Matt Malone, S.J., Profiled in New York Times

Our editor, Matt Malone, S.J., is featured in this week's "Breaking Bread" column in the New York Times. From columnist Clyde Haberman:

In Rome, one of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s first acts as Pope Francis was to call his newsdealer back home in Buenos Aires and cancel his daily delivery. In New York, the Rev. Matt Malone seemed reasonably confident that a similar papal ax would not fall on America, the venerable Jesuit weekly that he edits.

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“I know for a fact that America is read in the Vatican,” Father Malone said over lunch in a Midtown diner. He had yet to check if the new pope was among his 48,000 subscribers.

“It’s almost certain that he’s seen it,” Father Malone said. “It’s sent to every Jesuit community in the world.”

In Francis, the Roman Catholic Church has its first Jesuit pontiff. Relations between his religious order and headquarters in Rome have often been rocky. Peace has also not always reigned between the Vatican and America magazine, based in New York and once described by a former editor in chief, the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, as “the Catholic PBS.” Eight years ago, Father Reese was forced to resign because of Vatican displeasure with articles critical of church positions on sensitive matters like same-sex marriage.

So, Father Malone, is it an article of faith that this new papacy is good for the Jesuits? “It’s uncharted territory,” he said, sipping the first of several cups of coffee. “It’s hard to know how it affects us other than to say we’re very proud. We have a reputation — sometimes earned, sometimes not — for being a little arrogant. We try not to give voice to our pride too much.”

For now, anyway, Francis’s ascension seems to have been a boon for Father Malone’s magazine. During the papal conclave, “we had a huge number of hits on the Web site,” he said, adding, “In fact, it crashed after he was announced, because of the demand.”

Across its 104 years, America has never had a chief editor as young as Father Malone, who was 40 when appointed last June, the same month he was ordained as a priest after a decade of preparation.

Does Father Reese’s unpleasant experience weigh on him? He paused before answering.

“There isn’t a newspaper or magazine that can say everything it wants to say,” he said, adding with a laugh that at America it is usually for want of space. But bear in mind that “we’re not disinterested observers,” he said.

“We are evangelists. I think that America, historically, has gotten into trouble when we have forgotten that part of our identity.”

Father Malone suggested meeting at Park Café, a coffee shop attached to the Hotel Wellington, on Seventh Avenue at 55th Street. It is around the corner from a building on West 56th Street that contains the magazine’s offices and a residence for about 20 Jesuit priests, Father Malone included. This choice was not an act of modesty, he asserted in an e-mail exchange to set up the lunch. “I just have a bland, Irish palate,” he said. “A grilled cheese and French fries is my idea of culinary heaven.”

He lived up to his own billing, ordering grilled cheese on whole wheat, but skipping the fries. In that spirit of abnegation, his tablemate settled for two scrambled eggs.

Jesuits elicit various reactions among Catholics, from a sunny belief that they are the brainiacs of the church to a darker view that they are grand conspirators, too clever by half. “Jesuitical” is not a word always said in admiration. But Father Malone cautioned against sweeping judgments: “There’s an old saying that if you’ve met one Jesuit, you’ve met one Jesuit.”

Read the full article here.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
David Smith
4 years 7 months ago
Nice little article, but superficial, like most of the Times' nice little articles on Catholicism. Their institutional attitude seems to be that there are plenty of nice, hard-working priests, brothers, and nuns working for an archaic institution that's not long for this world.
Rick Fueyo
4 years 7 months ago
Very nice article. I have seen Fr. Malone's charism reflected in these pages already, and that article only confirmed what I was feeling.
Beth Cioffoletti
4 years 7 months ago
Loved the article, especially the mention of John Malone, the "father of mercies".
Tim Reidy
4 years 7 months ago

Readers interested in Father Matt's essay from 2005 can find it here.

Bruce Snowden
4 years 7 months ago
I agree that superficiality is interwoven and embedded in most secular media coverage of things Catholic, except the coverage of Church scandal, then attacked and shredded down to the bone, piranha-like. You see, being wrapped in the darkness of preferential sensationalism, rooted in lies, half-truths and moral indifferentism, the secular media in most cases cannot stand the personal indictment of its warped agenda, by Catholicism at its pristine best. So, Herod-like, they tend to chop off the head of the Church, who as John the Baptist did dares to promote moral absolutes, media choosing instead the moral vacuum of relativism. However, I don’t think that New York Times did a bad job interviewing AMERICA Editor, Fr. Matthew Malone, S.J. The interviewer, Clyde Haberman was fair but it was the interviewee who gave the article poise and grace. Fr. Matt is a gentleman priest and a Jesuit clearly in love with the “Ignatian way” who continues to show editorial smarts, confirming the wisdom of the powers that be that chose him to “Captain” the great ship AMERICA. An early follower of St. Francis of Assisi was a very simple man called Juniper, who probably couldn’t pass psychological testing required today of anyone entering religious Life. But Francis was so pleased with his simplicity that playing on words relative to Juniper being a tree, he said he would like to have “a forest of Junipers” in his brotherhood!” It doesn’t work that way with Jesuits as Fr, Matt pointed out saying, “If you’ve met one Jesuit, you’ve met one Jesuit!” Fr. Matt’s one of a kind according to the DNA of Grace through Jesus, who was himself uniquely “one of a kind” and also genetically through his Dad whom he described as a “Father of mercies!” Incidentally, Pope Francis is showing the simplicity of his namesake and the erudition of his Jesuit vocation, a lot like Fr. Matt! Yesterday watching Pope Francis taking possession of St. John Lateran as Bishop of Rome, I smiled noting that Roman episcopate seems not to have gotten it – I mean Pope Francis’ preference for simplicity. He wore white vestments and a white miter, whereas the other prelates (Cardinals?) were vested in gold vestment and gold miters. Old habits die slowly. By the way the difference in attire as explained was noted in the media, so SOMETIMES the media can speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth reporting on things Catholic.

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