Well, it’s been another crazy year, and as we get ready to flip our calendars to 2019, we thought it would be informative to look back at the top 10 most read posts of 2018 to see the stories that had the greatest impact this year.
Here they are, in reverse order:
This piece, a collaborative effort of 1P5 and Jeff Stempel of the blog Traditional Roman Catholic Thoughts, which originally appeared at 1P5 the day after we launched in August of 2014, makes a strong showing in the rankings every year. It’s a 101 approach to the history of the rosary, the promises associated with it, and how to pray it. With over 25,000 page views in 2018 alone, this is a perennial favorite that brings people back to the site year after year.
The story of Fr. Paul Kalchik was big news back in September. The situation involved a Chicago-area priest who had been sexually abused by two men – one of them a Catholic priest – as a child and as a young man. When Fr. Kalchik, pastor of Resurrection Parish on Chicago’s Northwest Side, discovered a rainbow flag in his parish with a sordid past, the parish burned the flag as Father performed prayers of exorcism.
The Chicago Archdiocese strongly opposed the decision to burn the flag and attempted to stop it from happening. When Fr. Kalchik went ahead, new Chicago auxiliary bishop Mark Bartosic arrived unannounced at the parish just before a wedding was to begin and told him that he had just minutes to get his belongings together and vacate the premises, or the police would be called to arrest him for trespassing. Fr. Kalchik left for an undisclosed location, fearing, in part, that he would be subjected to involuntary psychiatric evaluation.
This guest post was written by Chicago-area Catholic blogger Oakes Spalding, who filled out details that would have been impossible to obtain without being on the scene.
Though it comes in at only number 8 on the list, it is arguably the story of the year. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former papal nuncio to the United States, came forward with explosive testimony claiming, among other things, that he personally informed Pope Francis about sanctions imposed on former cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI for abusive behavior in 2013. Viganò also called for the resignation of the pope, along with all those “who, by their silence, covered up McCarrick’s criminal behavior, or who used him to advance their career or promote their intentions, ambitions, and power in the Church.”
Subsequent testimonies from Viganò came out in the following months as he went into hiding for fear of his life. But the die was cast by his first brave stand, citing his need “to discharge my conscience before God of my responsibilities as bishop of the universal Church. I am an old man and I want to present myself to God with clean conscience.” The pall of Viganò’s accusations has hung over Francis and the international body of bishops and cardinals ever since, as they struggle to grapple with a new wave of clerical sex abuse accusations and investigations.
It began with good intentions but turned out to be one of the most controversial posts ever published at 1P5. In a rhetorical sleight of hand, the anonymous author of the Whispers of Restoration blog presented the shocking story of the pope offering a new rite of Mass at the closing of the Youth Synod in Rome, complete with quotes from high-ranking Church officials and experts pertaining to the controversy of introducing such a rite.
The catch, revealed near the end of the piece, was that the article was actually describing the creation of the Novus Ordo Missae, and while the quotes were real, they were issued half a century ago. The pope was, indeed, offering a controversial and problematic new rite of Mass at the close of the synod, but it was the very same one that had been imposed on Catholics around the world since 1969.
Though some readers loved the piece, many, who were on edge after having been warned for years about the possibility of a new, ecumenical adaptation of the Novus Ordo, were upset at the bait and switch technique – originally intended to help people who didn’t live through the changes to have some firsthand sensation of what it must have been like.
In a subsequent apology to disgruntled readers, I offered my regrets for failing to properly anticipate audience reaction and for doing anything to damage trust, promising that we would never again take such an approach to any of our articles.
In this piece, longtime 1P5 contributor Dr. Peter Kwasniewski argues that the Francis pontificate had “brought to a clarity past any reasonable (or unreasonable) doubt, one might even say has amplified to fever pitch, the utter bankruptcy of ‘Vatican II Catholicism,’ with its lightweight liturgy; its unserious opposition to the world, the flesh, and the devil; and its continual compromise with the reigning forces of liberalism.”
It’s a full-throated critique of everything post-conciliar Catholicism has inflicted upon the Catholic faithful, from a diminished liturgy to stripped down sacramental forms to the Church’s approach to the world and morality. Kwasniewski touches the third rail of post-conciliar polemics, saying all the post-conciliar popes – not just the ones we don’t like – played a role in bringing us to the present moment of crisis by being liberals in “slow motion.” “Bergoglio,” writes Kwasniewski, “is the distillation of all the worst tendencies in Roncalli, Montini, Wojtyła, and Ratzinger, without any of their redeeming qualities. Francis’s predecessors were conflicted and inconsistent progressives; he is a convicted modernist.”
