What's going on?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Oct 26, 2005

Can you explain what's happening? Because I can't.

A few weeks ago the Vatican announced that a record crowd had assembled for the Pope's weekly public audience: 50,000 people! Since that time, there have been about 50,000 for every Wednesday audience. The number of people flocking to see Pope Benedict in person has exceeded the numbers who saw the famously charismatic Pope John Paul II over any similar span of time!

Does this mean Pope Benedict is more popular than Pope John Paul? I doubt it. I think it means that there is a lot more interest in the affairs of the Catholic Church.

And there's more evidence. Traffic on the CWN site has been very busy recently; the number of visitors this past week has been nearly as high as in April, when we were covering the funeral of Pope John Paul and the conclave that elected Benedict XVI.

Why are all those people coming to our site? Are they interested in the Synod? Maybe. But really, how many people ordinarily pay attention to a Synod? Do you remember when the last previous Synod was held, or what was discussed?

CWN has made no special promotional offers this month. Yet somehow we have attracted more new subscribers than in any other month since we began business (aside from those unique months of April and May of this year). And October isn't over yet!

Mind you, I'm not complaining. I'm delighted to have the business. But I'm also puzzled. Can anyone enlighten me?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Aussie - Oct. 28, 2005 9:47 AM ET USA

    With the events of April & May, people began to notice the Catholic Church and had a chance to listen to the "Official Church" without the filtration of dissident clergy, disaffected laity, or liberial journalists. They found that a lot of what the Church has to say on many issues actually makes sense. Truth can be novel to many people, and if you get enough of it, it can be addictive. Why shouldn't they come to listen to a man who has always had the motto "Co-workers with the Truth"?

  • Posted by: - Oct. 27, 2005 10:38 AM ET USA

    I believe that these things are happening because the power of the Holy Spirit is working in incredible ways and graces are being poured out in great abundance. Even laymen such as myself are being given the inspiration to write apologetic books such as Got Grace? for the average Catholic layman. Keep up the wonderful work that you are doing!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 27, 2005 8:55 AM ET USA

    All of the below. Please don't try to renew and improve (reject?) what you already have in abundance. You give us encouragement and hope for a return to pre-VCII doctrine, discipline, and spirituality that are sorely needed after a 40 year dearth.

  • Posted by: The OX - Oct. 27, 2005 8:32 AM ET USA

    You can be trusted.

  • Posted by: MM - Oct. 27, 2005 6:59 AM ET USA

    Liberal Catholics are visiting the site too. I stumbled across a blog recently that linked to CWN. After making reference to the 'whackiest comments board in the world', the blogger went off on some diatribe against conservatives claiming monopoly on the truth, or some such drivel. CWN, you know your doing something right when you get that kind of attention from those quarters.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Oct. 27, 2005 12:55 AM ET USA

    Why? Because CWN is proclaiming the Truth, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. Because CWN is proclaiming the Teachings of Jesus Christ, the Only Savior of the world. Because CWN is proclaiming the fullness of the Faith, as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. AMDG... Semper fidelis...

  • Posted by: Sterling - Oct. 26, 2005 10:22 PM ET USA

    Of Diogenese, someone writes, "Why 'Uncle Di'? " Why are you sure it is not "Aunt Di"?

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 8:38 PM ET USA

    I think it is because perhaps for the first time in years orthodox Catholics have hope. They see in BXVI a continuation of JPII's conservatism plus a willingness to manage church affairs better. They hope the Holy Father will crack the whip on abuses and bring respect back to Holy Mother Church. They also hope the Holy See notices CWN keeping the world's Catholics informed about what goes on. When it comes to holding people's feet to the fire, nothing works like the bright light of day.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 7:16 PM ET USA

    It's definitely Uncle Di that's doing it. I go straight to Off the Record and have a good laugh as well as mull over his comments and essays. Diogenes makes one think!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 7:03 PM ET USA

    Phil: I think it means that there is a lot more interest in the affairs of the Catholic Church. I think you've answered the question that puzzles you. The mainstream media seems to be covering the Church more, and in non-Scandal related ways. I suspect other Catholic publications are experiencing the same surge that you are.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 5:59 PM ET USA

    The real reason is you have a lot of Traditionalists reading the website and they are hoping/expecting a big announcement on the Traditional Latin Mass to be forthcoming....

