I IRISH women involved in the church reacted furiously last night and accused the Vatican of "upholding sexism" after it issued the new rules.
Soline Humbert, a co-founder of the Irish group Brothers and Sisters in Christ, which was established to promote the ordination of women to the priesthood, said yesterday's announcement was "predictable" and "one more attempt at stopping the unstoppable. It is pathetic. It shows the state of disarray (within the church).
"My heartfelt reaction as a woman, I'm 53 nearly 54, is that all my life in the Roman Catholic Church has been a succession of blows. At this stage, I do not expect any good news to come from Rome.
"It is very interesting that it comes at a time when the Church of England is ordaining women bishops," she added.
The Irish Bishops Conference welcomed the publication of the Vatican document, but offered no comment on the issue of ordination of women. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ London ~ Friday July 16 2010, page 17
Catholics angry as church puts female ordination on par with sex abuse
Women's groups describe Vatican's decision on female ordination as 'appalling'
John Hooper in Rome
Three ‘bishops’ at the ordination of a female French priest in Lyons in 2005. All four women were excommunicated. From left: South African Patricia Fresen, Austrian Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger and German Gisela Forster. (Jean-Pierre Clatot/AFP)
It was meant to be the document that put a lid on the clerical sex abuse scandals that have swept the Roman Catholic world. But instead of quelling fury from within and without the church, the Vatican stoked the anger of liberal Catholics and women's groups by including a provision in its revised decree that made the "attempted ordination" of women one of the gravest crimes in ecclesiastical law.
The change put the "offence" on a par with the sex abuse of minors.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, called the document "one of the most insulting and misogynistic pronouncements that the Vatican has made for a very long time. Why any self-respecting woman would want to remain part of an organisation that regards their full and equal participation as a 'grave sin' is a mystery to me."
Vivienne Hayes, the chief executive of the Women's Resource Centre, said the decision to raise women's ordination to the level of a serious crime was "appalling".
She added: "This declaration is doubly disempowering for women as it also closes the door on dialogue around women's access to power and decision making, when they are still under-represented in all areas of political, religious and civic life. We would urge the Catholic church to acknowledge that women's rights are not incompatible with religious faith."
Ceri Goddard, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: "We are sure that the vast majority of the general public will share in our abject horror at the Vatican's decision to categorise the ordination of women as an 'offence' in the same category as paedophilia – deemed to be one of the 'gravest offences a priest can commit'.
"This statement follows a series where the Vatican, an institution which yields great influence and power not only in the Catholic community but also wider society, has pitched itself in direct opposition not only to women's rights but to our equal worth and value. We hope this is an issue that the government takes the opportunity to raise if it still feels the impending papal visit is appropriate."
The revision of a decree first issued nine years ago was intended to address the issue of clerical sex abuse. Last night it remained unclear why the Vatican had decided to invite further controversy by changing the status of women's ordination in canon law.
Since scandals blew up in Germany in January, five Roman Catholic bishops have resigned as evidence has come to light of priests who raped or molested children, and of superiors who turned a blind eye to safeguard the reputation of the church. Data from countries in which church membership is officially registered suggest tens of thousands of Catholics, perhaps hundreds of thousands, have abandoned their faith in disgust.
Father Federico Lombardi, the pope's spokesman, stressed that the new rules on sex abuse applied solely to procedures for defrocking priests under canon law. They had no bearing on whether suspected offenders were notified to the civil authorities – he said bishops had already been reminded of their duty to do so.
The most important change is to extend the period during which a clergyman can be tried by a church court from 10 to 20 years, dating from the 18th birthday of his victim. Many people who were abused by priests are unable to summon up the courage to come forward until well into adulthood.
The new norms also streamline the procedures for dealing with the most urgent and serious cases, enabling bishops to defrock priests without a long, costly trial. They put abuse of the mentally disabled on a level with that of minors. And they introduce a new crime of paedophile pornography, defined as "the acquisition, possession or disclosure" by a clergyman of pornographic images of children below the age of 14.
Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who helped overhaul the rules, said: "This gives a signal that we are very, very serious in our commitment to promote safe environments and to offer an adequate response to abuse."
Lombardi said the Vatican was working on further instructions "so that the directives it issues on the subject of sexual abuse of minors, either by the clergy or institutions connected with the church, may be increasingly rigorous, coherent and effective".
But Barbara Doris of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap) said it was tackling the issue the wrong way round. "Defrocking a predator, by definition, is too late," she said. "Severe harm has already been done." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ London ~ Friday July 16 2010
Vatican says female priests 'as sinful' as child abuse
Under the new rules, ordaining a women as a priest is among the church's "most serious crimes". (Getty Images)
By Fiona Govan in Rome
THE ordination of women as Roman Catholic priests has been made a "crime against the faith" by the Vatican and subject to discipline by its watchdog.
