America’s most-viewed stories of 2019

A major fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris this past April left many readers asking, “Where was God?” (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)A major fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris this past April left many readers asking, “Where was God?” (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)

Are we in a post-truth era? Can Google or Wikipedia explain things for us, or do we first need someone to explain how Google and Wikipedia work? Can we trust Siri? Will we have to wait for the all-knowing Janet, from TV’s “The Good Place,” to be created and tell us what’s what?

Our epistemic crisis, in which people cannot seem to arrive at a shared version of reality, may have had a hand in determining the most popular America Media content of 2019. “Explainers,” guides, even videos with Jesuits answering questions posed by the auto-complete function of Google—content that clarified matters—seemed to connect most with readers during the past 12 months. Of the 100 most-viewed articles on our website from Dec. 1, 2018, to Nov. 30, 2019, eight were Explainers (a label we have only recently started using regularly), and many others fell into the broader category of clearing up confusion, debunking myths or simply quantifying, say, how many members of the U.S. Congress are Catholic. One of our most popular long-form stories, excerpted from a book by America’s Vatican correspondent, Gerard O’Connell, detailed exactly how Jorge Bergoglio became pope in 2013.

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Francis was once again a popular topic, with readers wanting to know why he provokes so much opposition and how he became pope in the first place. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

The most popular Explainers dealt with: changes in abortion laws; why Pope Francis sometimes does not want people to kiss his ring; the process of laicization, or the “defrocking” of priests; the conditions under which someone may be denied Communion; the responsiblities of a bishop over his diocese’s finances; the difficulties in polling Catholics about their beliefs; questions about ordaining married men arising from the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon; and the differences between the terms Latino and Hispanic.

Eleven of our 100 most-viewed articles posed the question “Why?” in the headline, from “Why Do Some Catholics Oppose Pope Francis?” to “Why Are So Many People Fleeing Honduras?” The latter was one of many Dispatches that provided some global context to the often-insular U.S. media. Among other topics, our foreign correspondents reported on the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and the contentious questions over rebuilding the church, as well as the prominence of the hymn “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” in protests in Hong Kong.

Underscoring America’s growth as a multimedia platform, some of our most widely read stories were supplemented by video and audio content. The most popular new video of 2019 was “Where Was God When Notre Dame Was in Flames?” in which James Martin, S.J., our editor at large, put the Paris tragedy in perspective, followed by Father Martin’s extended interview with “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert. But the most-viewed America video in 2019 was “The Catholic Church in China,” produced in 2017 but still highly relevant given the challenges of the church in a country that continues to restrict religious freedom.

From February: “What Black Lives Matter Can Teach Catholics About Racial Justice” (photo by Johnny Silvercloud via Flickr)

In the podcasting arena, the most popular episode of “Jesuitical” featured the author Malcolm Gladwell (who had explored Jesuit reasoning on his own podcast, “Revisionist History”).

The limited-series podcast “Deliver Us,” about sexual abuse by members of the clergy, got its biggest audience with the episode asking “How Can I Remain Catholic?” And while it premiered too late to make this list (with a debut on Dec. 1), “Plague,” which examines how Catholics responded to the early days of the AIDS crisis, quickly won a large audience and demonstrated the appeal of audio reporting.

Below we have listed the top story for each of the past 12 months from each of our three major departments: Arts & Culture, Faith, and News/Politics & Society. To arrive at this list, we multiplied the number of unique readers for each story by the average time spent reading that story. The most-viewed story overall was a report on last December’s conviction of Cardinal George Pell of Australia for “historical child sexual offenses.” Next was a Faith in Focus story on a high school that holds funerals for homeless veterans.

Content from previous years also attracted large numbers of readers, led by “Were Jesus, Mary and Joseph Refugees?” and “What Is the Official Church Teaching on Homosexuality?” The difficult questions, it seems, are never answered for good.


Most popular America stories by month

The top story from each of our three major sections (Arts & Culture, Faith and Politics & Society). as measured by the total time that all readers spent on each article. Only stories original to America Media are counted; each story is counted for the month of its highest readership only. Some content is posted on the America Media website before it appears in print.

December 2018
“Silent Night” turns 200 this year. Is it the greatest Christmas song ever?, Edward W. Schmidt, S.J., Dec. 24 issue

Cardinal Pell, top advisor to Pope Francis, found guilty of “historical sexual offenses”, Gerard O’Connell, Dec. 12

The America Profile: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, the pro-life Catholic Democrat, Matt Malone, S.J., Dec. 24 issue

“Why the MAGA Hats at the March for Life?” (Flicker/Gage Skidmore)

January
Mary Oliver, our devotional poet, Lisa Ampleman, Jan. 22

Vatican commission members: Women served as deacons for a millennium, Brandon Sanchez, Jan. 15

Bishop Stowe: Why the MAGA hats at the March for Life? (follow-up to story about Covington Catholic High School students), Michael J. O’Loughlin, Jan. 24 (published in Feb. 18 issue)

