Commonweal Magazine

Commonweal Magazine Catholic, independent, opinionated. A journal at the intersection of faith and contemporary politics and culture, edited by lay Catholics since 1924. Subscribe at www.cwlmag.org/subscribe
Commonweal is an independent journal of opinion edited by lay Catholics. It is an indispensable lifeline for Catholics who want to be part of an informed, engaged, independent-minded laity, as well as for readers of every faith seeking an open, tolerant forum for interreligious conversation.

Commonweal is an indispensable lifeline for Catholics who want to be part of an informed, engaged, independent-minded laity, as well as for readers of every faith seeking an open, tolerant forum for interreligious conversation. Commonweal provides a place for civil, reasoned debate on the interaction of faith with contemporary politics and culture. Read by a passionate audience of educated, committed Catholics and readers from many other religious traditions, Commonweal presents well-argued, respectful points of view from across the ideological spectrum. Our lay-run, independent status is inseparable from our role as a community of open conversation. Independence, clarity, charity, and a certain complexity are Commonweal’s watchwords. We believe challenging ideas need breathing room, explained and articulated not in slogans or sound bites but at length when necessary, always striving to be both informed and accessible to the general reader. Our institutional independence allows Commonweal sometimes to raise unsettling questions, consider novel, sometimes suspect ideas, and support the advance of Catholic thought. Rather than an ideology, Commonweal represents a sensibility. We believe that the quality of conversation shapes our shared sense of what is possible—and that this conversation has to embrace the imaginative and the visionary alongside the pragmatic and the empirical. In religious matters, Commonweal has always embodied the Second Vatican Council’s admonition that the church has important things to learn from modernity, especially from liberal democracy, at the same time that our culture is in need of the moral and social vision distilled in the best of religious tradition. Since its founding in 1924 Commonweal has staked a claim for religious principles and perspective in American life, and for laypeople’s voices within the church. The magazine has been credited with helping prepare American Catholics for Vatican II and its aftermath, and Commonweal’s current readers say it has helped them weather the sexual-abuse scandal in the church and work through questions and frustrations related to the role of women, the relationship between religion and politics, and church teachings on sexuality. The magazine has an ongoing interest in social justice, ecumenism, just-war teaching, liturgical renewal, women’s issues, the primacy of conscience, and the interchange between Catholicism and liberal democracy. Today Commonweal publishes many of the leading theologians, writers, and public figures in the United States, including Alice McDermott, Luke Timothy Johnson, Margaret O’Brien Steinfels, Paul Elie, and Sidney Callahan, among many others. Commonweal is published 20 times a year in print as well as in digital formats, including special issues each year dedicated to contemporary theology, interreligious dialogue, books, and fiction. It also operates a continuously updated website at www.commonwealmagazine.org. It is published by the nonprofit Commonweal Foundation, and its governance involves no institutional church affiliation.

There are serious concerns for how Saudi Arabia spearheads initiatives for interreligious dialogue. But it doesn't mean ...
01/14/2020
Good-Faith Arguments | Commonweal Magazine

There are serious concerns for how Saudi Arabia spearheads initiatives for interreligious dialogue. But it doesn't mean we should stop their efforts.

Interreligious-dialogue initiatives like KACIID should be welcome in Europe. Austria should find a better way to protest Saudi Arabia’s human-rights policies.

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly on saying the unsayable: "the Catholic Church is wrong about gay people."
01/14/2020
A Harmful Doctrine | Commonweal Magazine

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly on saying the unsayable: "the Catholic Church is wrong about gay people."

The Catholic teaching about gay people is not just an error. It’s a barrier to compelling political witness.

On the brink of catastrophe with Iran, Paul Moses writes "it is a good time to recall John Paul II’s deeply held objecti...
01/14/2020
Unheeded Warnings | Commonweal Magazine

On the brink of catastrophe with Iran, Paul Moses writes "it is a good time to recall John Paul II’s deeply held objections to the Iraq war and the tepid reaction from many American Catholics."

