The Catholic Thing

The Catholic thing – the concrete historical reality of Catholicism – is the richest cultural tradition in the world. It was born from Judaism and, through that spiritual parentage, even reaches back into the great ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. In its early days, it confronted, absorbed, and redirected what was then the most sophisticated society in existence, Greco-Roman culture. When that culture fell, Catholicism preserved what it could and rebuilt the rest over centuries, incorporating new influences from Northern Europe and, during the great age of exploration, from the entire globe. Today, it numbers over a billion souls on every continent. Despite its all-too-human imperfections, there is simply nothing like it.

That is the deep background to The Catholic Thing, the series of columns that begins today. This tradition has a great deal to say about politics and economics, culture and warfare, the temporal and the eternal, children and careers, and many other contemporary questions. In addition, it has inspired some of the greatest art, music, and architecture, while offering unparalleled human solidarity to millions through hospitals, soup kitchens, schools, universities, and disaster relief. Our confidence that the Catholic thing is without peer, almost needless to say, is not generally acknowledged in American culture. Anti-Catholicism still blocks much that it might bring to the public square, though that situation has greatly improved through dialogue with Protestants and Jews. The greatest obstacles lie in the main culture-forming institutions: the universities, the media, Hollywood. They think of themselves as representing a much wider world than the Catholic one. Readers of these columns are invited to judge for themselves.

Some of our well-wishers have asked whether there is a need for yet another online publication. We believe there is. A lot of good Catholic material appears on the web, some that is not so good. But we expect that you will not find anything quite like the quality, experience, and accessibility of The Catholic Thing. All of our columnists write frequently in other places, but there is no one place where you will find them all together offering material unavailable elsewhere. Wide-ranging and solid Catholic commentary on events is necessary, not only to keep us from being overwhelmed by the tsunami of information now coming at us all from many sources, but to cast a steady and invigorating Catholic light on what is otherwise a superficial and dull world.

In the nature of things – we begin in the middle of a presidential campaign – we will be talking a lot about politics, economics, and public affairs. The only partisanship The Catholic Thing intends to express, though, is a loyalty to Catholicity. Our more learned readers may recall that the original Greek meaning of Catholicity is universality, in the sense that what is Catholic gives proper weight to all truths. Our writers all share that commitment, but, as writers do, we will no doubt also take differing positions. Our mission is to bring the best Catholic thought and action into the public square, not to favor politicians or parties. You can probably anticipate the next sentence: The Catholic Thing takes no institutional positions. All our writers’ opinions are their own.

The format is straightforward. We will bring you an original column every day that provides fresh and penetrating insight into the current situation along with other commentary, news, analysis, and – yes – even humor. Our writers include some of the most seasoned and insightful Catholic minds in America: Michael Novak, Ralph McInerny, Hadley Arkes, Michael Uhlmann, Mary Eberstadt, Austin Ruse, George Marlin, William Saunders, and many others. The regulars will appear every other week – along with a few distinguished pinch hitters – so you can visit the site at any time to see what they are saying or to catch up with columns you may have missed.

We hope you will come by this page often – daily, in fact. There will be a new column here every morning, 8 AM. You will not find a blog. At least for now, our mission lies elsewhere. But we invite your comments, which you can conveniently send us through the Contact button. From time to time, we may also publish readers’ opinions, too. And don’t be shy about donating if you want to help us carry on this important work.

Come back tomorrow. You can read Michael Novak on “Adventures in Catholic Social Doctrine,” partly a personal memoir of more than fifty years at work in the field, partly a wholesome reminder of what changes and what does not in that hardy perennial, the Catholic Thing.

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.