GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Catholic Church is warning parishioners: Don’t believe everything you read.
A newspaper with heavy political opinions with claims of ties to the church has landed on the doorsteps of West Michigan Catholics and others. It’s called the Michigan Catholic Tribune. If you look at the masthead, it appears to be legitimate.
It landed in Angie Wittkowski’s mailbox this week, but it didn’t take long for the alarm bells to go off.
“We were just like, what is this?” Wittkowski said.
One story attributed to Michigan Right to Life made sense for a Catholic publication. Proposal 3 is a major issue for the church.
But just to the left and above the fold, a headline calls out two members of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation over gender services in schools.
Then Wittkowski started turning the pages.
“I started looking through it and got even more upset. There’s things in here about banning books. There’s things that just seem untrue,” Wittkowski said.
She’s not alone in her concern.
“It lends itself to the average person as being a publication of the Diocese of Grand Rapids. And that is not true,” said Annalise Laumeyer, the director of communications for the Diocese of Grand Rapids.
The Diocese is warning parishioners that despite the paper’s appearance, it has no connection to the church.
Another red flag is that the paper lists politicians and their positions on abortion and other issues. A church can support social issues — like in the Catholic Church’s case, a ban on abortion — without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status. But they have to stay away from politicians and parties, which the Michigan Catholic Tribune does not.
“It’s very politically related. Obviously skewed to be partisan,” Laumeyer said. “That is not where the church finds herself. The church does not endorse political candidates. The church does not oppose or endorse political parties.”
The publishers of the paper and how they got the names of Catholics to send it to are a mystery. The Diocese doesn’t sell member lists.
It appears to be mailed from Kansas City. But if you were to Google ‘Michigan Catholic Tribune’ you’d find the same stories with no information on ownership or leadership.
“There is no publisher information that’s readily apparent. So it leaves it to people’s discretion, or to their assumption as to who may have published this,” Laumeyer said.
The church is putting out the word that the paper and its website are not endorsed by the Diocese.
But both the church and parishioners like Angie Wittkowski are worried that not everyone will get the message.
“I think of somebody who might be elderly,” Wittkowski said. “Or somebody who doesn’t have the time to invest in looking into something like this.”