I can report from personal experience that Fr. Matt Malone is a very nice man, and exceedingly tall. I first met him a few years ago, when he was a guest on my TV show, “Currents.” Now we’re both working as magazine editors.
He’s being profiled in the New York Times.
In Rome, one of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s first acts as Pope Francis was to call his newsdealer back home in Buenos Aires and cancel his daily delivery. In New York, the Rev. Matt Malone seemed reasonably confident that a similar papal ax would not fall on America, the venerable Jesuit weekly that he edits.
“I know for a fact that America is read in the Vatican,” Father Malone said over lunch in a Midtown diner. He had yet to check if the new pope was among his 48,000 subscribers.
“It’s almost certain that he’s seen it,” Father Malone said. “It’s sent to every Jesuit community in the world.”
In Francis, the Roman Catholic Church has its first Jesuit pontiff. Relations between his religious order and headquarters in Rome have often been rocky. Peace has also not always reigned between the Vatican and America magazine, based in New York and once described by a former editor in chief, the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, as “the Catholic PBS.” Eight years ago, Father Reese was forced to resign because of Vatican displeasure with articles critical of church positions on sensitive matters like same-sex marriage.
So, Father Malone, is it an article of faith that this new papacy is good for the Jesuits? “It’s uncharted territory,” he said, sipping the first of several cups of coffee. “It’s hard to know how it affects us other than to say we’re very proud. We have a reputation — sometimes earned, sometimes not — for being a little arrogant. We try not to give voice to our pride too much.”
For now, anyway, Francis’s ascension seems to have been a boon for Father Malone’s magazine. During the papal conclave, “we had a huge number of hits on the Web site,” he said, adding, “In fact, it crashed after he was announced, because of the demand.”
Across its 104 years, America has never had a chief editor as young as Father Malone, who was 40 when appointed last June, the same month he was ordained as a priest after a decade of preparation.
Does Father Reese’s unpleasant experience weigh on him? He paused before answering.
“There isn’t a newspaper or magazine that can say everything it wants to say,” he said, adding with a laugh that at America it is usually for want of space. But bear in mind that “we’re not disinterested observers,” he said.
“We are evangelists. I think that America, historically, has gotten into trouble when we have forgotten that part of our identity.”