Today marks the second anniversary of our little publishing endeavor. It’s simultaneously hard to believe it’s already been that long, and difficult to imagine that’s all the time that has passed. So much has happened since the day we launched — August 1st, 2014 — the uncertain start of an as-yet unheard of online Catholic magazine with a funny name.
In the 24 months that followed, we’ve rocketed to the forefront of the Catholic publishing industry, publishing 1,156 posts from 89 contributors. We have generated over 7 million pageviews and earned a traffic ranking that has outstripped a number of much more well-established outlets with far longer track records. We have become the most visited online source in our category for traditional Catholic news and analysis in the United States, and our footprint is growing abroad, with visitors from 228 countries around the world. Our work has not only earned us regular coverage in the Catholic and mainstream media, but has merited what the Vatican Press Office has claimed is the personal response of a pope emeritus. In the past 31 days alone, we have received 127 visits from 59 unique IP addressed within the Holy See.
So yes, they are paying attention.
Despite all that, it is my opinion that we are long overdue for a course-correction. In my kickoff post for 2016, I was already sharing my frustration with the way things were going:
2015 felt like a constant barrage of incoming bad news. Every time I tried to stop and think about editorial planning, there was some new scandal splashed across the headlines. A heretic empowered. A papal speech that left the faithful aghast. Synodal manipulation. Questions about magisterial authority in light of an inexplicable encyclical. We could never seem to establish our own narrative. We kept getting sucked back into the everlasting gobstopper of crisis stories.
Frankly, I’ve had enough of that.
I don’t know about you, but I’m done being baited by the Vatican. During Advent, and particularly as I took my break for Christmas, I noticed how refreshing it was to steer clear of the cesspool. I saw stories about Pope Francis saying inexplicable things. I was aware of certain goings on that I might have otherwise been tempted to comment on. But I wanted a positive focus as we entered the mystery of the Nativity, and so, I ignored it. All of it. And like a temptation resisted, it was swept away.
My takeaway is simply this: as a publication, we are not doing a good enough job of “rebuilding Catholic culture and restoring Catholic tradition.” While our coverage and analysis of the various crises in the Church are no doubt valuable to many, they can also be an occasion of despair without sufficient balance. I’ve heard from those Catholics who are so fatigued by the scandals perpetrated by the hierarchy that they wonder why they ever bothered becoming Catholic in the first place, or why they stayed that way.
What about them?
How do we reach the people interested in converting, who are now warily reconsidering the RCIA class they attend? How can we shore up the priests who are discovering the beauty and majesty of the Church’s liturgical and theological traditions but feel completely alone in their attempts to implement them, and entirely without diocesan support? How do we reach a new generation of Catholics, whether born into the Church or converts, who want to dive deeper into what was lost after the Second Vatican Council in an approachable, understandable way? How do we revive the practices that nourish and strengthen the faithful and clergy alike without unduly focusing on the tragedy of how they were lost?
I made a commitment to focus more on those things, but the wave of bad news only came harder and faster, culminating in the disaster that is Amoris Laetitia. In other words, I failed at the commitment I made to pull out of the nosedive.
Last month, as I drove across the United States on family business, I found that something was happening: when I sat down and tried to work, I just wound up staring at the screen. I didn’t want to talk about what was going on. This terrified me. I started 1P5 for a number of reasons, not least of which is that I knew this was the work I was made to do. When it starts becoming a unbearable chore, it’s time to re-evaluate things.
And I have. The inescapable conclusion I’ve reached is that Pope Francis, and those cardinals and bishops who have been most empowered by him, aren’t going to stop. Scandal after scandal, comment after comment, they’re going to keep hacking and slashing away at the Catholic faith.
We’ve spent a lot of time trying to confront that. Perhaps more to the point, we’ve spent a lot of time trying to get people to see that it was actually happening. But by now, those who have eyes to see, see. If a read-through of the theological critique of Amoris Laetitia doesn’t convince you we have a massive papal problem on our hands, well, I’m not sure what would.
So here’s what I propose: yes, we’ll keep covering the big stories. The ones that have the most impact on the Church, and on the faithful. But I really don’t see the merit in continuing to cover every reckless comment in every speech, homily, or video the pope and his closest advisers make. We’re not slowing them down, but dwelling on what they’re saying is bad for our health – mental, spiritual, and depending on our respective stress levels, physical too.
