Vatican says ordination of women a “grave crime”

Pope Benedict
Despite consistent pressure by advocates and victims to change the Vatican’s house rules on clerical sex abuse, their newly released revisions of the document doesn’t seem to include any of their requests: there are no requirements to report abuse to the police, as well as no mention of sanctions for bishops covering up any abuse. However, they had no problem making a special new addition to the document, via AP:

The rules cover the canonical penalties and procedures used for the most grave crimes in the church, both sacramental and moral, and double the statute of limitations applied to them. One new element included lists the attempted ordination of women as a “grave crime” subject to the same set of procedures and punishments meted out for sex abuse.

So apparently they can’t seem to get around to calling for the reporting of sex abusers to authorities, but have no problem excommunicating any woman who is ordained and defrocking any priest that helps her. (Not to mention, of course, equating the horror of sex abuse with women’s ordination.) And now that we’re on the subject, I think I have a few items that should be added to the “grave crimes” list, if I may do so myself:

Whew, that feels better! I’m sure I didn’t get them all though. What did I miss?
UPDATE: The Vatican responds to the uproar this has caused.

Join the Conversation

  • gwye

    If the Vatican adopts the same attitude towards women’s ordination as sex abuse, then truly, this is a great day for women’s rights.

  • Nora Rocket

    I am, of course, appalled, but I cannot help but make the crass joke of “oh, well, if it’s subject to the same ‘set of procedures and punishments meted out for sex abuse’ then we’re fine: they’ll shuffle offenders to other churches, hush the evidence, and hope that the woman in question doesn’t try to get ordained again.”
    That’s not so bad, eh? [ / sarcasm ]

  • Comrade Kevin

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  • redmuser

    Let’s not forget abstinence-only education. And that creepy day when they separate the boys from the girls at about 10 years of age to privately discuss “The Period”. And telling grade-school Catholic school children that masturbation will send them to hell. Go Catholics!

  • Michelle J

    I’m not even suprised any more when they say shit like this. Just another nutjob. Or… bunch of nutjobs. (Read: the Vaticant, not all people who have a religion!)

  • badgers54

    I agree that reporting suspected sex abuse to the authorities should be required, no question about it.
    I also am a Catholic and strongly support all of their beliefs about sexuality. There’s not necessarily a contradiction there.
    Also, I don’t know why everyone is saying that women’s ordination is now considered “just as bad as sex abuse.” That’s not what they are saying.
    Let’s say you were working at Target and stole a shirt and pair of pants. You would be fired. Now let’s say that you were working at Target and beat up a customer so badly that he/she needed hospitalization. You would be fired. That doesn’t mean that Target thinks that beating up a customer is “only” as bad as stealing clothing, it just means that Target believes both offenses are worthy of the most severe penalty they can give you.
    Clearly, as I already noted above, the Church is wrong in not also notifying civil authorities, as Target would.

  • saintcatherine

    VAnessa, I can’t blme you for not knowing what this document is ACTUALLY about (Hint: It’s not a press release), because every nes outlet reporting this is using the exact same wording and lack of context….but, FYI:
    It’s a list of canonical norms that tells which “offenses against the sacraments” are the responsbility of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It’s not a list of procedures to follow if abuse is reported. The Catholic sacraments are believed to be instruments of grace from God and therefore to distort or abuse them is a serious matter and handled on its own as a unique issue (for example, using the confessional as a way to abuse someone is TWO crimes: abus of a person and also abuse of the sacrament.
    That’s why there isn’t anything about reporting to the authorities. That’s not the point of the document AT ALL. You can read it here:
    If it helps any, think of it as a specialized law document. It applies to canon law, and therefore can not be expected to read like anything else (ie, a statement of policy, a theological comparison of the seriousness of sins, or as I said above, a press release trying to appease the public.)
    I have a serious problem with the way that Catholic things are not dealt with on their own terms here. Critique of the Catholic Church, its theology or its hierarchy is of course completely legitimate. But I don’t see how you can claim any critique is valid when it doesn’t begin by being informed.
    p.s. Nobody from Feministing ever responds when I post this stuff. Please help me out here!

