Search Results for: Womenpriests

FYI: I am now a Herald-Tribune reporter

RCCYou may have heard of the Herald-Tribune, a New York Times Co. paper in Florida. The Herald-Tribune Media Group includes a daily newspaper with six daily zoned editions for various Florida communities. It also has a 24-hour cable news station, an internet site, three magazines and a direct-mail business.

What you may not know is that you can claim you are a reporter for the Herald-Tribune and the company won’t care at all. That’s right, the suits at the Herald-Tribune don’t believe they have the right to credential employees (wait for it).

At least, that’s what I assume is the case after hearing about how the paper is handling a dispute with the Roman Catholic Church.

Apparently the paper runs announcements of religious services. One of them lists a Mass for a church that goes by the name Mary Mother of Jesus Catholic Community House Church. The announcement appears under the heading “Inclusive Catholic Mass.” But there’s more:

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Venice has asked the Herald-Tribune to stop running a certain religious service announcement, or at least remove some words.

Sorry, but editors have decided not to comply. … The problem? The pastor is listed as “Bridget Mary Meehan, ordained R.C. female priest.”

Why on earth would the Venice Diocese have a problem with the newspaper publishing an announcement for a church claiming its female priest is ordained in the Roman Catholic Church?

Anyway, the excerpt above comes from columnist Tom Lyons. It’s a column, so it’s fine that he advocates in favor of the group with which we’ve become familiar over the last few years — Roman Catholic WomenPriests. The entire column is basically a puff piece on Meehan which is, again, fine. But the column does say quite a bit about how these issues were debated in the newsroom.

Here is how it ends:

The worshippers are enthusiastic, Meehan says. Some have recently been regular attendees at mainstream Catholic churches, others had long felt alienated from the church, she says. But even though a feature story in the Herald-Tribune 10 months ago helped double the attendance, 20 people is still a good turnout.

So I think the Diocese will survive the challenge. And really, everyone should be glad that newspaper employees will not be deciding who is right or wrong theologically.

The only definitive source a journalist could use to confirm or deny the validity of Meehan’s standing is really hard to reach by phone, fax or e-mail, and has not announced a press conference.

womenpriests2 01
I actually think this is a journalism question, not a theological issue. But even so, it seems to me that the paper did take sides on a theological issue. The Roman Catholic Church says that Sheehan is in no way an ordained Roman Catholic priest. The organization Roman Catholic WomenPriests says she is. By publishing an announcement that says she is an ordained Roman Catholic priest, it’s hard to say that the paper is not deciding who is right or wrong.

So how to handle this? I think that, as with many issues we come across here, more explanation is in order. And papers better get their policies in order before more independent Catholic churches crop up. Or consider the case of St. Stanislaus in St. Louis. Archbishop Burke recently excommunicated the parish priest there but obviously he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest. How do newspapers describe such situations?

The question is, basically, who has the right to determine credentials? Do church organizations have the same right to determine who is a credentialed member as other academic or professional organizations?

Why not just announce that Sheehan was ordained by the group called Roman Catholic WomenPriests? Perhaps the Herald-Tribune could consider how St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Tim Townsend handled the matter a few months ago:

The two women will be ordained as priests of an organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which, in its constitution, defines itself as “an international initiative within the Roman Catholic Church.”

The group was founded in 2002, when seven women were ordained aboard a boat on the Danube River in Germany. All of them were later excommunicated. The organization says other women have since been ordained by male Roman Catholic bishops, including Patricia Fresen, a former Dominican nun and Roman Catholic Womenpriests bishop, who will ordain Hudson and McGrath.

The group insists that it is Roman Catholic, but the church says it is not.

An explanation doesn’t need to be that long, but it helps to have more context.

What do you think about he way the Herald-Tribune handled the conflict? Do you have any suggestions for how they could have done better?

Context, please

context2 Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has won praise for his coverage of an excommunication dispute between a priest and six laymen at a church and Archbishop Raymond Burke. As Mollie noted, Townsend has explained to readers that the battle is not over any sexy theological or moral issues, but rather over church authority.

Townsend’s latest story is about a meeting the Archbishop and canon lawyers had with the Rev. Marek Bozek. Yet unlike his previous stories, this story failed to give readers sufficient context about the excommunications.