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Oct. 26, 2005 5:04 PM ET USA

    It may be nothing more complicated than that CWN has reached critical mass. Enough people have become aware of it that word is spreading more and more widely and rapidly. A chain reaction, if you will, just as in a nuclear reactor. And if I may add...it couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch. (Don't worry: a reactor doesn't blow up when it reaches critical mass. It jjst means that the reaction becomes self-sustaining.)

  • Posted by: visions - Oct. 26, 2005 4:22 PM ET USA

    The Year of the Eucharist brings forth His fruits.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 4:00 PM ET USA

    All great comments. I would add that there's something truly special in the "teaching" charism of this particular Pope. He is calling the faithful to gather under his wing and be nourished and protected by the love of Christ in a way that can't but appeal to the hard of heart. Also, the Holy Spirit needs people to form ranks to rebuild the Church. I think this is also some of what is happening. And Uncle Di rocks, of course!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 3:47 PM ET USA

    Without contradicting what others have said, I think back to a remark I heard convert-apologist Tim Staples make a few years ago. It was to the effect that he was an optimist because soon JPII would be storming heaven, intervening on behalf of the Church, and then we would really see a new springtime. That seems in keeping with our Lord's comments on the death of the seed....

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Oct. 26, 2005 1:52 PM ET USA

    Dear Phil That scores of thousnds, maybe millions have suddenly been smitten with a desire for virtue and holiness is appealing, but not generally consistent with my view of humanity. or that Pope Benedict although gifted in particular areas has suddenly developed an overflow of attractive charm, that also does not seem realistic That a devastating Tsunami, hurricanes, earthquakes, the threat of a Bird flu pandemic and the humble prayers of God's people has moved people, thats realistic

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 1:31 PM ET USA

    I think the traffic is a combination of things: despair over the crisis in the U.S., curiousity and hope over Pope Benedict and how he may respond, fear and knashing of teeth by the heretics within, and might it be a renewal of faith in those who can't see the light at the end of the tunnel and need a hand to help guide them. I watched R.Arroyo's interview with the Pope before he was elected. He said there were sinners at Christ's table, always have been. That's his church. Now that's a pastor.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 1:28 PM ET USA

    The reason for the uptick, I agree, has more to do with Uncle Di than Papa B.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 1:02 PM ET USA

    This website is a clear source of Catholic truth and news. I would guess that folks are catching on to this. Also - perhaps people are looking to CWNews in hopes of reform, the "reigning in" of dissention among prelates and seminaries. Just a thought...

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 12:52 PM ET USA

    Congratulations, you are a strong voice for the conservative Catholic. Something is in the air, like a child birth,the pains are getting closer and more severe, all signs point to that , The liberal Bishops and priests are making it clear ,they have no intention of following the advice of this synod, the last Synod on lthe laity had much the same results, The faithful feel that this Pope will not stand and let this happen again, We are depending on him and waiting and watching, thanks for being

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 12:16 PM ET USA

    I think it's safe to speculate that Diogenes famous satire on OTR and his essays in CWR has contributed to the increase in subscribers. In the past month I've become aware of 2 other Catholic blogs with links to "Diogenes". Compile a "Best of Diogenes" which is only readable via a subscription to CWN and see what happens.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 12:10 PM ET USA

    It ought to be obvious to you, Phil. Eighty percent of the new visitors are seminary rectors, seminarians and diocesan vocations directors who are trying to dig up some dirt on the apostolic visitation team. The other twenty percent must be split between members of the visitation team and homosexual priests who are trying to figure out if they will still have a job come this time next year.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 26, 2005 11:43 AM ET USA

    The charism of St. Benedict is alive and well. Sensing that the media duped them into thinking that the new Pope was Vlad the Impaler in a fancy tiera, they are curious about this gentle man who appears to be the teacher they have all been waiting for.