February
Brandi Carlile’s Biblical imagination in “By the Way, I Forgive You”, Justin Klassen, Feb. 8 (published in March 18 issue)

Explainer: Former Cardinal McCarrick faces laicization. What does that mean?, Michael J. O’Loughlin, Feb. 12

What Black Lives Matter can teach Catholics about racial justice, Olga Segura, Feb. 18 issue

March
A Jesuit confesses his love for March Madness and NCAA basketball, Vincent Strand, S.J., March 15

Exclusive: Inside the election of Pope Francis, Gerard O’Connell, March 22 (published in April 1 issue)

Explainer: What New York’s new abortion law does and doesn’t do, Sam Sawyer, S.J., Jan. 30

In April, we told you about an incredible meeting at America House in the late 1960s. (CNS photos and U.S. Department of Defense)

April
The day Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Bruce Springsteen met at America magazine, Chad Mitchum, April 1 (yes, April 1)

Where was God when Notre Dame was in flames?, James Martin, S.J., April 16

Can you find God in a black hole?, Guy Consolmagno, S.J.(director of the Vatican Observatory), April 10

May
Marie Kondo’s road to a tidy (and examined) life, Elizabeth Grace Matthew, May 27 issue

The Catholic high school that holds funerals for homeless veterans, Michael Kotsopoulos, May 26

Paul Ryan has been hired to teach at Notre Dame. He should think about studying there instead, Paul D. McNelis, S.J., May 2

June
Eight Catholic horror films you should watch, Eve Tushnet, June 26 (published in July 8 issue)

The Pentecost Testimony of a Mad, Fed-Up Catholic, Elizabeth Scalia, June 8

Sister Carol Keehan is leaving the Catholic Health Association. Here’s what she thinks about U.S. health care, Michael J. O’Loughlin, June 6

July
The God-Haunted Characters of James Lee Burke, Edward W. Schmidt, S.J., July 5 (published in Aug. 19 issue)

I’m a Catholic woman who was allowed to preach at Mass—until it was banned, Jean Molesky-Poz, July 22

Dante, Trump and the moral cowardice of the G.O.P., Charles Sykes, July 21 (published in Aug. 19 issue)

August
David Brooks on his life-changing pilgrimage with St. Augustine and Dorothy Day, Bill McGarvey, Aug. 15 (published in Sept. 16 issue)

Explainer: Why the Eucharist is confusing for many Catholics (and survey researchers), James T. Keane and Sam Sawyer, S.J., Aug. 9

The hospital program for parents facing tragic prenatal diagnoses, Kerry Weber, Aug. 19 issue

September
The 10 Greatest Catholic School Movies of All Time, Ciaran Freeman, Aug. 30

Pope Francis to journalist: “I am honored that the Americans attack me”, Gerard O’Connell, Sept. 4.

Whose nation? Which communities? The fault lines of the new Christian nationalism, David Albertson and Jason Blakely, Sept. 19

October
The Making of “The Exorcist”, Jim McDermott, S.J., Oct. 25

Pope Francis canonizes five new saints, including John Henry Newman, Gerard O’Connell, Oct. 13

Supreme Court decision on L.G.B.T. discrimination sets up religious liberty clash, Michael J. O’Loughlin, Oct 11

November
Review: “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” is (surprisingly) not about Mr. Rogers, John Anderson, Nov. 22

U.S. bishops: “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority”, Michael J. O’Loughlin, Nov. 12

Should abortion be the most important issue for Catholic voters? Here’s a better question, Sam Sawyer, S.J., Nov. 13


Other stats on America magazine website content (Dec. 2018-Nov. 2019)

Most popular new America videos

The first episode in the new “Beyond the Habit” series about women religious in the United States was the third most popular video of 2019.

1. Where was God when Notre Dame was in flames? (Faith in Focus), April 16

2. Stephen Colbert extended interview, (Faith in Focus), Dec. 13, 2018

3. 300 years of sister history (in 5 minutes) (Beyond the Habit), Sept. 23

4. Pope Francis kisses the feet of South Sudan leaders to beg for peace, April 11

5. Women deacons: Past, present, future (Conversations With America), Jan. 15

Most popular America videos overall

1. The Catholic Church in China: A Short Documentary, Sept. 25, 2017

2. Stephen Colbert on faith, God and politics in the age of Trump (Faith in Focus), Nov. 15, 2018

3. Pro-life millennial women speak out, Oct. 27, 2016

4. Where was God when Notre Dame was in flames? (Faith in Focus), April 16

5. Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan on raising five children with faith and humor (Faith in Focus), Oct. 18, 2018

Most popular podcast episodes

1.Why Malcolm Gladwell wants to think like a Jesuit (Jesuitical), Sept. 6

2. How can I remain Catholic? (Deliver Us), Feb. 13

3. First Sunday of Lent (The Examen), March 11

4. Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (The Examen), March 1

5. Second Sunday of Lent (The Examen), March 15


Most-viewed stories, by total time on page

1. Cardinal Pell, top advisor to Pope Francis, found guilty of “historical sexual offenses”, Gerard O’Connell, Dec. 12, 2018

