Whack-a-mole: female 'priests' edition

Last week, I wrote about a perennial GetReligion sport -- "fundamentalist" whack-a-mole. The word is often used to describe any old traditional or conservative sect, but we're forever pointing out "fundamentalist" has a very specific meaning in the context of Christian theology. This week, I'm back with a another edition of GetReligion whack-a-mole. Longtime readers are no doubt familiar with the media's fascination with what the media calls "female Catholic priests" or "Catholic women priests." If Rome ever were to start ordaining women, obviously that would be big news. However, it's a well-known fact they don't.

But that doesn't stop the media from seizing on ordination reports from Catholic groups unaffiliated with Rome. Here's the headline from The Telegraph:

Italy to ordain first woman priest

Italy is to have its first woman priest, in a move likely to upset the Roman Catholic Church and inflame the long-running debate over female clerics.

Well, golly. That sounds oddly confusing -- but dramatic!

Let's go to the article and find out what's going on:

Maria Vittoria Longhitano, 35, will be ordained in an Anglican church in Rome, a stone's throw from the Vatican, this month.

"My ordination represents a great chance for all women of faith. It means hope, it means giving a push to an important debate between Catholics on the issue of denying women the possibility of fulfilling their vocations and being ordained as ministers," she said.

She is not an Anglican, but a member of a small Catholic order called the Old Catholics, who broke away from the main body of the Church in the 19th century.

They do not believe in papal infallibility or the Immaculate Conception and are not recognised by the Vatican.

Mrs Longhitano, a married teacher from Milan, said she hoped to stimulate a debate and break down the "prejudice" within the Catholic Church when she is ordained at All Saints Anglican Church, near Rome's famous Spanish Steps, on May 22.

Gotta love that line about being "a stone's throw from the Vatican" -- clearly if you're near the Holy See you obviously have its imprimatur.

So in sum, this woman is being ordained a priest by a "Catholic" sect that split from the Vatican well over 100 years ago, and doesn't believe in any number of other key Roman Catholic doctrines?

Note that the article doesn't have a single quote from an authority at the Vatican substantiating the claim the "move likely to upset the Roman Catholic Church." Regardless, I'm sure this development among the Old Catholics is the Pope's number one priority and he will address it head on, just as soon as he gets done obsessing over what the Archbishop of Canterbury had for breakfast.

As has been discussed many times here at GR, Roman Catholic and catholic mean different things. "Catholic" just means universal -- lots of Christian churches that are not Roman Catholic describe themselves as catholic, including any number of churches that have been ordaining women for quite sometime. That doesn't mean they have any connection whatsoever to Roman Catholic church, or make the fact they ordain women in any way newsworthy.

But none of this stopped the Times of London (which ran a report with a different byline, but had a lede suspiciously similar to the  or Telegraph's story) and the Sydney Morning Herald from also weighing in with bad write-ups touted by sensationalist headlines. These stories prey on the confusion over the words "catholic" and "priest" which obviously mean very different things given the context. And this context is never really explained adequately, because doing so would undercut the supposed newsworthiness of the story.

The fact that this "female catholic priest" story pops up so regularly is dismaying.

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