Burke put Bozek on notice after the priest participated in an ordination ceremony for two women in November at Central Reform Congregation. The women became priests of an organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests. The Roman Catholic church does not ordain women as priests.

Read, please, that first sentence again: “Burke put Bozek on notice …” It’s not clear what Townsend means. After all, Bozek has been excommunicated; in the Catholic Church, excommunication is the ultimate notice.

Also, the story leaves the impression that the dispute is over female ordination. According to Townsend’s old stories, that’s not an issue at all; the issue is authority, specifically who can control the Polish church. Has the situation between Burke and Bozek changed? Is the dispute now over female ordination?

An AP story suggests the opposite is true: the dispute is still over church authority.

I don’t know what went wrong with Townsend’s story. Perhaps having written so many insightful stories before, he thought his readers knew the issue at hand. Alas, not all readers do.

M.Z. Hemingway’s Greatest Hits

BIGI would like to say it’s because I’m a sleep-deprived new mom, but the fact is that I have always had a lousy memory. So when we decided to celebrate our 4th anniversary by remembering five of our favorite posts at GetReligion, I had to dig through our archives and review every post I’ve written.

While time consuming, it was a great exercise. As the type of person who feels no shame in laughing at her own jokes, I enjoyed reading various headlines and stories I’ve shared over the past 26 months. When I began working at GetReligion, I was single. Since then, I became engaged and married to my wonderful husband and a mother to the world’s best baby. It’s amazing how much life can change in such a short period of time.

Reviewing all of my posts, and some of the more interesting comment threads, reminded me how appreciative I am of our excellent and knowledgeable community of readers here.

I couldn’t really pick my favorite five posts. If you read my December 25, 2006, post, you would remember I argue that men are more likely to list things than women are. So permit me to just discuss my favorite areas of coverage instead.

SUBSTANTIVE THEOLOGY
The first is media exploration of heavier, non-political theological topics. The reason why I became interested in media criticism of religious news coverage was because it annoyed me that the only religious groups that received coverage were those that were actively engaged in political matters, whether on the left or the right. Confessional Protestants, who are more likely to be concerned with the sacred than the temporal, are left out of such coverage. But such an approach also misses the most interesting stories about day-to-day church life. I’ve enjoyed being able to highlight stories that strive to cover this daily life, such as the use of church discipline, the importance of Holy Communion, the rise of traditionalism, the ethics of tithing, how to be a godparent and why some religious figures combat scandal. One particular favorite topic was confession and absolution.

BEYOND CHRISTIANITY
The United States religious landscape is predominantly Christian. And most of the stories we look at deal with Christians. So I have enjoyed getting to highlight stories about religious groups or religious topics that are not Christian. Whether it’s the increased appearance of zebibahs in Egypt, Hindu nationalists trying to rewrite textbooks in California, the renewed fascination and criticism of atheists, or accommodation of pagan holidays, religion reporters help shed light on minority religious groups. My favorite story in this vein was Laurie Goodstein’s discussion of Zorastrians.

HUMAN LIFE ISSUES
The most important topics I’ve had the opportunity to cover all fits under the sanctity of human life umbrella. So many fantastic religion reporters have covered human life issues from all sides. I’ve looked at stories that decline to mention that some stem cell research destroys embryos, Ann Rodgers’ excellent piece about Catholic outreach to women and men who suffer from the pain of infertility, stories about the theological views of in vitro fertilization, assisted suicide, genetic testing and abortion of children with Down syndrome, selective reduction, birth control, handling bodies of the deceased, and death and dying in general.

Also under this umbrella fits my many posts about abortion coverage. Many media critics have discussed the problems with how newsrooms handle this contentious topic and I have long felt that the grammar and rhetoric used by reporters is biased in favor of abortion rights advocates. Two of my favorite posts on how this plays out were my critique of how The New York Times handled the errors and bias in Jack Hitt’s piece on abortion in El Salvador and my look at the subtle and not-so-subtle bias of reporting the Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban.
BLONDIE
THE WAR ON THE LITURGICAL CALENDAR
When I began working at GetReligion, it was during one of the contentious War on Christmas seasons. I’ve been pleased to see less silly coverage of the topic. I’ve also enjoyed writing about media ignorance of the rest of the Christian liturgical calendar. I’ve looked at the presence and absence of stories about Advent, Epiphany, Lent, and various Saint Days. It’s been edifying to encourage media treatment of all religious holy days.

