The Social Question
It is fitting that the name of the American Jesuits' new flagship magazine should be the one proposed by Thomas Gannon, former Fordham rector and the Maryland-New York provincial in the first years of the 20th century.
Gannon was most conscious of the negative aspects of European control of American Jesuit enterprises and was forthright in his efforts to break from European restrictions on an appropriate American lifestyle. His 1903 letter to Father General Martin was typical. European meddling was out of step, he said, with “our principles and spirit and in response to the requirements of time and place.” In 1905 he wrote Martin it was futile “to restrain ... the liberty of American college students,” who were “18 to 23 years of age.” They are men in “habits, dress, and social life” who attend dinners, receptions, and theater. He himself as a Holy Cross student 25 years before had gone out to dinners and lectures and returned quite late. Students should have their own rooms; otherwise Jesuit schools would lose them. He proposed a revision of the Ratio that would keep its spirit intact but be open to “all that is best and really valuable and progressive in our modern civilization.”
When he heard of the new weekly magazine, to be modeled on the London Catholic Tablet, he proposed they call it America. In the first issue on April 17, 1909, the lead editorial spelled out its goals. It was to take the place of a monthly, The Messenger, to meet the needs of the time:
Among these needs are a review and conscientious criticism of the
life and literature of the day, a discussion of actual questions and a
study of vital problems from the Christian standpoint, a record of
religious progress, a defense of sound doctrine, an authoritative