Friday, April 16, 2010

A Few Good Sources When Looking for Truth About the Media and the Pope

I realized recently that although there are a lot of good sources out there, pointing out inaccuracies and misstatements by both the media and the Church, many Catholics never see them.

In fact, many Catholics never see them because they don't want to think about the crisis, they don't want to click through and take the time to read everything, and they (kind of) know what they think already. They are left without arguments and, worse, even vaguely feeling as if there is no defense because they've never seen a headline that says otherwise.

Hey, I hear ya. I'm the same way about any kind of financial crisis news.

However, I'm rarely called upon to defend my financial status to anyone except possibly our accountant. Catholics of all sorts are called upon these days to know the basics so they may defend the faith. At the very least, they should be able to say calmly when pressed for specifics, "You know, that's a good question. I am going to look into that and get right back to you." (Which is the attitude I strive for myself. I have a reasonable grasp of the basics but attackers want specifics.)

Then one must Google like the wind to get the salient points. Problem is, how do you know if the results of your search are trustworthy or just happen to support what you already think? Let's face it, on both sides, one is more likely to find an impassioned supporter who damns the facts and goes full steam ahead, with lots of passion.

One of the good things about having so many blogs in my RSS reader is that I at least have an overview of how the wind blows on both sides. I put many links in my Google feed in the sidebar, yet even when I feature links in posts people don't click through.

Here are a few sources I trust to be even handed, honest, and unbiased. Below those, I will put a few links to stories that I think help set out important basics to grasp in the big picture of what's going on. (Some of the story links will be included as examples in the sources below.)


Get Religion
"The press ... just doesn't get religion." William Schneider
This is one of the best blogs out there for the skinny on religion. They have a unique beat because they are examining how the media covers religion. They are experienced religion writers who examine religion news in the mainstream pages of news, entertainment, business and even sports. They highlight the good as well as raise some questions about coverage that they believe has some holes in it. Sadly, they usually find more holes than good but you never know what angles you will find in discussion at their site. They encourage you to follow links to original stories and also to raise questions in their comments boxes.

Reading this blog not only enlightens you, it is like a class in how to examine a media story for accuracy or problems. For a sample, check out this story: Lost in Translation, Vatican Edition which follows the trail to the story the general media hasn't covered about how an inaccurate computer generated translation fueled an accusation about Pope Benedict covering up sexual abuse.

Ross Douthat
New York Times columnist on politics and culture
Ross Douthat writes clearly and sanely about a lot of issues. His columns about the sexual abuse scandals have been a breath of fresh air in clearing away misinformation. He'll take on anyone, including his own paper, in search of the truth. I particularly appreciated his pieces correcting Christopher Hitchins' attacks on Pope Benedict (on his blog ... I and II) and, I must confess, this piece which points out something I have thought for a while now ... that Pope Benedict has had to clean up messes left by Pope John Paul II in this situation (because nobody's perfect).

John L. Allen, Jr.
National Catholic Reporter senior correspondent
I believe that John Allen is the only reporter whose sole beat is the Vatican. He's usually got the scoop, whatever it is. He is fair and even handed as only someone can be who once was not and now has seen the light. This is saying something as Allen's employer is seen in some circles as being more likely to attack the Vatican than to defend it. (I don't know this personally, having never really read it.) Allen will give his opinion but you are never in doubt that it has been carefully considered and that it is his opinion and not fact. That is a rarity these days. Be sure to read his articles featured below to see what I'm talking about.

Chiesa Press
News, analysis, and documents on the Catholic Church, by Sandro Magister, Rome.
Sandro Magister is very good at examining arguments from both sides, often simply by virtue of presenting full texts of what both sides say. He may or may not draw conclusions but the reader can judge for himself the substance of one set of conclusions versus the other. That was definitely the case when Archbishop Chaput made a speech accusing former president Kennedy of banishing religion from the public stage. Magister presented Chaput's speech and then a rebuttal from Professor Diotallevi. As well, there were links at the end to other pertinent links, such as Kennedy's original speech and other writings by both Chaput and Diotallevi.

Magister also writes thoughtful editorial-style articles which may examine issues from angles I hadn't thought of before. The Passion of Pope Benedict. Six Accusations, One Question definitely supports Pope Benedict, which I'm not averse to at all, but served the purpose of reminding me of just how many controversies have been raised against Pope Benedict throughout his five year papacy.

The Anchoress
If you want up-to-date and lots of links to what everyone is saying, then go to The Anchoress. A devout Catholic who loves the Pope, she is nonetheless fully invested in truth above all. From time to time she may get a bit too passionate, but I have never seen her fail to acknowledge it either. What is more, she writes with a believer's eye which means that she is going to understand and comment upon points that the faithful should be taking away from the news, such as when Pope Benedict talks about our need as a Church for penance.

Rev. James Martin, S.J.
Father Martin is culture editor of America magazine (which has enjoyed a Vatican-attacking reputation similar to National Catholic Reporter in some circles) and also writes for The Huffington Post. Honestly, I am clueless as to The Huffington Post's rep. Father Martin's are the only articles I read there. I have not necessarily always agreed with his conclusions in other pieces, but there is no doubt that he has written intelligently and thoroughly to help clear up finger pointing during these scandals. Most notably he wrote saying both that celibacy is not the cause and homosexuality is not the cause. I believe he has effectively annoyed both sides of the "cause" arguments with those two pieces. How's that for even-handed? Honestly, I liked both pieces and found them very fair and informative.

The more I see in current and developing stories, the more I keep thinking back to these as fundamental to having a good grasp of the big picture of the sexual abuse scandals.
Commentary from those of other faiths which I include not only because these writers make cogent points about the scandal, the Pope, and the Church ... but because it says something when these people come forward in the face of opposition.


  1. Silly analogy, I know, but it seems that our Pope Benedict is going to be the George W. Bush of the religious world.

  2. Seriously, thank you so much for this comprehensive list of articles. I have read most, but will read them all. Your ability to pull this stuff together never ceases to amaze me!

  3. Deb, you crack me up ... but I think you're right. And you are very welcome. :-)

  4. Debbie I think the same. Benedict is like Bush, the world-hate-focuser that has been missing for the past two years. The Emmanuel Goldstein. And like Bush he doesn't fight back.

  5. O Happiest Catholic,


    Have I your permission to forward with, of course, attribution?


  6. Natch! Help yourself ... :-)

  7. Julie dearest, thank you so much. It's not that I don't want to defend my Catholic faith (I seem to be called upon to do it more and more, much to my dismay), but my time to research seems to be shrinking. So thank you for this little service for a busy mom. :)

  8. Thanks from me too.

    I have recently decided to take a more active role in the defense of the Faith and my Catholic Church.

    I am a pretty lousy apologist but I'm trying which I hope and pray means something in the very long run.

    I have been reading Ross for sometime myself and get alot out of his articles. I also like Bill Donohue over at Catholic League. His strong defense is very appealing too.

    Catholic Answers Forum has alot of good info too in the "Faith" section.

  9. Julie,

    This is superb. Thank you.


  10. Dear Happiest Catholic,

    Thank you for searching out this list for folks to peruse. Yours is the only site I consistently recommend, esp. to non-Catholics, because you are never weird or mean. Some of the most famous Catholic bloggers are embarassing in confusing their resentments and stereotypes with the teachings of the Faith.

  11. You are all very welcome. :-)

    Mack, you humble me. Thank you.