Thanks for opening this email outside your regularly scheduled newsletters. You know we don’t like to fill up your inbox unless it’s important. But this note is important.
I’m writing to thank you.
This month marks the year-and-a-half point since the launch of our media project 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. And our growth is because of you.
Some of you became paying subscriber to The Pillar when we got started 18 months ago. Some of you subscribed when we made some big headlines last summer. Some of you just became a subscriber yesterday. Now matter when you signed up, we want to thank you for the support.
We are sincerely grateful.
Some of you have asked us lately what’s next for The Pillar.
So here’s an update on where we are, and where - we hope - we’re going.
We launched The Pillar as a partnership - Ed and JD - but we’ve been able to add new people, new voices, new ideas and new projects, because you share our ambitions for The Pillar, the work we are trying to do, and how we are trying to do it.
We’ve added our managing editor Michelle La Rosa, who does a lot of behind the scenes and a lot of interesting reporting.
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 Babynskyi, 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.
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.
Not caring about clicks means that we follow the stories we think make a difference.
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.
You allow us to write stories that matter, even when they don’t have mass appeal.
Believe it or not, we are aware that not everyone wants to read every tiny detail of the labyrinthine Vatican financial scandal. But on stories like this, detailed reporting is an important driver of institutional reform. And at least according to Pillar reader Cardinal Angelo Becciu, it drives court cases, too — and public accountability is a big part of what good journalism is all about. We take that seriously.
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.
We genuinely want our journalism to be a service to the Church; we see our job as the role we’re called to play in our Catholic society. And key to our approach is the goal of keeping our work free to read.
That’s good for journalism, and good for our souls, too.
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.
When you subscribed, you kept them reading.
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.
So what’s next?
Well, we want to keep growing — we want to do more to serve the Church, and we have a sense of what that growth looks like.
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 on people with real expertise beyond our own, who can spend time doing in-depth, public accountability journalism in the Catholic healthcare and education sectors.
There are stories in those places which really matter — and we want to cover them fairly, fearlessly, faithfully. We know our journalism in those places could make a difference.
We also want to add more podcasts, so people aren’t stuck listening only to the two of us 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.
You - our subscribers - are already helping to make a lot of that happen.
And again, we just want to say thanks.
But since you’re here, we’ll ask a few small favors.
Pray for us.
When it’s time to renew your subscription, stay with us.
And, if you want to help accelerate our growth, consider one of two things:
Share The Pillar with someone who you think might want to subscribing:
OR, if you can swing it, give someone a gift subscription:
And — only since some of you will ask — if you want to just make a gift to help support the growth we’re working on, you can do it here:
We have a lot of work to do. Thanks for being with us. You’re gonna like what we do next.