Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reporting on the Church

I am constantly amazed at the clumsy way reporters write about events in the Church. You would think they would want to get things as accurately as possible. You'd also think they'd want to avoid putting their own editorial spin on the report. Alas, it is not to be. Here is a recent report in something called about the pope's interview on the plane returning from the Middle East. I'm going to intersperse comments throughout, as Fr. Z. likes to do.
Pope Francis again sent shockwaves across the Catholic world [This reporter has a) defined "sent shockwaves" and done research in the past 24 hours all over the Church to determine this. What is is really sahing is that it sent shock-waves through him.], telling reporters in his latest wide-ranging press conference that he would welcome an “open door” discussion on priests’ celibacy.
Though he said he favored celibacy, church analysts on Tuesday said Pope Francis’ remarks could be the beginning of change on an issue that has long been contested among reform groups and priests.[As he notes later, there have been exceptions to the celibacy discipline for decades now. So, if there is a change, it was begun by previous popes.] 
“Celibacy is not a dogma of faith,” Pope Francis declared [said, not "declared."] in a session with reporters traveling in his plane from the Holy Land to Rome on Monday night. “It is a rule of life that I appreciate a great deal, and I believe it is a gift for the church. The door is always open.” [The door is always open when it comes to disciplinary practices in the Church. That doesn't mean that a change can be made willy-nilly at any point.] 
It remains to be seen whether his comments will bring change in church law or allow for more exceptions. [The comments in an interview cannot bring change in Church law. To allow more exceptions is a change in Church law, so the "or" is gratuitous ] Married Episcopal priests, for example, can be ordained in a Catholic diocese [To be precise, men who have been ordained in the Anglican communion, but who have left that communion and joined the Catholic Church can be ordained]
The pope’s remarks were the latest indication that he is aggressively trying to reform the church, in a way that’s palatable to both liberals and conservatives, said Charles Reid, a canon lawyer and professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. 
“He wants to move the church as rapidly as possible to reform, but he also does not want to split the church in two,” Reid said. [I'd like to note that at least since Pius XII all popes have been trying to aggressively reform the Church without splitting it apart.]
It’s possible, Reid said, that Pope Francis would test the waters by ordaining [to the priesthood--they are already ordained to the deaconate] some permanent deacons, who are allowed to be married [If he ordains them to the priesthood, they are not permanent deacons.]. Some bishops in Latin America have asked about this, and Pope Francis has said he would consider their requests, Reid said.
A more dramatic approach would be to allow deacons from entire dioceses to be ordained or to form a commission to review the issue, Reid said. [I don't think forming a commission is more radical than ordaining married deacons.]
Earlier this year, a group of women who said they were in relationships with priests sent a letter to the pope. They pleaded for a change in the celibacy requirement. “Each of us is in, was or would like to start a relationship with a priest we are in love with,” the women wrote.
As pope, Francis is the supreme legislator of the church and could eliminate the celibacy requirement today. But he is taking a cautious approach because he needs the backing of various church interests and other Vatican officials, Reid said. [and, more importantly, he has to consult the Church. No legislator should justly make a major change without wide consultation and long reflection on the short- and long-term effect of the change.]
“You need to build that momentum, because you have an awful lot of men who are deeply invested in the status quo,” Reid said. “They’ve lived their whole lives like this.” [Maybe it is because many priests and lay people see real value in the discipline for the life of the Church. They aren't just foot-draggers. Me, for instance.]
Psychologists have debunked the myth that the chastity requirement helped fuel the clergy sexual-abuse crisis[That's good!], but some experts express concerns about it being unhealthy. Robert Hoatson, a former priest in the Newark Archdiocese, said that while he lived up to his vow of celibacy for nearly 40 years, he has seen others develop insular personalities and struggle with their sexual identity and ability to cultivate healthy relationships.[Is there a greater percentage of celibate priests with sexual struggles than non-celibate lay people? I rather doubt it. What is unhealthy is a priest who is required to be celibate without proper formation in the deep meaning of celibacy.]