In 2003, Pope John Paul II sent an envoy to persuade George W. Bush not to invade Iraq. As tensions with Iran continue to mount, it’s a story worth revisiting.

What if we prayed the more biblically accurate: “Remember you are soil, and to soil you shall return”? One of many lesso...
01/14/2020
Laudato si’ in an Old-Growth Forest | Commonweal Magazine

What if we prayed the more biblically accurate: “Remember you are soil, and to soil you shall return”? One of many lessons of an old-growth forest.

In an old-growth forest, everything is connected. No individual plant or animal, and indeed no species, is an island. As Pope Francis warns, we should pay attention.

Andrew Bacevich on celebrating the moments when faith is what it can and should be.
01/13/2020
The New Abbess | Commonweal Magazine

Andrew Bacevich on celebrating the moments when faith is what it can and should be.

A visit to the Trappistines of Mount St. Mary’s in rural Massachusetts provides hope and joy in dark times.

After 18 years, 2,300 U.S. troops killed, and $1 trillion spent, we have yet to learn the cost of endless war.
01/13/2020
Afghanistan Forever? | Commonweal Magazine

After 18 years, 2,300 U.S. troops killed, and $1 trillion spent, we have yet to learn the cost of endless war.

If American men and women were being drafted to fight in Afghanistan, there is not the slightest possibility the war would have dragged on for eighteen years.

David Foster Wallace was right to say "there is actually no such thing as atheism." God and gods exist, even in the 21st...
01/12/2020
Strange Gods | Commonweal Magazine

David Foster Wallace was right to say "there is actually no such thing as atheism." God and gods exist, even in the 21st century.

The faith we place in markets and the sacrifices we offer on the altar of capitalism make all modern consumers part of an idolatrous system.

Nick Scrimenti writes on A Hidden Life and Franz Jägerstätter’s quiet Catholicism.
01/12/2020
Ways of Heaven | Commonweal Magazine

Nick Scrimenti writes on A Hidden Life and Franz Jägerstätter’s quiet Catholicism.

With the release of Terrence Malick’s Jägerstätter biopic, the martyr’s biography has finally come into broader public view. But his sacramental devotions haven’t.

Thomas Sweetser’s "Can Francis Change the Church?" is “an ideal starting point for a thoughtful program of parish renewa...
01/12/2020
How Francis Plays in Peoria | Commonweal Magazine

Thomas Sweetser’s "Can Francis Change the Church?" is “an ideal starting point for a thoughtful program of parish renewal."

Despite the affinity many feel for Pope Francis, real change and growth in the church must come from the local level.

Former White House director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Melissa Rogers unpacks today's polarization of ...
01/11/2020
Rethinking Religious Liberty | Commonweal Magazine

Former White House director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Melissa Rogers unpacks today's polarization of our country's bedrock principle: religious liberty.

As former Obama administration official Melissa Rogers argues, it’s the rights of religious minorities that most need government protection today.

David Bentley Hart reviews McCarraher's new book on capitalism, "The Enchantments of Mammon."
01/11/2020
Misenchantment | Commonweal Magazine

David Bentley Hart reviews McCarraher's new book on capitalism, "The Enchantments of Mammon."

Mammon has seduced us. The only true path of resistance to capitalism’s destructive energies is one that leads away from the logic of markets.

Kathleen Hill reflects on how a visit abroad transformed into a journey of faith, grief, and writer's block.
01/10/2020
Pilgrims | Commonweal Magazine

Kathleen Hill reflects on how a visit abroad transformed into a journey of faith, grief, and writer's block.

Had I known before that the greatest gift of the road was the love of another human being? Of course I had. But I had not fully understood.

Bloomberg's fortune is not a virtue, it's a problem.
01/10/2020
Money Well Spent | Commonweal Magazine

Bloomberg's fortune is not a virtue, it's a problem.

The multi-billionaire spent hundreds of millions of dollars from his immense personal fortune to leverage his influence as mayor.

