Search Results for: Womenpriests

Hey Washington Post: There’s only one (gay) Islam? Really?

Anyone who has been paying attention to debates about the future of the Boy Scouts of America knows that, when it comes to issues linked to homosexuality, there is no one “religious” perspective that journalists need to cover. Even within individual religious traditions — such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Roman Catholic Church — there are people who read the same texts and come to slightly different, or glaringly different, conclusions.

On the Christian left, for example, there is no one pro-gay theology.

On the Christian right, there is no one monolithic camp that opposes homosexuality to the same degree or for the same reasons.

It helps to see some of this written out in clear English. Thus, for a decade-plus I have recommended a helpful, and rigorously balanced, book by a gay evangelical writer, the Rev. Larry Holben, who is now an Episcopal priest. It’s called “What Christians Think about Homosexuality: Six Representative Viewpoints.” For a quick summary, in the form of two Scripps Howard News Service columns from 2000, click here and then over here.

But I raise this subject for the following reason. The other day, the oh-so-edgy Style folks at The Washington Post served up several thousand words worth of public-relations-grade material about a recent “LGBTQ Muslim and Partners Retreat.” This is one of those giant, unavoidable features that is supposed to slap humble readers in the face, starting with the photography and, of course, the symbolic details at the very start:

There was speed dating, a talent show and a baby naming.

But there was also a locked Facebook page. And a strict rule: Attendees should not disclose the retreat’s exact location.

That’s because the 85 people who gathered in the Pennsylvania woods over Memorial Day weekend had come from 19 states and three countries for a somewhat surprising event: a three-day LGBTQ Muslim and Partners Retreat.

Some wore T-shirts that read, “Muslim + Gay = Fabulous.” They prayed. They attended workshops about pioneering progressive Muslims. Ever heard of Isabelle Eberhardt, a.k.a. Mahmoud Saadi, a convert to Islam who challenged gender norms at the turn of the 20th century? And they held discussions on struggling to reconcile their faith with their sexuality, and their sexuality with their faith. (Many folks said that they face Islamophobia from inside the mainstream LGBTQ community.)

Having covered a few off-the-record events myself over the years, I think it would have been best if the Post team members had done what my editors always asked me to do under those conditions — which is to clearly state the precise conditions under which a reporter was allowed into this secret gathering. In this case, all readers were told is this:

This was the third such retreat, and it was sponsored this year by the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, founded in January to address the needs of LGBTQ Muslims. Another sponsor was Muslims for Progressive Values, a Los Angeles-based group formed in 2007 that parallels, to some extent, Unitarian Universalism and Judaism’s reform movement, and which has nine chapters across the country and abroad.

The Washington Post was invited to attend — the first media organization to be given access.

So were some sessions off limits? Were certain participants pre-selected by the organizers to talk to the Post? Did some representatives of the newspaper take part in the conference, as well as cover it? Was the Post, in effect, (I’m thinking about the degree to which The Baltimore Sun has all but cooperated in Womenpriests rites) a participating organization in the event?

The article also makes it very clear that the version of Islam featured in this event is quite different than traditional forms of the faith.

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Why was Vatican mentioned in Womenpriest story?


The editor will be announced in an LA Daily News board meeting. The printing press, symbolizing publishing, will be made out of lollipops. The staff will agree to follow the direction of “our editor and blackjack dealer.”

But the real departure from Los Angeles Times tradition will be evident when Maria Eitz approaches the computer to write her first story.

Does any of that make sense to you? How about this lede to a story that ran in the Los Angeles Times this week?

SAN FRANCISCO — The priest will be ordained in a purple Lutheran church. The Communion bread, symbolizing the body of Christ, will be gluten-free. The congregation will pray to “our mother our father in heaven.”

But the real departure from Roman Catholic tradition will be evident when Maria Eitz approaches the altar Sunday for the laying on of hands that turns parishioner into priest.

So, according to the logic here, you can deny transubstantiation, get ordained in, literally, a Lutheran church (no, not my kind!), and get all gender-weird about God the Father and that’s totally cool and not even a “real” departure from Roman Catholic “tradition?” In what world? Why is Roman Catholic even mentioned here? Seriously?

Also, these aren’t items of tradition, but doctrine. Someone who doesn’t understand the difference between Christian doctrine and Christian tradition has no business writing a story on non-Catholics getting ordained in non-Catholic ceremonies. Period. When editors and reporters are so unfamiliar with Christian doctrine — and tradition — that they produce stories such as this, we all lose.

