Action Alert!

Out of their depth

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 10, 2009

Was it only last week that I commented on how the secular media tend to lag behind-- by one, two, or more news cycles-- in their coverage of events within the Catholic Church? And that's if they ever get the story right at all.

My thanks to the Washington Post for providing a vivid illustration of my point with this item from a weekly roundup:

Anglican archbishop to meet with pope

Two developments arose after the Catholic Church's surprising overtures last month to Anglicans.

First, the Vatican has confirmed that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans, will meet Pope Benedict XVI on Nov. 21.

The second development is a clarification issued by Catholic leaders about how the conversion of married Anglican priests will mesh with the Catholic tradition of celibate priest.
Catholic leaders issued a clarification that essentially says only current Anglican priests and seminarians will be allowed to become Catholic priests.

Yes, the Pope will meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury later this month. That appointment has been scheduled for weeks; it is not news, nor is it (as this report would suggest) a response to the Pope's apostolic exhortation.

The second "development," as reported by the Post, is too muddled to allow for careful analysis. But insofar as it makes sense, it's wrong. Did the author really intend to say that only Anglicans currently in the priestly pipeline will be allowed to enter the Catholic priesthood? That's not true. Or did he omit the crucial word "married," and he really intended to say that the married Anglican priests and seminarians of today could be admitted to the Catholic clergy, but none could follow in the future? That would make more sense, but it would be inaccurate. In other words, a skilled editor could, with a little work, make the paragraph grammatical and even logical, but it still wouldn't be true.


Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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