Head of EWTN News Steps Down

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by Christine Niles  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 7, 2020   

Resignation comes amid debate over establishment vs. alternative media

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IRONDALE, Ala. (ChurchMilitant.com) - In a surprise move, the head of EWTN News is resigning his post.

Dan Burke, chief operating officer and president of EWTN News, announced his resignation Tuesday in a post on his website:

In the end, my decision is based upon a combination of the deep wounds in the Church, my own mortality with respect to the years I have remaining, and my assessment of where I can have the greatest impact on healing the Church and advancing the mission Jesus has entrusted to every baptized Christian: "Go unto all the world and make disciples."

In comments to Church Militant, Burke explained that he was leaving the news world altogether.

"I am not remaining as head of the Register," he said. "Instead I am completely out of the news world and focused solely on helping folks to heaven through authentic Catholic spiritual tradition through the Avila Foundation."

On his website, he clarified that his decision "has come after a period of prayer and discernment." 

"It is rooted in my calling to personally engage with those seeking a new, renewed or deeper relationship with Jesus and His Church and to reveal the life and world-altering mysteries of what it means to encounter Christ and His authentic magisterium," he explained.

Burke intends to focus his attention on his apostolate, SpiritualDirection.com, as well as the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, which emphasizes Carmelite spirituality and spiritual direction.

This is the season to shift my time and energy to focus on the spiritual work of the Avila Foundation.

"There is so much fruit to be followed and brought to harvest that I have discerned that this is the season to shift my time and energy to focus on the spiritual work of the Avila Foundation," he wrote.

Establishment vs. Alternative Media

Burke's sudden resignation comes days after George Weigel was blasted for counseling Catholics to limit their reading to a handful of establishment Catholic media organizations and ignore more hardhitting, alternative news sites.

Resolve to limit your exposure to the Catholic blogosphere. In 2019, many Catholic websites went bonkers. There is no need to click on sites that specialize in all-hysteria or all-propaganda all-the-time. If you want reliable Catholic news, visit the websites of Catholic News Agency and the National Catholic Register. If you want sane commentary on the turbulent Catholic scene, go to the websites of Catholic World Report, First Things, and The Catholic Thing. That's more than enough for anyone. Limiting your blogosphere browsing to these sites, while ignoring the hysteria-mongers and propagandists, will lower your blood pressure while keeping you well-informed.

The comments sparked immediate backlash, with hundreds of Catholics responding on social media criticizing Weigel for promoting the very websites that had largely been silent on the abuse crisis, while denigrating the news sites that had been exposing corruption within the hierarchy for years.


 

Janet Smith, former professor of moral theology at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary, weighed in, rebuking Weigel for his "short-sightedness and even foolishness":

"While many don’t like the tone of some sources, several of these are responsible for much of what we know about the corruption in the Church and their persistence has been invaluable in achieving the few successes there have been," she wrote.

"The Church rather desperately needs news outlets that realize that 'business as usual' is not an option when the corruption is so pervasive," Smith insisted. "I am all for reporting good news and having hope and providing just and balanced treatment of all people and issues, but I think it unwise and unfair to try to marginalize those who have been and are in the forefront of exposing corruption."

The Church rather desperately needs news outlets that realize that 'business as usual' is not an option when the corruption is so pervasive.

Burke responded to Smith's remarks on social media, adamantly defending EWTN. While acknowledging that she made "some very good points," he added, "The blanket statement at the end of this piece is absolute malarky," going on to note:

I have run the National Catholic Register since 2008 and then EWTN News as a whole since we broke the first Vigano letter. Do you want to know how many times I have been called by or in any way told by a Bishop what to print or publish or not? NOT ONCE. The only thing I can attribute such an inaccurate and irresponsible comment to is a possible confusion of CNA (EWTN) with CNS (USCCB).

Burke also responded to defend his news organization after a Buffalo insider claimed the National Catholic Register was uninterested in her story exposing corruption.

"I was a Buffalo Diocesan department head for 17 years," wrote Beverly Sottile-Malona. "I was interviewed by one of your NCR reporters before everything came to a head here. She did not seem at all interested and I never heard from her."

"It took a while for NCR to report on our crisis, the worst so far in NYS," she continued. "Perhaps she found me boring or outrageous, however, all that I had mentioned and tried to lead her to made it to our own secular local news outlets."

Burke wrote in response, "Of course, is easy to prove that your characterization and then broad stroke judgment is a profound misrepresentation of our record to suit your wounds which I am sorry you have. All you need do is pull up the Register site and begin searching on all the key topics of the day. You will find story after story."

The news of Burke's resignation comes the same day Michael Voris challenged establishment Catholic media heads to speak the truth without compromise — or resign. While there is no evidence that the two events are related, the Vortex episode came amidst the heated online debate engendered by Weigel's comments, between the role of establishment media vs. the role of alternative media.

"As we all head into straight-up combat this year — cultural and ecclesiastical — we need to understand one basic point: Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option, in particular the Catholic establishment media," Voris said in a Jan. 7 Vortex episode. "They must choose sides, and they must do it now, and very clearly."

"These folks have enabled the evil in the Church. That's something they have to own," he continued. "They knew about McCarrick, for example, and sat silent because they didn't want to bring down the wrath of the bishops on their own heads. They are complicit because they had knowledge and did nothing about it."

Other Recent Resignations

Burke's departure follows a rash of recent unexpected resignations at the Catholic news conglomerate. 

Lauren Ashburn announced her resignation as lead anchor and managing editor of EWTN News Nightly over the summer. A statement issued by CEO Michael Warsaw quoted Ashburn as saying, "I have treasured the opportunity over the years to work with my talented EWTN colleagues, but with growing responsibilities at home, it's time to put my children first."

Wyatt Goolsby took over as lead anchor, only to resign in December. Toward the end of his last newscast, he explained that he was moving to Houston "to be closer to family."

And more recently, on Jan. 3, Jason Calvi, another reporter and anchor, also announced his departure to be "closer to family."

Burke is asking for prayers as he pursues a different path.

"In the face of all the darkness, we have hope because we live in and through the light and power of the Blessed Trinity and we have no doubt that we have, can, and will make a difference as long as we have the prayer and support of good people like you."
 

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