Matt Malone, S.J., Interviewed in Washington Post

Our editor in chief, Matt Malone, S.J., spoke to Michelle Boorstein:

For decades, America magazine has been a favorite of Catholic liberal intellectuals. Run by Jesuits, an order known for engaging controversial issues for the church, the magazine has featured arguments on such topics as married priests and contraception.

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Now the New York-based publication is shifting course, saying in an editor’s letter this month that Americans are “sickened by the toxin of ideological partisanship” and that it will stop using the words “liberal” and “conservative” to describe Catholics’ religious viewpoints. Leading this change is America’s new editor in chief, the Rev. Matt Malone, a former Massachusetts political speechwriter who was ordained last June. At 41, he is the youngest editor in the magazine’s 104 years. We spoke with Malone this week.

Q: What makes America a Jesuit magazine?

A: What’s peculiar to the Jesuits is our geography – our social political geography. The Jesuits are, in the words of Pope Benedict, called to the margins. We work at the intersection of faith and public life. We translate the world for the church and the church for the world. . . . Jesuits were the first modern urban [religious] order. [Founder Ignatius of Loyola] wanted us in the heart of the world.

Q: America has been known as a place hospitable to ideas that may challenge traditional church teaching. Now it wants to shed its reputation as liberal. Why?

A: Certainly America never called itself that or conceived of ourselves that way [as liberal]. If your mission is to the margins, and at the intersection of the church and the world, by definition you live and work in tension. . . . On one hand we are deeply committed to the church in every sense, the institutional sense, the larger theological sense, we are in and of the church. At the same time, we are missioned to the boundaries. . . . Our lived commitment to the church, it’s strong. But at the same time it can’t be uncritical.

Q: You wrote in an essay this month that America will no longer use the words “liberal,” “conservative” or “moderate” when referring in a non-political sense to Catholics. Why?

A: It’s not simply that terms [in a Catholic context] like “left” and “right” are inaccurate, it’s that they are counterproductive. There’s a real unity of Catholics. Any language that would oppose one part of the body to the other is inappropriate. We’re a communion. We’re, by definition, one.

Read the full interview here.

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