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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Stop the presses . . ."

A brilliant piece of investigative journalism by our Jan Nunley, Episcopal News Service (ENS) Deputy Director at Episcope

July 14, 2007
Stop the presses...before somebody gets hurt

New York Times subscribers will open their Sunday Styles section to this:

Man of the Flesh to Man of the Cloth
OAK PARK, Calif.
The New York Times
July 15, 2007

SOME people have their midlife crisis in reverse, like Ronald Boyer, who for most of his professional life has been better known as a star of pornographic films, Rod Fontana.

After 30 years of sowing the wildest of oats, Mr. Boyer, 54, has searched his soul and chosen, to the surprise of family and colleagues, to seek a priesthood in the Episcopal Church.

It’s all here …but hold it just a minute there, folks. Haven't we heard this trope before? About a guy named McGreevey? And remember how that ended--much ado about nothing?

Well, it turns out that's what we've got here: some incredibly sloppy reporting that's frankly unworthy of the venerable New York Times.

Your epiScope editor, who spent her youth as a reporter when Woodward and Bernstein were the heroes, decided to track down what really happened by talking to Mr. Boyer's rector, the Rev. Hank Mitchel--which is more than reporter Waxman managed to do. Let's go through the story, bit by painfully distorted bit.

From his work in the rented villas of the San Fernando Valley, where hard-core sex films are shot, he has moved just a short distance west, to the Church of the Epiphany, which is guiding his transformation from pornography star to preacher.

"That's wrong on so many levels," Mitchel told epiScope. "I'm his pastor, so of course I'm guiding him in that spiritual sense. But no one at Epiphany knows--or knew--about his background, except some key people on the staff. And no one is training him for ordained ministry at any level."

So references to "Mr. Boyer’s embryonic ministry" and "to pursue a new path as a religious leader" are misleading?

"Boy, are they ever!" Mitchel said.

And what about this?

He returned to meet with his priest and with the second-ranking official of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Suffragan Chester L. Talton, to gain approval to establish a ministry among sex workers.

"No way!" exclaimed Mitchel. "I talked with Bishop Talton. He never met with Ron. Couldn't pick him out of a crowd."

And this?

The process to priesthood will take several years. Mr. Boyer began by being confirmed in the Episcopal Church this year. He is undergoing training to become a deacon, which will allow him to conduct most aspects of ministering short of the sacraments. To become a priest, he must study in a seminary for approximately two years and his candidacy must be approved by the diocesan bishop.

"Absolutely not!" said Mitchel. "He was confirmed with about 150 others by Bishop Talton in May. About 4 or 5 months ago he wanted to talk about ordination, and I explained the process to him. But he has not met with the bishop or undergone any of the requirements for entering the ordination process in any way--certainly he's not being 'trained as a deacon' or anything like it."

And of course the M.Div. program is three years, not two. But what about Bishop Bruno's remarks?

J. Jon Bruno, bishop for the Los Angeles Diocese, said Mr. Boyer’s path to the priesthood would not be precluded by who he was. “I wouldn’t put up an immediate impediment because of someone’s past life,” he said. “There’s no exclusion in the gospel for anybody.”

"Bishop Bruno's never met Ron either," said Mitchel. "He knows nothing about him. He was speaking generally about the ordination process."

Which according to the canons is open to all Episcopalians--but no one has a right to ordination, of course. So--there's no "integrating" by the Diocese, or "welcoming an ex-performer with more than 300 hard-core movies to his credit", as Waxman writes?

"That is just wild exaggeration, utterly unsupported by the facts," Mitchel said.

Did you talk to the reporter? She said church leaders "do seem uncomfortable discussing it in depth"...

"Why didn't she tell the truth: I emphatically refused to exploit the situation by talking to her in depth about it," explained Mitchel. "I did say, and I do sincerely hope, that Ron can serve as a bridge to people in the porn industry, to bring them hope and the love of God.

"And I said Ron and his family are most certainly welcome here--but his former profession most certainly is not. And he has a long, long way to travel and a lot of spiritual growing to do before we can even think about thinking about a leadership role."

Clearly the New York Times jumped the shark on this story. That's really, really sad.

UPDATE: Hmmm...Waxman's done this kind of sloppy job before, it seems...Google her name and see what pops up.

Ouch. "Woodstein," she's not; consider the source.

1 comment:

Susan Russell said...

+Jon Bruno's got a Letter to the Editor in today's paper on this one ... ... and that is a GREAT picture of Jan+!!!