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Hi friends. 

Los Angeles auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron is going to be named the new leader of the Minnesota diocese of Winona-Rochester tomorrow. In this case, we weren’t the first to hear about the appointment, but once it was in the wind, we confirmed it —  and you can read all about it right here.


But that isn’t really why you’re getting this email. It’s just something that happened as we were getting ready to send this out and we thought you’d be interested.

I actually want to talk to you about something else. 

This month marks the year-and-a-half point for our media project here at The Pillar. It has been a wild ride so far, and I am amazed, sincerely, at the generosity and support that has kept us going this long. 

I mean that. 

When we started The Pillar 18 months ago, it was a leap into the unknown. More than a few people confidently predicted we wouldn’t last more than a year — and some part of me wondered if they could be right. 

Instead, we’ve kept on, and even grown.

In addition to JD, Michelle and me, we have contributing editor Brendan Hodge, whose statistical work has become a hallmark of the kind of hard facts, longform reporting we love best of all; bringing us stuff like the first Pillar Religious Attitudes and Practices Survey, a look at the counter-intuitive side of abortion and economics, and the regional demographics of the German synodal agenda.

Charlie Camosy’s Friday interviews have become a catalyst for interesting conversations on the site and, more than occasionally, in our inboxes.

Kate Olivera has joined us as a podcast producer. Along with the unenviable task of trying to impose some kind of discipline and consistency on our show, Kate has a few seriously interesting new podcast projects in the works. 

And, of course, we have added Anatolii Babayinski, our Ukrainian correspondent, who has brought us on-the-ground reporting from the crisis there, together with his expertise on the unique ecclesiastical context of that country, which has made our coverage of the religious and political dimensions of the invasion, I believe, ahead of the game and second to none.  

All of this growth has been possible only because of our supporters, our subscribers, who share our ambitions for The Pillar, the work we are trying to do, and how we are trying to do it. 

By the numbers we’re able to see, we have as much traffic, or more, than any Catholic news website in the English speaking world. But — and this matters to us — we don’t make money from pageviews. Not a cent. That means we are never tempted to write clickbait, and there’s no reward for sensationalism.

When we tell excruciatingly painful stories of suffering in the Church, like what this family went through in the Diocese of Cleveland, the value for us is in telling the truth. And we need the people whose stories we tell to know that’s true.

Not caring about clicks also means that we follow the stories we think make a difference, even when we know they aren’t going to have mass appeal. 

Believe it or not, I am aware that not everyone wants to read every tiny detail of the labyrinthine Vatican financial scandal. But detailed reporting on stories like this is an important driver of institutional reform. And at least according to Pillar reader Cardinal Angelo Becciu, it drives court cases, too.

Our approach also means we get to write long, interesting stories  — taking weeks over the job — so that when Mark Wahlberg comes out with a biopic of a U.S. priest, we don’t write a quick review of the movie version of his life. We have a real account of the man, reported by spending time talking with his family, friends, the priests he served with and the bishop who ordained him

A key part of how we run things is keeping our work free to read. We genuinely want our journalism to be a service to the Church, and we see our job as the role we play in our Catholic society. 

It’s also good for our souls — more than a few religious sisters, priests, and missionaries have written to tell us that they can’t afford to subscribe, but they are reading everything we write and praying for us. Frankly, we want their prayers more than their money and are grateful to have them.

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Keeping our website free to read is good for our journalism, too. It’s not easy getting hold of things like the still-unpublished new Program for Priestly Formation, or the USCCB’s shelved draft document on the pastoral care of LGBT Catholics, believe it or not. But it’s a little easier when potential sources can read for themselves our track record of presenting things fairly and clearly.

Keeping our work free also makes it a little easier when we are, for example, asking camera-shy Vatican cardinals for interviews about sensitive topics, or for bishops to talk about complicated and emotionally raw issues like gun violence

We want to keep growing, and we want to do more. 

We want to add more correspondents to report intelligently and seriously about the life of the Church in Western Europe, Africa, and Asia. And we want to bring in people who can take an expert, in-depth, public accountability look at the Catholic healthcare and education sectors. 

We want to add more podcasts, so people aren’t stuck listening only to JD and me blowing up at each other over different interpretations of heresy in canon law.

We actually need a new website. We’ve posted nearly 1,000 stories, newsletters and podcasts at this point, and we need them to be better laid out, better archived, and easier to find.

We have ideas about who we’d like to help us do some of this. 

But here’s the thing: We need help.

Our growth model is basically a news stand with an honesty box — we count on a small (you’d be surprised how small) percentage of the people who read us becoming paying subscribers, to allow the whole thing to grow. 

And here’s the thing: while we have added thousands of new readers to our newsletters in the last few months, we’re lagging a little in paying subscribers. That’s forcing us to hit the pause button on some of the new things we really want to do - things we think make a big difference in the life of the Church. 

It’s not totally surprising — inflation is a thing, the cost of living is what it is, and we are all feeling it. (That’s another reason why we want to keep the site free — when readers hit hard times, we want them to stay with us and not get locked out.) 

But we only ask for $5 a month and, frankly, if you can afford it, I think we’re value for money.

I’ll make this real for you — we’re about 500 paying subscribers shy of where we hoped to be right now. 

And we need 10 more of those really special people, the ones who can, to help us out by subscribing at the level of $1k a year. Don’t think of it as a donation, it’s not. It’s covering the subs of the people who can’t pay, like those religious sisters praying for us. If you want to join the 1k club, just email us here.

If we can’t get there by the end of this month, we’ll just have to go a little slower with our growth plans. If that’s what it is, we’ll make it work. 

But if we can get there, I can promise you some really great new stuff in the second half of this year. 

Tens of thousands of people read these newsletters every week. I know there are 500 of you out there, with $5. So if you can, please, subscribe. 

Let's do this.

See you Friday.

Ed. Condon


The Pillar

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