Priestly formation is disconnected from reality, writes Massimo Faggioli. But so is academic theology.
01/09/2020
Dangerous Disconnects? | Commonweal Magazine

Priestly formation is disconnected from reality, writes Massimo Faggioli. But so is academic theology.

Priestly formation and academic theology are increasingly cut off from the real lives of Catholics. That poses a real problem, one that theologians must address.

For those difficult days to be Catholic, Andrew Bacevich writes on the joy of visiting an abbey.
01/09/2020
The New Abbess | Commonweal Magazine

For those difficult days to be Catholic, Andrew Bacevich writes on the joy of visiting an abbey.

A visit to the Trappistines of Mount St. Mary’s in rural Massachusetts provides hope and joy in dark times.

The editors on why Democrats were right to impeach, both how and when they did.
01/09/2020
Not a Sham | Commonweal Magazine

The editors on why Democrats were right to impeach, both how and when they did.

The impeachment of Donald Trump is no “sham.” In fact, it is a duty: a necessary expression of fidelity to the first principles of our Constitution.

The figure of “Pope Francis” has emerged as a beacon, but what impact does it have on the local parish? A new book start...
01/08/2020
How Francis Plays in Peoria | Commonweal Magazine

The figure of “Pope Francis” has emerged as a beacon, but what impact does it have on the local parish? A new book starts this conversation.

Despite the affinity many feel for Pope Francis, real change and growth in the church must come from the local level.

What can boxing teach us about the good life? And how does Kierkegaard help?
01/08/2020
Philosopher in the Ring | Commonweal Magazine

What can boxing teach us about the good life? And how does Kierkegaard help?

What can boxing teach us about the good life? Gordon Marino riffs on Sartre, Kierkegaard, and Camus, finding that in order to save our lives, we must risk loving.

"Trump is no Boris, and the Tory Party is not the GOP." On the superficial comparisons between the British Elections and...
01/08/2020
Misreading the British Elections | Commonweal Magazine

"Trump is no Boris, and the Tory Party is not the GOP." On the superficial comparisons between the British Elections and ours.

No issue in U.S. politics, not even immigration or “the Wall,” will do for Republicans what Brexit did for the Tories.

"There are two sides to our economy," writes William T. Cavanaugh, "a rationalized, disenchanted side and an enchanted s...
01/07/2020
Strange Gods | Commonweal Magazine

"There are two sides to our economy," writes William T. Cavanaugh, "a rationalized, disenchanted side and an enchanted side. In fact, these are really two sides of the same coin." A prime example? Amazon.
https://buff.ly/2ZXyWG8

The faith we place in markets and the sacrifices we offer on the altar of capitalism make all modern consumers part of an idolatrous system.

In an interview with Melissa Rogers, John Gehring spoke with her about religious liberty, LGBTQ equality, the Trump admi...
01/07/2020
Rethinking Religious Liberty | Commonweal Magazine

In an interview with Melissa Rogers, John Gehring spoke with her about religious liberty, LGBTQ equality, the Trump administration, and her new book, 'Faith in American Public Life.'

As former Obama administration official Melissa Rogers argues, it’s the rights of religious minorities that most need government protection today.

If the Eucharist is 'the source and summit of the Christian life,' then why aren't we more troubled by the Pew findings?
01/07/2020
Liberal Catholics & the Real Presence | Commonweal Magazine

If the Eucharist is 'the source and summit of the Christian life,' then why aren't we more troubled by the Pew findings?

Again and again throughout the Mass, word and gesture proclaim the Real Presence. What explains the liberal Catholic reluctance to pursue the question?

For David Bentley Hart, Eugene McCarraher's new history of capitalism and the imagination is "a sheer marvel."
01/06/2020
Misenchantment | Commonweal Magazine

For David Bentley Hart, Eugene McCarraher's new history of capitalism and the imagination is "a sheer marvel."

McCarraher’s magisterial new book argues that the only true path of resistance to capitalism’s destructive energies is one that leads away from the logic of markets.

