I guess MZ and I do think alike

ClergyShirt BlackWhat a laugh! MZ has just arrived back in town from a trip to the distant, distant West (think home state of the president elect) and she promptly posted on that non-Roman Catholic priest story. At the precise moment she clicked "post," I was finishing up this post.

So consider this a stereo, surround-blog take on that pregnant priest story. Great minds think alike, especially when they are tired and finishing a long day. Thus begins the post...

Let me note, yet again, that a person is not a Roman Catholic priest simply because he or she proclaims this as a fact. Yes, here we go again -- this time care of the Belleville News-Democrat in Illinois.

The big problem, as it turns out, is in the headline:

St. Louis woman becomes world's first Catholic priest to give birth

However, things get a bit more complex -- perhaps even accurate -- in the lede.

According to the Women's Ordination Council, a St. Louis woman has become the world's first Catholic priest to give birth.

Ever since Jessica Rowley can remember, she's had a strong sense of her Roman Catholic identity. From her confirmation, to Catholic youth conferences, to her Jesuit education at Marquette University, she has always been devoted to her faith.

"The Women's Ordination Council has claimed that I'm the first Catholic priest, the first woman Catholic priest to give birth. That is a huge claim and something bigger then me," Rowley said.

So, is this a classic case of a newspaper merely noting that a group is making a public claim that something is true? The truth is that the group is claiming it?

Lo and behold, that would seem to be the case. This is one of sad, sad cases in which the headline is a whole lot worse than the story. While many traditional Catholic readers may disagree, I think this story includes lots of information that makes it clear where this alternative church groups resides, in the wider post-denominational world. Check this out:

Rowley was ordained last year as a member of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, which welcomes many ex-Roman Catholics whose views and beliefs sometimes conflict with the Vatican. ...

At present, Rowley serves as an Associate Pastor at Sts. Claire and Francis in Webster Groves. Many of her estimated 90 parishioners cannot receive communion in their former churches because they are divorced, remarried, gay or lesbian. Others said they joined Sts. Claire and Francis because they were searching for a new sense of spirituality.

In fact, there's more. Even the local Roman Catholic authorities agree -- not that the woman is a priest -- but that this group is not making a deceptive public claim of truly Roman Catholic status. This section of the story is quite clear.

Rev. Rowley does not belong to the organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests. Last year, Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie McGrath were ordained in St. Louis and quickly excommunicated by Archbishop Raymond Burke.

"This is different because this individual clearly belongs to a community separate from the Catholic Church," said Lawrence Welch, the religious affairs spokesperson for the St. Louis Archdiocese. "What is different about last year is these women were claiming incorrectly and falsely they could somehow be catholic and participate in worship outside of the church."

The ECC has claimed no ties to the Vatican. Members say they are Catholic, just not Roman Catholic.

But wait, there is one more post-denominational twist in this report. This woman's husband is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, the oldline Protestant denomination that is the church home -- or used to be -- of President-elect Barack Obama.

So forget the terrible headline and the slightly awkward lede. This story included more than it's share of clearly stated facts and insights from people on both sides of this ordination dispute. This tiny denomination is even to the non-traditional side of the Womenpriests, but its leaders are honest about that. Thus, this story has the luxury of being able to quote candid, honest people. And that's a good thing. Amen.

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