The new rules issued yesterday put attempts at ordaining women among the "most serious crimes" alongside paedophilia and will be handled by investigators from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), considered the successor to the Inquisition.
Women attempting to be priests, and those who try to ordain them, already faced automatic excommunication but the new decree enshrines the action as "a crime against sacraments".
The unexpected ruling follows the Pope's welcome to Anglican clergy dissatisfied with its General Synod attempts to compromise over calls for the ordination of women as bishops. The first women bishops could be ordained in the Anglican Church as soon as 2014.
Exodus A group of 70 disgruntled clergy met with a Catholic bishop on Saturday to discuss plans to defect and hundreds are said to be poised for an exodus to Rome. Earlier this year three bishops travelled to the Vatican to talk over an offer by Pope Benedict XVI inviting disillusioned Anglicans to convert to Catholicism, while still keeping tenets of their own faith.
Within the Catholic Church here have been growing calls to allow women to become priests in the wake of the widespread paedophilia scandal. Women priests have been allowed in the Anglican Church since 1992.
But the Vatican made its stance clear yesterday by comparing such actions to child abuse crimes and issuing new rules for investigating both by the same disciplinary body.
Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, underscored how the ordination of women is "a crime against sacraments," while paedophilia should be considered a "crime against morals" and both would fall under the jurisdiction of the CDF.
The organisation, once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition, was previously headed by the current Pope when he was Cardinal Ratzinger.
The raft of new rules from the Vatican includes the fast-tracking of the investigation process of priests accused of child abuse.
The CDF will accelerate investigations of paedophile priests and extend the statute of limitations by 10 years to 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday. Defrock It could defrock priests but would not be forced to hand over abusers to the civil courts.
"Clergy sex crimes must be reported to police and the Vatican must make this a binding policy that is uniformly enforced," said David Clohessy, of The Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests.
Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s sex crimes prosecutor, left, and Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi discussed the new set of norms issued on Thursday to respond to the worldwide clerical abuse scandal (Andrew Medichini/Associated Press)
By RACHEL DONADIO VATICAN CITY The Vatican issued revisions to its internal laws on Thursday making it easier to discipline sex-abuser priests, but caused confusion by also stating that ordaining women as priests was as grave an offense as pedophilia.
The decision to link the issues appears to reflect the determination of embattled Vatican leaders to resist any suggestion that pedophilia within the priesthood can be addressed by ending the celibacy requirement or by allowing women to become priests.
The overall document codified existing procedures that allow the Vatican to try priests accused of child sexual abuse using faster juridical procedures rather than full ecclesiastical trials. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the changes showed the church’s commitment to tackling child sexual abuse with “rigor and transparency.”
Those measures fell short of the hopes of many advocates for victims of priestly abuse, who dismissed them as “tweaking” rather than a bold overhaul. The new rules do not, for example, hold bishops accountable for abuse by priests on their watch, nor do they require them to report sexual abuse to civil authorities though less formal “guidelines” issued earlier this year encourage reporting if local law compels it.
But what astonished many Catholics was the inclusion of the attempt to ordain women in a list of the “more grave delicts,” or offenses, which included pedophilia, as well as heresy, apostasy and schism. The issue, some critics said, was less the ordination of women, which is not discussed seriously inside the church hierarchy, but the Vatican’s suggestion that pedophilia is a comparable crime in a document billed a response to the sexual abuse crisis.
“It is very irritating that they put the increased severity in punishment for abuse and women’s ordination at the same level,” said Christian Weisner, the spokesman for “We Are Church,” a liberal Catholic reform movement founded in 1996 in response to a high-profile sexual abuse case in Austria. “It tells us that the church still understands itself as an environment dominated by men.”
The reaction among American Catholics could be measured in some degree by comments from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, a top official in the group, called the document a “welcome statement” even as he took pains to praise the role of women in the church. “The church’s gratitude to women cannot be stated strongly enough,” he said at a news conference in Washington. “Women offer unique insight, creative abilities and unstinting generosity at the very heart of the Catholic Church.”
Still, the archbishop added. “The Catholic Church through its long and constant teaching holds that ordination has been, from the beginning, reserved to men, a fact which cannot be changed despite changing times.”
