This essay appeared on the inside back cover of the first issue of the North American edition in Spring, 1974.
The editors of this new magazine are all Catholics, priests and lay people. Most Catholics are aware of the fact that Catholic publishing is on the decline. Almost two dozen Catholic publishers have closed their doors in recent years, scores of magazines have ceased publication, subscription lists are down on most publications still in existence. An obvious question therefore is: Why a new Catholic magazine just at this time?
That is a good question and here is our answer: There is a serious tension, polarization, division even--call it what you will--in the Catholic Church at present. The laity are confused. Many priests and some bishops are confused. Thousands of priests and religious are abandoning a commitment that was made with the intention of being life-long. Recent surveys attesta dramatic fall off in Church attendance in the United States in the past five years. More frequent divorce and decline in the use of the Sacraments are among other problems which could be easily enumerated.
At the root of this polarization, we think, is the growing confusion among Catholics over the ultimate questions concerning God, man and the world. As a result we are divided. An attempt must be made to promote greater unity and reconciliation inside the family of the Catholic Church. The motive force behind the "communio movement" is unity and communion among Catholics. It is our conviction, however, that religious-social community must be based on and flow from a unity of faith--both as lived and professed.
The American edition of Communio is an offshoot of the Communio movement that started with some of the members of the Papal Theological Commission. Seeing these problems from a theological vantage point, some of these theologians, under the leadership of Fathers Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger, Karl Lehmann and Henri de Lubac, decided in 1970 to establish a new international Catholic journal that would both come to grips with the current theological confusion and work on a supra-national level to advance true community in the Catholic Church. By January 1972 the first issue of Internationale katholische Zeitschrift: Communio appeared in Germany as a bimonthly publication. It was soon followed by an Italian version and more recently by a modified Yugoslavian publication. With the Spring 1974 issue we are presenting the first American edition of Communio. French and Spanish editions are still in the planning stage.
The American Communio is an independent enterprise. We are in no way under the control of others. Perhaps the best way to express the relationship between the various editions is to say that we are "federated," in the sense that we work together, plan together and freely exchange material from one another's editions. Thus, each number of the American Communio will carry some translated material from the other magazines. The idea, however, is not for all the international editions to come out simultaneously with exactly the same articles. Rather, we are working in the same spirit, out of the same Catholic traditions and in easy consultation with each other.
GOALS. Communio will be a journal of religious and cultural reflection from a Catholic viewpoint. It will be highly theological, but not a specialized journal of technical theology. It is intended primarily for professors, teachers, graduate students, bishops, priests and religious, but also for the concerned general reader. It will carry articles on philosophy, history, the social sciences, the arts. Since we are Catholics we stand under the law of "the whole truth." Hence, we shall always be ready to find room in our pages for any serious voice that has something to say on an important and theologically relevant question. This readiness to show openness remains linked with the expectation that statements made in our review will always reflect the fundamental agreement of their authors with the basic principles of the Church community. This means that its editors and writers will work out of the Catholic tradition and with basic fidelity to the magisterium, while at the same time recognizing the possibility of diverse approaches to common problems. The journal seeks always to be identifiably Catholic, yet will not seek to impose unnecessary uniformities.
Communio intends to be a scholarly magazine, but with a difference. Given the massive problems the Church faces in the 1970s, it is our conviction that we do not have the leisure to investigate any and every question solely in a "scholarly" fashion. In our view, what the Church community needs at this juncture in history is "engaged scholarship," that is, serious articles that come to grips with the basic problems of belief and unbelief in our "future shock" society.
With these goals in mind, each of our four annual issues will treat a definite question currently on people's minds. This is what we mean by "engaged scholarship"--scholarship in the service of a deeply disturbed, even divided Church community. The subjects to be treated in 1974 are: No. 1. Penance and Reconciliation; No. 2. Holy Spirit; No. 3. Marriage; No. 4. Christology. Future projected themes for 1975 and beyond include: law and morality, community, faith, death and dying, symbol and the arts. The Review will appear in March, June, September and December.
As far as we know, no Catholic group in the English-speaking world is attempting to meet the present need of the Church in precisely this way. It is a need that we are convinced must be met. Therefore Communio. If you share our concern, if you think we can help you to understand and better meet the challenge to faith and the Church today, we ask you to give us a try and send in your subscription for Communio today.
James Hitchcock, Editor (1974-1982)
Copyright 1974 by Communio: International Catholic Review