Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

At last a halfway accurate report on a Womenpriests charade

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 29, 2013

At last someone got it right.

A Reuters report on the latest ceremony staged by “Roman Catholic Womenpriests” begins this way:

"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."

Notice: that introductory paragraph does not report that Rosemarie Smead was ordained as a Catholic priest, because of course she wasn’t. The story does alert readers to the reality that the ceremony was conducted by a dissident group.

Rosemarie Smead wasn’t really ordained at all, of course. And Bridget Mary Meehan isn’t really a bishop. But there are many "ordinations" that the Catholic Church does not recognize, and the secular press does. As a matter of courtesy, reporters usually give religious figures whatever titles they assign to themselves. A ceremony took place in which a religious group assigned Smead to some sort of leadership position. Reuters makes it reasonably clear, to anyone paying attention, that the group in question was not the Catholic Church.

At least not the Catholic Church as ordinarily understood. We could still quibble, certainly, about the reference to “official Roman Catholic Church authority,” which hints that there might be some unofficial authority, outside the hierarchy. But to be fair, it’s tough for a journalist to explain what really happened at this ceremony, while maintaining a neutral stand regarding religious claims. Reuters is in the business of reporting news stories, not settling theological disputes.

Still, if the ceremony in Louisville wasn’t done under the aegis of “official Roman Catholic Church authority,” what authority was involved? How was that authority established? Who recognized it? You know: the who-what-when-where-why-how questions that cub reporters are trained to ask. If those questions had been asked in this case, the results should have made editors realize that this story didn’t merit much coverage.

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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  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Apr. 29, 2013 5:08 PM ET USA

    Check the age of the "ordinanda." It says a great deal.