Context, please

context2 Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has won praise for his coverage of an excommunication dispute between a priest and six laymen at a church and Archbishop Raymond Burke. As Mollie noted, Townsend has explained to readers that the battle is not over any sexy theological or moral issues, but rather over church authority. Townsend's latest story is about a meeting the Archbishop and canon lawyers had with the Rev. Marek Bozek. Yet unlike his previous stories, this story failed to give readers sufficient context about the excommunications.

Burke put Bozek on notice after the priest participated in an ordination ceremony for two women in November at Central Reform Congregation. The women became priests of an organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests. The Roman Catholic church does not ordain women as priests.

Read, please, that first sentence again: "Burke put Bozek on notice ..." It's not clear what Townsend means. After all, Bozek has been excommunicated; in the Catholic Church, excommunication is the ultimate notice.

Also, the story leaves the impression that the dispute is over female ordination. According to Townsend's old stories, that's not an issue at all; the issue is authority, specifically who can control the Polish church. Has the situation between Burke and Bozek changed? Is the dispute now over female ordination?

An AP story suggests the opposite is true: the dispute is still over church authority.

I don't know what went wrong with Townsend's story. Perhaps having written so many insightful stories before, he thought his readers knew the issue at hand. Alas, not all readers do.

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