ANNUAL ATTACKS ON HOLY WEEK
It usually happens during Holy Week each year — a new rash of media pieces attempting to undermine miraculous stories about Jesus and his life. Some of them have been very bad, and it’s important to call the media out for engaging in such an offensive annual game.

So I’m pretty sure those are my five favorite areas. This summary leaves out, of course, many other favorite posts. A few honorable mentions — coverage of the crises in the Episcopal Church, be it whether to discipline a female priest who converted to Islam or how to punish a bishop who permitted his diocese to vote on whether to leave The Episcopal Church. I’m also proud of my many posts about the Mormon religion and hope that they have helped shed light on Mormon theology as well as the traditional Christian response to it. These posts also gave us an opportunity to look at the media notion that one must agree with a politician’s religious views in order to vote for them. I might also highlight my coverage of female “Catholic” priest stories, the media obsession with portraying polygamists and multi-parent/gay-parent families as nothing if not normal, The New York Times‘ treatment of the establishment clause, a look at a compelling story about the problem of incest in Amish communities, whether or not academia should be viewed as inherently objective, the importance of not playing fast and loose with numerical analysis, the importance of understanding the history of Muslim expansion, and looking at President Bush’s universalism.

I thank every part of the GetReligion community — including the excellent religion reporters we cover — for the opportunity to write about such important and interesting topics. As always, please do let us know which issues you’d like to see more coverage of.

The inscrutable Burke

womenpriests2 02We’ve seen many stories over the years of women proclaiming that they are Roman Catholic priests. In many of these articles, reporters forget to mention that the priests are in no way recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Tim Townsend has been a notable exception to this rule, and he had a nice follow-up story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week.

So last month one of these ordinations by Roman Catholic Womenpriests took place in St. Louis. Since the group isn’t actually Roman Catholic, it had to find a different place for the ordinations. Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation offered to host. This caused some major ripples in the St. Louis interfaith community, which had previously enjoyed good relations between the archdiocese and the Jewish congregation. Which brings us to the most recent story:

About 150 people from St. Cronan’s Catholic Church huddled together for warmth under a huge tarp on the street next to their church Tuesday night. They prayed as the rain and wind whipped through their makeshift sanctuary.

Their church building — big, warm and dry — stood just yards away, but the St. Cronan parishioners had decided that they’d rather be cold and wet than without a woman they called their “friend and sister,” Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation.

Talve has spoken at St. Cronan’s, a parish known for its progressive social activism, during many previous prayer services during the Advent season. But this year, the pastoral leadership received a phone call from St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, asking them to revoke Talve’s invitation.

Talve infuriated Burke last month when she and her board hosted a ceremony for two Catholic women, Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie Hainz McGrath, who were being ordained into a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

Townsend is such a good writer and manages to describe things so richly with a minimum of words. And this is precisely the kind of article that should be written in the ongoing story about how Archbishop Burke deals with those under his care.

I’ll just note that this story is very sympathetic toward one side in this conflict. On the one hand you have this group of noble people willing to battle hardship for their friend and sister. On the other hand you have Burke, a meanie whose opposition to Talve’s role in the November ordinations isn’t explained at all. He’s infuriated, we read. But why? Why does he think interfaith involvement with Talve — previously a common occurrence — is no longer a good idea?

Townsend attempted to get the archdiocese’s perspective and got this comment, which struck me as somewhat funny:

A spokeswoman said it would be inappropriate for the archdiocese to comment on an event that took place off church property.

And that’s certainly true. But Townsend has given the archdiocese perspective on the larger matter in previous stories. It might have been worthwhile to throw in a line. There are reasons why Burke opposes renegade ordinations, ordinations of females and participation with groups that work against the church. We should hear a bit about them. It doesn’t need to be long, but it shouldn’t be assumed readers know why Burke has decided as he has.

Townsend mentions St. Cronan’s “progressive social activism,” a good detail that probably explains some of the parish’s interfaith political work. But he also mentions that the worship service included readings from Annie Dillard and a sermon from Talve. These details signal to the reader a bit about the type of congregation St. Cronan’s is theologically.

WABAC: How to cover a priestess story

wayback400The Divine Mrs. M.Z. Hemingway has, through the ages, written more than her share of posts on this blog about the women who are holding ordination rites and then proclaiming that they are now Roman Catholic priests.

