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Thin Line Between Ordination of Women & Pedophilia For the Vatican

July 15, 2010

The Vatican has just released an updated version of its "delicta graviora," or what it considers to be the most serious crimes one can commit against the Church. Though it largely expounds upon the 2001 edits that addressed rampant child abuse in the Church, the delicta graviora lists the "attempted sacred ordination of women" alongside pedophilia practices as one of these gravest of offenses. The inclusion of even the attempt to ordain a woman into the Church in a list of offenses is disconcerting enough, but the fact that the discussion around this list revolves almost entirely around its statutes on child abuse provides the inclusion with a new, more disturbing context. To speak about attempted ordination of women in the same derisive breath as pedophilia is to condemn it as similarly destructive crime. Mary E. Hunt of Religion Dispatches magazine tried to make sense of this by writing the following:
"Perhaps they reason that the women’s ordination cases will keep them so busy that the pedophilia crimes will go away. Maybe they think people will be so scandalized by women wanting to get on with the ministry of the church at a time when the institution is morally bankrupt that they will forget the cover-ups that necessitated this revision of law in the first place. Or, perhaps the foxes may really think that this effort to centralize power with even less accountability can take place quietly since so many people will be exercised over the mere suggestion of women priests. Stay tuned, but I think they miss their guess. There is simply no comparison between a theological argument over who is 'fit matter' to be ordained and the destruction of a child’s life; not to mention the thousands of people who have been abused by clergy. The public simply won’t buy it, and the end result is that the institutional Roman Catholic Church will look even more out of touch with reality than ever."
If this move by the Church is in fact a diversion tactic from its more pressing, more destructive internal problems as Hunt suggests, it is undoubtedly “out of touch.” The greater worry, however, is what exactly the Church implies by including a condemnation of the ordination of women alongside the condemnation of pedophilia.  As Hunt acknowledges at the beginning of her piece, the Vatican’s statement takes care to differentiate the two in order to respond to any potential criticism. But the bottom line is that by having the ordination of women in the same list as pedophilia, the Vatican implies that both hold equal gravity as potential destructors of the Church. The subsequent debate surrounding the revised rules should therefore, at the very least, give this condemnation of ordaining women equal consideration.