Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The song remains the same

ABC News online posted a news article today that's a beautiful illustration of the press's agenda-pushing yet ignorant approach to the Catholic Church. The title is sensational: Pope to Hold Summit on Married Priests. Wow! A summit! Well, this sure is dramatic news - let's read on, shall we?
Pope Benedict XVI has called a meeting Thursday with top Vatican officials to discuss lifting the celibacy requirement for priests seeking to marry or who have already married.
Uh, wait a minute. Top Vatican officials? Aren't these the guys who work for the Pope? I mean, they're all in the Vatican together, right? When President Bush holds a cabinet meeting, the press doesn't usually call it a "summit". Must have been a mistake - slip of the pen by the headline-writer. But no! There it is again!
Benedict called the summit to examine the implications of the "disobedience" of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the Zambian prelate excommunicated in September for installing four married American men as bishops, the Vatican said Monday.
When I think of the Pope calling a summit, I think of something that would, at the very least, be attended by the heads of the different branches of the Catholic Church. And probably the Orthodox patriarch, too - and to discuss something of vital importance, like reuniting the ancient churches of Christendom. Not a staff meeting to discuss disciplining a randy renegade.

In the next paragraph, we finally get a statement from the people doing the meeting:
The Vatican stressed the meeting would not open a general discussion of the celibacy requirement but would only examine requests for dispensation made by priests wishing to marry and requests for readmission made by clergy who had married in recent years.
So what the heck was the point of that flamboyant title, then? And notice how there's no gloss given for the very Catholic word "dispensation" - I wouldn't think the average reader of ABC News would automatically know what that meant. And after the sensational headline, plus the rather vague way it's described: "requests for dispensation made by priests wishing to marry", it leaves the impression that they are debating giving out permits for priests to take a wife. I think a dispensation is a release from previously-taken vows that a man is now breaking; more like an annulment. I don't know if this is the same thing as "laicization", but the end result is that the man seeking to marry stops being a priest, not that he can be allowed to take on two conflicting vows at the same time.

Nor is this any special event - priests have been applying for and acquiring dispensations for all sorts of reasons; the writer is describing a meeting to discuss a routine matter in the Vatican. What makes it a bit special is the involvement of the ridiculous Archbishop Milingo (note the scare quotes around "disobedience" in the first paragraph). A prelate going nuts does require higher-up attention, so this is why the Pope is involved. But the writer keeps trying to drag the story back to the phantom issue of priestly celibacy, although the Vatican won't cooperate.


Blogger Ellie M said...

The media are notoriously ignorant about all things religious. That being said, one does have to wonder if there's a deliberate agenda at play here.

6:49 pm  

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