These stories have been so bad for so long that I’m beginning to wonder if journalists didn’t, like, sign a pact with some agent of journalism darkness to see how much idiocy could be spread under one story topic. It’s just that bad.

Take the headline:

Women becoming priests without Vatican’s blessing
Small numbers of Catholic women are ignoring the ban on female priests and are ordained without the church’s acknowledgment.

The Roman Catholic church is an organization that sets it’s own rules. This headline makes no more sense than saying:

Auto mechanics becoming professors without UCLA’s blessing
Small numbers of auto mechanics are ignoring the rules on who becomes professors and are given tenure without UCLA’s acknowledgement

or

Golfers becoming infielders without Yankees blessing
Small numbers of golfers are ignoring MLB rules and are being named infielders without the Yankees’ acknowledgment

I’m sure you could do better than me at this game.

The story is riddled with errors and weirdness.

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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.

That story begins:

Move over, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the Virginia ex-couple who famously – or infamously – crashed President Obama’s first White House state dinner. There’s a new impostor posing with dignitaries, and he set his sights on an even more coveted gathering.

Meet Ralph Napierski, a German self-declared bishop who reportedly called himself “Basilius,” said he was with the nonexistent “Italian Orthodox Church” and set out to infiltrate a Monday meeting of cardinals at the Vatican.

The fake bishop donned a purple sash (really a scarf) over his vestments and mingled with cardinals and others who’d flown in from around the globe ahead of the conclave to pick a new pope. He smiled wide and posed for cameras while shaking hands with Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana. He tried to blend in.

And here’s ABC News: Prankster Nearly Sneaks Into Meeting of Cardinals

The Swiss Guard promptly ejected the man, later identified as Ralph Napiersi, who told reporters his name was “Basilius.” Napierski said he belonged to an Italian Orthodox Church, which does not exist.

A website that appears to be associated with him describes him as a bishop of Corpus Dei, a fictional Catholic group. The site not only has a fanciful coat of arms for the fake bishop – the motto “Horse of Christ” – it traces his phony credentials all the way back to an 18th Century Patriarch of Babylon.

Napierski is a proponent of “Jesus Yoga” and claims to be a keeper of relics, items of religious veneration because they were touched by or belonged to a saint.

“We want to equip churches (especialy [sic] those with low income) with high class relics,” it says on his website. There are lots of spelling mistakes on the site.

Now what’s fascinating to me about the media coverage of this situation is how it is 180 degrees different from the coverage we see of Roman Catholic WomenPriests! In those stories, there is no such language mocking the individuals claiming to be Catholic priests or the group they’re aligned with. There’s no real questioning of the claim to being genuinely Catholic in at least some sense.

But, as could be said about many extreme positions, this coverage goes way too far in the opposite direction. To understand how and why, I’d recommend reading through Orthodox pastor Andrew Damick’s post “Media Discovers Episcopus Vagans at Vatican, Film at 11.”

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Bishop enforces Catholic doctrine; press goes, ‘Wha …?’

A regular reader who is an active Catholic recently sent us a URL to an interesting mainstream news report about religion and, this is the unusual part, even suggested a headline that ALMOST nailed the GetReligion angle in the piece.

So I used the reader’s headline.

However, I think the reader is slightly off and, perhaps, a bit too kind in that headline. I believe the actual journalistic reaction, in most newsrooms, would best — in Internet terms — be described as “WTF.” I could be wrong about that, of course.

So, the big shocking news in this piece from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat is that the local bishop has decided to get on board with the Vatican’s attempts to put the “Catholic” back in Catholic education. Thus, the opening of the story (which should be read while listening, oh, to something like this) offers a gripping account of the current crisis:

The Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese is requiring its 200 schoolteachers to sign an agreement affirming that “modern errors” such as contraception, abortion, homosexual marriage and euthanasia are “matters that gravely offend human dignity.”

The move is an effort by Bishop Robert Vasa to delineate specifically what it means for a Catholic-school teacher — whether Catholic or not — to be a “model of Catholic living” and to adhere to Catholic teaching. That means means abiding by the Ten Commandments, going to church every Sunday and heeding God’s words in thought, deed and intentions, according to a private church document that is an “addendum” to language in the current teachers’ contract.

In his two years as Santa Rosa’s bishop, Vasa has attempted to bring his strict interpretation of church doctrine to a diocese that historically has had a more tolerant approach. But some teachers fear the addendum is an invasion of their private lives and a move toward imposing more rigid Catholic doctrine.

Now, none of this is the least bit shocking for any journalist who has followed events in the American Catholic Church over the past few decades.

