According to Keating:
About a decade ago the emphasis changed. The magazine moved from South Bend to Washington, and Deal Hudson became involved in Republican politics, which meant Crisis also became involved in Republican politics. . . .
While welcoming the general idea of a liason from Catholics to the Bush administration, Keating also wondered: "should the liaison be the head of a Catholic magazine that might need to editorialize against Administration policies?" As Keating expected, the move provoked accusations of partisanship and accusations that Crisis was merely "a Republican house organ" -- a charge that Crisis itself bolstered ("I can't recall anything in the magazine that criticized the Bush Administration but plenty that criticized its opponents").
The problem was compounded last year after the National Catholic Reporter ran an investigative report -- or what I thought to be a clear case of attack-dog journalism -- about Deal Hudson's involvement in a sexual affair as a professor at Fordham University. Although the incident occurred over a decade ago, the scandal it caused was enough to prompt Deal's resignation as liason to the White House and ultimately to relenquish his position at the magazine.
Keating goes on to voice his criticism of an article "Biting the Bullet: Military Conscription and the Price of Citizenship", by Francis X. Maier, former editor of the National Catholic Register. For Keating, Maier's assertion that "America was an empire in denial" was a poignant example of Crisis went wrong, and why he considers it now to be not so much a distinctly Catholic magazine as a kind of "National Review with a largely Catholic authorship":
But why should a Catholic magazine come down so strongly in favor not just of the draft but of a wider, universal conscription to various forms of social service? Why should it go further and implicitly endorse imperial designs? And why should it neglect to run simultaneously an article opposing both positions? There is no Catholic dog in this fight. If the Church permits good Catholics to take one side or the other, isn't there an imprudence in pushing only one side?
. . . I wince when I see "Crisis" endorse a position where no position needed to be endorsed and where faithful, orthodox Catholics are free to disagree. I winced when the magazine moved to Washington and changed its focus from culture mixed with some politics to politics mixed with some culture. I think it was an imprudent geographic move that, as I feared, has resulted in too much trucking with the political establishment.
Keating's criticisms of Crisis is appropriate and necessary, and there is much in Crisis's choice of articles that merit his remarks. On Amy Welborn's Open Book, several commentators expressed their suprise that Keating neglected to mention the cover story for Crisis October 2004: "The Case for American Empire", a bombastic article by H.W. Crocker III with the opening assertion that "every Catholic should by rights be an imperialist." (Readers might recognize Crocker as the author of Triumph: The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church, which I read last year and gave a mixed review. I'm not really a fan of Crocker's writing and find it rather offputting. Fortunately, most contributions to Crisis are more substantial and consideraly less obnoxious).
While I like the idea of those in the White House reading Crisis alongside the National Review and The Weekly Standard, I share Keating's concern about the dangers raised by the chief liason between Catholics and the White House being at the same time the publisher of a prominent Catholic magazine. It's a very precarious position to be in -- especially if, like Hudson, you're involved in the "culture war" against sexual immorality with a skeleton in your closet.
Nevertheless, I'd dispute Keating's presentation of Crisis as a magazine overly preoccupied with politics. Despite it's occasionally questionable choice in articles, or one-sided presentation of positions which allow for a diversity of Catholic opinion (such as U.S. foreign policy), I find it to be overall a very well-rounded Catholic periodical with a broad selection of subjects and contributors -- politics and morality, yes, but a great deal more. Consider the chief stories over the past year alone:
- theology & religion - Alice von Hildebrand: "Who's Afraid of Feelngs" (February 2004) and "Debating Beauty: Jacques Maritain and Dietrich von Hildebrand" (July 2004); George Sim Johnston: "Why Vatican II Was Necessary" (March 2004), "After the Council: Living Vatican II" (July 2004); Edward T. Oakes, SJ "Reconciling Judas: Evangelizing the Theologians" (October 2004); Mark Shea: "The Mother of the Son: The Case for Marian Devotion" (December 2004); Christopher West "The New Language: A Crash Course in the Theology of the Body" (December 2004).
- science - Duncan Maxwell Anderson on "global warming" (February 2004); Benjamin D. Walker, The Meaning-Full Universe (April 2004)
- history - Michael Hogan on "The Irish Soldiers of Mexico" (March 2004); Sandra Meisel "The Real History of the Holy Grail" (Sept. 2004);
- literature & art - Maria Stella Ceplecha: "Painting Angels: Saints and Their Symbols"; Robert R. Reilly: Jose Serebrier: A Double Muse (October 2004)
It is to be expected that Crisis will focus on subjects of a political and moral nature, especially at a time when the public's attention is focused on legislation concerning key moral issues such as abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, and euthanasia.
Despite Keating's valid concerns, however, it seems to me that Crisis has nevertheless held to a pretty balanced diet of subjects. In fact, as much as I enjoy reading National Review, Weekly Standard and Commentary, I've found Crisis' diversity a welcome respite from the political chatter. And under the helm of newly-established editor Brian Saint-Paul, I hope that it will stay its course.
- Further discussion by Amy Welborn's Commentariat