I love being a member of the big, brawling, loving family known as Catholic. For many years, National Catholic Reporter has been, for me, part of that family. Now I have the daunting, exciting privilege of writing from this corner of the NCR.
My attitude toward the paper and the Catholic family are the same: Were at our best when we dont hurl anathemas or squelch debate, when we listen and consider, thoughtfully and with reason, when at the end of the day we can pray together despite differences and strongly held opinions.
All our lives are on these pages, all who give hope and frontline witness to the world.
We want everyone -- women and men, gays, lesbians, people of color, church workers, workers in the world, priests, nuns, hierarchy, all who might wear the labels that can divide -- to feel welcome under the Catholic tent.
My new job is daunting because I know how much this paper means to me -- and you. More than ever, Catholics need a source of news that goes beyond the official handouts, that delves into the topics that some leaders want to keep secret, that provides space for issues that elsewhere are declared off-limits.
It was years ago by way of Fr. Jim Finnegan that I was introduced to NCR. Hes a wonderful teacher who excites passion for thinking, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales at what is now De Sales University in Center Valley, Pa. The assignment was the debate over artificial birth control, and NCR had the best coverage, particularly of those parts that a lot of church leaders wanted kept under wraps. Finnegans love for the church was palpable, but he also knew the best way to form fully functioning Catholics was to give the best arguments on all sides of an issue and let people puzzle things out for themselves.
That assignment began a lifetime love of the paper and its mission. NCR was instrumental in my formation as a Catholic student and as an adult, a husband, a father of four and as a journalist.
A few years before the birth control coverage, the lay editors of this experiment outlined their vision.
This paper has been established to report the life of the church in the world, the statement read in part. Our orientation, then, is toward reporting the news, toward enterprise and relevance, toward dialogue with practically everybody. We are a religious paper with worldly interests. We are committed to the church, and secure enough in our commitment to keep wondering what the church is and will become.
Those wonderful marching orders were laid down in 1964. Theyre as compelling today as ever.
The 21st century has a new set of issues, new generations of Catholics to cover according to those earlier prescripts.
Thanks for staying with us.
-- Tom Roberts
My e-mail address is email@example.com
National Catholic Reporter, July 14, 2000