Founding of Integrity magazine

New York, New York


Integrity magazine was published from 1946 to 1956. It was a vehicle for radical lay Catholic viewpoints on social issues. The editors of the magazine were Carol Jackson, a convert and graduate of Wellesley College, and Ed Willock, an artist who had been a volunteer in the Catholic Worker movement.The magazine’s charge was proudly printed in the front cover of each magazine: "published by lay Catholics and dedicated to the task of discovering the new synthesis of RELIGION and LIFE for our times."

Jackson and Willock were introduced to each other by Father Wendell, O.P., editor of The Torch magazine. It was Carol Jackson who had the sum of four hundred dollars and wanted to start a magazine produced by lay people to speak in the language of Catholic Action. Neither of these two had any experience in publishing but their youth and enthusiasm their most notable assets. Jackson, along with Willock and his wife, moved to New York City to put the magazine into production. They set up shop in a coal cellar on York Avenue and 82nd Street. Subscriptions cost three dollars. To assist its success, Frank Sheed had given them mailing lists that netted 1,100 subscriptions with the first advertisement they sent out. Time magazine described the new journal as aiming to “blast lay Catholics loose from materialism and worldly compromise.”

They could not afford a paid staff, so they used mostly their own talents and those of friends as writers.  This gave the pages of the magazine a freshness lacking in the more established Catholic press magazine productions. It was their intention to dedicate their lives to lay Catholic magazine, written by lay people for lay people.  The publication sought to make sense of the modern and materialistic world in the light of Catholic principles.  Industrialization had made massive changes in society in the distribution of wealth and this phenomenon deeply affected people's moral life. One of the aims of Catholic Action was to incorporate Catholic living in the modern world. Integrity would offer comment on the issues of Communism, racism, feminism, as well as political matters and economic challenges of capitalism and family.   

Short on funding, the magazine's editors also served as its writers. Jackson often wrote under the name Peter Michaels while Eileen Egan wrote under the name Jerem O’Sullivan-Barra.  Dorothy Dohen, a later editor, wrote as Elizabeth Williams. Ed Willock doubled as writer and did all the art work for the early magazine.

Integrity's list of contributors included Dorothy Day, co- founder of the Catholic Worker,  Eileen Egan, a Pax Christi founder and biographer of Mother Teresa, and Catherine de Hueck Doherty, founder of Madonna House. Elizabeth Sheehan (wife of Arthur Sheehan, biographer of Peter Maurin), Commonweal editor Anne Fremantle, publisher Maisie Ward, journalists Norma Ann Krause and Marion Stancioff, authors Lucile Hasley and Caryll Houselander, and Maria von Trapp (of Sound of Music fame) also wrote for the magazine at one time or another.

In addition to lay writers, the magazine also published cutting edge social science from priests such as George H. Tavard and Paul Hanley Furfey.  Poets published there included Trappist monk Thomas Merton and Sister M. Bernetta, one of the first American Catholics to engage Modernist literature.

Politics and economics were common topics, with an emphasis on sharing society's wealth. Coming from the Worker movement, Willock had ingested the Green Revolution principles of Peter Maurin, as well as Day's concept of social responsibility for one's neighbor. One of Stancioff’s early articles espoused a "return to the land," drawing on the distributism of the English intellectuals Fr. Vincent McNabb and G.K. Chesterton.

The magazine broke new ground by bringing to American readers the thought of Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard, technology critic Friedrich Georg Juenger, philosopher Aurel Kolnai, and German intellectual St. Edith Stein (publishing the first English translations of her writing on women). The first English translations of  St. Edith Stine’s writings on Women were published by Integrity.  

When Willock became ill in 1950, responsibility for the magazine gradually shifter to Dorothy Dohen, who became editor in April 1952. It ceased publication in 1956, but many of its principal figures went on to influence other Catholic periodicals: several were involved in founding the Kansas City Sun Herald.  Integrity, along with its model of Catholic Action, was eclipsed by the coming of the Second Vatican Council and its call for a Church better prepared to engage the modern world. Yet its simple format and direct voice had made a difference by stimulating lay Catholics of the pre-Vatican II period to thought and action in the cause of Catholic social teaching.

This article is excerpted and adapted from Kathleen Carlton Johnson, “Lay Catholic Action at Work: Marion Mitchell Stancioff and Integrity Magazine,” a paper presented at the Spring Meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association, Philadelphia, April, 2009. CHn is grateful to Mrs. Johnson for permission to use this material.