The 75 year history of U.S. Catholic magazine
Created by USCatholic on Jun 10, 2010
Last updated: 07/13/11 at 01:04 PM
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U.S. Catholic magazine celebrates its 75th anniversary with the August issue.
Catholic social media. U.S. Catholic joins Facebook and Twitter (@uscatholic), expanding the conversation beyond the magazine and its website.
USCatholic.org relaunched. U.S. Catholic reworks its website to become less of a billboard for the magazine and more interactive, with blogs, commenting, video, and user-generated content.
U.S. Catholic marks the papal transition with a special issue that reviews the John Paul II years and asks, “How will Benedict rule?” In a special feature addressed to “Dear Pope Benedict,” Joan Chittister, Elizabeth Johnson, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Diana Hayes, Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza, Sister Theresa Kane, and seven other past winners of the U.S. Catholic Award for Furthering the Cause of Women in the Church write open letters to the new pontiff, urging love, openness, honesty, joy, commitment to peace and justice, a new style of leadership, and an ear for the cries of women.
In its continuing coverage of the sex abuse crisis and its aftermath, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke gives an interview to U.S. Catholic. Burke describes the skirmishes of her recently completed term as interim chair of the National Review Board set up by the bishops to oversee diocesan compliance with new sex abuse norms.
Claretian Publications’ Hispanic Ministry Resource Center begins producing ¡OYE! a annual bilingual faith and discernment guide for young Hispanic Catholics. It relaunches the ¡OYE! website in August 2010.
U.S. Catholic interviews Vatican astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno, who says that even if life were found on other planets, it would make for some interesting discussion but would in no way shake his faith. He also disputes the notion that the church is anti-science.
Special issue on black Catholics. Coinciding with the Ninth Black Catholic Congress in Chicago, U.S. Catholic produces a special issue titled “Authentically black, truly Catholic.”
Sex abuse scandal. The Boston Globe reveals the extent of clergy sex abuse and the cover-up in its Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage in early 2002. U.S. Catholic had covered “priest pedophilia” in a 1993 cover story, but ramps up its coverage of sex abuse in the 2000’s.
U.S. Catholic responds to the terrorist attacks with an essay by Tom McGrath, “What do you do with such pain?” The editors also interview Lisa Sowle Cahill of Boston College and Father Michael Baxter, C.S.C. of Notre Dame about the morality of war—specifically the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. U.S. Catholic continues to cover the Iraq and Afghanistan war.
U.S. Catholic gets into trouble. Heidi Schlumpf, later managing editor of U.S. Catholic, tells the stories of five women who want to be priests. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), subsequently requires U.S. Catholic to reprint Pope John Paul II’s 1994 letter explaining why women cannot be priests as well as a 1995 document on the subject from the CDF.
Managing Editor Meinrad Scherer-Emunds interviews South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who reflects on his experiences as chair of his country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which he sees as a sign of hope to the world. “The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ puts the issue beyond doubt: Ultimately goodness, laughter, peace, compassion, gentleness, forgiveness, and reconciliation will have the last word and prevail over their ghastly counterparts. The victory over apartheid is proof positive of this truth.”
A fresh new design. The magazine enters the new millennium with a new look—with lots of color and more departments—aimed at a younger and busier readership.
U.S. Catholic interviews a young Father Robert Barron in “How to build a better priest.” Barron, who says, “For too long we’ve had a preferential option for mediocrity in the priesthood,” becomes a frequent U.S. Catholic contributor. Today his Word on Fire homilies have recently reached 1 million downloads on YouTube.
First full color photography. Martin Lueders’ photo story “The work of human hands” gets the honor of being the first color photography inside the magazine (not including the cover).
U.S. Catholic enters the era of online publishing with its first website.
Priestly sex abuse, Act I. In a precursor of the scandal that would sweep the U.S. Catholic Church nine years later, U.S. Catholic looks at the first wave of pedophilia charges against Catholic priests in Jim Castelli’s “Abuse of faith.”
U.S. Catholic interviews Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel: “I’ll never get beyond the event. I never left Auschwitz… The only way for us to help ourselves is to help others and listen to each other’s stories.”