It’s past time we turn more of our attention back to the building up of those who would prefer to live authentic Catholicism to the bizarre alternate-universe version that is being promoted from Rome. This was our original mission and purpose, and that’s what it will be again. With that in mind, I have re-published each of the eight essays we ran on our inaugural day. As I look back on them, I see the seeds that were, in most cases, not sufficiently watered and allowed to grow as we tended to other things. But they lay the groundwork for a deeper and more honest understanding of a robust, timeless Catholicism that can weather even the present crisis.
- In Brothers, Be Sober And Watch – The Genesis of OnePeterFive, I explain the origins of our name, and the reasons for our project – reasons we will begin again to reclaim.
- In Is Peter in Chains?, Dr. Michael Sirilla discusses the August 1st feast day of St. Peter in Chains, and the relevance the story of St. Peter’s captivity has to our time.
- In Mosebach’s Paradox, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski examines the question of how Catholics can learn to approach liturgy with childlike appreciation for its true value of spiritual nourishment, and not as critical analysts of how well or poorly it is offered.
- In Faith and Works in a Science Fictional Universe, Hugo Award-nominated science fiction novelist John C. Wright offers a poignant insight into his conversion, and how his Catholic faith informs his deeply imaginative work as a creator of worlds.
- In Traffic Worth Getting Caught In: The Liturgy as the Place of our Personal Salvation, Fr. Thomas Kocik explores the importance of liturgy in the interplay of man and God, and as both God-given gift and the central experience of Christian life.
- In The Dialogue Delusion, Islamic scholar Andrew Bieszad explains the flaws in our approach to Islam as merely another religion that can be engaged with as part of an interfaith conversation. Reaching back to his own experiences with Muslims and the teachings of Koran, he sheds light on this essential problem now facing the Christian world anew.
- In his review of The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home, essayist and journalist Michael Brendan Dougherty evaluates Leila Maria Lawler and David Clayton’s book of that title, reflecting on the obvious value of sacred spaces set aside in our own homes in which we can set aside time for prayer and connect with the Church’s larger liturgical life.
- And finally, in Murmuring in the Desert, Catholic husband and father Scott Broadway reveals the difficulties faced by many suburban parents who feel isolated from the life of their parishes — and fellow parishioners — and how we can rebuild “a sense of Catholic interconnection in our parishes and neighborhoods.”
I believe this collection of essays speaks for itself, each in its own way exploring the deeper questions of Catholic life that lie deeper than the headlines, ecclesiastical or otherwise. I am reminded as I look through them again how honored I am to work with such gifted writers and faithful Catholics.
In the coming months, I will seek to return more of our content to themes like these – themes that we all grapple with in our day to day lives of faith. I plan to introduce a Catholicism 101 series, which will serve, I hope, not just as instruction for those new to the fullness of Catholic life, but as a refresher (and an opportunity to learn what we were never taught) for even cradle Catholics.
I will also be working on a plan to build, as I mentioned yesterday, the interactive part of our online community, so that our many readers can, if they so choose, become a resource to one another. I hope to introduce these new features in the not too distant future, and I of course welcome your feedback on the kinds of resources you might be seeking.
Finally, I am working on a refresh and simplification of our website design, removing unused elements, enhancing visibility and readability, and making everything we offer more friendly to those reading on mobile devices. This is a project already underway, but I was unable to complete it in time for today’s occasion. Once I’ve got the kinks worked out, you can expect to see changes to the look and feel of the site very soon.
I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for making 1P5 such an unexpected success. To our incredibly gifted writers, who have contributed so much to the benefit of the faithful and the Church. To our more than a million readers, who have shared our essays and articles far and wide. To our more than 1200 benefactors, who have made it possible for me to do this full-time, which has put us on the map. To our thousands of podcast listeners, who are so enthusiastic about our little shows. To all of you, I offer my deepest gratitude. We have accomplished more than I ever could have dreamed. I also owe my undying thanks to my wife and seven children, who have put up with me working far more than I should (he says, typing this at 3AM), and have not simply turned the lights off and driven away to leave me to fend for myself while I was furiously writing away in the basement.
And of course, to Almighty God, who inspired this project, and has blessed it, and has rewarded me more handsomely than such a sinner could ever deserve. Deo Gratias!
Here’s to the next two years!!
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.