Viva il papa! – and TCT

As you’ve no doubt heard, yesterday TIME magazine named Pope Francis 2013 Person of the Year. POTY is an odd category, sometimes a person not the most admirable – indeed, quite the opposite – but chosen because he or she seems to TIME to have been the most “influential” person that year. This has led to a few monstrous figures receiving a lot of free publicity – Miley Cyrus and President Assad of Syria were Francis’ competition, and Edward Snowden seems to have been runner-up. But TIME did the right thing, for once – and even provided a largely good rationale for this year’s choice.

If you are a regular reader of The Catholic Thing, you know that we’ve praised, been puzzled by, and sometimes questioned certain things Pope Francis has done. The writers on this site speak in their own voices and we have no official view – of anything. (I myself tried to sort out some of the reactions to the pope over the past year on PBS Newshour last night [see the video at the bottom of this page] – and I will rejoin my colleagues from the EWTN Conclave team tonight on Raymond Arroyo’s The World Over to talk about related subjects.) But I think – I haven’t polled our contributors – that we are all quite impressed with the ways that Francis has brought Catholicism to global attention from his very first gestures as pope.

If you watch the Newshour segment below, you’ll see immediately that even some of the most liberal and secular elements in our media – which are often clueless about Catholicism – have had to come to grips with the sheer spiritual force that is Pope Francis. And the TIME article, for once, gives a fair appraisal of the pope and the reactions to him. But they perpetually want to measure the Faith by secular liberal categories. So it’s important that some of us are there to push back and to re-frame a phenomenon like Francis in less political, more properly Catholic terms.

Such opportunities do not arise by accident. It’s partly because of the work we do – on this site in English, and in several other languages with our foreign partners – that we are able to enter into the larger debate in the Church and the secular world. And if you have supported The Catholic Thing via your donations or prayers, you’ve played a role yourself into making sure that authentic Catholic voices do not disappear from the public square.

It’s that time of the year when I have to ask you once again to do as much as you can for our efforts. We had over 1,000,000 visits last year (another record) and, as you can see we now attract some significant advertising. But advertisers only cover about 10 percent of our operating costs. We have some larger donors, of course, but the last 20 percent, a crucial 20 percent, comes from you – our readers. Just think of what you would be missing if fully one-fifth of these columns simply never saw the light of day, or TCT itself was no longer there.

I don’t think I’ve ever sufficiently given credit to our staff at The Catholic Thing, who mostly operate behind the scenes. You all know our Senior Editor Brad Miner for his writerly gifts and his careful attention to keeping us going in the Comments Section, on Facebook, and via other tech means well beyond my own competence. Brad, as I’ve told him myself, is a real adult. And we all depend on him in ways too many to count.

Then there are the two Hannahs – actually, Hannah the Elder and Hanna (note variant) the Younger. Hannah Russo has worked with us for several years and makes the business side run more smoothly than we could reasonably expect. And she’s been doing it flawlessly this past month, even though she’s now only weeks away from having her fourth child. Hanna Deschler came on board earlier this year to help us with uploading our materials – a process more complicated than you might think, which involves selecting and sizing images, handling embedded videos, keeping track of linked stories, and other invisible but essential duties.

And then there are our writers. They, as well as the administrative staff work for peanuts. No. Probably have to beg for peanuts given what we can afford to provide them. They and the administrative team could easily make much more working at more lucrative operations, which is to say almost anything else. But they/we are here every day because we believe in the mission of The Catholic Thing in preserving and defending the Catholic thing.

But I’m betting you already know this if you’re a regular reader. And I want to ask you to act now. We all get many requests for support at the end of the year. But look into your heart, as Pope Francis might say, and decide what The Catholic Thing means to you – and what you think it means to the Church and the world. Can you afford $50, $100, $500, more? If everyone now reading this gave $50 towards the cause, we could be sure of bringing you the very best Catholic commentary we can again in 2014. But since we know not everyone can contribute at that level, we need many of you to make up for less fortunate brother and sisters with multiples – including large multiples of that amount.

So if you want to see the work of this site continue and help us as we seek to have greater reach into debates within the Church and outside in the secular sphere, please, do your part. Support TCT by check or via an online payment. Today.


Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.