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Longtime readers of the Insight Scoop blog (est. A.D. 2004) know that I occasionally break from the modest, cerebral approach that characterizes the vast majority of my writing (yes, that was typed keyboard-in-cheek) in order to rant a bit about certain pet peeves. One that holds a certain pride of place are badly written, incoherent, and theologically clueless pieces—press releases, really—celebrating some brave woman who is now a "Catholic priest", made so by the power vested in her by herself.

There have been some strong contenders over the years. But this WCPO.com (Cincinatti) article is the hands-down winner in my book, which means it is actually a loser of comical proportions. First, the headline:

Priest bends rules of church by being a woman

In a parallel world, where reality and truth prevail, the headline would be:

Woman breaks rules of Catholic Church by pretending to be a priest

In a parallel fashion, in a non-ecclesial setting, it would be:

Man breaks state law by impersonating a police officer

But the author, Jessica Noll, has her riveting headline and plunges bravely into the shallow waters beneath it:

FORT THOMAS, Ky. – The Rev. Debra Meyers doesn’t really care what the pope thinks about her.

It’s her heart that she listens to and follows.

“What the pope thinks about me and what I’m doing is really immaterial to me,” said Meyers, the first female Catholic priest to be ordained in the Tri-State. "Sometimes you have to “bring about real change in our own lives and not wait on the pope.”

Meyers is part of a small but growing group of women bucking Roman Catholic tradition across the world.

Granted, the pope probably doesn't know Ms. Meyers, but I'm fairly certain the Holy Father is keen on the fact that there is no such thing as a "female Catholic priest." And with all due respect to the Magisterial Heart of Ms. Meyers, neither she or the pope can change the Church's teachings on this matter. However, popes are wise enough to realize that some Catholics prefer to follow their heart (and their dreams, their emotions, their passions, their muse, their star, etc.) than rather than listen to teaching office of the Church founded by God As Bl. John Paul II noted almost twenty years ago, "at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force." This, he said, despite the fact that "the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents..."

Even Noll acknowledges that Pope Francis has said the matter of the ordination of women "is a closed issue" and, "In 1994, Pope John Paul said the church has no authority to ordain women." But writing a story about an impersonator playing dress up in vestments while thumbing her nose at the Pope and the Catholic Church might seem a bit, well, stupid. So Noll ignores the inconveniences posed by facts and instead plays to sentiment:

She knew as a small child that priesthood was in her future—but she was told she “shouldn’t think about it because it’s not for girls.” ...

The feeling of isolation Meyers experienced growing up in an excluding church and poverty-ridden life, is why she now reaches out to the shunned. ...

Meyers, married twice and divorced once herself, welcomes those who have been divorced, who are single mothers, who have had an abortion, as well as the gay, lesbian and transgendered community. ...

Meyers said that she has been preparing for the priesthood all her life, including her volunteerism with schools, libraries, local parishes, food banks and women’s crisis centers, but also through her extensive education. ...

Etc., etc. Sigh. Hey, it's the American way! Not happy with being a man? Become a woman. Tired of your wife? Try a new one. Bored with reality? Create your own. On and on it goes. Stories such as this one are symptomatic of several deeper issues, including a disdain for certain—not all—forms of authority and tradition/Tradition. This is easily proven: does anyone think that Noll would be allowed to publish a sympathetic piece about a man claiming that he was the true President of the United States, based on his belief that he won the election of 2012? Naw, that would be whacky. Don't be silly.

But in the realm of "religion" and "spirituality," what is actually silly or stupid is often defended in the name of a deeply spiritual and personal "call" or "experience" that transcends the allegedly restrictive bonds of traditional, male-dominated institutions. That stuff is catnip to reporters who cut their teeth on feminist theology and neo-Marxist political philosophy, or have drunk similar, popularized elixers of liberation. (And don't forget the sacred trump card of the all-powerful "conscience"!)

Ranting about a similar story in 2008, I wrote:

Why does this rankle me so? Part of it is simply the brazen illogic, self-obsessive bloviation, and disdainful dissent so readily evident in the priestette movement. Their theology is lousy. Their ecclesiology is incoherent. But there is also the fact that these women, in seeking to "empower" women and pursue "justice," are (unwittingly or not) attacking authentic femininity and making a mockery of not just the priesthood, but of the unique nature of women, especially as embodied by the Blessed Mother.

In another post, I pondered the question of why these women want to be "priests":

Because, thinking it through logically, their accusations, if true, ultimately mean that the Catholic Church either does not have divine origins, or is not true to the teachings of Jesus (that is, he actually is not against priestettes), or the teachings of Jesus are false (he was against priestettes, but he was wrong). ...

Again, applying simple logic, the priestette's view of the Catholic Church must be a variation of these perspectives: 1) the Church is a man-made institution that must change with the times, or 2) the Church is an institution founded by Christ but under the control of men who hold beliefs contrary to those of Christ. In the first case, the most logical thing to do, as a radical feminist-type, is to simply attack and destroy the Catholic Church. And, of course, there are many feminists and their supporters who do just that; they, I think, are far more logical than women such as Zeman, who seem to operate in a fuzzy, confused world of nostalgia intermingled with feminist politics.

In the second case, it seems absolutely nonsensical to be working to be ordained and given offiical recognition by the very men who represent and defend the very thing you detest and oppose. Again, it seems more logical to simply scrap the entire thing and say, "Hey, we are the true Church! We don't need the Catholic Church!" If the bishops suddenly stated, "Whoops! Our mistake! We just realized that women can and should be ordained!", it would still mean that priestettes would be ordained and recognized by the very authority they detest as patriarchical and male-dominated. It would also mean (to repeat what I've already said) that infallible teaching can be fallible, which means the Catholic Church is a complete farce. And who, really, wants to be ordained and given props by a farcical Church (yes, yes, I know—waaaay too many people)?

I'm sure that a few readers will get Freudian and claim that my issue is with women "having power" or some such nonsense (if they persist, they can talk to my wife; she'll set 'em straight). It actually is about this simple question: What does it mean to truly, really be Catholic? It certainly does not mean creating your own rules and criteria, and then saying, "Hey, this is Catholic! Why? 'Cuz I say so!" Silliness is one thing. Hubris another. Heretical hubris quite another.

 
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Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight.
 
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