priesthood

Influential voice from St. Pope John Paul II era offers blunt take on Amazonian synod

Influential voice from St. Pope John Paul II era offers blunt take on Amazonian synod

I have noticed something strange in recent weeks, when reading news coverage — mainstream and Catholic — of the recent Vatican Amazonian synod of bishops.

Increasingly, I am finding that conservative and progressive Catholics sort of agree on what is happening in their global Communion. What they disagree on is whether it is good or bad, small-o orthodox or potentially heterodox.

They may also have different views of which potential synod “reform” is the most important, but they pretty much agree on what the big three or four topics of debate were during the proceedings. Click here for an analysis of that by my colleague Clemente Lisi.

This leads me to this weekend’s think piece, which is a First Things essay by the conservative Catholic intellectual George Weigel, official biographer of the late St. Pope John Paul II. We are dealing with a conservative thinker here — obviously — but one who is frequently creatively optimistic in terms of his views of trends in the church in the age of “the new evangelization.” This is a rather different mood, for Weigel.

The title: “There’s a pony in here somewhere: A post-synodal reflection.” I will allow readers to dig into the earthy Ronald Reagan parable that led to that title.

The positive pony hidden in the synod, Weigel opines, is that, “The Cards are Now Face-up on the Table,” in terms of discussions about what is happening in Pope Francis-era Catholicism.

Here is the must reading. It is long and it will anger Catholics on the doctrinal left.

So why run it here?

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This feature about fired ESPN staffer who became Catholic priest gets religion — half of it anyway

This feature about fired ESPN staffer who became Catholic priest gets religion — half of it anyway

A reader drew our attention to a Sports Business Journal feature on the former ESPN staffer fired in 2012 for his “Chink in the Armor” headline about Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American point guard who recently won an NBA title with the Toronto Raptors.

“One bad headline cost him his job at ESPN,” the story’s headline notes. “The priesthood brought healing.”

It’s a compelling profile that traces Anthony Federico’s journey “from the worst night of his life to the priesthood.”

The Sports Business Journal opens by revisiting the 2012 controversy:

You probably remember the story. A young ESPN employee, he wrote a headline for the company’s mobile app that many viewed as a racial slur directed at NBA player Jeremy Lin.

Federico’s life has taken an abrupt turn in the ensuing seven years. In June, he was ordained as a Catholic priest and assigned to a parish in Cheshire, Conn., just 15 miles from Bristol.

Seven years removed from the incident, Federico said memories from that night still hurt on occasion.

“But I’m free now,” he said. “I feel great healing and closure. I don’t have any ill will toward anyone in that time of my life.”

The writer does a really nice job of letting Federico explain — in his own words — his road from sports media to the clergy.

It all started over lunch at his new job:

During his lunch hour, he strolled around downtown Stamford, a walk that would take him by St. John the Evangelist Basilica, which had a daily noon Mass. Federico described his upbringing as more of a cultural Catholic than a practicing one — so much so that he didn’t realize that Catholic Mass is celebrated every day.

“On the first day, I walked past it and thought it looked cool,” Federico said. “On the second day, I walked past it again. Then — how biblical — on the third day, I decided to go in and see for myself what’s going on.”

Federico felt so moved by the experience that attending the noon Mass became part of his daily routine. He started bringing curious co-workers with him — most of whom were not Catholic — and they went out afterward to talk about the Mass and Catholicism. He would go home to learn about Catholic teachings so that he could explain some of the Mass’ rituals to his co-workers.

After a year and a half, he felt an intense calling to become a priest. 

“I started to realize that I was hungry for something more in life — something different than sports media, something that would have a more lasting impact on the world,” he said.

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Theology, ESPN, then a terrible headline: 'The thing that Jesus does best is second chances'

Theology, ESPN, then a terrible headline: 'The thing that Jesus does best is second chances'

Over the years, I have read many news stories about men finding their way into the priesthood.

As you would expect, I hear about many of these features because of emails from GetReligion readers. It is extremely common for these emails to include a comment that sounds something like this: Ah, come on! How can journalists write about men becoming priests (or women becoming nuns) without including a single mention of Jesus?

That's a good question. This is one kind of story in which a person's religious experience is a crucial part of the news equation. I think it's safe to assume that having some kind of mystical relationship with Jesus -- also known as "The Lord" -- does play a role in these career choices. The word "God" often shows up in these news reports, but rarely, well, the "J-word."

