NPR Airs Misleading, Unbalanced Story on 'Catholic Womenpriests'

It's Sunday evening. What better way to wind down the Lord's Day than tuning into National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" for an unbalanced story on the "ordination" of four supposedly Catholic women "priests"? 

Yesterday evening, NPR's Lily Percy profiled two of four women "ordained" in a "Roman Catholic Womenpriests" ceremony on June 4 held at St. John's United Church of Christ church in Catonsville, Md. For good measure, one of the ordinands, Patti LaRosa, is an openly-practicing lesbian. While Percy noted that Catholic canon law recognizes the priesthood is solely for baptized men, she gave listeners the impression that women's ordination was a form of civil disobedience that may one day lead to change in ordination standards:

LAROSA: So yeah, we're breaking the law. We're breaking Canon 10:24. But sometimes history has shown when you have an unjust law, sometimes it needs to be broken before it can be changed.

 

PERCY: No member of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests has been excommunicated, but they've felt repercussions. They've been threatened. They've lost friends within the church, many of whom fear they'll lose their jobs if they support the movement openly.

Yet at no point in her story did Percy consult with a Catholic canon lawyer or an official representing the Catholic Church for an opposing point of view. What's more, Percy did not take care to clarify that Catholic churches consider these so-called priests to not be validly ordained and hence unable to administer the sacraments to the Catholic faithful, including and especially the Eucharist.

Indeed, Percy may have misled many listeners with her description of LaRosa's performance of duties at her church:

PERCY: A week after the ordination, I caught up with Patti LaRosa by phone. She just performed her first mass at her local parish, Spiritus Christi, in Rochester, New York.

LAROSA: I got there early, and it was beastly hot. But I said, I'm vesting now. I've waited 25 years to do this. And I know it's hot, but I don't care. I'm putting on the alb, I'm putting on the chasuble and the stole, and I'm going to stand at the front door and greet people. And that was wonderful.

But a quick Web search shows Spiritus Christi is not a Catholic parish in the Diocese of Rochester nor does it claim to be (emphasis mine), noting in an FAQ section (emphasis mine):

Q: Are you a Catholic Parish?

A: Yes we are. On December 24th 1998 we separated from the Roman Catholic Church over social justice issues and formed an inclusive Catholic community. Now one third of our members represent different faith traditions. God loves diversity and so do we here at Spiritus Christi. The diversity among us simply enhances our faith experience together as one big family of God’s love. We believe in shared male/female leadership, social justice and inclusion of the entire body of Christ. We reject all forms of discrimination and oppression within the church and society. Jesus was one of the most inclusive people to ever live. He said "No one who comes to me will I ever reject". We are happy to welcome you here at Spiritus Christi.

Of course, NPR is hardly alone when it comes to unbalanced coverage of the "womenpriests." See a related post from my NewsBusters colleague Dave Pierre on Time magazine's faulty coverage about women priests last fall.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters