CNN Marks Pope's UK Visit By Highlighting Women 'Priests'

Predictably, Thursday's American Morning on CNN marked the Pope Benedict XVI's first day in the UK with a report on dissenting Catholic women who claimed they are ordained priests, contrary to the teachings of the Church. Correspondent Carol Costello took a misinterpretation of a recent Church document on ordination as fact, and ran only one sound bite from a Vatican official.

Substitute anchor Drew Griffin introduced Costello's report 24 minutes into the 6 am Eastern hour with the misinterpretation of the Catholic document, forwarded by the mainstream media outlets such as Time magazine, that it condemns the simulated ordination of women as "a crime similar to pedophilia." However, a July 16 Reuters story quoted Monsignor Charles Scicluna's clarification: "Scicluna, an official in the Vatican's doctrinal department, said there was no attempt to make women's ordination and pedophilia comparable crimes under canon...law....While sexual abuse was a 'crime against morality,' the attempt to ordain a woman was a 'crime against a sacrament.'"

The CNN correspondent began by highlighting the apparent negative response the Pope is receiving in the UK due to his visit: "You heard Kiran mention that Pope Benedict is now in Britain. He's there to appeal to the millions of Catholics in that country. But his visit is not without controversy. Many tickets remain unsold, which suggest many of Britain's Catholics are indifferent to his presence." She continued by introducing the subject of her report: "You could argue many American Catholics feel the same way, because of the way the Vatican handled the sex abuse scandal. Some say it's time for a change in leadership- a big change, that includes women."

Costello repeated her misleading interpretation of the Church document later in her report: "[C]ertainly, the Vatican made that clear when it restated recently that ordaining women as priest was a great offense, on the same level as pedophilia." She asked one of the women "priests" featured about it: "When you saw that, what went through your mind?"

The correspondent's lone Catholic voice in her report gave a very mild refutation of this spin:

COSTELLO (voice-over): Father Joseph Tobin, appointed by the Vatican to oversee religious work worldwide, says though the Vatican quickly said the comparison was inadvertent and wrong, the ordination of women is still a serious crime.

FATHER JOSEPH TOBIN, CONGREGATION FOR RELIGIOUS: The Catholic Church has traditionally not arrived to the point that it believes that it is the will of God. Now, I think I have to accept that.

Throughout the report, Costello featured clips from the dissenters' worship services throughout the report. She acknowledged that "they [the women "priests"] hold Mass where they can, in their own homes or in non-Catholic churches, ministering to small, mostly female congregations, who say the traditional Catholic Church is not meeting their needs." But what the clips of the services made clear is that all of the self-proclaimed female clerics are hovering near or after retirement age, and so is much of their congregation. Contrast this with the AP's September 15 report noting how "thriving U.S. orders [of nun] typically are younger, which makes them closer in age to potential newcomers. These orders also emphasize traditional practices, like wearing long, flowing black-and-white habits, and educating students." Which of these two groups has a future?

CNN has long been a promoter of left-leaning heterodox dissenters inside the Catholic Church. Just over two weeks earlier, commentator Jack Cafferty himself called for the ordination of women, as he highlighted the advertising campaign of a British organization calling for such simulations of ordination. Earlier in 2010, Cafferty devoted five segments over a 20 day period to bashing the Catholic Church. Anchor Kyra Phillips falsely claimed during a June 11 segment that Pope Benedict XVI hadn't apologized for the priestly sex abuse scandal, and endorsed the dissenters she brought on during two segments during March and April. The network as a whole devoted a series of a slanted segments on the abuse scandal during the first months of the year.

The full transcript of Carol Costello's report from Thursday's American Morning:

GRIFFIN: Time now for an 'A.M. Original,' something you're only going to see on American Morning. Female Catholic priests- the Vatican vehemently opposed to the idea, calling it a crime similar to pedophilia. Well, despite the Church's stand, more women are pursuing the calling of the priesthood, and Carol Costello has the story, joining us live in Washington. Good morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: Good morning, Drew. You heard Kiran mention that Pope Benedict is now in Britain. He's there to appeal to the millions of Catholics in that country. But his visit is not without controversy. Many tickets remain unsold, which suggest many of Britain's Catholics are indifferent to his presence. You could argue many American Catholics feel the same way, because of the way the Vatican handled the sex abuse scandal. Some say it's time for a change in leadership- a big change, that includes women.

