Whenever you are doing research online to understand Catholic teaching or practice, you need to be sure you use legitimate websites and resources. Just because a website uses the word “Catholic” does NOT mean that its information is accurate.
Basic guidelines to keep in mind:
1) Use Catholic websites and resources whenever possible.
Non-Catholic websites may have information about Church teachings and practices, but they may not actually know what they are talking about (whether they realize it or not). There is an incredible amount of misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Catholic teachings and practice on the internet, and other media sources. Typically you will find more accurate information about Catholic things on Catholic websites.
2) Make sure your resources are authentically Catholic:
You need to make sure that the information you are receiving is in line with official Church teaching. The best way to do that is to only draw information from legitimate Catholic sources. Here are some ways to check:
a. Use websites from recognized Catholic organizations.
Websites run by the Vatican, by the US Catholic Bishops , by Catholic Dioceses and Catholic Seminaries should all have accurate information. Do NOT automatically trust Catholic Colleges/Universities, Publishers and other Catholic Organizations. Most of the information that they convey may be accurate, but there are many examples of so-called Catholic institutions teaching, acting and recommending things that violate official Church teaching.
b. Establish a list of trusted sources.
See list below.
c. Check for links.
If a website is linked to a recognized organization (like a Diocesan website) or to one of the websites on your list of trusted resources, it should be legitimate.
d. Check the references and recommendations.
If you found an article on a website that looks good but you want to check it out, check for references and recommendations. Does the website reference and seem to recommend recognized Catholic organizations (a) or websites on your trusted sources (b)? If so, it may be a legitimate source of information.
e. Ask for help.
It’s always a good idea to ask your teacher to help you discern whether a website is legitimate and can be used.
3) Always cite your sources!
Plagiarism – presenting someone else’s work as your own – is immoral and stupid! Be sure to always cite the sources of all your information.
Here is a list of organizations and websites that can be trusted to present authentically Catholic information:
Joseph Schmidt, MAT
Director of Religious Education
St. Mary Catholic Church
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