  • saintcatherine

    Also, re: the reference to the Catholic Charities and same-sex marriage in D.C. that you linked to:
    I said this before when it was covered on Feministing, but the organisation CAtholic Charities, not to mention the Catholic Church is not *legally allowed* by its own most basic laws to recognize same-sex marriages/unions/partnerships as equal to heterosexual marriage.
    To accuse it of being willing to “throw poor people under a bus” by not doing so, and to say that is merely to “make a political statement” is **incredibly cynical** and also **truly uninformed** about how the Ctholic Church and religious bodies in general function, both as human creations and also spiritual instruments.
    Please, I am begging you to get somebody who knows more about religion to write about it.

  • Sex Toy James

    It’s always convenient when the bad guys are just so one dimensionally bad. That’s why we like zombies and Nazis for first person shooters. It looks like the Catholic church is trying to get in on that inhumanly evil action.

  • Athenia

    What upsets me most about this is that Catholic women (those who go regularly go to church) are either silent about this or agree with the church about the ordination of women.
    If only these women protested (and withheld their money!), we would see speedy change–especially in America–where else do you think the church gets all its money??

  • makncheese

    I can’t believe I used to be a hostage to this crap.

  • gwye

    The Church won’t change. The Vatican is too insulated.

  • saintcatherine

    Oh My LOL, in what universe are “Catholic Church” and “speedy change” put together?!!
    Seriously, the Roman Catholic Church is not a business that can respond to boycotts, nor is it a democratic institution that can be changed just by voting. “Where it gets all its money” is pretty complicated to, and if people withhold contributions at the diocesan level, then the most that happens is that catholic schools start shutting down. Every parish and diocese is responsible for its own finances.
    Seriously, I just think that most people don’t get that the Church is not a political entity…not at its heart, anyway.

  • Athenia

    When there are tons of churches, yet no priests, they will *have* to do something–maybe allowing priests to marry first–but it’s hard to say.
    Already churches in America have had to start importing priests from other countries—I imagine churches (at least in America) would prefer someone from the local community.

  • Athenia

    Obviously Vatican II happened, so I have a glimmer of hope.
    Schools are already closing (at least in my hometown…but maybe those just due to demographics) and are being prepared to be completely run by lay people.
    And obviously, this whole sex abuse scandal has forced the church to deal with certain issues…there is no church without its flock.

  • TabloidScully

    Hmm. What’s more offensive; comparing the ordination of women to stealing, or comparing the ordination of women to assault and battery?
    Truly, a COMPELLING argument. With that kind of amazing logic, how could any of us possibly be upset that the same set of “consequences” are being applied to the horror of giving women the chance for equal representation as messengers of God as to the sexual violation of children?

  • redpine

    St. Catherine, I see the distinction you make between the two offenses and accept that we should not be overly concerned that they are discussed in the same document.
    I believe that the belief that somehow God decided that only men could be priests because Jesus only chose men as disciples is easily proven wrong. Just consider that Jesus also didn’t choose any Americans, nor Africans, nor Australians, nor Italians (not even a Roman), nor Egyptians, nor Samaritans, nor Chinese, nor Russians, nor Brazilians, nor… you get the idea. Yet, we can easily understand that Christ did not want us to limit his church to only Galilean or Judean Jews as priests and ministers. Nor would God limit the church leadership to one gender. God wants all his people.
    I have been served the sacrament of communion by women ministers and I can guarantee you that God was present. I find it sad that Catholics would chose to deny this sacred truth… and further to call it a crime.

  • redpine

    St. Catherine, It is difficult to have a discussion with the Catholic Church on the issue of homosexual marriage because the leadership has chosen to incorrectly conflate civil marriage with Catholic marriage. At least in Iowa, the Supreme Court decision gave homosexuals the right to civil marriage. Religious marriage was not impacted. Let me be clear, at least in Iowa, the Catholic sacrament of marriage has not been impacted in any way whatsoever by homosexual marriage. The Catholic Church is not being asked to “recognize same-sex marriages/unions/partnerships as equal to [Catholic] heterosexual marriage.” Read the Supreme Court decision if you are not convinced. (Article and links here ). Your legalistic argument is not valid.
    Therefore, it is difficult to interpret the position of the Catholic Church and its charities as anything but a hateful attempt to make the lives of homosexuals less joyous and fulfilling and as throwing the poor under the bus in the bargain.