When violations of human rights are somehow less urgent than the threat of same-sex couples, church teaching "clangs lik...
01/06/2020
A Harmful Doctrine | Commonweal Magazine

When violations of human rights are somehow less urgent than the threat of same-sex couples, church teaching "clangs like a broken bell."

The Catholic teaching about gay people is not just an error. It’s a barrier to compelling political witness.

Buying influence is not the way forward, writes Paul Moses. Bloomberg needs to understand that.
01/06/2020
Money Well Spent | Commonweal Magazine

Buying influence is not the way forward, writes Paul Moses. Bloomberg needs to understand that.

The multi-billionaire spent hundreds of millions of dollars from his immense personal fortune to leverage his influence as mayor.

As seen in the Afghanistan Papers, "the history of the past four decades of U.S. military overreach warrants resurrectin...
01/05/2020
Afghanistan Forever? | Commonweal Magazine

As seen in the Afghanistan Papers, "the history of the past four decades of U.S. military overreach warrants resurrecting some more direct democratic curb on the nation’s war-making abilities."

If American men and women were being drafted to fight in Afghanistan, there is not the slightest possibility the war would have dragged on for eighteen years.

When it comes to preparing seminarians for the real world, Massimo Faggioli  writes: "Catholic colleges and universities...
01/05/2020
Dangerous Disconnects? | Commonweal Magazine

When it comes to preparing seminarians for the real world, Massimo Faggioli
writes: "Catholic colleges and universities can choose to remain uninvolved with the formation of priests, or they can try to be part of the solution."

Priestly formation and academic theology are increasingly cut off from the real lives of Catholics. That poses a real problem, one that theologians must address.

In Mexico City, a local shelter brings Christmas festivities to those who've had to leave their families behind.
01/05/2020
A Posada for Central American Migrants | Commonweal Magazine

In Mexico City, a local shelter brings Christmas festivities to those who've had to leave their families behind.

The men living in Casa Tochán in Mexico City are fleeing violence in Central America. The staff decided to welcome them with a traditional posada.

Rita Ferrone on the uplifting and, at times, troubling fictionalization of The Two Popes
01/04/2020
Papal Fiction | Commonweal Magazine

Rita Ferrone on the uplifting and, at times, troubling fictionalization of The Two Popes

The imaginary encounter between Ratzinger and Bergoglio is imaginative, and emotionally satisfying. But we need to remember that it never happened.

The administration's rollbacks are not just 'stupid.' They're also vicious.
01/04/2020
Hunger Isn’t Productive | Commonweal Magazine

The administration's rollbacks are not just 'stupid.' They're also vicious.

The Trump administration’s decision to cut SNAP benefits isn’t just stupid. It’s cruel. Ignoring the real conditions of poverty is a grave moral error.

After Gordon Marino found no success as a boxer, Kierkegaard’s works led him back to philosophy—and saved his life.
01/03/2020
Philosopher in the Ring | Commonweal Magazine

After Gordon Marino found no success as a boxer, Kierkegaard’s works led him back to philosophy—and saved his life.

What can boxing teach us about the good life? Gordon Marino riffs on Sartre, Kierkegaard, and Camus, finding that in order to save our lives, we must risk loving.

The editors on why Democrats were right to impeach.
01/03/2020
Not a Sham | Commonweal Magazine

The editors on why Democrats were right to impeach.

The impeachment of Donald Trump is no “sham.” In fact, it is a duty: a necessary expression of fidelity to the first principles of our Constitution.

What is there to gain from a thousand-mile pilgrimage? Insights, connections, answers. What is there to lose? The skin o...
01/03/2020
No-Bullsh*t Spirituality | Commonweal Magazine

What is there to gain from a thousand-mile pilgrimage? Insights, connections, answers. What is there to lose? The skin on your feet.

Even for the skeptic, pilgrimage can offer an opportunity for self-discovery and contemplation.