2. Explainer: What New York’s new abortion law does and doesn’t do, Sam Sawyer, S.J., Jan. 30

3. The Catholic high school that holds funerals for homeless veterans, Michael Kotsopoulos, May 26

4. What is the official church teaching on homosexuality? Responding to a commonly asked question, James Martin, S.J., April 6, 2018

5. Were Jesus, Mary and Joseph refugees? Yes, James Martin, S.J., Dec. 27, 2017

6. Why do some Catholics oppose Pope Francis?, Victor Codina, S.J., Sept. 12

7. Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist. Why are we still celebrating her?, John J. Conley, Nov. 27, 2017

8. Exclusive: Inside the election of Pope Francis, Gerard O’Connell, March 22 (published in April 1 issue)

9. Pope Francis to journalist: “I am honored that the Americans attack me”, Gerard O’Connell, Sept. 4

10. Catholic school apologizes after clips emerge of encounter between students and Native American activist, Religion News Service, Jan. 19


Most-viewed Vatican Dispatches

1. Cardinal Pell, top advisor to Pope Francis, found guilty of “historical sexual offenses”, Gerard O’Connell, Dec. 12, 2018

2. Pope Francis to journalist: “I am honored that the Americans attack me”, Gerard O’Connell, Sept. 4

3. Pope Francis meets with Father James Martin in private audience, Gerard O’Connell, Sept. 30

4. Pope Francis canonizes five new saints, including John Henry Newman, Gerard O’Connell, Oct. 13

5. Director and deputy director of Vatican press office resign on last day of 2018, Gerard O’Connell, Dec. 31, 2018

Most-viewed Dispatches

1. Archdiocese pulls “Catholic” label from Jesuit school for refusing to fire teacher in same-sex marriage, Michael J. O’Loughlin, June 20

2. Do we need a wall? Here’s what people on the border think, J.D. Long-García, Dec. 26, 2018

3. How many members of the new Congress are Catholic?, Michael J. O’Loughlin, Jan. 3

4. Bishop Stowe: Why the MAGA hats at the March for Life?, Michael J. O’Loughlin, Jan. 24

5. The St. Louis Jesuits stage a final performance that brings up the house, Kerry Weber, Sept. 30


Most viewed feature stories (by total time on page)

1. Exclusive: Inside the election of Pope Francis, Gerard O’Connell, April 1 issue

2. The Catholic Case for Communism, Dean Dettloff, July 23 issue

3. When a Jew and a Catholic marry, Mark Oppenheimer, Aug. 24, 2017, issue

4. The era of the parochial school is over. Meet the Catholic educators searching for what’s next. Betsy Shirley, Jan. 25 issue

5. Why Evangelical megachurches are embracing (some) Catholic traditions, Anna Keating, May 2 issue


Classics

Most-viewed stories in 2019 from prior years

1. Were Jesus, Mary and Joseph refugees? Yes.James Martin, S.J., Dec. 27, 2017

2. What is the official church teaching on homosexuality? Responding to a commonly asked question, James Martin, S.J., April 6, 2018

3. Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist. Why are we still celebrating her?, John J. Conley, Nov. 27, 2017

4. Top 12 Parables (The Good Word column), John W. Martens, Sept. 22, 2010

5. A hurricane prayer, James Martin, S.J., Oct. 28, 2012


Stories especially popular with various age groups

18-24: Explainer: What New York’s new abortion law does and doesn’t do, Sam Sawyer, S.J., Jan. 30

25-34: Explainer: Why doesn’t Pope Francis want people to kiss his ring?, Eric Sundrup, S.J., March 26

35-44: Catholic school apologizes after clips emerge of encounter between students and Native American activist, Religion News Service, Jan. 19

45-54: The Catholic high school that holds funerals for homeless veterans, Michael Kotsopoulos, May 26

55-64: A hurricane prayer, James Martin, S.J., Oct. 28, 2012

65+: Pope Francis names seven women to previously all-male congregation, Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, July 8

Stories read by twice as many women as men

The Catholic high school that holds funerals for homeless veterans, Michael Kotsopoulos, May 26

Catholic school apologizes after clips emerge of encounter between students and Native American activist, Religion News Service, Jan. 19

A hurricane prayer, James Martin, S.J., Oct. 28, 2012

Dear regular Mass-goers: The seats at the end of the pew aren’t for you, Jack Bentz, S.J., Feb. 14, 2018

The joy of having loud and messy kids at Mass, Brian Doyle, Sept. 24, 2014

Stories read by twice as many men as women

Pope Francis to journalist: ‘I am honored that the Americans attack me,’Gerard O’Connell, Sept. 4

The Catholic Case for Communism, Dean Dettloff, July 23 issue

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on her Catholic faith and the urgency of criminal justice reform, June 27, 2018

Why Bishop Barron’s take on Jordan Peterson blew up on Catholic social media, Anna J. Marchese, June 21

Why a repeal of the 2nd Amendment would not be enough to stop gun violence, Ellen K. Boegel, Aug. 16

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