Friday, October 21, 2011

CRISIS Magazine Cleans House

This was a long time coming, but it appears CRISIS Magazine has finally taken the plunge and swept the house. Brian Saint-Paul and and it appears the entire staff has been transitioned to interim director...drumroll...JOHN ZMIRAK (yippee!) and Harold Fickett of Catholic Exchange who will be serving as interim publisher and executive editor.

Check out John's latest (with special attention to the comment section)for an infusion of the testosterone and orthodoxy that has been sorely missing from the management over the last several years.

'Nuff said.

Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray them through the transition!


susan said...

John Zmirak?...isn't that the really funny guy who writes the "Bad Catholic's guide to..." books?

breathnach said...


I had been a subscriber to Crisis since it's inception back in the 80s under Ralph McInerney and Michael Novak. It always has been a neo-conservative vehicle.

At least under McInerney and Novak they had a broader outlook. Under Deal Hudson and Brian St. Paul they have become a captive of their beltway funders. It became a politicized rag.

I hope Zmirak & Co. can raise the capsized ship.

scotju said...

If they cleaned house, why is Mark Shea still there? LOL!

Anonymous said...

Sorry is still owned by the Morley Institute. It is still Deal Hudson's vehicle. What it sounds to me is that Brian St. Paul was not on board with Hudson's GOP politics - which will undoubtedly kick into high gear soon with the election season.

Anonymous said...


My sentiments exactly.


Carol said...

Suzy, One and the same!

Breathnach, I didn't know the magazine when Novak and McInerney had it. It always seemed to me that Deal was orthodox and intuitive but was overruled by stronger personalities who wanted to sissify it. And sissify it they did! If anyone can bring it back from the dead, John can.

Anon and Scotju - The shake up was on the management side. Mark is a contributor.

Anon - I got the impression Morley Publishing and Hudson went on different trajectories last year. If you have a shtick, you better know your audience. Stuff that entertains the saloon crowd leaves folks with orthodoxy and class wanting. Eventually they find it somewhere else.

Anyhoo - best of luck to them!

scotju said...

Carol, even if Mark Shea is just a contributor, it's a sign that nothing has really changed. The last thing any magazine that aspires to quality needs, is a foul mouth, absive jerk like Shea.

Carol said...

Most people on that level are taking his articles and making a judgment on Mark's animus based on that. Mark's intellectual and theological writings are really good. It doesn't get hairy until his emotions get intertwined and take him on a rollercoaster ride. Most of the really ugly stuff doesn't happen until he interacts with people in comments section or on a personal level. He generally doesn't do this on other people's websites - though I did see him do it from time to time on CRISIS. He mostly does it on his own website.

The outgoing cabal was stifling orthodoxy and pandering to crackpot theology in the comments section at CRISIS and they alienated their own "customers". The last thing you'd bring to an opus dei meeting would be Elizabeth Scalia to cry over the 'Ted Kennedy's crucible', ie, solid priests and lay people voicing concerns about matters of the soul, or the communist redistribution of wealth theories, or the 'beauty' of breastfeeding in front of priests saying the Mass, etc., etc. There was terrible discretion and they were unable to process criticism of their terrible discretion. I don't know Laurence but he strikes me as really caring about the mission of Christ's Church and serving Christ faithfully in his role as a Chairman of the Board of that apostolate.

I am ever the optimist that an uncut diamond in the hands of talented jewelers can bring the inner beauty for all to see. I don't know if anyone giving Mark a paycheck has really ever taken the problem on but it very well could be that the problem will manifest itself on CRISIS. If it does, God could provide the opportunity to go to the jeweler and ask them to attend to Mark. Might be a win/win situation. Right now, a lot of people deprive themselves of Mark's stuff because they don't want to bump into the ugliness. It's kind of a shame.

breathnach said...


Crisis in it's earliest days was heavily influenced by Michael Novak's free market economic ideas and they were activist in taking on the bishops over economics and nuclear weapons policy during the late Cold War period. They were heavily involved in countering the USCCB by issuing their own "pastoral letters" on economic and nuclear disarmament.

Deal Hudson was closely tied to Karl Rove and the Bush White House. He became an adviser on reaching out for the Catholic vote--the actual Catholics who attend weekly Mass, not the amorphous cradle cultural "Catholics" who are more likely to observe the passing of Steve Jobs than a Holyday of Obligation.

For my taste they became too closely tied to electoral partisan politics under Hudson. However, he did maintain a broader perspective and the magazine addressed the life of the Church in America.

Under Brian St. Paul they were adrift. Zmirak is a bright light and I pray that he can get things on track.

Carol said...


Maybe it did get a bit too involved in politics but I don't think we can save lives without getting our people involved in voting in prolifers. While you have a captive audience, you've got to merge the two or else all we are doing is exchanging perspectives and I don't see how that helps saves lives. I guess the balance is trial and error but better to err on the side of activism than keep at arms length or lead readers in circles with all kinds of opinions. That's for the birds.

Life is complicated. There are lots of people who show up to enrich and bring fruit. Sadly, they bring their flaws too. You have to have leadership skills, be seasoned and have the savvy to bring it all together. Not to mention busting your butt to stay in a state of grace! It has to be a sissy-free zone with emotions that are all growed up. In my opinion, Deal had those skills but there were a lot of egos behind the scene that impeded that unification and maturity (including the Novak crowd) and the Board of Directors was divided. You've got to have a good BOD in a non-profit where everyone has lots of years of experience and sees the road ahead. It flopped around as the ship sank and anyone bringing the obvious to their attention was perceived as their enemy - no matter how loyal you were. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

I was thrilled to hear of the change and echo your hopes and prayers for them.

Carol said...

btw - I just had to post this response from John to a troll in the CRISIS comments section of this post:

"You’re being careless or you are lying. I cited a secondary source which made precisely this claim about Augustine, which cited a text by him. I said up front that I had not been able to double-check this scholar’s source–but that I had read similar citations in the past, and been taught this very idea by one of the leading Christian historians in the world, Jaroslav Pelikan. I am not defensive. I was offended by your obnoxious tone beginning with your very first comment, and escalating over time. Just to make you happy, I will find the correct Augustine citation, which the scholar I cited apparently flubbed. Of course, Augustine’s opinion on this matter is of interest, which is why I mentioned it, but not decisive. He was, like other men, fallible. But to answer your question: I consider people who reject the evidence of reason and science in favor of literalism where the Bible does not demand it… absurd. Their attitude flies in the face of the Church’s venerable approach to science, and better approximates the fideism and irrationalism of Fundamentalist Protestants."

The trolls that seized the apostolate in the chaos have just had a flare shot across their bow. Gradually, people will feel the direction of the leadership and the trolls will go back to where they came from - America Magazine, Patheos and the National Catholic Reporter. If it all plays out, good solid Catholics will find a cavern to hold discussions, fortify each other for the journey in real life. Nobody on our side wants to show up in a forum for the Kadashians to discuss religion and politics. Too much work. Too little time.

Linda said...

Thanks for this post. I was one of those who has been subject to Shea's venom. It was not fun. But I was just reading Crisis' latest article on NFP, and there is some definite venom being spewed by Zmirak. So much so that they closed the comments. It makes me afraid to post there.

Carol said...


I'm sorry to hear you were roughed up. I hope you weren't too bruised by the experience.

I saw a bit of the anti-NFP folks going at Zmirak. That's another whole pocket of scrupulous souls. I checked out early in the conversation but I thought John and others were doing a bang up job nurturing them back to truth. I'm sorry to hear he had to shut down the comments section. Prayers for all.