Kansas City Star story on woman who wants to be Roman Catholic priest needs less advocacy, more reporting

The Kansas City Star recently profiled a woman who — according to the newspaper's headline — "intends to be Kansas City's first female Catholic priest."

Only one small problem: The Roman Catholic Church doesn't ordain female priests (see past GetReligion posts on the subject).

The top of the Star's story:

In a few days Georgia Walker, at age 67, intends to become a priest,
at which point she will be excommunicated from the Roman Catholic

That doesn’t faze her.

“I don’t accept the legitimacy of that excommunication,” said Walker, who will be the first woman in Kansas City to defy the church and be ordained a priest.

The church in turn will not accept the legitimacy of her ordination because, under canon law, only men can be priests.

“That’s their problem,” Walker said of the church.

That steadfastness is a trait of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, a growing movement of people who see the church as too authoritarian and unwilling to be inclusive. But instead of leaving the church, they hope to change it from within.

As faithful readers know, GetReligion advocates the traditional American model of the press.

That model relies on journalists presenting facts — attributed to named sources — in a fair, unbiased manner. That's opposed, of course, to the one-sided, advocacy, European-styled approach to reporting the news.

Right from the start, the Star seems to advocate on behalf of female priests. 

On the other hand, the piece suffers from a lack of reporting as basic questions go unanswered.

For example, what makes the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests a "growing movement?" Who is the source of that claim? What numbers or evidence back up that statement? Where is the attribution?

Later in the story, there's this:

Canon Law 1024 of the Roman Catholic Church says that only baptized men may be ordained as priests. That is based on Jesus calling only men to be his disciples.
In 2004, Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic letter affirming that the priesthood was for men only.
Pope Francis had raised hopes that he would bring more flexibility to the church. But in July 2013, at a surprise news conference on the plane back to Rome after a visit to Brazil, he made clear that women cannot be priests.
“That door is closed,” he said.

Pope Francis had raised hopes ... Whose hopes? And how exactly did he raise hopes? That's a mighty broad statement that fails to answer basic questions or provide needed background. Again, where is the attribution?

To its credit, the Star does attempt to get comment from diocese officials:

The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph issued this statement: “Since this ‘ordination’ does not involve the participation of any validly ordained Catholic clergy, the diocese does not see a reason to comment any further.”

But would a newspaper truly interested in telling both sides of the story stop there?

Why not find an independent expert — perhaps a theology or religion history professor familiar with the issue — to explain the traditional Catholic perspective? That insight would serve readers.

Unfortunately, the Star chooses advocacy over reporting.

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