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Who Can I Trust? A Quick Note on Sources

After my blog post about McCarrick earlier today, an inquisitive reader reached out to ask what sources I was reading and why I chose particular articles to link. I thought this was a great question, so I decided to reply here, in case anyone else is wondering the same thing.


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Since God started working on my heart last fall, I have been learning about the abuse and cover up crisis from many perspectives, trying to read as much as possible to develop my understanding of this vast and complicated issue. After leaving my job in ministry back in January, I am now able to devote a lot more time to this research. I’ve been reading and reading and reading (a few books, but mostly articles online from various news sources), as well as listening to podcasts and watching recordings of press conferences and various panels and forums. My Google alert for the terms “Catholic sex abuse” sends me about 30 or so articles from various news sources every day, and I usually read about half of them pretty carefully. Every time I read an article or search for a new topic, it takes me through a whole new chain of information to explore. This is a big topic! (Of course, all of this reading is secondary to the most important listening I am doing, which takes place when I meet one-on-one with people from all over Milwaukee and try to really understand their perspective and experiences.) I may be on information overload a bit, but I still feel like I have so much to learn.


I also know that not everyone (ok, probably almost no one) has the time or inclination to spend this much time reading and researching and trying to make sense of all the news and commentary. This work is definitely time-consuming and hard on the spirit, but I don’t want to make the mistake of being uninformed or coming from a narrow perspective when I speak or write.


Given that you are all busy folks who are probably not spending your whole day reading about clerical abuse, I often try to use my blogs posts to share a few of the best articles I have come across about a given subject. For example, when writing about McCarrick, I read probably ten different articles about his defrocking, then chose to share the one that I found most clear and informative, which happened to be from the New York Times. (I do read a lot of very biased sources, both conservative and liberal, which helps me get a fuller picture of the situation and understand different perspectives, but I will do my best to share only pieces that I find balanced and fair.) I hope the articles I share can help you stay informed and save some of the time and hassle of searching through various sources, trying to figure out what to believe.


I know that some people - myself included - can be a bit suspicious of secular news media covering Catholic issues. I have certainly seen my share of uninformed and anti-Catholic reporting over the years, and I think it’s always good practice to consider the bias of any article I come across so that I can think carefully about what I’m reading. However, in all my reading and research, I have found thoughtful, fair, and well-informed reporting in both Catholic and secular news sources.


Also, there’s this: With all of the corruption and scandal being uncovered in the Church right now, simply speaking the truth could come across as anti-Catholic. However, I firmly believe that our Church will not thrive as long as our secrets are buried. To begin to heal, we need to first take a serious look at the wound. So, I would argue that speaking the truth, however painful, might be the most pro-Catholic thing we can do at this moment in the Church.


Anyway, right now the sources I read most frequently are: Crux, Catholic News Agency, The National Catholic Reporter, The National Catholic Register, Angelus News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. I have found really good reporting in all of them, and some not-so-great reporting as well. I’ve started to notice a few authors that are consistently strong in their investigative and opinion pieces, which is also helpful. With the more biased sources (especially the Reporter and Register), you need to do some sifting to separate information from opinion, but they still make valuable reading. Besides those main sources, my (very large!) spreadsheet of links includes articles from a huge variety of other sources, from the Boston Globe to America Magazine, as well as many local news outlets covering smaller-scale local issues. I tend to check the news source and author first, but then I try to evaluate each article on its own merits. Whenever possible, I always try to go back to the primary source (for example, a bishop’s entire statement or the complete text of an interview, rather than just a few quotes picked out for a news article).


All of that said, I am a fallible human being with my own biases as well. I hope you feel you can trust the integrity of what I write, but I think it’s wise for all of us to ask questions about whatever source we’re reading - including this blog. I am trying to seek the truth and speak the truth as clearly as I can find it, but I’m certain to make some mistakes as well. So, if I share an article that you find misleading or give information that you think is incorrect, please let me know so I can look into it further.


Thank you to the inquiring reader for her great question. Everyone, please feel free to reach out anytime there’s something you want to ask!


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If you have some time and want to explore the role of journalists in uncovering this scandal, I would recommend watching the recording of Session One of the Healing the Breach of Trust Conference at the Catholic University of America, which was focused on “the role of the media in investigating, reporting, and framing our understanding of the crisis.” It was fascinating for me to listen to these journalists talk about the challenges and responsibilities of being a Catholic reporter in these times. Let's all pray for journalists to do their work with courage and integrity - I truly believe God is using their gifts to cleanse and purify His Church.


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Lord God, give your servant a listening heart... to distinguish between good and evil.

(1 Kings 3:9)


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