The Catholic Church is a society. Indeed, she is a perfect society. Perfect, in this context, does not mean flawless, but that the Church is complete, possessing everything she needs to order and govern herself.
Lived well, the Catholic Church is far more, far bigger, than one hour on Sunday morning. The Church is a whole people, a way of life, and the means of salvation.
The society of the Church is a sprawling, global affair, encompassing her own government, laws, courts, banks, hospitals, schools, and more than a billion souls depending on her for their salvation. Reporting on the Church is as complicated as covering any country or government on earth. And, without question, the Church needs serious journalism, in the same way it needs every other part of its perfect society.
Catholic journalists are prey to the same worldly temptations as its secular counterpart: The temptation to view and present the Church through the simple lenses of personalities and ecclesiastical politics, and the desire to pick and promote sides, sparing friends from awkward questions and framing opposing points of view as enemy fire.
It is also easy - far too easy - to succumb to the relentless speed of the news cycle, pouring every effort into keeping up to the moment, without stepping back, investigating the fine details, and taking the time to analyze the context of complicated events.
As the internet continues to transform how media is produced and consumed, there is a growing need for more Catholic journalism that treats its mission as a service to the truth, nothing more and nothing less.
The Catholic landscape is increasingly crowded with self-appointed experts and personality ‘brands’ offering hot takes and half takes on Church events, often without the context or background to make sense of what is happening. At the same time, reflexive tribalism often colors how events are interpreted or explained.
There is a need for Catholic journalism that is planted firmly in the faith, and unshaken by partisan concerns. News and analysis that has as its first and last concern the truth, spoken with filial charity, to and about the life of the Church is a service to be offered, and a mission to undertake. This is what The Pillar aims to be.
The perfect society of the Church is, of course, both human and divine. The splendor of the Gospel, the power of the sacraments, and the spiritual authority of its founding sit side by side with reality of our fallen humanity. Understanding the difference between those two natures, how they interrelate, and knowing when and what questions to ask is important.
Five years ago, I began reporting on Vatican finances, after a then-little-known senior official at the Secretariat of State intervened to cancel an external audit of curial accounts. The cancellation of the audit itself was news for a few days; many saw it as a setback for transparency. What struck me at the time was the manner in which the audit was cancelled: legally, it made no sense. It seemed to point to a struggle for financial control at the heart of Pope Francis’ agenda for curial reform.
Five years later, I am still reporting the fallout of that same first story, which now encompasses hundreds of millions of euros in missing or squandered Church funds, multiple shady Swiss banks, Catholic hospitals, links to organized crime, and allegations of nepotism, international money laundering, and fraud. In the last days of 2020, that same curial power struggle took a new twist, with the removal of the Secretariat of State’s control of investments and assets.
A similar long unraveling is still underway after the disgrace of Theodore McCarrick in 2018.
At The Pillar, we think taking the time to follow every lead, ask the bigger questions, and sift through the mountains of detail on stories like these is a critical aspect of the Church’s perfect society.
In a confused and clamorous Catholic media landscape, there is a need for something solid, something to lean on, something that will not shift and change with personalities and political agendas. That something is, we hope, The Pillar.