By now, you probably heard about the plan by a group of women to stage an ordination on a boat on one of the rivers near Pittsburgh -- today, I believe. This has gotten some attention in the secular media, such as this Washington Post article and of course, on Catholic blogs such as Domenico Bettinelli's.
This may have been obvious to everyone before me, but I think I see why the media is excited about this.
Over the years, they've reported on internal struggles among Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc., over ordination and sexuality issues -- and surely someone has noticed, "hmm, these things don't happen in the Catholic Church!"
Here, I think they believe they've got their "internal struggle" story -- they think this is a significant rebellion. In fairness to the media, why should they rule that out? We have faith that this will come a cropper; but even then, it could (I doubt it) be an ugly struggle nonetheless. In fairness, that is a story.
It would be appropriate, in my judgment, for the media to ask a lot tougher questions of these ladies and their movement:
* Is this only about women's ordination? Does that mean you aren't seeking any change in Church teaching on, say, divorce-and-remarriage, contraception, homosexual behavior, or other areas that are controversial?
* Do any of the women seeking ordination agree with the Catholic Church on these "hot button" issues? If not, why not? Doesn't that suggest this is about more than women's ordination?
* Where did you receive seminary training? What sort of training have you had? Shouldn't Catholic faithful expect their priests -- male or female -- to have had full training?
* You seem to think this is the "wave of the future" for the Catholic Church -- but what about what the Anglican Church is going through now: why isn't that a cautionary tale for you?
* Who ultimately decides this question? You say ordain women, the pope, backed up by a pretty long tradition -- the Church says constant -- says no. Do you believe the Church has no right to take this position? If it does, at what point do you accept the decision? And, if you won't, no matter what, isn't that what finally created a parting of the ways with Luther and other "reformers" of their time? I mean, if you give Luther full credit for sincerity, integrity, and even if you say he was right -- the fact is, he ultimately could not accept the authority of the pope or even a general council to define Catholic teaching, if that went contrary to his insights. How are you different?
* Where are the young women in your movement -- or, for that matter, young men?
* Isn't it true that you have to point to some connection with the male-only hierarchy in order to show the validity of your orders -- isn't that frustrating? And as the Washington Post author pointed out, isn't there something kind of odd about that? Either the Catholic Church has it, or it doesn't; either they're basically right, or basically wrong. Which is it?
Now, I'm not naive; I can think of at least three reasons not to expect such questions: one, because they presuppose far greater familiarity with the underlying subject than most reporters are going to have, or two, are going to want to develop (i.e., most reporters are lazy -- they freely admit this); three, such questions, while entirely fair, would be rather tough -- and few reporters, actually like grilling their interviewees.
What would be useful, however -- and may actually bear some fruit, down the road, would be for us to put a list of questions such as these "out there"; were I working as a media flack for the Church, either for a diocese or for the USCCB, I'd give a list like this to every reporter contacting me on this subject. It's just possible a few of these questions might actually get posed.
I wrote these off-the-cuff, and certainly they could be refined. Anyone who reads this, who actually does as I propose, is welcome with my thanks. You can give me credit if you wish, but I don't really care about that.
(By the way -- at some sites, this subject has excited some rather nasty, personal criticisms of those involved in these simulated sacraments. Let it suffice to focus on the wrongness of this venture, and avoid personal attacks. Puerile mockery of people's appearance or age is really not welcome here.)