Joe Ferullo is new writer of National Catholic Reporter

In his first column as writer of the National Catholic Reporter, former tv govt and journalist Joe Ferullo declared that the Roman Catholic Church is at a crossroads, pulled between two radically completely different visions for its future.

Writing in early December, Ferullo defined {that a} sequence of synods, or listening classes, held in parishes world wide beneath the path of Pope Francis had revealed a starvation among the many trustworthy for a church that was extra welcoming to its LGBTQ members and that allowed extra alternatives for girls to tackle management roles.

And but, in November, the U.S. Convention of Catholic Bishops had elected conservatives to almost each vital management position — together with the group’s new president, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who has served as archbishop for the navy providers since 2008. Specialists who observe the church noticed the election outcomes as a pointed repudiation by the U.S. bishops of Pope Francis’ extra inclusive imaginative and prescient.

“What path does the church take in the generations ahead? Does it expand the tent and reach out, or does it circle the wagons and close in?” Ferullo wrote. “It’s impossible to know where that path will lead by the end of 2024 — but these next two years could easily turn out to be the most decisive since Vatican II.”

As writer of the 59-year-old National Catholic Reporter, the place liberal voices have lengthy held sway, Ferullo could have a entrance seat to the unfolding historic drama that would have an effect on the church for years to return. And maybe that explains why a man three years into a cushty retirement may resolve to tackle the anxiousness and thrill of operating the scrappy and beloved Catholic information group.

“I thought about teaching,” he mentioned. “But there’s not as much fun in that.”

He additionally believes that the way forward for the Catholic Church needs to be of curiosity not simply to Catholics however to anybody who follows politics in America.

“Despite the fact that the church is shrinking in numbers in this country, it still has a lot of influence,” he mentioned. “If you’re angry at Dobbs, then you’re angry at the group of Catholics who helped push that, including all those conservative Catholic Supreme Court justices,” he mentioned, referring to the court docket case that overturned the constitutional proper to an abortion.

Ferullo, 65, is heat and wiry with darkish, graying hair. Throughout an interview at a Le Ache Quotidien a brief drive from his Studio Metropolis residence, he described himself as a lifelong working towards Catholic.

He grew up within the late Nineteen Sixties in a working-class neighborhood within the Bronx, N.Y., the place his household belonged to a parish that totally embraced the reforms of Vatican II. Latin Plenty had been changed with folks Plenty that impressed him to study to play guitar. The nuns at his parochial college eliminated their conventional habits, and his sixth-grade math instructor, Sister Maryann, sometimes taught the category Simon & Garfunkel songs as an alternative of lengthy division.

“It was a very cool time, especially as a kid,” he mentioned. “And it’s what kept me Catholic even as things became more secular around me.”

However round 2008 he discovered himself rising indignant with the church. Catholic bishops had been attacking Obamacare over contraception protection, calling it a non secular liberty problem. On the similar time, the Vatican started investigating American nuns out of concern that they weren’t performing Catholic sufficient. And though the church had not too long ago began to confront its devastating intercourse abuse scandal, he was pissed off and disillusioned that it had taken so lengthy.

“It felt like the whole church was going, ‘You know that Vatican II thing we tried in the ‘60s? Let’s all forget about that,’” he mentioned. “I felt very differently.”

A number of years earlier, Ferullo had left a job as a producer for “Dateline” to develop into govt vp of syndicated and daytime packages at CBS, the place he oversaw exhibits reminiscent of “Judge Judy,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Dr. Phil” and the “Rachael Ray” present.” He was additionally busy elevating his two daughters in Studio Metropolis along with his spouse, Sylvia Lopez, a longtime information anchor for KCAL 9. Nonetheless, he made time to write down a narrative about his private expertise of Vatican II and the constructive impact it had on his life. He referred to as it “When Vatican II came to the Bronx.”

The subsequent step was to seek out somebody to publish it.

“Secular media understandably doesn’t care enough, and a lot of traditional Catholic media run by archdiocese or religious orders would probably not touch it,” he mentioned. Then he occurred to fulfill Joe Feuerherd, the then-publisher of the National Catholic Reporter, at a networking brunch held by the L.A.-based Catholics in Media Assn. and advised him in regards to the piece.

