The magazine, founded in 1991, provided honest coverage of the Church's problems but also showed its life and vigour

The print edition of Catholic World Report is no more. Starting this month it will be published exclusively online, with the contents free to readers. Robert Moynihan, the first editor of CWR, from 1991-1993, and since 1993 the editor of Inside the Vatican, is making a special offer to those readers who would consider subscribing to this latter publication as a replacement for the print edition of CWR.

I am sad to see the end of the print edition, as I have a reluctance not shared by the next generation to reading articles online. However, you can’t argue with the economics; an online magazine is much cheaper to produce and Ignatius Press, CWR’s publisher, has been heavily subsidising the magazine for several years.

In an article in the December and final print issue of CWR, Moynihan recalls its birth: “Finally we settled on [the title of] The Catholic World Report, with a slight ambiguity about whether we were focused on ‘the Catholic world’ or on ‘the world as seen by Catholics’. But we knew we wanted the word “Report” emphasised, because we knew we wanted the charism of the publication to be evangelical, a ‘report’, not just hearsay or speculation or chit-chat, but a clear, reliable ‘report’ on what was happening in Rome and around the world – a report that would concern the Catholic Church, but also the entire world the Church is ‘in but not of’.”

In the years that I have been reading it, CWR has fulfilled this purpose admirably. Under Phil Lawler, who took over from Moynihan in 1993, there has been excellent coverage of, for instance, pro-life issues, the sex abuse scandals as they have afflicted the Church in the US, Catholic education and much else. Whatever the problems in the Church, you knew that CWR would provide honest coverage; but you also felt when you had finished a particular edition that, despite these problems, the Church was still full of life and vigour, putting out new shoots and highlighting faithful witnesses to hope and truth.

For instance, in the December 2011 issue, there is a most encouraging article by Edward Pentin about the Dignitatis Humanae Institute. Founded two years ago by a small group of Catholic European parliamentarians and politicians the organisation, as Pentin explains, “aims to be a platform through which Christian politicians can better present coherent, moderate and mainstream responses to the growing opposition to Christian values in public life”. Its declaration of human dignity, drawn up by Catholic European lawmakers, “consists of three main principles: that man is made in the image and likeness of God; that this image and likeness exist in every single human being, without exception, from conception until natural death; and that the most effective means of safeguarding this recognition is through the active participation of the Christian faith in the public square.”

Lord Alton, who has always witnessed admirably to his Christian faith in the public square, believes the institute has a crucial role to play in promoting an understanding of human rights in the light of the natural law. Lord Nicholas Windsor, a convert to the Church in 2001 and a member of the British royal family, about whose committed pro-life views I have blogged before, has been appointed chairman of the new Institute. Rocco Buttiglione, philosophy professor and currently vice-president of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, is patron.

Buttiglione was forced to withdraw his nomination as the European Union’s new commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security in 2004 because of his Catholic beliefs on homosexuality and women. He comments: “We must support each other in times of persecution.” As I write this a friend, who edits the online magazine Mercator, which is concerned with similar issues as the new institute, tells me that when he recently printed articles on the nature of marriage the posts he receives showed the enormous gulf between a Christian understanding of personhood and those now challenging it. They said things like, “Good and evil? Get over it”, or “What’s so special about being natural?” or “The purpose of sex isn’t having babies any more. What about IVF?” or “You have your morality and I have mine.”

Such responses indicate the urgent need for Christians in the public sphere to provide convincing and reasonable arguments for their defence of human dignity. The Dignitatis Humanae Institute has been established at a timely moment.