Womenpriests in the balance

I would love to stop covering Roman Catholic Womenpriest stories but in order to do that, they have to stop being written in such hacktastic manner. Take this one from the Fort Myers News-Press, headlined "Fort Myers woman defies church to become priest." The captions accompanying the story are my favorite. I'm not sure which one is the best. Perhaps:

Judy Beaumont, 74, will be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest Saturday.

Or perhaps:

Judy Beaumont risks the loss of her soul by being ordained, says Diocese of Venice Bishop Frank Dewane. Beaumont says she is following her conscience.

Except for the parts about how Beaumont will not be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest and the bishop never said what he's accused of, these are excellent captions.

A commenter to the article writes "Journalists need to develop some critical judgement. She and the others can't become 'Catholic priests' simply by calling themselves that. If I decided I wanted to become a supreme court justice and phoned up my local news station and announced that I was being sworn in as a judge at a local church hall at the weekend what would journalists do? They would laugh and throw the story in the bin - where this one should go." Except that reporters could not love these stories more. And they're somehow led into writing these stories up in the least evenhanded manner possible. Take the lede (please!):

Judy Beaumont plans to take a historic step Saturday, one that will jeopardize her immortal soul.

Beaumont, 74, of Fort Myers, is defying centuries-old doctrine in becoming the first woman in Southwest Florida to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest. The church decrees this role is reserved for men. Bishop Frank Dewane of the Diocese of Venice, which oversees the Catholic faithful in 10 counties, including all of Southwest Florida, has warned her not to cross that patriarchal line.

Historic in what sense? Is the reporter signaling to us that she thinks this is "important" or "likely to be famous"? And "patriarchal"? The bishop told her not to cross a patriarchal line? Because in his letter, mentioned below, it sounds like a "doctrinal" one. Perhaps that would be a better and more neutral word to use.

The story does quote from the letter before telling us that Beaumont "will follow her conscience and take the consequences." And, further, that she thinks excommunication is a "man-made rule." So let's see, female going for ordination at a Lutheran-Episcopal hybrid congregation who doesn't recognize any church's authority to excommunicate. Hmm. It's almost like the reporter could figure out from her own reporting that the language "will be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest" is in error.

Or maybe I'm expecting too much. Check out this choice line:

The movement has generated controversy and debate between traditional and progressive Catholics who favor the concept of “inclusion,” embracing women priests, married priests, gays and others not accepted by the church.

Ooft. The sentence construction on that one is rough, eh? And why the scare quotes around "inclusion"? Also, to which doctrine is the reporter referring when she writes that the gays are not accepted? That last line, by the way, is the final line to the story. There's also a video accompanying the article featuring the subject of the story talking. You know, for balance.

Off-balance woman photo via Shutterstock.

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