Here is the key: This story is not shocking for two well-established reasons.

First, anyone who has ever covered events on the Catholic left (think, oh, a WomenPriests ordination rite or any kind of event linked to the Catholic gay-rights group Dignity) knows that a high percentage of faculty members in many, critics would say most, Catholic schools tend to lean to the cultural and doctrinal left and, as a rule, this includes many non-Catholics who do not respect the ancient teachings of the church.

Second, during the era defined by the work of the Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, key Vatican offices have taken steps to put some degree of orthodoxy back into Catholic schools, including making them safe working environments for pro-Vatican Catholics. At the level of colleges and universities, this trend is perfectly summed up in the controversial, for many Catholic educators, document Ex Corde Ecclesiae (“From the Heart of the Church”).

In other words, it is totally missing the point for this Press Democrat story to say that the local bishop is attempting to “bring HIS (emphasis added) strict interpretation of church doctrine” to the diocese, when Vasa is acting in a way consistent with a Vatican-supported effort to defend church teachings. Also, the subjects included in this covenant are all very high-profile issues in the church, rather than obscure points of doctrine. Note, also, that the teachers are protesting an action that is consistent with the right of all private schools — on the cultural left, as well as the right — to define the boundaries of their own voluntary associations.

The bottom line?

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I’ve been named a PBS reporter!

This story came to my attention via the great, seemingly omnipresent Rocco Palmo, who tweeted out:

PBS “report” declares Womenpriests as “Catholic priests”: http://to.pbs.org/V2y2BB  On a related note, we’re all PBS reporters.

We’ve seen lesser media outlets decide that various women are “Catholic priests” (in a way that we can only assume they wouldn’t also decide that I’m a Yankees pitcher or the about-to-be inaugurated president of the United States even if groups were calling me such). But PBS? And not just PBS but the usually fantastic Religion & Ethics Newsweekly? Say it ain’t so!

The hard-hitting report begins:

SAUL GONZALEZ, correspondent: At a Los Angeles ceremony, a group of Catholic women is about to commit an act of religious faith, but because they are women it’s an act the Vatican has condemned as a grave crime against the Roman Catholic Church and what the church sees as its divine laws.

“Bishop Olivia and members of the community, I am honored to testify on behalf of Jennifer’s readiness to be ordained to the priesthood.”

GONZALEZ: In a faith that prohibits females from becoming priests, these women are rebels, gathering here this afternoon to ordain this woman, Jennifer O’Malley, as a Catholic priest.

(to Jennifer O’Malley): Do you love the Catholic Church?

JENNIFER O’MALLEY: I do. It’s who I am, so I can’t leave. You know, I’ve gone to other churches and they’re beautiful, but I’m Catholic, and I can’t separate myself from that.

Oh wait, what’s the opposite of hard-hitting?

I would not be entirely surprised if this was run as a press release, rather than a news report. It’s actually even more of an advocacy piece than I’m accustomed to from lesser media outlets. It rivals this Scientology “sponsored content” that ran in The Atlantic. But at least that was marked as sponsored content and not passed off as news.

“Do you love the Catholic Church?”

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What is this “American Catholic Church,” anyway?

What we have here is kind of a Son of the WomenPriests story — with an interesting twist.

When covering the WomenPriests, mainstream reporters have used some very awkward language suggesting, to be blunt about it, that the WomenPriests are valid Roman Catholic priests for the simple reason that they say that they are valid Roman Catholic priests.

The implication is that the Catholic Church is not in charge of declaring who is and who is not a priest in the Catholic Church. As your GetReligionistas have stressed in our posts on this topic — click here for a small library — this is something like a journalist saying he is a columnist at The New York Times for the simple reason that this reporter has decided that he is a columnist at The New York Times. Does the Divine Mrs. M.Z. Hemingway play shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals? If she proclaimed this to be true, would major newspapers print her claim as truth?

This brings me to a short political story in The Austin America-Statesman in which it was crucial to clearly present the ecclesiastical status of a man who was once a Catholic priest and, now, is a different kind of priest.

The shock, this time around, is that the American-Statesman team comes very, very close to getting an A-grade for its efforts on this journalistic equation. Here’s the top of the story:

Austin school board newcomer Dr. Rev. Jayme Mathias narrowly defeated incumbent Sam Guzman early Wednesday morning to represent District 2, an area of East Austin deeply affected by last year’s school board decision to convert a neighborhood school to an in-district charter school run by an outside organization.

That controversial move made the unseating of a board member less surprising than it might have been.