Claretian Publications, which had published Spanish-language books and pamphlets in the past, opens the Hispanic Ministry Resource Center to create bilingual publications, responding to the fact that the U.S. Hispanic Catholic community includes both Spanish and English speakers. Claretian bilingual publications are respected across the U.S. church because—rather than being simple translations of English materials written for a non-Hispanic audience or imports from Spain or Latin America—they are written specifically for U.S. Hispanic Catholics. HMRC Director Carmen Aguinaco also serves as a contributing editor to U.S. Catholic, ensuring the magazine’s consistent coverage of Hispanic Catholics. Today HMRC’s stable of award-winning bilingual publications includes Nuestra Parroquia, El Momento Católico, Amigos de Jesús, and ¡OYE! (website http://www.claretians.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pub_hmrc )
In one of her last interviews before her death from cancer, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Thea Bowman tells Patrice Tuohy: “To the suffering I say: Try to reach out to others. Try to let people know how much you love them. Try to maintain a sense of humor and laughter in your life.” Bowman, who the year before had won the U.S. Catholic Award, is hailed by many as the patron saint of racial reconciliation.
As the AIDS epidemic ravages gay communities across the country, Executive Editor Tom McGrath and Franklin McMahon team up to feature a Catholic parish in San Francisco’s Castro district which, as part of its outreach to gay and lesbian Catholics, resurrected the Forty Hours devotion to pray for the easing of the plague decimating their neighborhood.
As the apartheid regime in South Africa continues to oppress its citizens, U.S. Catholic publishes “Your grace will set me free” by Nobel Peace Prize winner Episcopal Archbishop Desmond Tutu, with illustrations of South Africa by famed artist Franklin McMahon.
In “The multicolored prayer life of Joseph Bernardin,” one of 20th-century U.S. Catholicism’s most beloved religious figures tells the editors how he turned his spiritual life around.
Father Henry Fehren argues in Salt that Catholic Worker cofounder Dorothy Day should be canonized, and the Claretians take up her cause with a grassroots movement, collecting written testimonies of those who knew her. In 1997, in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Day’s birth, the Claretians present these testimonies to Cardinal John O'Connor, and at O'Connor's request in 2000 the Vatican declares Day a Servant of God and officially opens her sainthood cause. (This despite Day’s oft repeated insistence—incl. in a 1966 U.S. Catholic article—that she didn’t want to be called a saint because she didn’t want to be “written off” that easily.)
In the midst of the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union, U.S. Catholic features anti-nuke activist Dr. Helen Caldicott of Australia in an interview entitled, “This may be your last Christmas.” Caldicott says, “My gut feeling…tells me that I’ll be terribly grateful to have another summer.”
The U.S. Catholic Award is given to five U.S. bishops “who have acted decisively in their dioceses and in the community at large in behalf of a more just treatment of women in the church and in society.”
Claretian Publications spins off the social-justice magazine Salt, which later becomes Salt of the Earth. It continues its print existence until the summer of 1997 and its subsequent incarnation as an e-zine until 2008. U.S. Catholic has incorporated Salt’s social justice perspective into its pages with features and interviews about today’s most important issues. Kevin Clarke, who maintained Salt of the Earth e-zine, continues his Margin Notes column (originated in Salt of the Earth) dedicated to social justice and public policy.
Choice of Sister Theresa Kane, R.S.M. for U.S. Catholic Award stirs controversy. The editors give the U.S. Catholic Award for Furthering the Cause of Women in the Church to Mercy Sister Theresa Kane, who, in unscripted remarks during her welcoming address to Pope John Paul II during his 1979 U.S. visit, urged the pope to include women in “all the ministries of the church.” Several hundred readers cancel their subscriptions.
Robert E. Burns suggests that sexual inadequacy among American males often seeks a remedy in the American love affair with handguns in “Sex education belongs in the gun store.” Gun-toting readers are not amused. Burns fires off a column against handguns every few years, always sure to generate much heated response from both sides.
Edward Wakin interviews Father Henri Nouwen, already on his way to becoming a bestselling Catholic author on spirituality.
U.S. Catholic publishes Father Andrew Greeley’s first known work of fiction, a short story entitled “Ms. Carpenter,” about Mary of Nazareth stopping in to visit a present-day bishop. In addition to his many works on Catholic faith and issues of the day, Greeley goes on to write scores of popular novels, becoming a bestselling author of fiction.
The first U.S. Catholic Award for Furthering the Cause of Women in the Church is awarded to Sister Agnes Cunningham, S.S. C.M., president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day had at one point been contacted to receive the award but graciously declined.
Claretian Publications launches a new family newsletter, Bringing Religion Home, since renamed At Home with Our Faith. Today it continues to be distributed through parishes and also has its own website, homefaith.com.
