Commonweal’s mission is to provide a forum for civil, reasoned debate on the interaction of faith with contemporary politics and culture. Read by a passionate audience of educated Catholics as well as readers from many other faiths, Commonweal presents well-argued, respectful points of view from across the ideological spectrum. In an often contentiously divided Catholic church and secular culture, its status as an independent, lay-run journal of opinion encourages conversations that can be difficult in other settings.
Since its founding in 1924 Commonweal has staked a claim for Catholic principles and perspective in American life. It has been credited with helping prepare American Catholics for Vatican II, and Commonweal’s current readers say it has helped them weather the church’s sexual-abuse scandal and work through questions related to the role of women, church teachings on sexuality, and other contemporary issues. The magazine has an ongoing interest in social justice, ecumenism, just-war teaching, liturgical renewal, and the interchange between Catholicism and liberal democracy. Today Commonweal publishes many of the leading Catholic theologians, writers and public figures in the United States.
Commonweal has a unique history of taking strong and controversial positions, often liberal and opinionated yet tolerant in tone. The editors condemned the firebombing of Dresden and the use of atomic weapons; they have criticized American racism; supported resistance to U.S. involvement in Vietnam; and took issue with the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae vitae but also the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Today the magazine maintains prolife convictions while being critical of single-issue abortion politics, and provides a space for marginalized voices.