“Purporting itself to be Catholic, the newspaper features politically related content among its many articles. The publication also has accompanying websites, pacatholictribune and/or americancatholictribune, which appear to mention several dioceses in Pennsylvania, including the Diocese of Scranton. It is important for all people to know that this publication and its accompanying website are neither endorsed by, nor are they affiliated with, the Diocese of Scranton or the Catholic Church,” the diocesan statement says.
The papers have begun showing up in Nevada, too. The Diocese of Reno told local outlet Fox11 on Thursday that they are aware of the “Nevada Catholic Tribune” being distributed in the Reno-Sparks metro area, and that it is not an official publication of the Church.
It’s not clear if similar papers are being mailed in Wisconsin this election season, but in 2020 Father John Girotti, vicar for canonical services and associate moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Green Bay, said that to his knowledge, “the Wisconsin Catholic Tribune has no direct connection to any diocese or bishop in the Church.”
The Catholic bishops of Arizona issued a more general warning Oct. 31 about groups calling themselves Catholic while openly advocating for political candidates. The bishops noted that Canon 216 of the Code of Canon Law states that no initiative can lay claim to the title “Catholic” without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority.
“We must stress that the Catholic Church is always politically non-partisan. Moreover, it is worth recalling that the Catholic Church has a long tradition of our beliefs influencing our personal politics — not our personal politics trying to influence our faith. When we reverse those two, we place ourselves outside the tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church.”
The Arizona bishops’ conference statement did not explicitly name any of the political groups calling themselves Catholic that the faithful should watch out for, but a spokesman for the conference told CNA that the statement was a response to confusion and media inquiries related to the Arizona Catholic Tribune newspaper.
Who is the publisher?
The Catholic Tribune papers appear to be similar in design across the several states where they have been mailed. They contain full-color photos and articles — with much of the material repackaged from other sources — about local politicians and political races. The papers all sport the same slogan on the front page: “Real data. Real value. Real news.”
The papers cite various news and commentary sources and pro-life groups while drawing on content from diocesan or parish social media feeds and bulletins, including information about Mass intentions.
An article on the front page of the Arizona Catholic Tribune, for example, discusses the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ opposition to the Women’s Health Protection Act — which would have codified a right to abortion into federal law — and notes that Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona, was a co-sponsor of the legislation. The Pennsylvania Catholic Tribune featured a front-page story on Mark Houck, a Catholic father of seven who was recently arrested and federally charged after allegedly pushing an abortion clinic escort to the ground.
While the papers themselves do not list a publisher, investigations by the New York Times and the Columbia Journalism Review found that the various “Catholic Tribune” sites across the country are owned by Metric Media, an organization that operates more than 1,000 websites that aim to fill a void in local news coverage.
(Story continues below)
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According to the Columbia Journalism Review, Metric Media launched the network of seven Catholic Tribune sites in early 2020: six were state-centric and one was national, the American Catholic Tribune, which says on its website that it was created in 2019 “to provide more robust news reporting on parish life and issues affecting Catholics.”
Many of the articles on Metric Media’s sites have a conservative bent, and officers at the company have links to think tanks and political action committees funded by libertarian businessman Charles Koch and allied donors, the Columbia Journalism Review says.
CNA was unable to reach a Metric Media representative for comment.
Kevin J. Jones contributed to this story.
Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer. He is based in St. Louis.