Sex abuse and women’s ordination?

Great news from the Vatican, according to Catholic News Service: New norms against the sexual abuse of children will double length of time a victim has to bring charges from 10 to 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday. It will also extend the penalties for sexual abuse of children to those who abuse the mentally disabled.

Bad news: The new norms will simultaneously add to the list of grave offenses against the sacrament of holy orders the "attempted ordination of women." Seriously?

Why is that bad? First, the "attempted ordination of women" already brings with it automatic excommunication, so making it one of the "delicta graviora" is redundant. Second, it conflates two completely separate issues, and in effect, or at least in the minds of many people who will read the news, seems to equate the "attempted ordination of women" with the rape and torture of children.

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.

Furthermore, if I were a member or supporter of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement, I would be opening a bottle of champagne right now. The Vatican has in effect given legitimacy and momentum to what is still an incredibly tiny movement with this clumsy legal manuver, tantamount to the United States dropping a nuclear weapon on Luxembourg–only more ridiculous because this will do absolutely no damage to women's ordination movement. It is more like a gift. None of those women are afraid of excommunication any longer; indeed, it is now the Vatican that appears fearful.

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. This is especially ironic given that many Catholics, and I include myself among them, see the absence of women in positions of power in the church as a contributor to the ongoing sex abuse crisis.

This move is a mistake, plain and simple, imprudent at best, at worst a serious further blow to Rome's already damaged credibility.

About the author

Bryan Cones

Bryan Cones is a writer living in Chicago.