Jul 16, 2010

Ordaining Women and Other Grave Crimes

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Well, that went over like a lead balloon.

The Vatican finally released its new rules on the handling of sex abuse cases. With the updated document they've managed to disappoint survivor groups by completely "missing the boat" and, for good measure, to give women a stinging slap across the face.

The Catholic Church on Thursday revised its in-house rules on sex abuse cases, extending the statute of limitations for such crimes from 10 to 20 years past the victim's 18th birthday and speeding up the excommunication process for pedophile priests. But, curiously, the amended set of ecclesiastical laws also declares that any priest caught ordaining women will be designated as having committed a "grave crime," the same phrase used to describe the abuse of children.

Liberal Catholics pushing for church reform were shocked by the decree. "I find it appalling," Pat Brown, spokeswoman for British organization Catholic Women's Ordination, told AOL News. "To mention us in the same breath as pedophiles is disgusting and hugely insulting to women and the victims of pedophilia. Announcements like this really emphasize the need to keep campaigning for change in the church."

My first thought, when I read about this, was that I couldn't believe how tone deaf and out-of-touch the Vatican is. This looks like yet another buffoonish public relations disaster. Surely they had to know that whatever traction might have been gained by extending the statute of limitations, and other modest tweaks of their policy on abusers, would be completely lost in the maelstrom over this fresh insult to women. But sadly, I think this is what counts for strategic thinking in their senile, insular, little world.

This announcement comes hot on the heels of the Anglican Church's decision on female bishops; an affirmative decision that was not unexpected. With fewer and fewer young men choosing the Catholic priesthood, this actually provides something of an opening. Apparently the Vatican would rather try to swell its diminishing ranks by absorbing disaffected Anglican priests than ordaining women and catching up to the twentieth century... let alone the twenty-first. Such reactionary Anglicans and the increasingly regressive Catholic hierarchy are well matched. It's a Titanic move for both but at least they can go down together.

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