New rules the Vatican is expected to issue soon on penalties for priests
who sexually abuse children will also put the ordaining of women in the same category of the most serious crimes under church law.
Church sources told Catholic News Service
that the new "norms," as the policies are called, will include the "attempted ordination of women" among the list of most serious crimes, or what are known as "delicta graviora."
Sexual abuse of a minor by a priest was added to the classification in 2001. The new norms are largely expected to codify changes made in 2001 and 2003 that were aimed at addressing the burgeoning clergy abuse scandal. But the policies expected to be issued later this month will also specifically include the abuse of mentally disabled adults as on par with abusing minors, and it will extend the statute of limitations under the Church's Code of Canon Law from 10 years after a victim turns 18 to 20 years.
Word that the Vatican will also use this opportunity to codify the attempted ordination of a woman as among the "delicta graviora" is a surprise, however, and is not likely to please either victims advocates -- who have been pushing for much more stringent and universal church policies against abusers -- or those who favor a greater role for women in the church.
"Quite frankly, it is an outrage to pair the two, a complete injustice to connect the aspirations of some women among the baptized to ordained ministry with what are some of the worst crimes that can be committed against the least of Christ's members," U.S. Catholic editor Bryan Cones wrote at the monthly magazine's web site in a blast
that appears to echo the views of many.
"This decision boggles the mind: The faithful have been justly demanding for nearly a decade clear guidelines for dealing with the sexual abuse of children, along with just punishments for both offenders and bishops who have abetted these crimes. What we have gotten is half of what we have been asking for (still no sanctions for bishops), along with a completely unconnected and unnecessary condemnation of the ordination of women."
In recent years, a number of women around the world have sought to be ordained as priests, in violation of longstanding church prohibitions. In some cases male priests who were legitimately ordained have performed the ritual, which is apparently what concerns the Vatican most.
In 2008, the Vatican department overseeing orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed for 23 years before his election as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 -- formally decreed that a woman who attempts to be ordained a Catholic priest and the person attempting to ordain her are automatically excommunicated.
The new policy would apparently make it easier for the congregation to defrock any priest who participated in such an ordination.