At a news conference at the Vatican, Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the Vatican’s internal prosecutor in charge of handling sexual abuse cases, explained the change on women’s ordination in technical terms. “Sexual abuse and pornography are more grave delicts, they are an egregious violation of moral law,” Monsignor Scicluna said in his first public appearance since the sex abuse crisis hit. “Attempted ordination of women is grave, but on another level, it is a wound that is an attempt against the Catholic faith on the sacramental orders.”
The revision codifies a 2007 ruling that made attempting to ordain women an offense punishable with excommunication. The new document said that a priest who tried to ordain a woman could now be defrocked.
For more than two decades, polls have shown that large majorities of American Catholics favor allowing women to be ordained as priests, despite the lack of support for it among church leaders. The latest poll of American Catholics by The New York Times and CBS News, released in May, showed that 59 percent favored ordaining women, while 33 percent were opposed.
“I think they see us as their worst nightmare and they’re doing as much as they can to stop it,” said Bridget Mary Meehan, one of five American women who say they have been ordained as bishops as part of a tiny movement of women in Europe and the United States who claim to have been ordained as bishops, priests and deacons.
The movement, called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, now claims that 100 women have been given ordination ceremonies as priests, deacons or bishops, and 75 of those are Americans, Ms. Meehan said.
At the news conference here unveiling the changes, Monsignor Scicluna said that rules on their own could not eradicate priestly abuse but that the church now had better tools to work toward that. “This gives a signal that we are very, very serious in our commitment to promote safe environments and to offer an adequate response to abuse,” he said. “If more changes are needed, they will be made.”
In addition to making the faster administrative procedures for disciplining priests the rule, not the exception, the new norms also added possession of child pornography and sexual abuse of mentally disabled adults to the list of grave crimes.
The Vatican also doubled the statute of limitations for abuse cases to 20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday. After that, a priest could be removed from the ministry but not defrocked unless the Vatican lifted the statute of limitations in the case, a right it reserves on a case-by-case basis.
Many victims have said they did not feel able to come forward until long after abuse took place.
Critics immediately said the revisions did not go far enough.
“Given his authority, Benedict could implement meaningful change,” Bishopaccountability.org, which tracks cases of sexual abuse by priests worldwide, said in a statement, referring to Pope Benedict XVI. “He could direct bishops to report every allegation of child sexual abuse to the police, regardless of whether civil law requires them to do so. He could threaten punishment of any bishop or church official who enables or fails to stop a child-molesting priest.”
For years, bishops complained to the Vatican about confusion over how to handle sexual abuse cases. In 2001, Pope John Paul II issued a document saying all credible allegations of abuse by priests should be reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But the document was not widely circulated, and the confusion remained.
In April, the Vatican for the first time published online guidelines that it said it advised bishops to follow in handling abuse, including reporting all sexual abuse cases to the Vatican and to civil authorities in countries that required mandatory reporting of crimes. But those guidelines do not hold the force of law.
The new document did not change that. “It’s not for canonical legislation to get itself involved with civil law,” Monsignor Scicluna said.
Laurie Goodstein contributed reporting from New York, and Gaia Pianigiani from Rome.
Vatican makes attempted ordination of women a grave crime
Revised Catholic rules put female ordination in same category of crime under church law as clerical sex abuse of minors John Hooper in Rome
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi announces the revised Catholic laws. Photograph: Andrew Medichini/AP
The Vatican today made the "attempted ordination" of women one of the gravest crimes under church law, putting it in the same category as clerical sex abuse of minors, heresy and schism.
The new rules, which have been sent to bishops around the world, apply equally to Catholic women who agree to a ceremony of ordination and to the bishop who conducts it. Both would be excommunicated. Since the Vatican does not accept that women can become priests, it does not recognise the outcome of any such ceremony.
The latest move, which appeared to bar and bolt the door to Catholic women priests, came at a time when the Church of England moved in the opposite direction, to a step closer to the ordination of female bishops.
The Vatican's reclassification of attempted female ordination was part of a revision of a 2001 decree, the main purpose of which was to tighten up the rules on sex abuse by priests in reaction to the scandals that have been sweeping through the church since January. The most important change is to extend the period during which a clergyman can be tried by a church court from 10 to 20 years, dating from the 18th birthday of his victim.
The new rules introduce speedier procedures for dealing with the most urgent and serious cases; allowed for lay people to form part of church tribunals that judge such cases; put abuse of the mentally disabled on a level with that of minors, and introduced a new crime of paedophile pornography.
The pope's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, stressed that the changes applied solely to canon, or church, law. They had no bearing on whether suspected offenders should be reported to the civil authorities.
He said that issue had already been dealt with earlier this year in instructions making it clear to bishops that they must report cases promptly.
