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By Diogenes ( articles ) | May 29, 2007

You've got to sympathize with a reporter who's assigned to write a straight report about an absurd event. Nevertheless this CBC report is remarkably awkward:

Calling it a defiance of an unbreakable Catholic "sacrament," the Vatican is distancing itself from a Toronto ceremony in which five women and a married man were ordained as priests and deacons.

Notice that the only word in scare-quotes is "sacrament." Now ordination is a sacrament, but these folks were not "ordained." That's where the scare-quotes belong. The presiding "bishop" was a woman. She claims to have been ordained herself by Catholic bishops in good standing. But if they did ordain her-- and it's curious that she won't produce their names-- those bishops are no longer in good standing, since they would incur excommunication for participating in a sham sacrament.

Returning to the priceless opening of that CBC story, you'll see that the reporter describes the sacrament of ordination as "unbreakable." That's a term theologians don't use, and it's not easy to imagine what it means in this context.

Nor is it right to say that the Vatican "is distancing itself" from the ceremony-- any more than Queen Elizabeth distanced herself from the backyard ceremony in which, last night, I dubbed myself the Duke of Northumberland. Insofar as the Vatican noticed this ceremony, the Vatican thought it was absurd. In that respect the Vatican grasped the essentials, in a way the CBC story did not.

Still there are a couple of good points in the CBC report:

  1. The story begins by noting that the ceremony was staged in "defiance" of a sacrament. The language isn't quite right. How would you "defy" a sacrament? But a defiant attitude could certainly cause misguided people to mock a sacrament. That's called blasphemy, which is what happened here.
  2. The headline reads: "Fringe Catholics defy 'sacrament' by ordaining women." Skip over that confusion over "sacrament" and "ordain," and check out the very first word: "fringe." Often it's associated with another word, an adjective, which would work well here. For an accurate treatment, why not begin like this:

Lunatic-fringe Catholics mock sacrament by "ordaining" women

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