Editor quit after complaints by Ratzinger


VATICAN: The resignation two weeks ago of the editor-in-chief of the influential US weekly Catholic paper America followed repeated complaints about the paper by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before his elevation to the papacy, the paper will say next week.

The paper will quote a Jesuit spokesman in Rome as saying that Fr Thomas Reese SJ resigned to avoid damaging clashes with the new Pope.

A report that the Cardinal, now Pope Benedict XVI, had called in a letter last March for Fr Reese to be dismissed from the post was neither confirmed or denied by the spokesman.

An article for next week's edition, headed Signs of the Times, said Cardinal Ratzinger had repeatedly complained about the treatment in the magazine of sensitive church issues.

The Jesuit spokesman in Rome, Fr José M de Vera, is quoted as saying "with Cardinal Ratzinger elected Pope, I think [ Fr Reese] thought it would be very difficult to continue his line of openness, without creating more problems.

He had been at America magazine seven years and he improved it tremendously, so I think he understood it was time to go." Next week's edition of America will be Fr Reese's last as editor-in-chief.

Fr de Vera said that in conversation with Jesuit superior general Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Cardinal Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had expressed concern about articles in America on several occasions about a relatively small number of issues.

These included the Dominus Iesus document of 2000, same-sex marriage, stem cell research, and the reception of Communion by Catholic politicians who supported legal abortion. On such issues, America had published articles that reflected a broad spectrum of opinion among Catholics, including those who disagreed with Vatican positions.

Fr de Vera said because articles touched on doctrinal issues the Cardinal had wanted the Jesuits to write "defending whatever position the Church had manifested, even if it is not infallible".

He said over a year ago the Vatican had threatened to impose a board of censors on the magazine. This was averted when the Jesuits decided to set up an internal board to review articles prior to publication. However, complaints about articles from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith continued, Fr de Vera said, adding he felt the congregation was reacting to complaints it was receiving from the US.

Last month, following discussion with Fr Kolvenbach, Fr Reese decided to resign for the sake of the order.

"He knew the situation. He didn't want to embarrass the Society, and he didn't want to fight the Pope, so he resigned," Fr de Vera said.

He commented that Fr Reese's decision was "very prudent, very wise and very generous".