So, this time around, I thought I would take a shot at one of these stories. However, I was slow at the switch and young master Daniel jumped in front of me with some comments focusing on new coverage of a controversial ordination service in St. Louis.

This is going to be strange. But I want to jump in the WABAC machine and take a look at an earlier news feature that Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about the controversy that led up to the actual ordination service.

If you want to know how to cover a story rooted in an obvious clash between liberal and traditional groups, this is the way to do it. Welcome to “How to cover a priestess story 101.” The tensions are there, of course, between the local Roman Catholic leadership and their friends in the Jewish community. But that is not the real issue. Townsend makes sure that everyone knows who is who and who is not who.

Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie Hainz McGrath want to be Roman Catholic priests. Their ordinations will not be recognized by the church, which does not ordain women as priests.

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke has reacted strongly, and Jewish leaders are questioning the synagogue’s decision to host the ceremony.

The president of the Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis, who is Jewish, said the decision by Central Reform Congregation may have been a mistake.

Now that wasn’t all that hard, was it? A woman cannot be ordained a priest in a global Communion — built on a clear chain of authority — that does not ordain women to the priesthood. It’s kind of like this: The folks at Apple cannot hold a meeting and elect Steve Jobs as the new CEO of Microsoft (not that he would want the job).

Masthead RCWP 700However, Townsend’s reporting includes the kinds of details that let us know this fight isn’t between the Catholic establishment and the local Jewish community. No, this is a fight inside the local Catholic community — as is the case all across America. This was a case of some active local Catholics deciding that enough was enough. They were going to act on the convictions they had been expressing in other channels for a long time.

Thus, we read:

Hudson, 67, is a grandmother of 11 from Festus who retired three years ago after 40 years as a teacher, the last 21 in the St. Louis public school system. McGrath, 69, of St. Louis, has eight great-grandchildren and recently retired after a dozen years as an editor at a Catholic publishing house. Before that, she was a campus minister at St. Louis University.

After their ordination Sunday, Hudson and McGrath say that they will co-pastor a faith community and that they will celebrate Mass each Saturday at the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis in the Central West End.

I was left with one or two questions. Before she moved to the public schools, was Hudson a teacher in Catholic schools? That detail would have provided one more piece in the puzzle. Also, what was the name of the Catholic publishing house at which McGrath was an editor?

Meanwhile, the key details on the Womenpriests group have not changed. We are still looking for the names of the Catholic bishops who are supposed to have ordained the first women back at the head of this chain reaction. Catholicism — like Eastern Orthodoxy — has a two-step test for ordination, requiring right orders and right doctrine. Something tells me that Rome would have questions about the right doctrine of any bishop who ordained women to the priesthood.

The two women will be ordained as priests of an organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which, in its constitution, defines itself as “an international initiative within the Roman Catholic Church.”

The group was founded in 2002, when seven women were ordained aboard a boat on the Danube River in Germany. All of them were later excommunicated. The organization says other women have since been ordained by male Roman Catholic bishops, including Patricia Fresen, a former Dominican nun and Roman Catholic Womenpriests bishop, who will ordain Hudson and McGrath.

The group insists that it is Roman Catholic, but the church says it is not.

That’s stating the matter rather clearly.

Cheering for women’s ordination

womenpriests2We have written before about Roman Catholic Womenpriests and how the media usually botch coverage of such groups. Roman Catholic Womenpriests wants the Catholic Church to allow women’s ordination and claims to ordain women as Catholic priests. Reporters covering these services often take them at their word that the ordination is genuine.

The problem with the stories is not that they report claims of ordination. That is an established, observable fact. The problem is that the coverage does not reflect that all the ordinations amount to are independent claims without taking into consideration that the Catholic Church does not recognize the services and finds them offensive. Your opinion on the Catholic Church’s position does not matter. The church’s position is a fact reporters should consider in weighing how to convey the news of an event.

A story in Monday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatchobvious cheerleading. The story is even headlined with the crowd’s cheers as if that was the most significant thing to come out of the story. To the credit of reporter Michelle Muntz, the story notes up front that the Roman Catholic Church does not sanction these ordinations. But she also refers to Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie Hainz McGrath the “first women ever in the city to be ordained as Catholic priests.”

