Reuters Reports on the “Ordination” of a Woman Priest


On Saturday Reuters put out an article on a woman in Kentucky who took part in a ceremony purporting to make her into a Catholic priest.  I’d like to make two points about the article.

In the first place, it is utterly and predictably biased.  This is evident from the tone of the piece, which presents the woman in question–and the movement for female ordination–in a positive light while giving the Roman Catholic Church’s side of the story in language that is at best clinical.  It does not read like an article written by an unbiased professional journalist but by a biased one trying to do the minimum to appear unbiased.

Apart from the tone, this bias is obvious in a couple of aspects of the article.  In the first place, in its title and throughout it refers to the woman as having been “ordained” as a priest.  It acknowledges the Church’s view that such an ordination is impossible and that the ceremony in which the woman took part was really a “simulation” of the sacrament.  But it consistently uses the dissidents’ language to describe what happened.  Similarly, it asserts that the Church has a “ban” on women priests, even though the Church’s position is not that the thing is to be banned but that the thing is not possible.


Again, in trying to appear to give the arguments on both sides of the issue, the Reuters article in fact throws its lot in with one side over the other.  Take a look at this passage:

The Catholic Church teaches that it has no authority to allow women to be priests because Jesus Christ chose only men as his apostles. Proponents of a female priesthood said Jesus was acting only according to the customs of his time.  They also note that he chose women, like Mary Magdalene, as disciples, and that the early Church had women priests, deacons and bishops.

Got that?  Proponents of female ordination “note” that the early Chruch had women priests, deacons, and bishops–as if that were an uncontested historical fact rather than a point disputed by the two sides.

The other point to be made about the article is that the woman supposedly “ordained” in the ceremony does not sound like any kind of Catholic that would be historically recognizable as such, even apart from the question of the ordination of women.  The article notes that the penalty for this sort of thing is excommunication.  Here’s the lady’s reaction:

“It has no sting for me,” said Smead, a petite, gray-haired former Carmelite nun with a ready hug for strangers. “It is a Medieval bullying stick the bishops used to keep control over people and to keep the voices of women silent. I am way beyond letting octogenarian men tell us how to live our lives.”

Now, any dispassionate reading of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life make it clear that he intended to establish a Church with the authority to teach definitively on his behalf.  There is an even more specific basis for excommunication in the Gospels.  Ms. Smead should know this, and thus should know that excommunication is not merely a “medieval” invention.  In any case, why should we take seriously as any kind of Catholic one who not only rejects the Church’s teaching on a single issue, but actually rejects its disciplinary authority in general?

Finally, it is worth observing that Ms. Smead permits herself to fall into bigotry here, speaking of old men as is they, as a class, are somehow to be disdained.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Carson Holloway is a political scientist and the author of The Way of Life: John Paul II and the Challenge of Liberal Modernity (Baylor University Press), The Right Darwin? Evolution, Religion, and the Future of Democracy (Spence Publishing), and All Shook Up: Music, Passion and Politics (Spence Publishing), and the editor of a collection of essays entitled Magnanimity and Statesmanship (Lexington Books). His articles have appeared in the Review of Politics, Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy, Perspectives on Political Science, and First Things. He is a regular contributor to the online journal The Public Discourse. Holloway was a 2005-06 William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Northern Illinois University in 1998.

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