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. – from the inaugural column, June 2, 2008