Saturday, May 07, 2005

AMERICA Magazine and the departure of Fr Reese SJ

Nearly everyone sees the departure of Fr Reese as a public relations disaster. After all the large, momentous coverage of the death of an incredibly revered pope and the election of Benedict, it will seem to many within and without the church that we are now seeing the iron fist descending. Especially here in the US, AMERICA's editorial policies seemed middle of the road, with a favor shown to the more progressive side. Both sides are heard in its pages, not just on minor issues but on the big ones: abortion, life issues in public life, gay marriage and the famous Dominus Jesus document from Cardinal Ratzinger himself. Clearly the CDF and the Vatican generally could not see how these issues could be up for debate in a magazine that had a sub-title of "America's Catholic Weekly." Not on these very foundational beliefs! Yet some very significant questions remained to be answered. The timing of the announcement of the departure was chosen by the Jesuits after many years of negotiations with the CDF. Why now, why not a year ago, or a few months from now? What specifically after these years of hidden dispute made it "unwinable" at this precise moment? What bishops in the US complained? Were these complaints directed at Fr Reese, at the American Jesuits as a whole and on what topics? What, if any role, was played by the most prominent US Jesuit, Cardinal Avery Dulles, so appointed by John Paul II? What about other Jesuits here and in the Roman leadership? Either pro or con? We don't know. What we do know now for certain is this: Tom Reese is handling it, as he has handled so much in his life, in a wonderfully serene, gracious and Christian way. Our gratitude is truly due him for all that as we wish him all our prayer and good wishes, and to his very fine successor at AMERICA, Fr Drew Christiansen. There will be rancor and anger from some; already there is jubilation and victory marching by some. What we do known is that none of this will come from Tom Reese, a Jesuit, son of Loyola and a profound Christian.