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.
For most reporters, appears that this is now a story in which only one side needs to be approached for in-depth quotes.
Yes, there is also a possibility that Catholic officials have decided to refuse all interview requests. However, I am convinced that if this was the case, journalists would be telling us that (with the standard, “A spokesperson for Archbishop Nasty Male declined comment when asked about the courageous work of the brave women who are willing to listen to the voice of Christ Sophia”).
The other day, I took a look some of the pre-event coverage of the ordination of Rosemarie Smead in Louisville, Ky. Now, Reuters has produced a story on the ordination rite itself that is a five-star classic of the genre.
Let’s walk through the top of this story:
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) – In an emotional ceremony filled with tears and applause, a 70-year-old Kentucky woman was ordained a priest on Saturday as part of a dissident group operating outside of official Roman Catholic Church authority.
Where did this rite take place? In a liberal Protestant Church. Readers have to dig pretty deep into the story to find that out.
Rosemarie Smead is one of about 150 women around the world who have decided not to wait for the Roman Catholic Church to lift its ban on women priests, but to be ordained and start their own congregations.
Another interesting feature of this report: The Reuters team somehow managed to avoid using the actual name of the movement behind the event — Womenpriests. The implication is that these are dissident Catholic churches, not fledgling parishes in a separate movement. This is implied, of course, in the lede with the “operating outside of official Roman Catholic Church authority” language. But why not use the actual name of this schismatic movement?
Later on, readers are told:
The ordination of women as priests, along with the issues of married priests and birth control, represents one of the big divides between U.S. Catholics and the Vatican hierarchy. Seventy percent of U.S. Catholics believe that women should be allowed to be priests, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll earlier this year.
And who are these “American Catholics”? Might they be Catholics on the fringe of the church? The key number, of course, would be the number of PRACTICING American Catholics who are in favor of changing church doctrines on the priesthood. They are out there, but much smaller in number.
Now it is time, as usual, to quote several pieces of paper representing the views of the church establishment:
The former pope, Benedict XVI, reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s ban on women priests and warned that he would not tolerate disobedience by clerics on fundamental teachings. Male priests have been stripped of their holy orders for participating in ordination ceremonies for women.
In a statement last week, Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz called the planned ceremony by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests a “simulated ordination” in opposition to Catholic teaching.
“The simulation of a sacrament carries very serious penal sanctions in Church law, and Catholics should not support or participate in Saturday’s event,” Kurtz said.
And what about this church traditions involved in this issue? What does church history say?