Vol 50 No 4
was a registered refereed review. It was published quarterly by the Australian
Province of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart between 1967 and 2016.
A HISTORY OF COMPASS
Compass was founded by Fr Dennis Murphy MSC assisted by Fr Jim Cuskelly MSC at the beginning of 1967, just a little over a year after the closure of Vatican II (December 1965).
They were stirring times, with excitement and turmoil throughout the Catholic world as the church community strove to come to terms with what that word aggiornamento might mean. Compass had plunged with eyes wide open into that immediate post-Conciliar commotion with the aim of providing a better point of reference and guidance for Catholics than the regularly sensationalised and confusing coverage in secular journals such as Time Magazine and Newsweek.
Compass set out to give depth and background to the debates that Vatican II set in train, providing reliable information about trends in theological thinking, about the results of current research and about possible approaches to controversial questions. It wanted to 'open up the inner dynamism of theology, which is not meant to be a pastime for a clique, but an urgent attempt to bring God's Word in its purity and fulness to the world of our time' (first editorial, 1967).
These were high aspirations, indeed, and the response from the Catholic reading public was immediate. Most Catholics who were to any degree informed of what was happening soon heard about Compass. Even parish priests discussed its articles among themselves and told their congregations about what they had been reading. The fact that one of the first theological topics addressed was the subject of Original Sin, at that time a very hot potato, helped to attract attention to the review. That was the first phase. Six years later the founding editors were compelled to concentrate on other things: Dennis Murphy MSC became Rector of the new St Paul's National Seminary, and Jim Cuskelly MSC was elected Superior General of the MSC Congregation. Peter Malone MSC became the new Editor.
Meanwhile, the church in Australia had moved on: aggiornamento, it was realized, was not going to happen in a short time, and that for a whole host of reasons. Elation and bewilderment were fast giving way to depression and anger as, for some, nothing seemed to be happening while for others too much was happening.
This was the beginning of a long period of hard work for those who worked in the field of theology and related studies as we strove to win minds and hearts to an acceptance of the need for change and revitalization in the Catholic church. Avoiding shock tactics and extravagances, Compass placed emphasis on common search and personal discovery, a search for what God is revealing to us through the problems and challenges we face, and through the aspirations of people everywhere, a search for the appropriate faith response that would dispose us for the redemptive action of Christ in our time.
Compass saw itself from that moment on as providing a small Australian forum for the exploration of the way ahead for the church community in Australia especially, but also to a lesser extent for the church in New Zealand as the review found its way across the Tasman. Fr Peter Malone MSC steered Compass throughout that long and laborious phase.
These, too, were interesting and often turbulent times, though less tempestuous than the first years after Vatican II. Peter edited many issues of the journal that have played a significant part in theological debates, and Compass helped to stimulate discussion on many topics that we needed to discuss - classical theological issues such as Ecclesiology, Eucharist, Redemption, Penance, Authority and Magisterium, and spiritual, moral and contextual subjects such as Australian spirituality, Women in the Church, Aboriginal Rights, Aids Ministry, War and Peace.
Compass often hit the mark at the peak of a debate with an issue that dealt with the very topic under discussion, and as always dealt with that topic at a depth that could never be rivalled by the secular media. In the issue 1996/4 Peter provided a lengthy survey of the contents of Compass in the first thirty years.
Looking back over the years of Compass since 1967, it was clear that the journal aimed to serve the Church by fostering quality reflection and debate, by being informative and thought-provoking, thereby assisting its readers in their personal efforts to chart a course through the many currents of theological opinion that they encounter. Compass made a special contribution to Church community development. That was the intention of its founding editors working in the immediate back-wash of Vatican II. That was the service that subsequent editors have continued to provide until it folded in December 2016. With the years, in addition, Compass became a record of the theological concerns - indeed, passions - of the Catholic church in Australia.
- Barry Brundell MSC, final editor