The Vatican was working on further instructions "so that the directives it issues on the subject of sexual abuse of minors, either by the clergy or institutions connected with the church, may be increasingly rigorous, coherent and effective," he said. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ London ~ Friday July 16 2010
Vatican: Female priests as bad as paedophiles
By Jerome Taylor
The Vatican has classified the "attempted ordination" of women as one of the most serious crimes a Catholic priest can commit, putting it on a par with paedophilia, heresy and desecrating the Sacrament.
Anyone found to be ordaining women will be automatically excommunicated under the new rules.
The Vatican also announced new laws to tackle paedophilia, doubling the church's statute of limitations to 20 years and allowing bishops to sack priests without having to resort to a full canonical trial. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ US ~ July 15, 2010
Vatican revises church law on sex abuse
As expected, attempted ordination of women added to list of 'grave crimes'
By John L Allen Jr
Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, presents the Vatican's revised procedures for handling cases of sexual abuse by priests during a press conference at the Vatican July 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Rome -- In the latest chapter of the Vatican's attempt to come to grips with the sexual abuse crisis, Pope Benedict XVI has approved a set of revisions to church law which are touted by the Vatican as a major contribution to "rigor and transparency," while derided by critics as "mere tweaking."
For the most part, Vatican sources said, the revisions consolidate existing practice rather than marking a dramatic new approach. Unveiled on July 15, the changes include:
Speeding up the process of "laicization," or formal removal from the priesthood;
Allowing laity to serve as judges and lawyers on church tribunals in sex abuse cases, and waiving the requirement of a doctorate in canon law;
Extending the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases from ten to twenty years, with the possibility still in force to waive it altogether on a case-by-case basis;
Adding the acquisition, possession or distribution of child pornography as a "grave crime" under church law;
Specifying that the same penalties for the sexual abuse of minors also apply to developmentally disabled adults;
Clarifying that even "cardinals, patriarchs, legates of the Apostolic See and bishops" are subject to the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal office, on matters related to sexual abuse.
The Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, stressed July 15 that these revisions affect only the church's internal discipline, and are not intended to supplant reporting sex abuse by priests to the police and other civil authorities – a step the Vatican endorsed in a procedural guide published last April.
Unrelated to the sexual abuse crisis, the revisions also add several other offenses to the list of "grave crimes" subject to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (and thus to the expedited penalties the congregation can hand out). They include crimes against the faith, such as heresy, apostasy and schism; recording or broadcast of the sacrament of confession; and the attempted ordination of women.
The last point ratifies a December 2007 decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which stipulated that anyone attempting to ordain a woman, as well as women who claim ordination, are subject to excommunication. That decree appeared in the wake of several events around the world in which organizers claimed to ordain women priests in defiance of church authorities.
At a Vatican briefing this morning, Maltese Monsignor Charles Scicluna, an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, denied that the Vatican equates women's ordination with the sexual abuse of children. An illicit ordination, Scicluna said, is a “"sacramental" crime, while abuse is a "moral" crime.
The church's current law in sex abuse cases was laid out in a 2001 document from Pope John Paul II, known as a motu proprio and titled Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela. Most of the revisions presented July 15 were originally approved by John Paul in 2002 and 2003 as "special faculties," or exceptions to his own motu proprio, at the urging of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
Vatican insiders have long pointed to the special faculties as an example of Ratzinger's commitment to resolving the sexual abuse crisis.
When the motu proprio was first released, it generated concern among some bishops and canon lawyers, especially in the United States, who read it to mean that virtually every charge of sexual abuse had to be handled through a canonical trial, which many regarded as cumbersome, expensive, and uncertain. The norms also required that the key personnel in those trials be priests, even though many canonists in America are laity. The statue of limitations in canon law also seemed to bar action in many cases.
That criticism came to a head in early 2003, when the promoter of justice in the doctrinal congregation, Maltese Monsignor Charles Scicluna, was set to travel to the United States to brief American canonists on how the norms laid out in Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela were to be followed. Just ahead of Scicluna's departure, Ratzinger secured the special faculties from John Paul II to address the most serious concerns.
In addition to permission to waive the statute of limitations, the special faculties include:
Allowing one judge on a church tribunal to be a lay person, and eliminates the requirement of a doctorate in canon law;
By-passing trials in grave cases, removing abuser priests on the basis of a decree;
Giving the doctrinal congregation power to "sanate" the acts of lower courts, meaning to clean up procedural irregularities;
Establishing that an appeal in abuse cases goes to the doctrinal congregation rather than the Signatura, the Vatican's highest court.
