Thecommenced publication as the official weekly newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis on October 7, 1960. It succeeded the , which had served as the journal of Catholics in Indiana beginning in February 1910.
On September 23, 1960, Archbishop Paul Laurence Schulte announced that thewould not continue publication. He canceled the archdiocese’s printing contract when the company became involved in a dispute with a labor union. As Shield Press owned rights to the Indiana Catholic and Record, the archdiocese had to find a new title. Father Paul Courtney, a professor at Marian College ( ), came up with the idea of naming the paper the , which means “a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based.”
In an editorial in the first issue of the paper, Courtney explained that the name expressed the opinion that “Catholics have a real obligation to discuss and debate the important issues of our times in the light of their religious and moral principles.” He further explained that the editors of thedid not intend the paper to be “non-controversial.”
Msgr. Raymond T. Bosler was founding editor of the. He provided continuity from the as he had been that publication’s editor since 1947. Bosler had to scramble to get the first edition printed. Shield Press demanded the return of all files and bound back issues of the . Bosler also had to contact all advertisers and all individual subscribers, although parishes paid for most subscriptions on a monthly basis for all its members. The archdiocese hired printers who had lost their jobs at Shield Press and found second-hand Linotype machines to print the paper. Despite all obstacles, Bosler and his new staff took only two weeks to produce the first edition. The paper operated out of the old parish complex at 126 West Georgia Street.
Bosler was the’s editor until his retirement in October 1976. He continued to write his “question box” column but handed the editorial reins to associate editor Rev. Thomas Widner. Widner had served as associate editor since 1975. In 1978, the archdiocese demolished the St. John’s complex to make way for an extended parking lot for the church in the prime downtown location. The paper’s office was then moved to the archdiocese headquarters and Catholic Center at 1400 N. Meridian Street.
Rev. Widner resigned his post in 1984 to return to parish life. John F. Fink then became editor in chief. He was the firsteditor who was not an ordained priest. Fink, however, was an experienced publisher. He had held various positions, including editor for the national weekly news magazine called , for over 30 years. Fink continued with the as the editor until his retirement in 1996 but served as editor emeritus, writing weekly columns until June 2018.
Circulation of theby the early 1990s totaled 53,600, of which 52,300 went to members of parishes within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis., although it received no funding from the archdiocese. Editorial pages generally align with official Catholic positions and support measures allowing the parish members to participate actively in church business. The advertisements listed in the paper were almost all for local Catholic-owned businesses.
As of 2020, the Criterion could be found in the entryway of every Indiana Catholic Church and in over 60,000 households throughout the state. In addition to the print version, the paper started an online version in 2005 and offered its editorials in Spanish.