To members of the diverse crowd — the dozen ministers in robes and stoles of different colors, those wearing yarmulke, and some wearing buttons saying “God loves us, just ask her” — the ceremony showed unity and understanding.

“What a day, what an occasion, what a case, what a rabbi,” said Patricia Fresen, the ordaining bishop with Roman Catholic Womenpriests, referring to the synagogue’s rabbi, Susan Talve. The room boomed with applause.

The story adequately addresses the fact that the Roman Catholic Church objects to the ordinations and finds them offensive. In fact, the potential response of the ceremony could have led the story, but it’s buried down near the end:

The action irked some. The Rev. Vincent Heir, who directs the Catholic Church’s interfaith efforts in St. Louis, said the archdiocese will not participate in any more interfaith events if Central Reform Congregation is “a leading player.” St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, who has threatened to excommunicate Hudson and McGrath, asked Talve to reconsider hosting the ceremony.

Though she felt support among the throng of people there Sunday, Talve said, “There is still work to do, still conversations to have to help people to understand why we chose to do what we did. Hospitality outweighed other issues that presented a challenge.”

Threats of ordination and refusal to participate in interfaith events are significant statements and could allow for follow-up stories. Instead, we get to hear about a “booming” crowd that cheered along an invalid, offensive to some, ordination service.

Reporters covering these stories should not pass up the opportunity to address the deeper theological issues involved in the Catholic Church’s refusal to ordain women. Slanted coverage does not help anyone and just reinforces the view that the media have a stake in the dispute. If you watch this YouTube video, you will see a smart question from reporter Ann Rodgers at a 2006 press conference and an in-depth response that gets to the heart of the issue.

When Catholics dissent

womenpriests2 01Not all Roman Catholics agree with official church teachings. Disagreement isn’t really tolerated in the church (Happy Reformation Day, fellow Lutherans!), but conflict is embraced by many reporters. This makes sense, since we reporters love drama. Sometimes I root for political candidates to win based on nothing more than which one appears craziest.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel featured two stories this week about dissent in the church. On Friday, reporter Tom Heinen wrote about an upcoming conference of Call to Action, an organization seeking to change church doctrine on female priests and homosexuality, among other things. The conference will feature a tribute to Cindy Sheehan and a service run by women who claim to have valid, if illicit, ordinations.

Last time we looked at WomenPriests, it was because of a horrifically bad article in the Philly Inquirer. The headline to that piece (“Female Catholic Priest has first Mass”) wasn’t even the worst part of it. Compared to that, the Journal-Sentinel article does a much better job of accurately portraying the relationship between the church and those who oppose its teachings:

Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan has termed such ordinations “groundless” and “invalid.” Attempting to celebrate a liturgy led by women who claim to be priests and bishops “would make any claim of Catholic identity by the group to be misleading,” Dolan wrote in his weekly Catholic Herald column in late August.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which orchestrated the ordinations and is organizing the service, rejects those characterizations. It is terming the service a Eucharistic liturgy.

“We’ve had a lot of response, e-mails and notes, from people who found this is a very hopeful sign of women now taking their rightful place,” Bridget Mary Meehan, U.S. spokeswoman for Roman Catholic Womenpriests and the woman who will preside at the liturgy, said of the ordinations.

“We know our orders are not licit; they are against (church) law. We are saying we want to confront the law,” Meehan said. “But we are claiming our orders are valid because we were ordained by Roman Catholic bishops in full Apostolic succession and in full communion with Rome.”

On Thursday, Journal-Sentinel reporter Bill Glauber wrote about a priest who opposes an amendment to the Wisconsin constitution that defines marriage as the union of one man and one women. Only one priest is named as an opponent of the measure that Wisconsin Catholic bishops support. That article, which meanders a bit, is about his views — with a couple of cursory remarks at the end from people who disagree with him:

Father Bryan Massingale, an associate professor of moral theology at Marquette University, wrote a lengthy essay in which he struggled with the idea that “the amendment, read in its entirety, poses a dilemma for many faithful people.”

“The amendment upholds certain beliefs about the uniqueness of marriage,” he wrote in the Sept. 21 issue. “But it does so at a cost, namely, potentially damaging impacts upon the welfare of individuals and their children.”

He also dealt with the issue of homosexuality.

