At the risk of truly dating myself, I must say that I can remember the heady days of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Suddenly, there was freshness in the air and a new openness in my Catholic tradition. And I soon discovered much of that fresh air because there was great journalism to cover it.
The first NCR appeared in 1964, but I did not see it until 1965. And it was truly a gift of the Spirit! I was in my first years of religious life in those days, but all of us in those early years of religious life eagerly awaited the coming of the National Catholic Reporter each week. (It was a weekly then.)
It was there that we got great, positive, comprehensive coverage of the Second Vatican Council and the documents that flowed from it. It was there that we followed parishes where the altars were turned around and the celebrant suddenly faced the congregation.
It was there that we not only read about Humanae Vitae, but also the protests that followed it. It was refreshing to read progressive views on this document, and not the staid defenses of it that littered diocesan papers. Suddenly, dissent became OK — and one could find in NCR the views of both sides on this issue and many others. Progressive views were not shut out; indeed, they were welcomed.
Here was a paper that supported the burgeoning civil rights movement by highlighting the Catholics who protested with Martin Luther King Jr., and put the whole movement into a social justice theological framework.
We say: Charlottesville reveals the weeping wound of racism. What do we, the American Catholic faith community, do next? Read the editorial.
And as the Vietnam War heated up, one could read in NCR about the Catholics leading protests, especially the Berrigan brothers. And they were not condemned, but their actions were analyzed and often praised.
The whole publication had an unmistakable "peace and justice" flavor to it!
Theologians under investigation by the Vatican were often covered — not with negativity, as in many diocesan papers, but with a sympathetic lens, as NCR tried to understand why some of their views were under fire. NCR was a Catholic publication that did not "toe the bishops' line." It was truly independent and refreshing.
And it still is! That's why I just donated, and I encourage you to do the same.