The forced resignation of Fr. Tom Reese as editor of America magazine has created a wave of reaction among Catholic journalists and academics across the country.
The Jesuit priest resigned from the Jesuit-owned publication after seven years as its editor. There is speculation that his community forced him to resign because the magazine had come under Vatican scrutiny for having published articles in favor of same-sex marriage, homosexual rights and stem-cell research.
While some journalists and academics reacted with fear that they, too, could be ousted from their jobs, others’ reactions offered other insight into Fr. Reese’s resignation.
“A lot of people were unhappy with America, including people in Rome,” Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things, told the Globe in an interview. He said he knew many Catholics, including bishops, who were unhappy with Reese's editorial leadership, which “had kind of a carping attitude toward the pontificate of John Paul II.”
“Just as you don't expect Planned Parenthood to give a platform to the pro-life position, there's no reason why a Catholic journal should provide a platform for positions that are clearly contrary to those of the Church, and that was an editorial error that caused Tom a lot of trouble,” Neuhaus was quoted as saying.
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told the Globe that some bishops filed complaints with the Vatican or the Jesuit order about articles that appeared in the magazine.
Fr. Pat McCloskey, editor of St. Anthony Messenger, said Fr. Reese’s resignation might give other Catholic journalists and editors the notion that they could suffer the same fate.
“I'm afraid that a move like this one will cause more and more Catholic thinkers to say that they want to write for publications that are not identified as Catholic and to teach at schools that are not identified as Catholic, because there is more freedom there,” he told the Globe.
“There is a concern now about what does this mean for scholars and writers who are Catholic and what does it mean for journals of opinion," Boston College president Fr. William P. Leahy told the newspaper.
Heidi Schlumpf, managing editor of US Catholic, her publication came under scrutiny several years ago for a piece about women’s ordination; the magazine settled the issue by publishing an article explaining the Church's opposition to women priests.
“What's most troublesome is that for the ordained, for those theologians who are priests, and for people working in Catholic universities, this will inhibit the honest exchange of views," Paul Baumann, editor of Commonweal, was quoted as saying.
Bauman had arrived at work May 9 to find an e-mail from a critic that threatened that he would be the next editor to be ousted.