The item Joe posted earlier today, “Who Decides Who’s a Catholic?” reminded me of something I wrote just a few years ago on the same subject — journalistic definitions — a few years ago. Here it is, for those who are interested:
Another sad story of people playing dress up: Women Anointed Catholic Deacons, Priest in S.B. from the Santa Barbara Independent. It’s the usual story: lifelong Catholics, love the Church, feel called to priesthood, Church misogynist, hope for future change, women were priests in the early church, have to stay to promote change, accepted someday, international movement, and so on, though it leaves out the almost inevitable “the church is not the magisterium” line and adds the faux reassurance that excommunication “does not remove one from the church” but only bars one from the sacraments. (Not, of course, that they care.)
And like so many articles on this subject, the reporter took seriously and without question the claim that these women were Roman Catholic bishops and priests. They are doing what the Church expressly forbids, they don’t represent any Catholic official or institution, they have no place in the Catholic system, no Catholic official or institution recognizes them (other than, perhaps, some secretive order of aging leftwing nuns and even they don’t support them in public), but nevertheless the reporter and the editor who wrote the headline declare them to be Roman Catholics.
Let’s imagine some reporters from the Independent started publishing a separate edition of the newspaper, complete with editorials taking positions contradictory to the official newspaper’s. Suppose they talked about how they’d worked at the paper for years, and love the paper, and can’t imagine not being a part of it, but it isn’t living up to its founding vision, which they believe themselves to incarnate, and eventually the old guard will come to agree with them and accept their work, and they feel called to edit the newspaper, but for now they must do so secretly. And suppose the newspaper they put out looked a lot, at first glance anyway, like the official one.
The owners and editors of the real newspaper would insist that these people are imposters, whatever their ideals and feelings and would be imposters even if they’d worked for the newspaper since birth, and if forced to explain this the owners and editors would point out thatthey’ve got the newspaper’s jobs and the titles, and they work in the newspaper’s building, and they own the newspaper’s copyright, and they’ve got the newspaper’s bank accounts, and they say in its pages what the newspaper’s always said, and they publish the newspaper that’s been published for decades, and the city knows who they are (they get the tax bill), and every other newspaper knows who they are, and heck, everyone knows which is the real Independent.
In other words, the newspaper’s version of the arguments a Catholic would make if asked why these poor people in the interfaith center weren’t Catholics and why these women got up from kneeling no more Catholic priests and deacons than they were before. The arguments that would work for the newspaper work for the Church.
So why call the women in their collars “Roman Catholics”? You can’t rule out simple incompetence and ignorance when asking this question of journalists.
But I think, whatever the case for this story, the repeated treatment of people who do this kind of thing as real official Catholics advances the secularist’s cherished belief that the Catholic Church isn’t so intransigently “sexist” as she appears and is just a change or two from endorsing the sexual revolution.
Plus, to be fair to the newspaper, which wants to sell copies, if these women aren’t Roman Catholics there’s not much of a story. A tiny group of eccentrics with no visible organization or presence in the community creating new officers is just not the kind of story people buy a newspaper to read. It’s as interesting or relevant as “Children on Fourteenth Street Chose Sides for Kickball. Details on page 5.” A degree of inflation is built into the journalistic enterprise.
Though whether lying because you’re greedy is better than lying because you’re an ideologue, I’m not sure. And this kind of exaggeration is, I think, a form of lying.
Also, while I’m writing on the story, the service featured a new hip inclusive name for God of which I did not know:
The ceremony, which took place on the feast day of Mary Magdalene, also differed from the standard Catholic ordination in the names the presiding clergy used for God, who is ordinarily referred to as “the Father.” The female priests instead referred to “Mother and Father” and to “God/de.” (The latter is pronounced like “God,” with the silent, extra letters hinting at a goddess that those in the ceremony declined to refer to explicitly.)
Not entirely honest, that hinting at a goddess while sounding to the people listening to you like you were praying to God. The reporter then reassures us that “Jesus Christ retained his masculine identity, however.”