What was a surprise was Mathias’ post-election comment to a reporter that he will be the first openly-gay school trustee, something he hadn’t mentioned during his campaign. However, people involved in the election — including his opponent — said they knew Mathias is gay, and it wasn’t an issue.

Now, that first reference to the man’s name is a bit strange. Most newspapers reserve “Dr.” references for people with medical degrees. Is that the case this time? It’s hard to know. Also, shouldn’t that be “the Rev.” Jayme Mathias? Some papers, in this case, would even say “Father” Jayme Mathias.

However, this man’s clerical status is a bit complex. However, that doesn’t mean that it could not be described in simple, brief, accurate language, in keeping with the fact that the religion element of this story is of secondary importance. Thus, readers are told:

Mathias, a former Roman Catholic priest, is the first non-Hispanic to represent District 2 since the school district moved to geographic representations in 1992.

“I’ve been ministering among the Hispanic community my entire adult life,” said Mathias. “I speak Spanish fluently. I’ve been so immersed in this culture, it’s absolutely part of who I am.”

Mathias said that in March he joined the more progressive American Catholic Church, which allows priests to marry or live in domestic partnerships. He is now pastor of Holy Family American Catholic Church.

Did the newspaper need to call the local Catholic diocese for clarification in this case? Probably not.

Did the newspaper — to provide clarity for readers — need to add at least one sentence, or phrase, about the history and size of the American Catholic Church?

I think that it would have helped. Why? Well, there are about 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. How many people are in this American Catholic communion? It’s hard to tell, but it appears there are 24 small parishes in this fold — in the world. Total global membership of 2,000 or so?

This would be an interesting detail to know, if the goal is to explain the pilgrimage of Mathias. All this would take is a sentence or two. That’s all.

The Sun mourns death of a liberal priest

It’s a question that journalists debate from time to time in major newsrooms: To what degree are obituaries news stories?

Other questions quickly follow this one: To what degree should an obituary cover any controversies or painful elements of a person’s life? To what degree should an obituary be written with the family of the deceased in mind, as opposed to the interests of readers? Are things different if we are talking about the lead obit in the day’s news, the most prominent person being profiled?

One more time: Are we talking about a news story or not?

You can see all of these questions tugging at the editors in The Baltimore Sun‘s obituary describing the death of a young leader in local Catholic social services. The headline is totally normal, with no hints of complications:

Rev. Edward F. McNally, Franciscan Center director

Roman Catholic priest directed outreach center since 2010 for those in need

Yet, in the photo used in the online edition, as opposed to the small photo in the printed newspaper, McNally is shown standing at work in secular business attire, complete with Oxford button-down collar and tie, cellphone on his belt. He is the perfect image of the young urban professional, as opposed to being a Franciscan or even a diocesan priest.

The lede is strangely and carefully stated:

The Rev. Edward F. McNally, a Roman Catholic priest who later became executive director of the Franciscan Center, died Saturday of lymphoma at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The Mount Washington resident was 46.

“Ed had volunteered here when he was a seminarian at St. Mary’s. Afterward, he saw an ad in the paper for executive director of the Franciscan Center and applied,” said Sister Ellen Carr, former interim director of the center and now a member of its board.

So what, precisely, does the lede say?

The bottom line: Was this young man ordained as a priest, before leaving the priesthood and entering another form of service to the church and the larger community? Yet the headline still identifies him as a priest. The story never clearly answers this question, while offering lots of information about his studies in business, the decision to earn a law degree, his work teaching comparative religion, etc., etc. There are lots of hints, but no clarity.

Toward the end of the obituary there is this additional — once again, very carefully worded — information linked to his work at the Franciscan Center.

In a 2010 interview with The Baltimore Sun, Mr. McNally explained how he confronted the mission of the center. “We operate as a community effort. We get donations and help — time, talent and treasure — from parishes, high schools, universities, foundations and individuals,” he said. …

Mr. McNally, who was diagnosed in July 2011 with the cancer that eventually claimed his life, stepped down as the center’s executive director on a medical leave earlier this year.

Mr. McNally offered his last Mass at the time of his mother’s death in 2008. Mr. McNally had not formally resigned the priesthood but was on official leave, said the Rev. Timothy Elmer, chancellor of the Diocese of Syracuse.

So he never officially resigned the priesthood, yet he is “the Rev.” in the headline and “Mr.” in the text of the story. Finally, the story features another significant voice:

“He was vitally interested in social justice issues and was very politically oriented,” said his partner of a year and a half, Jennifer Maurer of Mount Washington, who is a clinical social worker at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “He was also into fitness and cycling, and it wasn’t uncommon for him to ride 20 or 30 miles at a time,” said Ms. Maurer.