"A vibrant interior life, and peace with oneself, as Blake foresaw, is essential to making sense of a society rife with ...
01/02/2020
Albion’s Light | Commonweal Magazine

"A vibrant interior life, and peace with oneself, as Blake foresaw, is essential to making sense of a society rife with division and conquest." On the William Blake retrospective, now at Tate.

William Blake critiqued the Enlightenment, industrialization, and the expansion of the British empire. His work shines at the Tate as the shadows of Brexit loom.

"Look, it’s 2020, so I’m just going to say it: the Catholic Church is wrong about gay people."
01/01/2020
A Harmful Doctrine | Commonweal Magazine

"Look, it’s 2020, so I’m just going to say it: the Catholic Church is wrong about gay people."

The Catholic teaching about gay people is not just an error. It’s a barrier to compelling political witness.

When it comes to preparing seminarians for the real world, Massimo Faggioli writes: "Catholic colleges and universities ...
01/01/2020
Dangerous Disconnects? | Commonweal Magazine

When it comes to preparing seminarians for the real world, Massimo Faggioli writes: "Catholic colleges and universities can choose to remain uninvolved with the formation of priests, or they can try to be part of the solution."

Priestly formation and academic theology are increasingly cut off from the real lives of Catholics. That poses a real problem, one that theologians must address.

In the final hours of 2019, we're looking back at our top stories of the year. At #1 is Peter Steinfels on what the gran...
12/31/2019
The PA Grand-Jury Report: Not What It Seems | Commonweal Magazine

In the final hours of 2019, we're looking back at our top stories of the year. At #1 is Peter Steinfels on what the grand-jury report got wrong.

The grand-jury report does not substantiate the prevailing script about how bishops let predators get away with committing and recommitting their crimes

What can theology learn by looking with scientists at such a complex ecosystem?
12/31/2019
A Cathedral Not Made by Hands | Commonweal Magazine

What can theology learn by looking with scientists at such a complex ecosystem?

In an old-growth forest, everything is connected. No individual plant or animal, and indeed no species, is an island. As Pope Francis warns, we should pay attention.

In the final hours of 2019, we're looking back at our top stories of the year. At #2 is Jonathan Malesic on how Benedict...
12/31/2019
Taming the Demon | Commonweal Magazine

In the final hours of 2019, we're looking back at our top stories of the year. At #2 is Jonathan Malesic on how Benedictine monks put work into perspective.

Our modern obsession with workplace efficiency has a simple answer: the prayerful, peaceful pace of Benedictine monastic labor

Nicole-Ann Lobo on the largest exhibit of William Blake's art, now at Tate.
12/31/2019
Albion’s Light | Commonweal Magazine

Nicole-Ann Lobo on the largest exhibit of William Blake's art, now at Tate.

William Blake critiqued the Enlightenment, industrialization, and the expansion of the British empire. His work shines at the Tate as the shadows of Brexit loom.

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly on why the Catholic Church is wrong about gay people.
12/30/2019
A Harmful Doctrine | Commonweal Magazine

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly on why the Catholic Church is wrong about gay people.

The Catholic teaching about gay people is not just an error. It’s a barrier to compelling political witness.

In the final days of 2019, we're looking back at some of our most popular stories of the year. At #3 is David Bentley Ha...
12/30/2019
Divorce, Annulment & Communion | Commonweal Magazine

In the final days of 2019, we're looking back at some of our most popular stories of the year. At #3 is David Bentley Hart on the ambiguous history of divorce & communion.

A clear concept of marriage as a religious institution evolved relatively late in Christian history. And that history is nothing if not ambiguous.