“It’s forcing people to go into an unnatural state that they most likely would not choose if they did not go into the priesthood,” [No one is forced to be a priest. The idea that it is unnatural is a red herring. If that is true, than anyone who is not sexually active after they reach puberty is warped. So, the teaching against fornication is also destructive. There is no reason why the sexual energies can't be redirected to a different kind of love that is every bit as real, if not more real, than marital love]  Hoatson said. “Someone who falls in love shouldn’t have to say, ‘I have to get out of the priesthood.’” [So, if you are married and fall in love you should be able to leave the marriage?]
A.W. Richard Sipe, a psychiatrist’s assistant and former priest who has studied the effects of celibacy on Catholic clergy for the past 50 years, welcomed the pope’s comments, saying that they were “a terribly important step in a direction other people have said was impossible.” [Why is everyone quoted in this article a former priest?  Did he not interview anyone who is a celibate priest and thinks it is a good idea? This is the kind of thing that makes people think journalists skew reporting to fit an agenda.]
He said the rules against sex and relationships were not followed by most priests. [How did he define "not practicing celibacy?".] A 25-year study Sipe conducted found that 60 percent of Catholic priests were not practicing celibacy, which he said takes its own toll. [Is this a peer-reviewed study?  Has it been verified?]
“A great difficulty is the double living – saying one thing and doing another,” Sipe said. “That takes a very deep psychological price on a person, what’s called the divided heart.” [Agreed. This is a very bad thing.]
A church official in North Jersey, who insisted on anonymity, said celibate priests can be lonely. [I don't think you needed to ask a church official about this.  I'm married and I can be lonely. Is sexual activity the only way to relieve loneliness?  Does it work?]
“A lot of priests I’ve seen get in trouble because of loneliness,” the official said, “and they found comfort in the bottle.” [True of married lay people, too.]
Another concern, the official said, is priests who become romantically involved with people they are counseling – a conflict that has proven to be a legal liability. [True of lay, married therapists, counselors, and teachers. Nothing to do with celibacy. Here's the thing--struggles with sexuality are part of the human condition. Being a priest doesn't exempt you from it.]
Over the past 20 years, the official said that he has seen about a dozen cases in which men were found to have violated the celibacy law. All were placed on sabbatical leave to contemplate whether they wanted to remain in the priesthood – about 10 decided to exit the ministry and two pledged a renewed commitment to chastity, he said. [Only ten?]
Thousands of priests and nuns left the ministry in the 1960s and 1970s to get married, church historians say. Among them were Anthony Padovano, a former priest, and his wife, Theresa, a former nun. They were married in 1974 and have four children. They are awaiting the birth of their third grandchild.
“I would be conditionally interested,” in returning to the priesthood, Anthony Padovano, 79, of Morris Plains said Tuesday when he was told about the pope’s remarks.
Padovano said much would depend on the cultural climate in the church, and how much freedom he would have to speak on such issues as same-sex marriage and the ordination of women. He said he would not expect to speak about those issues from the pulpit, but would not want to be silenced completely. [It is almost as if the reporter is trying to correlate trouble with celibacy with dissent from the Church's teaching. Of course, if you do have trouble with the Church's teaching on sexuality, you aren't likely to appreciate celibacy. Esp. if you think same-sex "marriage" is a good thing--a relationshp based on emotional atraction rather than a committment to union for the sake of procreation]
Joseph Lynaugh, 74, of Ridgewood also left the church in the 1970s, but not to get married. He was working as a chaplain at Columbia University when he approached Cardinal Terence Cooke in 1973 about leaving the priesthood because he disagreed with some church doctrine, and the church’s treatment of women. [Once again....]
“This isn’t going to work,” he said he told the cardinal.
Lynaugh, a retired health care executive, met his wife after leaving the priesthood. They have two grown children and celebrated their 39th anniversary on Monday. He said he had no interest in returning to the priesthood but found it “fascinating” that Pope Francis addressed the issue. 

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