So was this very committed, very political Catholic social activist a priest, or not? Was he married, or not? His ministry, of course, was in Baltimore. What was his status with the local church during his tenure as the leader of a Catholic ministry in this area? What is going on here?

In the end, I know that there are many conservative Catholics in Maryland who are convinced that the Sun, in its news coverage, actively opposes the Catholic faith — period. There are times (click here) when it is tempting to think that.

However, I think it is more accurate to say that the Sun serves as the official public-relations voice of liberal Catholics who live, work and worship in this overwhelmingly secular- and progressive-Catholic region. The goal seems to be to promote and protect the careers and work of Catholics whose views on doctrinal and public issues are acceptable to the newspaper.

Thus, the Sun is not anti-Catholic. It’s increasingly pro-liberal Catholic and, often, this bias is clearly stated. In this case, it’s hard to name the forces that shaped this complex obituary.

Got news? Bavarian rabbi in legal trouble for WHAT?!

With GetReligion’s move to the Patheos universe, it’s highly likely that this here weblog has lots of new readers. As a result, some of the language that we use over and over may sound a bit strange, for people who have not been around for our whole eight-year journey.

Take, for example, the constant references to religion “ghosts.” Confused? This is a big one, so please click here and read.

And what, pray tell, is the “tmatt trio”? Here’s a collection of URLs that will help you work that one out. And what about “tmatt” as a name (it’s a lower-case “t,” by the way)? That showed up years ago, a digital nickname bestowed by the wife of my family’s Orthodox priest. Many of you may know the work of the justifiably admired writer Frederica Mathewes-Green.

You may, on occasion, see a reference to the Rt. Rev. Douglas Leblanc. No, he is not an Anglican bishop, I bestowed the title on him in a rather postmodern fashion. I mean, who is to say that he is not an Anglican bishop, that’s his decision and not anyone else’s, right? Meanwhile, he is the co-founder of GetReligion and I leave his name on the masthead because of my vast respect for his work (and in hopes that he returns to this space, some day, somehow).

And so forth and so on. The key term for this post is our ongoing “Got news?” features. This is a label that was created to let us write about stories that seem very important to us as readers, yet for some strange reason, they are not getting very much or any coverage in the mainstream press. We even have an archive category for these posts.

If one of the goals of GetReligion is to spot religion-news sins of commission, then “Got news?” is a label that we have pinned on some of the sins of omission. Does that make sense?

So here is a perfect example. The following story from Europe seems very important, seeing as how it perfectly illustrates what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was talking about the other day in her unusually candid speech on the rising global tide of threats to religious liberty.

What often happens is that major stories get stuck in the world of the denominational press or, when it comes to religion news, the alternative “conservative media.” The implication is that only true believers care about this stuff.

With that introduction, consider the top of this very alarming story from JTA.org, a news service dedicated to covering Jewish news.

BERLIN (JTA) – A court in Bavaria is considering criminal charges of committing bodily harm against a local rabbi, in the first known case to arise from an anti-circumcision ruling in May.

The investigation against Rabbi David Goldberg, who is a mohel (or ritual circumciser) undertaken after a complaint was filed against him with police by anti-circumcision activists, means that the May decision in the state of Hesse has been applied in Bavaria, confirming the fears of Jewish leaders here that the local ruling would have a wider impact.

Goldberg, 64, a Jerusalem native living in Hof Saale in Bavaria, told JTA he had not yet received a notice from the court. He said he would decide what to do after he had seen it. The charge was confirmed to the main Jewish newspaper of Germany, the Juedische Allgemeine Zeitung.

The rabbi also said he did not know what act the charges could refer to, since he has not performed any circumcisions recently in Germany. “Only abroad: in Budapest, in the Czech Republic, in Italy,” he said. Still, the rabbi said no secular ruling would stop him from performing brit milah in the country.

Read it all.

Once again, the goal here at GetReligion is not to discuss, let alone argue, about the doctrinal or political issue at the heart of this case. We are trying to do something that is a journalistic cut above that. The goal is to discuss whether this is an important story and, if it is, why isn’t the story breaking out into the mainstream press.

Was this story covered in the newspaper — analog or digital — that landed in your metaphorical front yard this morning? Have you seen significant coverage of this significant event in the mainstream, as opposed to niche, sites that you frequent?
Why or why not?


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