Lacking Catholicity

rowleyYesterday, tmatt pointed out that the media's definition of evangelical has become so skewed that it now includes Eastern Rite Catholics. In the ensuing comments, reader Julia opined:

Why not call us all "Catholics" and dispense with the "Roman" moniker? It's an English invention to imply control by foreigners. Or else use it for everybody in communion with the Pope.

Commenter Canadian noted:

Julia, some of us Anglicans also consider ourselves catholics and refer to "Roman Catholics" for clarity.

Indeed, the word catholic means universal and is used by many Christians. Those under the authority of Rome don't get a monopoly on the word. But in conventional usage, we tend to use the word directly in relation to the Roman Catholic Church and its members.

Which is why this Newsweek article by Karen Springen is so silly:

Last week 25-year-old Jessica Rowley became one of about a dozen women nationwide to make a highly unusual career move: she was ordained a Catholic priest. Rowley's ordination -- which took place at Eden Theological Seminary, a progressive institution in Webster Groves, Mo. -- is approved by the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, a group of churches that decline to recognize the authority of the pope but see themselves nevertheless as Catholic. This week Rowley -- who is also married -- begins working full-time as an associate pastor at Saints Clare & Francis, a breakaway parish in Webster Groves.

So a group that doesn't recognize the authority of the Pope or the Roman Catholic Church ordains a woman? How is this newsworthy? When it comes to Protestant church bodies ordaining females, take a number. Springen then runs a Q&A with Rowley.

NEWSWEEK: Your husband, who is Protestant, helped you realize that you wanted to be a priest. Tell me about that. I began going to church with him, and he began going to mass with me. At his church there were female pastors. He's a member of the United Church of Christ. It's a progressive, mainline Protestant denomination. They ordain women, and they're open to gays and lesbians in their congregation.

Are you going to have kids some day? We're really looking forward to this symbol. "This is my body given for you." To be a pregnant priest will just add a whole other dimension to those words.

... The Ecumenical Catholic Communion doesn't think it's a sin for people to be gay, right? As far as moral teaching goes, we stress the primacy of conscience. It's important for people to form a moral conscience with the help of a church and a faithful community. Ultimately God helps us with our conscience to make moral decisions. Homosexuality is not inherently sinful. Love in all of its forms can be for the glory of God.

Will you raise your kids Roman Catholic? We'll raise our children Christian because we belong to two different church traditions. We'll let them decide where they want to call their church home. But they'll be baptized Christian, likely in a joint service.

Are you pro-choice? We go to back to the primacy of conscience. We stress the formation of conscience in moral matters, such as the pro-life/pro-choice debate. No one is excluded from the table in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion. Jesus never turned anyone away at the table, so neither do we. We feel it's our responsibility to help people make responsible choices, but that no single person can dictate what God's will is.

So it's clearly not just the ordination issue on which Rowley is at odds with the Bishop of Rome. Just because a few people have a renegade interpretation of doctrine does not mean that it has implications for the larger church body. See my previous post on my belief that I'm Miss America. This whole article trades on the power and popularity of the Roman Catholic Church. But, for the ten thousandth time in articles dealing with "Catholic" female priests, it's all sizzle and no steak.

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