The New York Times is showing more than passing interest to the issue of the ordination of women in the Catholic church. A front page article on July 23 discussed a recent upsurge of priests publicly favoring ordination in three far flung parts of the world.
Religion writer Laurie Goodstein noted first that 150 U.S. priests, all reportedly in good standing, signed a letter of support for Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who is facing excommunication from the Maryknoll order and the priesthood for refusing to renounce his support of women priests.
In Austria, said the Times, some 300 priests signed a pledge to support women and married men in the priesthood. And in Australia the National Council of Priests issued a defense of Bishop William Morris who was forced to resign for suggesting the church might consider ordaining women due to the extreme shortage of clergy throughout the nation.
Then in its July 31 Chicago edition, the Times provided lengthy coverage of the Chicago-based Call to Action organization, which organized the support letter for Bourgeois and sponsored his 34-city speaking tour. Reporter Dirk Johnson noted how Call to Action -- now national and claiming 25,000 members and 57 chapters -- rose out of the lay and clergy activism that characterized the Chicago church for many decades.
Expanding ordination, said the article, is but one of the issues the reform-minded organization holds, including equal rights for gays and lesbians and standing with church workers who are fired for holding views contrary to Vatican orthodoxy.
The attention of the Times may be due in large part that the Catholic church's middle managers in some numbers are taking positions that a good number of lay Catholics in the United States have come to support.