Marco Tosatti

It's a new fact of news life: Reporters have to start reading the alternative Catholic press

It's a new fact of news life: Reporters have to start reading the alternative Catholic press

The scandals that have engulfed the Catholic Church the past few months are only intensifying.

The allegations to come out of Pennsylvania (as well as Ireland and Australia) and accusations against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick not only revealed how much the church is hurting, but also the stark ideological split within it. These events have also seen a rise in the power of online media.

The growth of conservative Catholic outlets, for example, and their ability to break stories against “Uncle Ted” has coincided with the internal struggle contrasting what traditionalists see as inadequate news coverage from the mainstream media regarding Pope Francis’ leadership. Filling that void are conservative journalists and bloggers on a mission to expose what they see as the Vatican’s progressive hierarchy.

In 2002, an investigation by The Boston Globe unearthed decades of abuse by clergy never before reported to civil authorities (click here for links). These days, accusations of wrongdoing within the Catholic Church are being exposed by smaller news organizations. No longer are mainstream outlets setting the pace here. Depleted newsrooms and not wanting to do negative stories about the pontiff have spurred conservative Catholic media to fill the journalism void.

Indeed, it’s a small group of influential blogs and news websites that has helped to inform millions as well as drive the debate.

The sex-abuse scandals that dominated news coverage over the summer are not going away. In the latest allegations to hit the U.S church, John Jenik, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York, is under investigation after being accused of sexual abuse. First to the punch with the story soon after Cardinal Timothy Dolan made the announcement was CruxNow, a Catholic news site, and not any of the three competitive New York City dailies.

The revelations regarding Jenik could be just the start of a new flood of allegations going into 2019. The Justice Department recently sent a request to every Roman Catholic diocese in the country ordering them not to destroy documents related to the handling of child sexual abuse cases. The request to preserve those files, first reported by the blog Whispers in the Loggia, is yet another sign that the prove is expanding after the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

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Yo, scribes: During this papal in-flight presser, the news was what Francis refused to discuss

Yo, scribes: During this papal in-flight presser, the news was what Francis refused to discuss

Want to take a wild guess what Pope Francis wanted to talk about during the informal press conference during his latest flight back to Rome?

Yes, he wanted to talk about his trip to the Baltics. It appears that he also wanted to talk about other issues linked to foreign diplomacy — like the Vatican’s stunning deal to cooperate with the Powers That be in China when choosing Catholic bishops.

Now, want to take a guess what the pope did not what to talk about?

If you guessed that papal press aides basically banned questions about the life and times of Theodore McCarrick — including questions about the searing document (full text here) released by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s former U.S. ambassador — then you’re a winner.

Think like a journalist for a moment. One would assume that this “please don’t ask The Question” rule would have, in its own way, been a newsworthy topic. Imagine the pope declining to answer questions about the Pennsylvania grand jury document, in what is usually an informal meeting with reporters.

This raises a familiar question: What is different about the #ChurchToo sins and crime child-abuse cases linked to McCarrick?

Try to find a reference to the “no McCarrick questions” ground rules in this Associated Press story, which clearly is about the in-flight presser:

(ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE) — Pope Francis acknowledged Tuesday that his landmark deal with China over bishop nominations will cause suffering among the underground faithful. But he said that he takes full responsibility and that he — and not Beijing — will have the ultimate say over naming new bishops.

Francis provided the first details of the weekend agreement signed during an in-flight news conference coming home from the Baltics. The deal aims to end decades of tensions over bishop nominations that had contributed to dividing the Chinese church and hampered efforts at improving bilateral relations.

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Coverage by the conservative and global press raises the stakes in Viganò affair

Coverage by the conservative and global press raises the stakes in Viganò affair

It’s now Day 5 after Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò dropped his nuclear bomb on the Catholic world. Although the best coverage seems to be resting mainly on media that have the good fortune to have Rome correspondents, there is some good work being done Stateside as well.

As one Washington Post columnist said, Viganò effectively nailed his 95 theses to the door of St. Peter’s. 

So this is a big deal. But in the secular press, it’s mainly two newspapers: The Post and the New York Times doing the heavy lifting.

But Viganò is not talking with them. He’s using conservative media as his outlets. I’m sure LifeSite News, a Canadian site primarily devoted to fighting abortion, never dreamed it’d be in the midst of a Vatican fist fight. But Vaganò trusts them; their articles must be bringing in tons of page views, so what’s not to like? 

Ditto for the National Catholic Register, which in the past has been overshadowed by the liberal National Catholic Reporter. These days, the Register is publishing exclusives and the Reporter is reduced to running snide analyses by Michael Sean Winters or stories like this one that only quote one side of the story.  

One newly published piece from the Register is by an Italian journalist who’s one of a number of people to whom Viganò released his 11-page “testimony.” Near the end, he repeats the dialogue between him and the archbishop.

“Monsignor, do you know what they will say? That you want revenge. That you are full of resentment for having been dismissed from the Governatorate and other things. That you are the crow who leaked the Vatileaks papers. They will say that you are unstable, as well as a conservative of the worst kind.”

“I know, I know. But that doesn’t matter to me. The one thing that matters to me is to bring the truth to the surface, so that a purification can begin. At the point that we have reached, there is no other way.” ...

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