How can you tell for sure that a website claiming to be a Catholic website truly is?
I’m told that Catholic.Culture.org has good reviews. Check under “site reviews”. I don’t know what Catholic Culture’s credentials are, however.
Well, you can tell a websites not a Cathlic one, if sometimes it talks about “the Novus Ordo church”, or it mentions a pope you have never heard of, or if they say the Holy See is vacant (which it most DEFINATELY is not).
Yeah, I remember this really confused me when I came across one of these websites. I got so that i had to go see my local priest.
Or if it says something which contradicts the Catechism or other statements by the Holy See (on www.vatican.va). Or if there seems to be an emphasis on picking faults with and criticising the pope and bishops. These sites may be “Catholic” in that they are run by people who are baptised Catholics and who go to Mass. But they are not “Catholic” in the sense that you can rely on them for the truth taught by the Catholic Church.
Perhaps a better question is, how can you tell a GOOD Catholic website?
It really comes down to knowing your faith and using prudent judgment. There isn’t any type of imprimatur for online material that I know of. When something doesn’t seem quite right the best thing to do is grab the catechism (or read it here) and verify the statements. The Catholic encyclopedia is also another good reference for matters on history or doctrine.
But even then, you have to learn your faith from trusted sources before you can catch the errors that creep online.
Novaslasher is right, you have to know your faith and exercise prudent judgement. Doing this takes time.
I do enjoy using CatholicCulture.org’s Website Reviews. But, of course, CatholicCulture.org itself is not directly affiliated with any diocese and is run by Catholic laypeople, so, in the end, their reviews are simply educated opinions, not binding ecclesial pronouncements (and I do disagree with a few of their reviews). IMO, it is still useful to look at their reviews because, if nothing else, it helps to teach you what questions to ask when you first encounter a website that purports to be Catholic.
I will share a few tips that I employ.
(1) I always look for the little “About Us” tab when I first visit a site. It’s nice to hear, in their own words, what the purpose of the website is. Is the mission in line with Church teaching? Do they specifically state that they are loyal to the Magisterium and the Pope?
(2) Next, I will try to find out who is responsible for the content of the site and what their credentials are. Are they connected with a diocese or are they otherwise approved by their local Bishop? Is there a Board of Directors / Advisory Board? Who is on those boards? (Bishops? reputable Catholic scholars?)
(3) Finally, check to see if the website has a links section. You can tell a lot about the site based on who they choose to link to (the difference between linking to EWTN and linking to National Catholic Reporter ;)).
This goes a long way to giving you an idea about the ethos of the site. Not that every site has to have all these elements in place to be useful and/or authentically Catholic (mine don’t :o), but it makes it easier. The more and more you surf around (and the more you study and pray, obviously), the easier it gets.
And, of course, you can always come here and ask the people at CAF what we think.
There is nothing to stop a website publisher from seeking and obtaining an imprimatur from his local bishop, just as a hard-copy publisher does. For example the “tracts” on the Catholic Answers site have an imprimatur which is shown at the end of each article. Unfortunately for some reason most writers/publishers of Catholic material related to doctrine and morals, both online and hard-copy these days don’t bother to seek an imprimatur, even though their works seem perfectly orthodox.
Of course even a bishop’s imprimatur doesn’t absolutely guarantee orthodoxy. Beware esepcially of material bearing the imprimatur of a bishop whose see is distant from the physical address of, and has no obvious other connection to, the writer/publisher. This may be a sign that the writer/publisher has “shopped around” to find a lax bishop.