“Too often, discussions of this issue treat ‘those’ people — specifically, gays and lesbians — as if they were an alien species,” he wrote. “They are not. They are our sons and daughters; our sisters and brothers; our aunts, uncles, and cousins; our friends, neighbors, students and co-workers; our priests, ministers and parishioners. ‘They’ are us!”

The piece reads like a puffy profile of Massingale rather than a balanced look at Catholic views on a controversial amendment. Eric Gorski of The Denver Post wrote a story using a similar hook. An organization of Roman Catholic nuns is urging Colorado voters to support abortion and gay marriage, among other issues. Whether or not you agree that groups that oppose archbishops should get as much coverage as they do, Gorski does a great job of characterizing both sides’ views, as evidenced here:

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput has urged Catholics to “act Catholic” when they vote or run for office and called opposition to abortion “foundational.”

“We’re supposed to vote as our conscience tells us, not as the archbishop’s conscience tells him,” said [Sister Mary Ann] Cunningham, a member of the Sisters of Loretto. “I have great respect for the archbishop, but I think that’s kind of treating us like children.”

Jeanette DeMelo, spokeswoman for the Denver Archdiocese, said Chaput has highlighted a broad range of issues, all grounded in Catholic teaching.

“Archbishop Charles Chaput is not teaching his personal opinion,” she said. “This is the church’s teaching, and it is the responsibility of a Catholic to vote their conscience, but their rightly formed conscience, their educated conscience.”

Sometimes it’s just as easy as calling multiple sources for a story. As with these articles, which were sent to us by readers, please keep us informed of good or bad examples from your local papers.

Revenge of ordination by media

shawl2I keep meaning to highlight two stories from earlier this week that dealt with female ordination. The first was a very well-written and interesting profile of the Rev. Marsha Foster Boyd by David Crumm in the Detroit Free Press. She was ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and will be taking over as the fourth president of Detroit’s Ecumenical Theological Seminary in October.

Many U.S. denominations still do not ordain women and, among those that do, women clergy often complain of a stained-glass ceiling that bars them from top leadership. Boyd has invited the Rev. Leah Gaskin Fitchue, the only other woman to achieve a similar milestone, to speak at her installation.

The word “still” is interesting and completely unnecessary. My denomination, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, doesn’t ordain women. No need to say we “still” don’t ordain women. as it adds an editorial nudge. It’s the annoying kid in the back seat asking, “Are we there yet?” It assumes that where we are now is not good.

Anyway, there was another interesting and well-written piece in The New York Times about an Orthodox Jewish woman who will be leading a synagogue. The piece, by Michael Luo, explains a bit about the inherent conflict of such a move.

[Dina Najman] will not be called rabbi; instead, she has been given the title of rosh kehillah, or head of congregation. It is the highest position in the community, and she will be performing many of the functions of a rabbi, within certain limitations that have been laid out by the congregation’s leaders in an effort to abide by Jewish law.

One thing to note about stories such as this is how much coverage they should receive. It’s always a challenge, and one best handled by accurately characterizing how big a deal the news hook is. I thought Luo tread the delicate balance well. For instance, here’s how he characterized the congregation:

The congregation is on the leftward fringe of the Orthodox movement. Kehilat Orach Eliezer, which is about 15 years old, has intentionally avoided affiliating with any movement so that Jews from a variety of theological backgrounds can feel comfortable attending, but most members identify themselves as Orthodox.

I asked a few Orthodox Jewish friends what they thought of the story. Most said they didn’t think it was that big of a deal. They said communities on the fringe of Orthodoxy sometimes act outside the tradition but that the episodes never seem to set trends.

Luo definitely made it seem as if this was more of a trend than an isolated incident:

Indeed, propelled by an explosion in Jewish learning for women, they are now teaching Talmud classes, acting as advocates in Israel’s rabbinic courts and functioning as primary authorities on questions of family purity law. In Israel recently, a woman was even ordained by an Orthodox rabbi, although she does not occupy a pulpit and many in the Orthodox world do not recognize her status. And, in New York several years ago, a handful of women were hired as congregational interns by Orthodox synagogues.

All in all, though, I think this story provides a nice counterpoint to the debacle that was the WomenPriests coverage. Unlike in Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Judaism has no central governing body that has forbidden such roles for women. There is clearly room for debate.


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