
University. He was director of the Office of International Justice and
Peace for the United States Catholic Conference from 1991 to 1998 and
served as counselor for international affairs for the bishops until
December 2004. 

"I know I am speaking for all the editors in saying that we are sorry to
see Tom go," said Christiansen in the May 6 release. "Fr. Reese greatly
improved the magazine, adding news coverage, color and the Web edition.
. By inviting articles that covered different sides of disputed issues,
Fr. Reese helped make America a forum for intelligent discussion of
questions facing the church and the country today." 


Tom Roberts is NCR editor. His e-mail address is troberts at ncronline.org 
John L. Allen Jr is NCR Rome correspondent. His e-mail address is
jallen at ncronline.org 

National Catholic Reporter, May 6, 2005 

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