“He said, ‘That sounds like us,’ and they published it,” Ferullo mentioned. “It really meant a lot to me.”

Ferullo continued to write down for NCR sometimes, and ultimately joined the board in 2018. When his predecessor Invoice Mitchell introduced in Could that he can be stepping down, Ferullo threw his hat into the ring to develop into the following writer.

“There’s just something about the place that kind of gets in your blood and in your heart,” he mentioned. “Progressive, social justice-oriented Catholicism doesn’t get a lot of attention today, thanks to some of the bishops. The fact that [NCR] still waves that flag and does great reporting about it is very attractive.”

The National Catholic Reporter was based in 1964 by Robert Hoyt, a journalist who had principally labored for diocesan newspapers and wished to carry the rigor of secular journalism to the Catholic world. ‘’If the mayor of a city owned its only newspaper, its citizens will not learn what they need and deserve to know about its affairs,” he liked to say.

Headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., it was initially published as a weekly newspaper and its circulation grew from 11,000 to 100,000 in just a few short years. Its first big scoop occurred in April of 1967 when it revealed that Pope Paul VI had rejected a commission’s suggestion that the church’s instructing on contraception be revised. It was additionally the primary publication to report on the clergy intercourse abuse disaster and the episcopal cover-up starting within the Eighties, a few years earlier than the Boston Globe revealed its personal investigation.

In the present day, NCR averages about 1 million distinctive guests to its web site monthly and continues to be publishing a print newspaper that’s despatched out as soon as each two weeks. Along with reporting on the Vatican and the bishops, protection areas embody immigration, the setting and the affect of rich conservative Catholics on American politics.

“There are few Catholic media outlets that have done a better job covering the church with as much intelligence, independence and depth,” mentioned John Gehring, Catholic program director at Religion in Public Life and an writer who has written articles for the publication over time. “It’s really an indispensable source for dogged reporting and informed commentary.”

One in all Ferullo’s targets as writer is to extend the paper’s protection of Latino Catholics, who make up 40% of all U.S. Catholics. He additionally desires to increase protection of Catholicism within the American West, the place L.A. is residence to the nation’s largest diocese.

“The Catholic Church has very strong roots in the Midwest and East Coast, and we’ve got that covered,” mentioned Heidi Schlumpf, NCR’s govt editor since 2020. “But where the Catholic Church is growing is in the West and the Southwest. We know we have to do a better job of covering those areas.”

The National Catholic Reporter has by no means had a full-time reporter in California, and solely not too long ago employed its first West Coast-based reporter in Portland, Ore.

“Part of my sell was, you need someone in L.A.,” Ferullo mentioned. “It’s the largest archdiocese in the country, and there are lots of progressive Catholics here. To not be in touch with what goes on on the West Coast is not right.”

Because the outlet’s first L.A.-based writer, Ferullo has been in search of native freelancers, particularly those that converse Spanish, reaching out to native Catholic universities to study extra about their social justice efforts and attempting to unfold the phrase in regards to the outlet to new readers and supporters. (Like PBS, NCR’s content material is freely out there and funded by way of particular person donations.)

For now the publication is on stable monetary floor, however a lot of its present supporters are older individuals who have been studying it because the days of Vatican II 60 years in the past. With the intention to survive, it might want to discover a new viewers amongst youthful Catholics.

Whereas Pope Francis has energized progressive Catholics, his inclusive imaginative and prescient has additionally divided the church, nowhere extra so than within the U.S., the place L.A. Archbishop José Gomez has led the push to disclaim Holy Communion to President Biden, Nancy Pelosi and different Catholic politicians who assist abortion rights. The pope has indicated that he disapproves of this observe, telling reporters that “Communion is not a prize for the perfect.”

Ferullo says the way forward for the church might additionally have an effect on the way forward for NCR. If the pope is ready to efficiently energize youthful progressive Catholics, he believes NCR will proceed to outlive for a few years to return. If the extra conservative faction wins out, nonetheless, he’s not so positive.

“Maybe you have another generation of disappointed, progressive Catholics who just give up,” he mentioned.