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The Man Behind America’s Largest Catholic Super-Site

The Man Behind the Worlds Largest Catholic Super-Site

New Advent

Kathy Schiffer - published on 06/23/14

Meet the founder of New Advent and find out why his site is #1.

In April 2014, published its 11th annual listing of the Top 300 Christian Blogs for Ministry. Included on the list were blogs by Catholics, by evangelicals, by Reformed Christians, and by virtually every branch of Christendom.  

And topping that list was New Advent, the Catholic supersite founded and maintained by Denver native Kevin Knight. New Advent captured first place with an Alexa score—a ranking based on factors including traffic and in-bound links—exceeding 41,000.

This latest honor is not the first accolade for New Advent. In 2012, St. Peter’s List ranked the site #3 on its Top Ten Catholic News Sites, explaining:

New Advent is without question one of the most popular Catholic sites for news and research.  The simple but well done outlet contains a front-page daily news aggregate, a full online Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, an index of Early Church writings, an online Bible and a library filled with Church documents.

As the award-winning website nears its 20th anniversary, I caught up with Kevin recently to discuss his faith and his vision for New Advent, and to ask how he finds the articles which are featured on the world’s largest and most popular Catholic news aggregator.  

Kevin explained that, although he’d been baptized Catholic, he hadn’t always followed his faith. It was “cultural drift,” he confessed, that caused him to leave the Church behind without a backward glance. Then in young adulthood, almost overnight, he felt a strong pull. It was through Nature that he found his way back to Faith: He came to discern God in the oceans and in all the wonders of creation, and almost overnight he realized that there had to be a Creator.

Kevin describes his quest during that time as “almost a scientific pursuit”—seeking  evidence, and pursuing it to its conclusion. He feels certain that even had he not been raised Catholic, his methodical research would have led him, based on scientific and historical evidence, to embrace the Catholic faith.

In 1993, during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Denver, Colorado for World Youth Day, Kevin was inspired to launch a project to publish the 1913 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia on the Internet. Kevin, then a 26-year-old Denver resident, founded the website New Advent in early 1995 to house the undertaking. He enlisted the help of volunteers from the United States, Canada, France and Brazil to assist in the transcription of the original material, which was available in the public domain and no longer subject to copyright restrictions.

It’s not easy for a young atheist or agnostic, especially one who is just beginning to explore religion, to admit that he’s dissatisfied with the old answers and is seeking a new paradigm to explain the existence of the physical world. When he began his quest for truth, Kevin read anonymously, as secretly as he could, without confiding in family or friends. Later, after he’d returned to the Catholic Church, Kevin understood from his own experience that the Internet could offer privacy to seekers as they explored the faith; and he knew that a website such as New Advent could be a help to nonbelievers, as well as to those well-established in faith.

Where does the news originate? Kevin explained that he watches about 500 feeds every day, and he receives links from writers around the country. New Advent offers a mix of cultural observations, Catholic topics, whimsical pieces and lighthearted stories. In choosing stories to cover, Knight tries to stay away from polemics, the standard talking points of one side or the other, for example, in the liturgy wars. He looks for writers who speak with the Church, and for Catholic news which is presented from a different angle. If a writer is merely parroting what other pundits are saying, whether along conservative or liberal lines, that won’t be a good fit for New Advent.

When it come to popular issues such as abortion, upon which Catholics will agree, Knight looks for a report or article that approaches those important topics with a fresh angle.

What does the future hold for Kevin Knight and for New Advent? Kevin’s ambitious plans include an expansion of the Encyclopedia, as well as additional resources for study. Currently the site includes the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Kevin hopes to incorporate works by the Doctors of the Church and other important writings. He envisions a large-scale collaborative effort; and he believes that with the communications tools available today, volunteers could work more efficiently than was possible during the first entry project for the Encyclopedia, when communication was via email.

“It’s my dream,” Kevin said, “to begin pulling together a lot of these resources into pages that could walk people through history and through theology—to hold their hands and walk them through the oceans of material.”    

Kathy Schifferis Director of Publicity and Special Events for Ave Maria Radio. Her Patheos blog is Seasons of Grace.

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