All those faculties have now been formally written into church law.
Lombardi called the revisions "a contribution to clarity and certainty … in a field in which the church is strongly committed today to proceeding with rigor and transparency."
However, a spokesperson for the Survivors' Network of Those Abused by Priests, the most prominent advocacy group for sex abuse victims said the church's approach needs "massive overhaul, not mere tweaking."
Vatican sources also told NCR in early July that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is preparing "guidance," as opposed to binding rules, for bishops' conferences around the world as to how to coordinate their directives on abuse cases. The lack of a coherent global policy has long been a bone of contention for critics of the church.
The ordination of women as Catholic priests is a "crime against the faith," the Vatican has said while it issued a raft of new disciplinary rules.
Cases of "attempted ordination of women" will now be handled by the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), a Vatican statement said on Thursday.
The new rules put attempts at the ordination of women among the "most serious crimes", along with pedophilia.
They update a 2007 CDF decree, according to which those who attempt to ordain women - and the women concerned - are subject to automatic excommunication.
The US-based Women's Ordination Conference, an advocacy group, dismissed the decision as "medieval at best" and a "scare tactic".
The update was prompted by "fear of our growing numbers", the group said in a statement. "The Vatican is using this attempt to extinguish the widespread call for women's equality in the church."
The Vatican also issued new rules on the handling of sex abuse cases on Thursday. It ordered quicker investigations of pedophile priests and extended the statute of limitations by 10 years to 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi underscored how the ordination of women is "a crime against sacraments", while pedophilia should be considered a "crime against morals".
In May, an Austrian Catholic bishop said the church should rethink ordaining women following the widespread pedophilia scandal.
Eight Catholic activists staged a demonstration in favour of women's ordination in St Peter's Square in June.
They asked Pope Benedict XVI to open the ranks of priests to women to renew the church and solve a chronic shortage of priests around the world.
The rule changes were prepared by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the department Pope Benedict headed as a cardinal for nearly 25 years
The Vatican today made sweeping revisions to its laws on sexual abuse of children by priests in its latest attempt to tackle a scandal that has shaken the Catholic Church around the world.
In an unexpected move, the Vatican also codified the "attempted ordination of a woman" to the priesthood as one of the most serious crimes against Church law.
The changes, the first in nine years, affect Church procedures for defrocking abusive priests. They make some legal procedures, which were so far allowed under exceptional circumstances, the global norms to confront the crisis.
"This gives a signal that we are very, very serious in our commitment to promote safe environments and to offer an adequate response to abuse," Monsignor Charles Scicluna, a Vatican doctrinal official who helped revise the norms, told a news conference. "If more changes are needed, they will be made."
Under the revisions, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases was increased to 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday from 10 years under the old rules, meaning victims will be able to file charges until they are 38 years old. This is significant because many people who were abused by priests as children do not find the courage or legal and moral support to come forward until they are well into adulthood.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the statute of limitations could be extended even further in some cases. The changes are an update to a document known as a Motu Proprio (Latin for "of his own accord") issued by the late Pope John Paul in 2001 to deal with various grave crimes against Church law.
While the changes involve canon (Church) law, Fr Lombardi said existing Vatican guidance to bishops that they should report sexual abusers to civil authorities remained in effect.
In other changes, sexual abuse by a priest of a mentally handicapped adult will be treated as if the handicapped person were a minor and could lead to dismissal from the priesthood.
The revisions also allow bishops to defrock priests where evidence of sexual abuse is clear without canonical (ecclesiastical) trials, which can be lengthy and costly. The Church will be able to defrock priests in such cases by decree.
They also specify that priests who acquire, possess or distribute child pornography will be considered to have committed a serious offence subject to the same disciplinary action as abusers.
The updated rules also codified as a "grave crime" against Church law "the attempted ordination of a woman" to conform with a decree issued in 2007 to deal with a growing movement in favour of a female priesthood. The Catholic Church teaches that it cannot ordain women as priests because Christ chose only men as his apostles.
Proponents of a female priesthood reject this, saying he was only acting according to the norms of his times.
The changes were prepared by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the department Pope Benedict headed as a cardinal for nearly 25 years before his election in 2005.
They come as Pope Benedict struggles to control the damage a sexual abuse scandal in the United States and several European countries, including his native Germany, has done to the Catholic Church's image. Five bishops in Europe have already resigned over scandal. One has admitted sexual abuse, another is under investigation and three have stepped down over their handling of abuse cases.
Last month, the pontiff begged forgiveness from God and victims of child sexual abuse by priests and said the Catholic Church would do everything in its power to ensure that it never happens again.