At the time we launched Crux as an independent media platform in April 2016, I said its mission would be to foster a “Catholic commons” –  meaning that, within the boundaries of orthodoxy, we hoped to create a space where differing voices feel welcome and treated with respect.

When it comes to opinion and commentary, we’ve sought to implement that by presenting vigorous arguments on all sides, and I think we’ve mostly pulled it off. If you search our site on any recent hot-button issue – Amoris Laetitia, for instance, or the Spadaro and Figueroa essay on the “ecumenism of hate” – you’ll find a roughly equal number of both defenses and critiques.

The problem is, there’s more to fairness than simple math. If all we’re doing is alternately publishing pieces that insult or inflame one side and then the other, it may achieve arithmetic equilibrium, but it’s not doing much for the civil dialogue and spirit of friendship we’re trying to promote.

What got us thinking about this was reaction to a recent piece by Austen Ivereigh, our senior contributor, in which he suggested that attitudes to Pope Francis among certain named individuals may reflect a “convert neurosis.” On his own initiative, Ivereigh has apologized for what came off as a personal attack.

What remains is for me to add my own apology. I should not have allowed such personal criticism to appear, because ultimately everything that runs on Crux is my responsibility. Writers operate under tremendous pressure, and they’re supposed to be able to count on good editorial judgment behind them.

Moving forward, we know we live in a badly frayed culture, which often is just as true in the Church as in other walks of life, and we’re desperately trying to figure out new ways to help people engage one another constructively. In the meantime, however, we have to do something right now to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Up to this point, Crux has never had formal editorial policies, because we’re a small enough operation I didn’t think we needed them. As of today, however, I’m implementing Policy #1. For “Star Trek” fans, you might think of this as our new “Prime Directive”:

“While Crux will always foster vigorous discussion, we will not tolerate attacks on persons. If the nature of a piece requires that specific individuals be named in a critical light, it must always be for their ideas or policy positions, never for their backgrounds, personalities, private lives, supposed dysfunctions or failures, etc.”

Granted, the distinction between ideas and the people who hold them can be fuzzy, and one party’s robust policy debate can be another’s personal smear. Granted, too, there’s a legitimately different set of standards for public figures, and that’s not always easy to navigate either.

What I can say is that from now on, we’ll err on the side of caution.

Lest any conspiracy theories be bred, I’ll add that this policy is not being imposed on Crux by any sponsor, advertiser, or other external force. This comes from within, and it’s about who we want to be.

To avoid another possible misimpression, this is absolutely, positively not an ideological matter. It has nothing to do with the politics of left v. right. We want to have “zero tolerance” for all personal attacks, no matter what their point of origin.

When you come onto the Crux site, whatever your background or point of view, I suspect you’ll find plenty of stuff you disagree with, perhaps even something that outrages you. However, to the very best of our ability, what you won’t find is anything that slurs or belittles you.

That’s our promise, so hold us to it!