COSTELLO (voice-over): (piano music) For most Catholics, this is curious- women in priestly robes-

GLORIA CARPENETO, ROMAN CATHOLIC WOMEN PRIESTS: Mary is a part of that Trinity.

COSTELLO: Preaching from the altar-

ANDREA JOHNSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC WOMEN PRIESTS: This is the Lamb of God.

COSTELLO: Consecrating the bread and wine- something considered a serious crime by the Catholic Church. Gloria Carpeneto considers herself a Catholic priest, ordained thanks to an unnamed male bishop, who secretly ordained the first female priests and bishops in 2002.

COSTELLO (on-camera): Have you ever met the secret bishop?

CARPENETO: (laughs) (unintelligible) secret bishop?

COSTELLO: The secret bishop?

CARPENETO: No, I have not met the secret bishop.

COSTELLO: Because if anyone ever found out who this bishop was, he would be done.

CARPENETO: It would be a tremendous personal risk for this bishop to come out.

COSTELLO (voice-over): According to canon lawyers, though, the secret bishop has automatically been excommunicated, or banned from participating in the Church, because he knowingly violated church law. And certainly, the Vatican made that clear when it restated recently that ordaining women as priest was a great offense, on the same level as pedophilia.

COSTELLO (on-camera): When you saw that, what went through your mind?

CARPENETO: I was horrified. I was horrified. I thought, for myself, I didn't like that notion of, suddenly, I'm in the swimming pool (laughs) with people who have been accused of sexual abuse- crimes against children.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Father Joseph Tobin, appointed by the Vatican to oversee religious work worldwide, says though the Vatican quickly said the comparison was inadvertent and wrong, the ordination of women is still a serious crime.

FATHER JOSEPH TOBIN, CONGREGATION FOR RELIGIOUS: The Catholic Church has traditionally not arrived to the point that it believes that it is the will of God. Now, I think I have to accept that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first women bishops to be ordained in the United States of America. (audience applause and cheers)

COSTELLO: But even the threat of excommunication isn't stopping Catholic women from what they consider the priesthood. Carpeneto says there are now five bishops, 47 priests, 10 deacons, and 16 candidates in formation in the United States, all of them illegitimate in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

JOHNSON: What many people say to us is- well, why don't you go somewhere else where you're accepted?

COSTELLO (on-camera): I was just going to ask you that. I mean, why stick with Catholicism when Catholicism obviously isn't supportive of you?

JOHNSON: It's Catholicism that needs us. (at religious service) May our God be with you.

COSTELLO (voice-over): And so they hold Mass where they can, in their own homes or in non-Catholic churches, ministering to small, mostly female congregations, who say the traditional Catholic Church is not meeting their needs.

COSTELLO (on-camera): So if you had a meeting with the Pope, and you could see Pope Benedict, what would you say to him?

MADELEINE ROTHE, RC WOMEN PRIESTS PARISHIONER: I'm not sure I'd like to have a meeting with this pope just because I don't think he's very open and that's a huge road block.

COSTELLO (voice-over): It's the kind of spiritual road block that Carpeneto was trying to remove, and the Catholic Church is resisting.

COSTELLO (on-camera): Is it up to God?

CARPENETO: Yeah, I think it is up to God, and I think God has said to me you can be ordained.

COSTELLO (live): So how important is this movement? I asked our Vatican analyst John Allen, and this is what he told me. He said- you know, you look at the poll numbers, large numbers of Catholics support the ordination of women priests. At the same time, most Catholics are not willing to follow these women before the Church gives its blessing. And, Drew- you know, I asked these women who consider themselves priests, if they'll ever be recognized in the eyes of the Church in their lifetime, and all of them said, sadly and emphatically, no.

GRIFFIN: But they consider themselves pioneers, maybe, for the future?

COSTELLO: They consider themselves rebels. They say, unless they force the issue, things will never change.

GRIFFIN: All right. Carol Costello, a very interesting report. Thanks, Carol.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center