Being a Catholic journalist: ‘Are you still working for that evil organization?’

Being a Catholic journalist: ‘Are you still working for that evil organization?’ September 26, 2018

Some insight on the times we are living in, and the work some of us do, from Greg Erlandson, editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service: 

“Are you still working for that evil organization?” sneers one person.

“Why aren’t you defending the bishops more strongly?” chides another.

Welcome to the world of Catholic journalism. These are the questions we’ve been fielding in recent weeks as our Church is buffeted by a hurricane of allegations and condemnations regarding its handling of sexual abuse cases. The storm is many times worse in social media.

Yet as a Catholic journalist, covering sex abuse scandals is, oddly, the best of times as well as the absolute worst of times.

Best of times because Catholic journalism can actually play an important role. It is a way of demonstrating, not just talking about, transparency. It is a way of demonstrating, and not just talking about, accountability.

It is a time of informed credibility, when all the knowledge and experience of a Catholic journalist is really worth something. Not every Catholic journalist is an expert in canon law or ecclesial politics, but Catholic journalists can provide context.

They can make complex events understandable. They can put historical events in perspective or provide the back story instead of treating every event as if it happened yesterday.

When it comes to clergy sex abuse scandals, we’ve been round this race track before. We know that the Church has not been standing still since the last wave of headlines because we’ve been covering what’s been done.

The Church is $4.4 billion poorer and a lot more experienced, or should be, when it comes to responding to complaints or training volunteers or screening seminarians.

In other words, when it comes to crises like this, Catholic journalists get to do our job. We serve the Church by not ducking the bad news and not forgetting the good news. We give the Church a voice amid the cacophony of breaking news alerts.

But it is the worst of times, too. It is the worst of times because Catholic readers and Catholic leaders, from pastors to bishops to Vatican officials, aren’t all on the same page. A story or a statement that pleases one will most assuredly not please the other.

Read it all. 

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