New Sex Abuse Laws and Women’s Ordination

I purposely waited to blog on this subject for a few weeks hoping Church officials might offer a coherent explanation of why it would bundle the issue of women’s ordination into the same document in which it announced new laws governing the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests.
The coherent explanation never came so I will speculate and offer my own thoughts on the subject. The document was published in order to discuss what the Church calls “delicta graviora” or the worst sins. While I would agree that the child sexual abuse by priests would clearly fall into that category, it’s hard to understand why the Church would consider women’s ordination a “delicta graviora”. The Vatican’s subsequent explanation doesn’t help matters. According to Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the priest in charge of punishing sexually abusive priests, “”There are two types of `delicta graviora’: those concerning the celebration of sacraments, and those concerning morals,” Scicluna told reporters at the Vatican. “The two types are essentially different, and their gravity is on different levels.”
The document has been received with a mixture of ridicule and ire. Some of the Catholic faithful are stunned by the move.
“Sometimes you wonder what they are thinking,” said Sister Christine Schenk, executive director of Cleveland-based group FutureChurch, which advocates for increased lay leadership in the Catholic Church.
“This is apples and oranges. The phenomenon of women wanting to serve God does not belong in same category as priests abusing children. I am frankly stunned.”
The portion of the document dealing with sexually abusive priests makes it easier for abusive priests to be removed from the priesthood. However, it neglects to deal with the larger, more important problem-the bishops who have transferred, covered up and lied for these priests. Anyone who has followed the Catholic priest scandal and the sex abuse crisis knows that there would be no scandal or crisis if the bishops hadn’t been complicit in their cover-up and cooperation with the abusers. This is the heart of the problem which remains unaddressed by the Vatican. The new laws don’t deal with the institutional, systemic problem of sexual abuse.
That’s why the civil justice system has played and continues to play a significant role in shaping public opinion and changing laws in order to protect children from further and future sexual abuse.