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Tom Allen is the President and Editor of CatholicExchange.com, a popular Catholic internet portal that is, according to Alexa.com, the most-viewed Catholic web site in the world. IgnatiusInsight.com recently spoke with Tom about CatholicExchange.com and the role of the internet in the Church.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What is the mission of Catholic Exchange?

Tom Allen: Catholic Exchange is endeavoring to evangelize the world via the modern media with the Good News of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church in obedience to Pope John Paul II's call for a "Springtime of World Evangelization."

IgnatiusInsight.com: How did Catholic Exchange get started?

Tom: Back in 1999, the Missionaries of Faith Foundation (MOFF), through the generosity of the Daou family of Rancho Santa Fe, California, established the website e3mil.com, intending for it to become a full-service "Yahoo for Catholics."

Unfortunately, e3mil ("Evangelization for the Third Millennium"), which was set up as a for-profit corporation for purposes of soliciting investment to fuel its growth, fell victim to the dot-com crash of 2000 and went out of business. Happily, the Daous and MOFF donated the technical platform and content assets to a group of e3mil employees committed to carrying the website and its mission forward within a non-profit framework that we named Catholic Exchange.

CE would be a safe, informative and invigorating online home for Catholics to gather and exchange information, goods and services. CE and MOFF now share in common full rights of ownership in the website and its content.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Who are the key players involved with Catholic Exchange?

Tom: The core group that carried the ball forward after the demise of e3mil included myself, Mark Shea, Anthony DeBellis, Tom Kyd, Matt Pinto and Gail Buckley. I continue to serve as publisher and editor-in-chief. Mark is our lead feature and Catholic Scripture Study writer who is also about to be named President of the organization! Anthony is vice president and treasurer. Tom Kyd, CE's secretary, manages customer service. Matt, who runs Ascension Press, serves on our board of directors. And Gail serves as executive director of Catholic Scripture Study.

Beyond this core group are other incredibly talented and dedicated contributors such as Luisa Wheeler, who wears many hats in her role as associate editor for the site; inspired writer and senior editor Mary Kochan, who manages the lead story module, and our friend Dr. Scott Hahn, who works closely with Mark Shea in producing our Catholic Scripture Study.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Some people think the Internet is too much a factor in people's lives. After all, they say, do we really need another thing like TV that takes us away from family life? How would you respond to such criticism? Why should Catholics be involved with the Internet?

Tom: I see the Internet as "the thinking man's TV." It's an active medium (unlike TV, which is passive) that allows you to pick your own "programming" and serve as your own "producer." It's an information treasure trove, a research device with no equal, an unparalleled resource for cutting through the confusion and learning the Faith. It's like having an entire library at your fingertips. It's a radical tool in that it is personal -- the available information isn't filtered through the prism of corporate or political interests.

It's raw, fresh, dynamic and instantaneous. I love it. Sure, it has its dangers and can certainly strain one's family life if not used (like anything else) in moderation. But Internet resources and email communications are revolutionizing our world and our Church, and we're very fortunate that they came along.

I'm personally fortunate because email communication suited perfectly my ability to correspond quickly and carry on multiple conversations at once. It also enabled me to reach VIPs in centers of influence and establish strategic partnerships without having to get through their many layers of handlers.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Where do you see the alternative media of the Internet headed?

Tom: The Internet has the power to evangelize and catechize great swaths of humanity. But first people have to wrench themselves away from the entertainment media, which is where the real dangers lie. Media discernment is really becoming a life-or-death skill. Do you really want wayward, bottom-feeding Hollywood producers shaping your worldview?

The fact is that the Catholic world has not yet come up to speed yet on the entertainment media front. There are very few programs worth our time and attention. On the Internet, however, there is fabulous material to access and safe pastures in which to graze - like Catholic Exchange, for example!

Our goal is to go beyond articles and Bible studies and use the website as a platform to launch audio and video programming that's both entertaining and enriching. We need to promote our faith and our worldview in the marketplace of ideas and the Internet, with its low-cost access, allows for that like no other tool since the printing press.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Catholic Exchange was very involved in the political discussion of this election year. What do you think is the role of Catholic media regarding politics? Should the Catholic media be partisan?

Tom: This is another area in which tremendous confusion reigns among the Catholic faithful.

Our people, sadly, have been propping up the culture of death with our votes for the past three decades. Catholic media should focus on the primacy of the Life issues and tirelessly make the point that there can never be "peace on earth" and true social justice if nations don't first respect and protect life at all stages from birth to natural death.

There are first principles and a clear hierarchy of moral issues as taught by the Magisterium of the Church. Our sister company, Catholic Outreach, just published a book on the "non-negotiable issues" of our Faith called The Five Issues That Matter Most. It's all well and good to talk about "love" and how much Jesus loved the children and so forth. But until we as Catholic people begin implementing our Church's teachings more effectively in the society around us, then those concepts are empty shells and we stand powerless before the very real forces of darkness that move men's hearts.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What are your short-term plans for Catholic Exchange?

Tom: We are developing an NPR-style radio program with our good friends at the Relevant Radio network. We are also developing some original video programming that we intend to stream online and make available to our audience on a subscription basis.

We're also intent on increasing our services at the parish level, expanding our international network of Catholic Scripture Study groups, and unveiling multiple foreign-language versions of our website. Look for us to introduce our Spanish language version in the very near future.



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