  • TabloidScully

    Okay, you’re asking for feedback, so…I’ll bite.
    So, let me begin by saying I’m not Catholic, have never been Catholic, and will most certainly never be Catholic. As a result, there is probably going to be a gap in my thoughts and Catholic law.
    That out of the way, you start of by saying that this “isn’t a press release,” nothing in Vanessa’s post is indicating she’s treating as such. She references a special document featuring some additional changes which were announced via the Associated Press. From jump, you’re attempting to imply that she’s uninformed, and just running with a soundbite. I fail to see how that’s the case.
    Additionally, you clarify that this Doctrine of Faith is not supposed to contain any procedures for how to report abuse. Awesome prerogative of the Church, I suppose, but it still doesn’t respond to the fact that Church has repeatedly refused to be proactive and responsive on this issue. Basically, even if the instrument targeted by the critique is wrong, that doesn’t mean the critique itself is wrong. I’d love to hear the justification that modifying the sacraments to call abuse the evil that it is and implore the Church to react to it as such is, in and of itself, actual abuse.
    The problem with insisting it’s “just a special law document” is that the Catholic Church is repeatedly maneuvering to interfere with other avenues that are not constrained by their “special law” guidelines. The Catholic Church cannot and should not have it both ways, of acknowledging abuse only insofar as to convince followers not to take legal action (remember Boston?) and let the Church handle it internally, when the proof is in the pudding that they won’t handle it at all. Dismissing it as “a special law document” is just further supporting the efforts NOT to acknowledge it and entrenching the shroud of silence.
    Regarding the Catholic Charities/Catholic Church conflation that is so rampant, you have a point there. They are different entities. Conceded! That being said, your justification that the Church is not “legally allowed by its own most basic laws to recognize same-sex marriages/unions/partnerships as equal to heterosexual marriage” is more in favor of the Catholic Church being a totally screwed up institution. If your most basic laws depend on intolerance (which always struck me as pretty damn antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and Jehovah) that probably should be a big red flag that it’s time to change your laws. Or, at least, stop pretending like the word your preaching is love, because that ain’t it.

  • virago

    I use to work for a catholic organization, and the biggest supporter of the ordination of women was a catholic nun I worked with. She had many reasons why the vatican is wrong about this, and I found them valid. For one thing; the role of the catholic priest is as an intermediary between catholics and God. The Virgin Mary is seen as an intermediary between catholics and Jesus. In other words, the Virgin Mary functions as a high priest(ess). Yet, the vatican won’t ordain real women as priests? Hypocritical much? Anyway, she made some other really good points to show that the vatican is wrong. She showed me this website made by catholic women in favor of ordination. I think they are right:

  • Kurumi & Cheese

    My church always had 3 or 4 priests, and none of them were every from “the local area.” They were all sent from the head office in Wichita or wherever. After a few years, one would move on to another place and we’d get another. Most were relatively young, too. Usually pretty new. I don’t think that’s all that unusual. You have one or two long-timers and then newbies get shuffled around, but they’re never “local.” Just not foreign, either.
    There was one church we went to for a wedding where a priest was from overseas. He was from Burma. Might as well have done the ceremony in Latin, because we could only understand about a third of what he said.

  • Cassius

    This sounds bad, but think about it. Back in the day the church was very pragmatic and an institution of power, the ultimate power in Europe. Their stance on women rights and their opinion on gays, it isnt because of tradition and religion, their actions were of a practical nature. Maximize birthrates after the black plagues, that literally killed more than half of Europe.
    Today the church is very inflexible, only concerned with tradition and unable to change or lead, but on the upside Religion isnt the the top of the foodchain in the west anymore.

  • James

    Seriously, I just think that most people don’t get that the Church is not a political entity…not at its heart, anyway.
    Please remind the USCCB of this fact next time they want to write legislation for us, or stand behind bishops who say that voting for pro-choice candidates should disqualify a person from receiving the Eucharist, or pump money and resources into anti-LGBT initiatives like Prop 8.

  • Athenia

    It’s funny you say that! The priest from my church–who was the original priest of the church–just passed away recently–after 30 some odd years of service at the same church.

  • Athenia

    Yeah, what I don’t understand is—women can be saints, but they can’t be priests?? What is up with that?

  • smartbunny

    I don’t think the Target analogy works because if you beat someone up you would go to jail and/or be sued. It’s worse than stealing pants.