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Comments

We live in a promiscuous world. From the dawn of mankind's creation, they have fought against right and wrong. So many don't believe in either, doing what they want. That's the easy way out. Man's truly selfish nature runs rampant with indifference for self gratification. The Catholic Church teaches as Christ. It doesn't tell one what to do and not do. It teaches as Christ. What morality is and what it is not. One's conscience is one's judge. The Church has one big answer. We work at following Christ. The way He lived. The way He taught and the way He gave up His life to bring us to Our Father. If one can't take the heart of Christ's truth, That's between that person and our God. Not between that person and a representative of Christ, doing Christ's work. To mock a leader of good representing Christ, is no doubt, unknowingly, mocking God, perfect good.
Great articles which reflect the signs of the times. Many time we misinterpreted them or simply ignored them. But thank God that the Holy Spirit through discernment blows its wisdom in places that are needed. Exposing the true reality of our church, and enticing us to look beyond the surface of events, to get to the roots of our social sins.
Having just read about how the US bishops are diluting the messages of Pope Francis, and thus becoming less relevant in today's world, I was especially shocked to hear that they intend to make abortion, once again, the primary issue for the 2020 election. Very shortsighted and one-issue thinking. They need to realize that being pro-life has many facets besides abortion, including the dangers of overpopulation and, even more serious, the climate change issue. They also need to realize how out of step they are with most American Catholics, who have rejected the ban on birth control at a rate of 98%. If they are serious about reducing abortions, they need to come to grips with abortions are a direct result of unwanted pregnancies. The frightening thing is that their attitudes may result in the re-election of Donald Trump, who claims to be pro-life. If a man with his sexual history has not been responsible for at least one abortion, I will have my shirt for lunch. He has managed to convince evangelical Christians that he is on their side! This would be funny if it weren't so sad. Also sad is the opinion of the writer of the article that the Catholic Church in America is becoming isolated. We need to be more inclusive, not less. Christ would not endorse all the judgmentalism being handed down about contraception, abortion, divorce, etc. which has driven millions out of the church that he founded.
😢These are the sad facts how religion was used to enslave others and making the so call White Man playing God and Supreme over others. These are the ideas of Colonialism, Imperialism and Scientific Racism all created in the 15th and 16th Century that gave control over the entire world and the world still being convinced that this is how life should be, simply because of religious beliefs.
Single issue voters now have been given clearance to oppose any Democratic Party nominee, and re-elect Trump, the worst and most depraved, cruel and deceptive president of all time. What an ecclesiastical travesty,
Dug IN chronicles an Irish family’s quest for social justice. The book opens up during the 1916 Irish Rebellion. Ninety miles from Dublin, Joe Duggin and two friends are arrested to prevent them from getting involved in the fight for Independence. Joe and his friends knew nothing about the Rebellion. They are severely beaten up and kept in jail for a week. After repeated arrests and beatings, Joe and Mary decided to move to the U.S. so Joe isn’t in jail while his kids are growing up. Joe gets involved with starting a transit union to improve wages and working conditions. 10% of the proceeds go to the Catholic Worker movement.
Love the thougthful nature of Commonweal's articles.
The case was made for married priests and possible ordination for women. Miracles happen! And all the focus on those hurting in the Amazon and their beautiful, EXPLOITED land! Great encouragement! Love this Pope! The times are changing! Never thought I would live to see these changes afoot.
God of Abraham issiac Jacob please pray for the the people who have lost all direction and may by your son cross and reserection bring us to safety in the hope of the promise you made to our ancestors ab m ex n
Democracy as of now is too lenient towards corporates and capitalistic trends, discarding the interests of the working class both organized & unorganized. What a pity- this right wing politics! 😟😟
This once proud publication has alienated 20 million Catholics in the last 5 years. Guess you figure you'll make it up with converts. Vatican lll?
Thanks, Commomweal, for stating the case for impeachment so clearly and simply. KISS (keep it simple, stupid!) is the best way to go. Trump made the offer to use American's tax dollars to have a foreign power interfere with our presidential election, by smearing his biggest opponent. !!!! What a betrayal of trust. What a slap in the face of " We the people of these United States, in order to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to promote the common welfare, to ensure domestic tranquility, to provide for the common defense, and procure the blessings of liberty for us and our posterity to hereby ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America." N.B. "We the people" not one man.