There’s a rule of thumb I have about not directing my fire at other Catholic writers or publications. When we’re not educating people about the many beautiful aspects of our faith, our goal as a publication is to unmask those responsible for the revolution in the Church so that their works can be seen for what they are. I don’t ordinarily waste time going after other people analyzing the situation, because they’re not the story. They’re either going to do their job, or they’re not. Unless they are presenting a danger or obstructing the truth (and that latter thing has become so common it’s essentially ubiquitous), I typically prefer to keep my eyes on the prize.
Of course, since the revolution we’re unraveling goes all the way to the Chair of St. Peter, this has — not at all unexpectedly — earned us our share of enemies. If I told you every time we were attacked by another publication or writer who doesn’t share our avoidance approach to internecine conflict, you’d get bored of it pretty fast. We know that what we’re doing is honest and undertaken out of a love of the Church, so we don’t let it get to us too much. And frankly, if we’re not being attacked by the usual suspects, there’s a good chance we’re not doing our jobs.
But yesterday, I came across something that I believe is noteworthy. As much because of who it’s from as what it is. I have to be honest with you, I find it incredibly disappointing. On his public Facebook page, Dan Burke — the Executive Director of the National Catholic Register — posted the following:
Unfollowed five today – One Peter Fivers. Folks can’t distinguish the real from the hyperbolic rant.
You may have noticed that I screen captured a few of comments. I wanted in particular to grab the one at the bottom where Fr. Stephen Imbarrato — himself a member of Priests for Life — mentions that he doesn’t know who any of the writers and commenters here are. That’s fine. I don’t expect us to be a household name. But Burke’s response is all condescending, elitist snark:
“Because you are intelligent…”
Of course, Dan Burke is so intelligent that he unfollows “One Peter Fivers” (who he’s referring to here, I’m not really certain, since he chose not to elaborate), but evidently not intelligent enough to stop John Paul Shimek — who was disciplined (it is unclear if he was fired) by Burke’s own National Catholic Register for publishing a hit piece on traditional Catholics without editorial permission — from leaving abusive comments about 1P5 and those who enjoy it all over Burke’s Facebook post. Comments like the following:
As of this writing, Burke has not publicly asked Shimek — who is also known for his rousing social media advocacy for Catholics acceptance of some form of “God honored” homosexual relationships — to rein in his hyperbolic critiques. On the contrary, another commenter who posted two screenshots of Shimek’s aggressive heterodoxy (see here and here) in the thread had them deleted, while Shimek’s comments still remain.
Nor has Burke responded to my own reply, in which I wrote:
And it’s this kind of attitude that leads to the following sentiment:
— Jeremiah 20:9 (@Jeremy20_9) November 19, 2016
When your Rome Correspondent is the only guy people trust because he’s doing real journalism rather than playing to a pre-selected narrative, it’s time for introspection.
Of course, if you think our articles are factually incorrect, you have the resources of the largest Catholic media entity in the world at your disposal to correct the record.
I just hope you’re more effective at correcting us than you are at correcting your own stories when an error is brought to your attention. Amirite, Patrick Archbold?
The “Rome Correspondent” in question is, of course, Edward Pentin — arguably the finest Catholic Journalist covering the Vatican today. He does excellent work, finds and exposes uncomfortable realities, and follows his investigations wherever they lead him. His allegiance is only to the truth. I have nothing but respect for the man.
As for Pat Archbold, I invoked his name not only because he also was fired from the Register with Burke at the helm after writing a series of articles that were apparently deemed insufficiently in alignment with their particular brand of Francis-hype.
There was another reason.
It was because Pat and I had each separately pointed out to the editorial staff of the Register that they were running a story with a deeply misleading and disproven headline that gave a highly favorable impression to readers of Pope Francis’ response to one of the most controversial events in his papacy — his acceptance of the Communist “crucifix” given to him by Bolivian President Evo Morales. But it was exceedingly difficult to get them to clearly correct the story as other outlets had done. We covered the exchange at the time in our own report.
Why does any of this matter?
A theme coming out of the most recent US presidential election has been the complicity of media in treating the public to a biased narrative. If most of the so-called mainstream media were in the tank for Hillary Clinton, most of the Catholic mainstream media have been in the tank for Francis. No matter what these preferred figures do, it seems as though there’s a large, credible media outlet there to spin it in their favor. And alternative news outlets — whether its Breitbart in the secular world, or 1P5 in the Catholic one — are unjustly vilified and maligned. In the mean time, media credibility becomes — in both arenas — the big question of the day. Is the news you’re getting real or fake? Is there clear bias, or is it hidden and manipulative? Who can you trust?
The fact is, this is all to be expected. The status quo is something that has always been protected by those with the most to lose by its alteration. Right now, we know that there’s a war for the soul of the Church. We know that the Crisis in Rome begins at the very top. And we cover that to the best of our abilities, no matter how many lumps we take.
That said, I don’t know what the people Dan Burke unfollowed were guilty of, because he didn’t name them or describe their actions. He did, however, name our publication. He characterized the actions of people he chose to make a public show of shunning by their association with us. He acted as though — and this is becoming an increasingly common smear tactic — we are somehow responsible for every thought and word of those who follow our work. He sullied our good name without basis. And he insulted you — our audience — in the process.
I’ve never let the attacks people make on us and our work stop us, and I don’t plan on starting now. We know you can get your news and analysis from anywhere, and we know that you don’t have to send us your hard-earned money to support our continued efforts. But you do deserve to know what the cost is. You deserve to know that the man at the top of one of the oldest, largest, and most well-respected Catholic publications in America thinks that the collective staff and readership of 1P5 aren’t too bright, are unable to distinguish “the real from the hyperbolic rant”, and are better off ignored.
If you choose to keep reading them — and I will, where their work warrants it — it’s something you should have in mind.
And if you felt like it, perhaps you might let him know what you think of that: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director 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 seven children.