In another piece from Dr. Kwasniewski, the thorny issue of the canonization of Pope Paul VI is tackled, most notably its central question: can we trust modern canonizations when so much has been done to neuter their due diligence in determining the sanctity of the canonized?
In his opening salvo, Kwasniewski lays out his incredibly provocative claim: “Many who have studied the life and pontificate of Pope Paul VI are convinced that he was far from exemplary in his conduct as pastor; that he not only did not possess heroic virtue, but lacked certain key virtues; that his promulgation of a titanic liturgical reform was incompatible with his papal office of handing on that which he had received; that he offers us a portrait of failed governance and tradition betrayed. In short, for us, it is impossible to accept that a pope such as this could ever be canonized. Not surprisingly, then, we are vexed about Pope Francis’s ‘canonization’ of Giovanni Battista Montini on Sunday, October 14, 2018 and have grave doubts in conscience about its legitimacy or credibility.”
Archbishop Viganò again dominates the charts this year with this interview with his friend, the Italian journalist Aldo Maria Valli, translated into English first by 1P5’s Giuseppe Pellegrino. Valli was a critical sounding board for Viganò as he plotted out his decision to issue testimony, and Valli asks the kind of follow-up question to the release of that testimony that Catholics around the world wanted to hear.
In the interview, he talks about his status, his motives, his critics, and what he wanted to accomplish with his testimony.
So much has transpired in the past 12 months that it seems almost like years ago, but it was in April of 2018 that the story of little Alfie Evans was reaching its denouement. Alfie was a 23-month-old boy in the U.K. who had an undiagnosed degenerative neurological condition that led to him being in a vegetative state, putting his parents in the position of fighting for his life against Alder Hey hospital, where doctors wanted to remove the boy from mechanical life support and allow him to die. Doctors insisted that most of Alfie’s brain had been destroyed by his condition and argued that he could not breathe on his own. Alfie’s parents wanted to remove him from the hospital to seek second opinions and alternative treatment but were legally stopped from doing so by a British court that seemed heavily biased in favor of euthanizing the boy.
In the midst of the highest point of the drama, just days before Alfie’s tragic and suspicious death, Italian Catholic website La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana (LNBQ) published a cell phone video the publication claims captured a conversation between “at least 3-4 unidentified members of the Alder Hey Hospital staff” apparently discussing Alfie’s situation and questioning the hospital’s decision-making in conspiratorial tones.
At one point, a man says, “I’m not supposed to be talking about it, ladies. I’ll get myself into trouble. Or…’cause…I am who I am. Basically. I personally think that this hospital is covering something up big.”
Proving once again that positive stories about Catholic culture, devotions, and tradition have perennial appeal, this simple explanation of the annual tradition of chalking the doors for Epiphany, co-written by my wife Jamie and myself, has landed near the top of the charts since it first appeared in 2016. With over 55,000 page views in 2018 alone and nearly 50,000 Facebook shares, it is one of the all-time most popular posts ever published at 1P5.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that resonate most.
Proving once and for all that the Viganò story was the story of the year, the number-one post for all of 2018, with over 66,000 views, is this story from Aldo Maria Valli on how the Viganò testimony came to be.
Once again provided through the excellent translation work of Giuseppe Pellegrino, this look at the months leading up to the publication of the Viganò testimony by his acquaintance-turned-friend is both warm and humanizing, but it carries with it an edge of danger, as it noted that Viganò felt the need to go into hiding to avoid real danger to his life and person.
At one point, Valli shines a light on just how widespread Viganò claims the corruption really is:
He speaks of the McCarrick case, the ex-cardinal known to be guilty of the most serious abuses, and he makes it clear that everybody knew, in the USA and in the Vatican, for a long time, for years. But they covered it up.
I ask, ‘Truly everybody?’
With a nod of the head the archbishop responds yes: truly everybody.
Asked why they would do this, Viganò responds with an answer that Valli says “freezes my blood”:
Because the cracks of which Paul VI spoke, from which he said the smoke of Satan would infiltrate the house of God, have become chasms. The devil is working overtime. And to not admit that, or to turn our face away from it, would be our greatest sin.
Here, again, the integrity of a man who has recognized the spiritual battle taking place, a man facing the imminent judgment of God, is on display, casting his resolve in eschatological terms: “I am 78 years old, and I am at the end of my life. The judgment of men does not interest me. The one judgment that counts is that of the good God. He will ask me what I have done for the Church of Christ, and I want to be able to respond to him that I defended her and served her even to the end.”
It’s a stunning piece about a stunning story, and it absolutely deserves to be our number-one post of 2018.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.