It’s been almost nine years since that day in February 2015 when Terry called me in Alaska to ask if I’d join the GetReligion team starting March 1.

(We already had a reminder of the Mattingly family sitting in our home; an enormous lion gifted by Terry and Debra to my daughter Veeka when she was 6 1/2, about the time she stayed with them for several days while I was on a reporting trip. I’ve included a photo of the Aslan-like creature with her delighted face just after she received it. The lion still keeps vigil by her window).

The GetReligion assignment, Terry told me, was that I’d concentrate on West Coast media and culture wars coverage.

 Since then, my writing has ranged w-a-y beyond that, from John Allen Chau to Josh Harris. I have picked up a lot about analytical writing, hopefully have not made too many enemies and have shown some light into dark corners.

Sometimes I hit it out of the park. With the election of President Donald Trump and the ascendancy of his pastor, Rev. Paula White, I spread word of  an ascendant Pentecostal/charismatic movement that was way more powerful than its non-charismatic evangelical counterpart.

This was years ahead of the curve. Not a whole lot of folks were listening until Jan. 6, 2021.

But you, dear readers, were seeing it here first, starting my Nov. 10, 2020, column that begins with the frantic prayers in White’s Florida church in the face of a Trump loss. By the time my Dec. 15, 2020, column about the “Jericho March” in DC surfaced, there were prophets nationwide saying Trump would win no matter what and other disturbing trends that not enough reporters were tracking.

Why? These prophets were considered wackos by most.

My Jan. 11, 2021, column, about the aftermath of Jan. 6 (when some of those ‘wackos’ showed up on the streets of Washington) and the resulting “civil war” among charismatics got a lot more ears — and a ton of hits. By this time, the “Trump prophets” who had erroneously prophesied that the 45th president would win a second consecutive term were in the middle of a theological maelstrom. The day of Biden’s inauguration, I penned one last column on the topic here.

I count the work I did on the prophets and my coverage on Cardinal Theodore McCarrick as among the best work I did for this blog. I was one of a handful of reporters in the country who had copies of a huge file of incriminating documents on the cardinal; documents I’d had since 2008, when I was handed them by a church source who was anxious that someone break wide open the story about this man.

I’d known the rumors about McCarrick bedding young seminarians at his Jersey shore beach house for several years, as did a handful of other reporters like fellow Washington Times scribe George Archibald and Rod Dreher (formerly at the Times but then at the Dallas Morning News) and blogger Matt Abbott.

What was missing? We needed certain priests to go on the record about McCarrick’s abuse, but none would.

Still, things had begun to unravel by November 2005 and McCarrick was told he had to resign a year earlier than planned. Those of us in Washington at the time didn’t do the math enough to realize the cardinal was being ushered out a bit too early — he was supposed to stay through 2007 but behind the scenes, Pope Benedict had lowered the boom. Still, people were starting to talk, at least about the beach house.

So when the Archdiocese of New York broke the story — about the cardinal having sexually abused minors — in June 2018, I was ready to go with the huge amount of info I had. My June 21 column was one of my best ever for GetReligion and it got 37 responses, mostly from shellshocked Catholics. In the coming weeks as other reporters were getting up to speed, I wrote about the scandal here, here and here. I did more in the following months, because the story had many, many layers.

 Other columns were less glamorous but just as needed, such as insider religion-beat stuff that no one else was doing. I also took on biased articles on certain religion-connected court cases; the Oregonian’s less than stellar reporting on the  Sweetcakes by Melissa case was a particularly apt example.

In 2021, I joined Newsweek as their religion correspondent for 1 ½ years until layoffs put an end to that adventure.

One of my best memories of the GetReligion years will always be the email chitchats between members of our team on various newsmakers or whether we’ve heard of this or that rumor. I may be clueless about something, but chances are at least one person on the team will have an answer.

Being a religion reporter has meant working solo at so many outlets; you don’t get to be part of, say, a White House team or a politics team where you share expertise, so it’s been wonderful having a bunch of experienced hands on the beat to consult with. I plan to stay in touch, but I’m not terribly sorry that this segment of my life’s journey has ended. Nine years is a long commitment.

So what’s next? I’ll be at a Religion Newswriters Association meeting this coming April in Pittsburgh helping to celebrate RNA’s 75th anniversary. I’ve plans for lots of stories, so you can watch for them at my blog, or on Twitter or on my Facebook page.

One of my interests is central Asia where my daughter was born and where I know there are great stories. In the top photo, you can see one of my Asian reporting sojourns; interviewing Muslim villagers in the Rajasthan province in western India. That’s me, looking very hot in a yellow sleeveless blouse with the notepad.

Another is the Arctic, where I’d like to head this summer. I’ve always loved finding religion stories in far places and I know they’re out there. I just have to get there.

MAIN PHOTO: By Mary F. Calvert.


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