April 30, 2021

Archived Editorial

Our name

(To continue our celebration of the 60th anniversary of The Criterion, here is the unsigned editorial from the very first issue, dated Oct. 7, 1960, which explains why our name was chosen.)

Criterion. Hmm. A fancy name. Where did we get it? And what does it mean?

Well, we got it by thinking up all the obvious names for a Catholic newspaper—and realizing they were all in use. If you don’t like it, try thinking up a better one. They’re all taken.

Webster’s Dictionary says “criterion” means “a standard of judging, a rule or test by which anything is tried in forming a correct judgment respecting it.” In short—a standard.

It may seem a trifle immodest to label as “The Criterion” a paper in which we editors express our views about numerous subjects, but if our readers will only accept the unofficial character we claim for our editorial opinions, the title “Criterion” won’t seem too arrogant.

The only “official” status this paper enjoys lies in its choice by the Archbishop to be the one medium of religious news he desires all members of the Archdiocese to receive. The official communications of the Archbishop to the clergy and the laity will appear herein, and they, of course, will be “official.”

But the editorial opinions will be—well, the editors’ opinions. We don’t expect you will agree with all of them. In fact, we will be seriously concerned if we don’t, at least occasionally, arouse spirited disagreement. We hope you will respect our editorial opinions—not because they appear in this paper, but for whatever clarity and cogency they may possess.

We will be attempting the difficult task of applying to concrete, specific situations the religious and moral ideals of the Catholic Faith. It is not a task in which one can enjoy the easy certitude of reiterating high principles and unarguable platitudes. One must get specific, and to be specific one must know more than the principles; one must be acquainted with the relevant facts of each situation or issue. Nobody is going to be totally right all the time in an effort of this scope.

We feel strongly that Catholics have a real obligation to discuss and debate the important issues of our times in the light of their religious and moral principles. We feel that the lofty and bland philosophizing that has often passed for Catholic comment is as sterile and useless as it is non-controversial.

We do not propose to be non-controversial. Controversy means at least that someone is awake. It does not have to mean that someone is boiling mad.

We also feel that it is past time for Catholics to stop talking only to each other. We hope to catch the ear of some interested Protestants, Jews and persons of no religious affiliation who want to hear a Catholic view on current issues.

Any ears ready to listen? †

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