Photographer Tom A. Wright shoots his first cover photo for U.S. Catholic. He becomes U.S. Catholic’s art director in 1985 and continues to art-direct and shoot his award-winning cover photos to this day.
Father Joseph Ratzinger is profiled in U.S. Catholic. The future pope reflects on Vatican II and theologians overstepping their bounds.
Claretian Father Mark Brummel begins his 30-year tenure as editor of U.S. Catholic. His editorship is marked by constant improvements in the magazine, gentle guidance, and a collaborative leadership style. He is the 1996 winner of the Catholic Press Association’s St. Francis de Sales Award.
In an effort to strengthen a continuing conversation with its readers on a wide range of church, faith, and social issues, U.S. Catholic introduces its long-running monthly Sounding Board reader survey. Prior to publication of Sounding Board opinion pieces, the magazine mails the article to a representative sample of its readers and elicits their responses to a number of questions related to the topic of the article. Reader responses are tallied and, along with selected highlights printed when the article appears in the magazine. This popular feature of the magazine has highlighted the opinions of ordinary Catholics on topics ranging from unruly kids at Mass and outlawing boring sermons or the recitation of the Creed to Cesar Chavez’ grape boycott, the legalization of marijuana, or the ordination of women.
Poetry and art as a cover story. Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize, and Chicago artist Franklin McMahon commemorate the deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
The magazine merges with Jubilee, a pioneering Catholic journal known for its photo journalism and intellectual challenge. Jubilee’s title appears on the cover alongside U.S. Catholic through the end of 1971.
U.S. Catholic says birth control is OK. An exhaustive 14-page report on the “current status of birth control” concludes that people are free to follow their conscience.
Pope says birth control is NOT OK. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae is released just a month after U.S. Catholic’s report on birth control and with the opposite conclusion. Many laypeople are unhappy with and just ignore the decision, and still do, though there is a small movement of couples who use Natural Family Planning. Family planning continues to be a topic of discussion in U.S. Catholic today, including in a recent article (see link), "Not your mother's rhythm method."
U.S. Catholic declares war in Vietnam immoral. In an editorial that gained wide attention (including letters to the editor from several U.S. senators, the U.N. Secretary General, and Thomas Merton as well as a recap in the New York Times), U.S. Catholic is one of the first Catholic publications to declare the war immoral. The American bishops’ conference did not speak out until 1971.
Paul VI closes the Second Vatican Council.
As part of its extensive coverage of the Second Vatican Council, U.S. Catholic runs its first of three interviews with Benedictine Father Godfrey Diekmann, one of the architects of liturgical change at the council. In an 11-page spread, Diekmann discusses “The church of the future.” In November 1991, the editors return to Diekmann for his take on the effects of the council nearly 30 years later. He calls the council’s recognition that the laity is not just at the beck and call of bishops “the greatest Christian insight in our century and perhaps in the last 1,000 years.” The magazine again features him in 2001, at age 93, a few months before his death.
In the first issue under the new title U.S. Catholic, executive editor Robert E. Burns says the renamed magazine will emphasize “interpretive reporting rather than essays telling you how and what to think.” While many excellent Catholic publications offer such essays, there are “painfully few,” he writes, “that concentrate on making the world we live in more intelligible, in the perspective of our Catholic faith and culture, allowing their readers to judge and evaluate for themselves.” He commits to a visually attractive publication that refuses to talk down to its readers.
In the last issue of St. Jude (August 1963), the editor, Claretian Father Robert J. Leuver, writes, “We have proudly published [this magazine] under the patronage of the apostle St. Jude…. We have learned, however, that the name of our magazine leads many who see it or hear it to believe that St. Jude is a devotional magazine, something it has not been for more than 15 years. In order not to deceive those who seek a devotional magazine and in order to welcome those who want an alert Catholic general-interest magazine, we searched for and found a name more representative of the magazine we are publishing.” The name U.S. Catholic, “we feel, will reflect the broadened scope and interests of the magazine.”
The image of St. Jude, which, in various shapes and sizes, has appeared on the cover of the magazine since its inception, disappears. The magazine receives a new tagline: “A Magazine of Men (sic!), Events, and Ideas.”
John XXIII opens the Second Vatican Council.
The magazine’s title changes from The Voice of St. Jude to St. Jude.
This month The Voice of St. Jude loses the tagline “Official Publication of the National Shrine of St. Jude." Over the late 1940s, the mission of The Voice of St. Jude had evolved from a devotional monthly house organ to a modest general-interest magazine with something of a family orientation.