I’ve been reading through the Ask an Apologist forum and am amazed at the wealth of Catholic information available online. I would like to learn how to fish online for the answers to my questions but am wondering how to find the information and how to tell whether it’s reliable. Can you help me?
[quote=Nora Kent]How [do you] find [good Catholic] information [online]?
Start by collecting general-information Catholic sites you know are reliable for your personal bookmarks. To get you started, here are a few:
Often, web sites link to like-minded web sites that also have good information. Check out any linked sites and add them to your bookmarks if they look good.
A relatively new phenomenon in the Catholic online world is the personal weblog. Some prominent Catholics maintain weblogs (commonly called “blogs”); others are maintained by Catholics of various levels of knowledge and persuasion. I’ll list a few of the well-known bloggers and then link to a site that has a large list of other Catholic weblogs you might wish to browse through.
JimmyAkin.org (Catholic Answers’ Director of Apologetics Jimmy Akin)
Catholic and Enjoying It! (Catholic apologist Mark Shea)
Heart, Mind, and Strength (group blog of the Pastoral Solutions Institute)
St. Blog’s Parish (directory of Catholic blogs)
Keep in mind that any blog should be read with discernment because it often reflects the personal opinion of the writer rather than the authoritative teaching of the Church. However, blogs can be helpful for keeping up on late-breaking Catholic news and can be helpful for links to web sites that you may wish to add to your bookmarks.
(Continued from above…)
Suppose you want to know what the Church says on a certain issue. Here are links to some online Catholic documents and some sources for authoritative Church teaching:
Sometimes you won’t be able to find an answer to just the specific question you’re looking for. Then you should go to a search engine and type in some key words; the more specific to your question the key words are, the better.
With search engines, be sure to check first for links to sites you know. If you cannot find any, carefully peruse the information on sites you don’t yet know. This is where discernment comes in.
[quote=Nora Kent]How [can I] tell whether [the information] reliable?
You’ll have to read carefully, doing your best to sort out quoted Church teaching from the writer’s opinion. Look for documentation and then look up the document. Is it quoted accurately? Does the writer clearly differentiate between the documentation and his own opinion? Is the writer promoting a specific agenda for which he is pressing Church documents into service to support? Be sure to read the document itself to get the context, rather than just trust a writer’s summary of it.
Once you become adept at sorting out what the Church teaches from a writer’s commentary, you can become bolder in visiting sites that have obvious and not-so-obvious agendas but may link to valuable sources that answer your question. There are sites I visit in my apologetics work solely for the links rather than for the site’s commentary.
Finally, if you come across something in your research that appears suspect, go back to sites you know provide reliable information and cross-check. If the site offers the opportunity to ask questions, pose the question there. Both Catholic Answers and EWTN maintain expert forums where inquirers can ask the questions to which they have not been able to find answers elsewhere.