Marking the Channels

THE Monitor is beginning its 86th year with a series of editorials on the moral issues of our times. This is a proper focus for this page. Editorials are the channel markers a newspaper sets for society's safe passage.

For example, we supported the US Supreme Court's 1968 decision approving school busing as a desegregation remedy, even though we observed that the educational benefits hoped for might not be realized. In 1973 we agreed with the high court in its Roe v. Wade decision that approved the right of women to abortions. Among our reasons: We could not see how the poor could be left to unsafe, back-alley abortions while the well-to-do had access to safer medical procedures. Although the increasing number of abortions today is disturbing, the right of individual decision is fundamental to a democracy.

Moral issues supersede the political. Historically, the Monitor's editorials had tilted toward Republican presidential candidates until the 1964 election. The GOP candidate's unfortunate views on race, however, just as the battle lines on the civil rights movement were forming, prompted this newspaper to a new policy of eschewing party-based choices in such elections, except when moral or serious policy issues should require. This is consistent with the Monitor's view that a newspaper should inform citizen decisions, not preempt them.

Editorials are written by a team of staff writers on behalf of the newspaper, and they are reviewed by the Christian Science Board of Directors for their constructiveness of tone and thrust. Although editorials may combine a directness, humor, and particularity of prose, which imply an individual's hand, they represent the newspaper's position. They are professional and institutional, not personal, expressions of opinion.

In public affairs, moral issues usually require relative standards of right and wrong - what is nearest right under the circumstances. We believe that life is based on such absolutes as God's goodness and wisdom - that these absolute forces are constantly reworking human experience toward the end of improving it. But the Monitor's unique role is as a mediator of the disputes that can arise out of mistaken absolutism. Its mission is to lift society from poverty, strife, murder, racism, and domination; it does so by bringing reasonableness, analysis, and the welcoming of new evidence to its methodology. The Decalogue and Sermon on the Mount underlie its editorial platform. And special regard for democratic constitutions, legislation, and the judicial process is also requisite.

Editorials are seldom final statements: They are updates, a best evaluation at a given moment as society advances through discovery and experience. Among the subjects we will address in coming weeks: the persistence of nuclear weapons; the continuing assault on the family unit; racism, sexism, and ageism; government corruption; the need for a stronger conservation ethic (environmental and economic); and the trivialization of religion in public affairs.

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