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Progressive Jesuit ‘America’ Magazine Announces Media Expansion

In an email to subscribers, the president and editor-in-chief of the progressive Jesuit magazine America announced its expansion into what will now be called America Media: A Jesuit Ministry.

In a YouTube video, Father Matt Malone, S.J. said the “new name reflects the reality that America now produces content on multiple platforms in addition to print, including the web, video, and social media.”

Malone added that the print-form of the magazine will nevertheless continue because “we know who we are and where we come from,” pointing out that the weekly publication has been around since 1909.

“[O]ur circulation is growing and we’re putting in place new business models and technologies to expand our print circulation even more,” Malone said, describing America as providing “a smart Catholic take on faith and culture” in an “uncertain era.”

Malone assured supporters that the media expansion will not “dilute or dumb down our standards of excellence.”

America, he said, is now available on iPad and other mobile devices, social media, and Sirius XM radio, as well as through video and live events. Malone added that with the help of supporters, “America will continue to lead the conversation about faith and culture for years to come.”

The Jesuit magazine published the first major interview of Pope Francis, also a Jesuit, on September 30, 2013, during which he made the following statement that created a controversy:

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

One current article on America’s website is “Examining Our Social Sins,” by Franciscan friar Daniel P. Horan, who writes that racism persists due to the “unacknowledged white privilege and supremacy in the United States.”

A featured podcast at America this week is titled “The Ethics of Water,” in which Christiana Peppard of Fordham University discusses her book Just Water: Theology, Ethics, and the Global Water Crisis about the ethics of water consumption.

Ten years ago America was a particular focus of controversy when the magazine’s former editor, Father Tom Reese, S.J., resigned under Vatican pressure.

“Reese’s editorials often took a left-leaning position,” noted the Washington Post. “They became particularly sharp during the interregnum after the death of Pope John Paul II, when he called for a new pope who would allow more open debate.”

The columnist “Diogenes,” writing at CatholicCulture.org, however, wrote that the Post’s own left leanings led it to be sympathetic toward the Jesuit publication and observed that missing among the controversial issues America “tackled” were “those embarrassing to the Society of Jesus and to the staff of America itself.”

“Diogenes” provided these examples:

  • Church interference in politics has long been a hot topic in America, except where the churchmen were Leftists. Fr. Drinan’s continued work to expand the abortion franchise was never seriously discussed, nor would we have learned from America that Drinan had Jesuit critics.
  • The sex-abuse scandals got plenty of ink in America. Not a word about those retarded employees raped for years at the Jesuit retreat house in California. Not a word about the several Jesuit molesters at Boston College High School or the Maine slime-line. Not a word on the contradiction between these crimes and the Society’s official devotion to the cause of social justice or its call for ecclesial transparency.
  • Gay marriage, gay priests, and condom use frequently surface as “controversial subjects” in America. Well, the issue of whether the editorial staff or its superiors might have covert interests in the matter sounds controversial enough to me. Try to find a single paragraph that raises the problem. You won’t.

Similarly, in 2011, editor of Catholic World News Phil Lawler wrote that while Reese was remarking on the large numbers leaving the Catholic Church, he failed to note that the Jesuits themselves “went from 8,400 members in 1965 to 2,650” in 2010.

“[T]he American Jesuits have not only refused to study the problem of catastrophic decline themselves, they have gone out of their way to knee-cap scholars whose explanations were unflattering,” Lawler said.

Frequently presenting themselves as “intellectual Catholics” — or as Malone states, “smart Catholic take” — the Jesuits enjoy a continual cloud of controversy due to their often blatant disregard for Catholic teachings couched in an articulated desire for the pursuit of debate or social justice.

In a report on Monday at The Cardinal Newman Society, for example, Kimberly Scharfenberger writes that six of the eight Catholic colleges hosting performances of The Vagina Monologues are affiliated with the Jesuits.

The Monologues has been denounced by various Catholic leaders for its promotion of sexual activity considered immoral by the Catholic Church, such as lesbian sex and masturbation. In one scene of the play, a teenage girl who is raped by an adult woman is depicted as having been brought to “salvation” and raised into “a kind of heaven.”

The Newman Society indicates that the Catholic institutions showing the Monologues this year justified the performances by linking them “with the laudable causes of supporting women’s shelters or organizations dedicated to ending violence against women.”

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