Better uses for blogs

bloggingBoston Globe religion reporter Michael Paulson has been covering an interesting story. The local Catholic hospital chain and a secular insurance company are forming a joint venture. Cardinal O'Malley supports the move but many critics are concerned about whether the arrangement will entangle the church with abortion. For his latest, he surveyed moral theologians:

As the debate over the merits of the Caritas deal with Centene Corp. rages in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, the Globe asked moral theologians around the country to assess the deal, which would result in a 39-hospital joint insurance venture that would cover abortion services, but not at the six Catholic hospitals involved. A dozen scholars and clergy members agreed to offer their opinions, and, to a person, they supported the venture.

You can read the whole thing here. But it's not the story in the paper that I found so interesting. What I loved was how Paulson used his blog -- Articles of Faith -- to give readers the portions of the interviews that were left out of the story. Here's how he introduced the material:

Moral theology is not a subject I wade into all that often, but over the last week, as controversy has raged in the Archdiocese of Boston over a proposed joint venture between the Catholic hospital chain and a non-Catholic insurance provider, I found myself suddenly needing a crash course on things like mediate material cooperation with evil. Anti-abortion activists were insisting that, by participating in a venture that would cover abortion services, Caritas, and by extension the Archdiocese of Boston, would be cooperating with evil. But the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, said the deal was no such thing; that so long as Caritas does not provide the abortion services or benefit from them, it's OK.

So what's a religion reporter to do? I decided to consult with the moral theology experts listed by the American Academy of Religion in its database for journalists. I e-mailed most of the list, and about a dozen scholars, as well as a few priests I also contacted, were gutsy and generous enough to share their thoughts on this subject. The result is a story in today's paper. But I also wanted to publish the responses in full -- it's dense reading at times, but for those of you interested in a little theological perspective on the controversy, here you go:

For the full responses, go here.

It's a great use of a reporter's blog and I wish more reporters -- across all beats -- would take advantage of it. Most readers don't need or want full transcripts of interviews, but for those who do, this is a real treat.

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