WomenPriests

Surprise! It's time for another one-sided look at the birth of a new church -- the Women Priests

Surprise! It's time for another one-sided look at the birth of a new church -- the Women Priests

It’s time for another GetReligion post about mainstream press coverage of the Women Priests (or “WomenPriests”) movement. So, all together now, let’s click off the key points that must be made.

(1) As Mollie “GetReligionista emerita” Hemingway used to say, just because someone says that he or she plays shortstop for the New York Yankees does not mean that this person plays shortstop for the world’s most famous baseball team. Only the leaders of the Yankees get to make that call.

(2) The doctrine of “apostolic succession” involves more than one bishop laying hands on someone. Ordination in ancient Christian churches requires “right doctrine” as well as “right orders.” Also, it helps to know the name of the bishop or bishops performing the alleged ordination. Be on the alert for “Old Catholic” bishops, some of whom were ordained via mail order.

(3) Consecrating a Catholic bishop requires the participation of three Catholic bishops, and the “right orders” and “right doctrine” question is relevant, once again. A pastor ordained by an alleged bishop is an alleged priest.

(4) It may be accurate to compare the apostolic succession claims of Anglicans and Lutherans to those made by Women Priest leaders (although the historic Anglican and Lutheran claims are stronger). This is evidence of a larger truth — that the Women Priests movement is a new form of liberal Protestantism.

(5) It is not enough for journalists to offer an obligatory “Catholic press officials declined to comment” paragraph on this issue. Legions of scholars, lay activists and articulate priests are available to be interviewed.

(6) Sacramental Catholic rites — valid ones, at least — are rarely held in Unitarian Universalist sanctuaries.

Once again, let me make a key point: Would your GetReligionistas praise a mainstream news story on this movement that offered a fair-minded, accurate, 50-50 debate between articulate, informed voices on both sides? You bet. Once again: If readers find a story of this kind, please send us the URL.

That brings us to yet another PR report on the Women Priests, this time care of The Louisville Courier-Journal and the Gannett wire service. The headline: “Condemned by the Vatican, women priests demand place at Catholic altar.”

Kudos for the “Condemned by the Vatican” angle in the headline, which — sort of — addresses the New York Yankees shortstop issue. Another careful wording shows up in this summary passage at the top of the long, long, very long story, which opens with — you guessed it — a rite in a Unitarian church office:

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WomenPriests scores yet another PR feature in yet another sympathetic newspaper

WomenPriests scores yet another PR feature in yet another sympathetic newspaper

It's not every day that I see a news feature that starts with a fact error.

"Mary Alice Nolan will soon be ordained a Roman Catholic priest," says the lede of a Q&A feature in the Marin Independent Journal.

Well, no, actually she won't.

Nolan will undergo a ritual that resembles a Catholic ordination. But it will be sanctioned by the WomenPriests movement -- not the canonical Roman Catholic Church. You see, Vatican has a system in which it chooses its clergy. It's kind of like the New York Yankees getting to decide who makes their 40-man roster and who does not.

Wish it was the only place this article messes up the facts. 

Somehow, the Journal can call Nolan a future Catholic priest while acknowledging the centuries-old corporation that holds the brand:

The 64-year-old’s ordination will not be acknowledged by the Catholic church, which only allows men to become priests, but the lifelong follower of the faith is not letting that stop her.
The San Rafael resident plans to press onward with the ordination, to be conducted by a female bishop of the Western Region of Roman Catholic Priest, in October at an Episcopalian church in San Francisco.
Though skeptical that in her lifetime she will see the church modify its rules of who can take the priesthood, Nolan said she hopes one day the church becomes more inclusive.

As a Q&A, made almost totally of a single subject's quotes, the Journal conveniently sidesteps many of the things I'd expect of a regular, reported news feature.

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Kansas City Star story on woman who wants to be Roman Catholic priest needs less advocacy, more reporting

Kansas City Star story on woman who wants to be Roman Catholic priest needs less advocacy, more reporting

The Kansas City Star recently profiled a woman who — according to the newspaper's headline — "intends to be Kansas City's first female Catholic priest."

Only one small problem: The Roman Catholic Church doesn't ordain female priests.

The top of the Star's story:

In a few days Georgia Walker, at age 67, intends to become a priest,
at which point she will be excommunicated from the Roman Catholic
Church.

That doesn’t faze her.

“I don’t accept the legitimacy of that excommunication,” said Walker, who will be the first woman in Kansas City to defy the church and be ordained a priest.

The church in turn will not accept the legitimacy of her ordination because, under canon law, only men can be priests.

“That’s their problem,” Walker said of the church.

That steadfastness is a trait of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, a growing movement of people who see the church as too authoritarian and unwilling to be inclusive. But instead of leaving the church, they hope to change it from within.

As faithful readers know, GetReligion advocates the traditional American model of the press.

That model relies on journalists presenting facts — attributed to named sources — in a fair, unbiased manner. That's opposed, of course, to the one-sided, advocacy, European-styled approach to reporting the news.

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That deacon and CBS veteran sacks a Womenpriests 'story'

Should visitors to GetReligion choose to search our archives for the term “Womenpriests” they will find eight pages of results, most of them dedicated to dissecting alleged news reports about this tiny splinter movement on the left side of the world of American Catholicism. I say “alleged” because most of these stories resemble public relations essays, rather than news reports that take seriously the beliefs of people on both sides of this issue. In at least one case (“If Womenpriests were rabbis“) it appeared that the Baltimore Sun team actually cooperated with the organizers of a Womenpriests ordination rite to help protect local Catholics (some on the payroll of the real church) who attended the event. For a few other hot links to past coverage, including the work of GetReligionista emeritus M.Z. Hemingway, click here, here, here and here.

Now, Deacon Greg Kandra — scribe at the fine weblog “The Deacon’s Bench” — has taken his turn at pounding his head, as a veteran journalist, on this particular wall. For those not familiar with his work, Kandra is a former CBS Evening News writer with 26 years, two Emmys and two Peabody Awards to his credit. So when this Catholic clergyman chooses to dissect a report from a CBS affiliate, his commentary has a unique level of clout.

This is poor on so many levels. Reporter Maria Medina should be embarrassed. My only conclusion is that it’s sweeps month and the affiliate is desperate for ratings.

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From Reuters: Another by-the-book Womenpriests story

At this point, it seems that mainstream journalists have decided that the Womenpriests movement deserves a slow-rolling wave of coverage in which (a) it will clear that the women are operating outside the official borders of the Roman Catholic Church, but (b) the viewpoints of movement leaders will be quoted as gospel truth when it comes time to discuss why the nasty male church leaders believe what they believe.

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Womenpriests: Press coverage in a familiar, strange mold

To be honest with you, I feel like taking a short break from the Vatican beat — sort of. I predict news from Rome sooner rather than later. You think?

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Fake bishop or episcopi vagantes?

Media outlets had a lot of fun with a recent story about a Vatican gatecrasher. A sample of the headlines include Time: Fake Bishop Tries to Sneak into Vatican Meeting; Vanity Fair: Theological Espionage! Fake Bishop Sneaks Into Vatican; NPR: At The Vatican, ‘No Rush’ To Set Conclave; And A Fake Bishop Tries To Get In; Daily Beast: Fake Bishop Sneaks Into Vatican; San Francisco Chronicle: Vatican not amused by fake bishop who posed with cardinals; and CNN: Fake bishop busted and booted from Vatican.

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Day 2: Pope still extremely Catholic

I hope everyone is having a blast with Day 2 of Papalpalooza. I’ve actually enjoyed some of the media coverage I’ve come across but we all know what happens when I post on good stuff.

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