As expected, new rules on sex abuse . . .

. . . and the ordination of women.

Despite the protestations of certain commenters to my previous post on this topic, I still fail to see why the Vatican could not have issued revisions to the law dealing only with crimes related to sex abuse. Including the "attempted ordination of woman" and the unhelpfully vague crimes of "apostasy, heresy, and schism" to the list of crimes against the sacraments was completely redundant and unnecessary. The failure to include anything at all regarding bishops who abetted such grave crimes is lamentable to say the least, though entirely expected.

I suppose one way of reading today's announcement is that the Vatican does not want to appear to be too responsive to the people of God, and thus lend credence to the idea that the baptized have an actual function in the governance of the church, or, worse, that the church may even be democratic. Not at all: This was just a routine updating of norms that just happened to coincide with the biggest disaster to the credibility of the church in generations.

I suppose more irenic commentators will point out that this is merely a codification of procedures already in place–though that's a stretch for the crimes of "heresy, apostasy, and schism"–but for me this announcement is another signal that the Vatican is not sufficiently aware of the damage sex abuse has done to its ability to proclaim the gospel. This isn't merely a matter of governance; the sexual abuse of the vulnerable strikes a crippling blow to the evangelical mission of the church, and if anyone doubts this, just behold how quickly the church's voice is being dismissed not only on matters of sex but on migration and war and peace.

This crisis requires a game-changing response if the hierarchy, indeed, the pope, is to have any chance at regaining its moral voice in the world. Today's events reveal once more that Pope Benedict, or at least those who surround him,is not up to the task.

About the author

Bryan Cones

Bryan Cones is a writer living in Chicago.