That brings me to a recent "Acts of Faith" piece at The Washington Post that ran with this headline: "Fired by ESPN for a racist headline, he’s finding his second chance as a Catholic priest."

To cut to the chase: This is a very fine story and, yes, Jesus does get a shout out. My only complaint about this story is that it was not accompanied by some kind of longer Q&A feature. This is a man with a unique story to tell and, with his journalism background, an interesting skill set to bring to the priesthood.

To set the stage, Anthony Federico's life in journalism changed because he accidentally wrote a racist headline about Jeremy Lin, whose meteoric rise at the New York Knicks was one of the hottest sports stories of 2012. Federico's job in the editorial process included writing headlines and he didn't have a safety net. He clicked "save" and the flawed headline went live.

That set up this amazing sequence of life changes.

Then the barrage of social media outrage started, and he saw what he had done.
“I went to the bathroom and vomited,” he said at the time, describing the sickening realization that he had inadvertently made a racist pun that was now circling the world. What came next was predictable: As angry emails poured in from readers all over the world, Federico was fired from his dream job in sports media.

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Washington Post: Why one young man became a priest, for vaguely religious reasons

Washington Post: Why one young man became a priest, for vaguely religious reasons

We live in an age in which a young Catholic man choosing the priesthood is news, the kind of news that produces a feature story in the trendy Style section of an elite newspaper like The Washington Post.

The headline gives you a clue about the content, as in, "This Life: He never imagined being a priest. But then he felt the call -- and it terrified him."

Now, I have read my share of these secular-press features over the past couple of decades. Most of them feel like features about men who decide to go into social work, only with a few artistic flourishes about the liturgy, vestments, etc. The priesthood is all about helping people wrestle with daily life.

You almost always have -- if the seminarian is straight -- the obligatory reference to a previous girlfriend or even fiance, while leads to a discussion of celibacy. If the future priest is gay, then the sexuality angle is probably the reason the story is being written in the first place.

Like I said, these kinds of stories are rather consistent.

However, I have my own little journalism test that I perform when I start reading one of these stories online. The first thing I do is pop open a search box, enter one rather symbolic word, and look through the whole article to see what I see.

The word I search for is "Jesus." You would be amazed how often mainstream news organizations publish stories about men entering the priesthood without mentioning this word, other than, perhaps, in the names of religious orders and/or institutions. Jesus does appear in this particular Post report, but it's a close call. We will hunt for that. But, first, here is the overture, which jumps straight to the celibacy angle:

In the city around him, Anthony Ferguson’s fellow millennials were just waking up, shaking off hangovers, checking messages on dating apps and getting ready to make their way in the world.
But Ferguson was already out the door on this Friday morning -- wearing the same black shirt and white collar he always wears -- sitting in a chapel under the warm light streaming through stained-glass windows. Before 8 a.m., he’d listened to a sermon on the blessings of marriage, about how it allows spouses to love one another the way God loves each of them.

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Concerning AP and the Vatican's 'glass ceiling' for women

Your GetReligionistas received several angry emails this past week about the following Associated Press story, each of them triggered by a single unattributed term in the piece. In The Washington Post, this piece ran under the following headline: Nothing unusual there of course, unless you, like me, were surprised to see the Post copy desk go with an upper-case “C” on the word Church, which is Catholic tradition but not AP style.

No, what set our readers off — some of them non-Catholics, by the way — was a pair of words near the top of this alleged work of straightforward news copy.

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis … lauded women for their sensitivity toward the society’s weak and “gifts” like intuition, insisting they take on greater responsibilities in the Catholic church, as well as in professional and public spheres.

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Concerning AP and the Vatican's 'glass ceiling' for women

Your GetReligionistas received several angry emails this past week about the following Associated Press story, each of them triggered by a single unattributed term in the piece. In The Washington Post, this piece ran under the following headline: Nothing unusual there of course, unless you, like me, were surprised to see the Post copy desk go with an upper-case “C” on the word Church, which is Catholic tradition but not AP style.

No, what set our readers off — some of them non-Catholics, by the way — was a pair of words near the top of this alleged work of straightforward news copy.

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis … lauded women for their sensitivity toward the society’s weak and “gifts” like intuition, insisting they take on greater responsibilities in the Catholic church, as well as in professional and public spheres.

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That minister of humor unloads on the pope coverage

The thought for the day and, perhaps, for the next week or two, care of Father James Martin, the chaplain of The Colbert Report and author of the essential “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life.”

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