13 Dec 2010

Vatican makes attempted ordination of women a crime worthy of immediate excommunication, but not child sex abuse

Catholic News Service - July 9, 2010

Revised Vatican norms to cover sex abuse, attempted women's ordination

By John Thavis | Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican is preparing to update the 2001 norms that deal with priestly sex abuse of minors, in effect codifying practices that have been in place for several years.

At the same time, it will include the "attempted ordination of women" among the list of most serious crimes against church law, or "delicta graviora," sources said.

Sexual abuse of a minor by a priest was added to the classification of "delicta graviora" in 2001. At that time the Vatican established norms to govern the handling of such cases.

The revisions of those norms have been in the pipeline for some time and were expected to be published in mid-July, Vatican sources said. While the changes are not "earthshaking," they will ultimately strengthen the church's efforts to identify and discipline priests who abuse minors, the sources said.

The revisions will be published with ample documentation and will be accompanied by a glossary of church law terms, aimed at helping nonexperts understand the complex rules and procedures that the Vatican has in place for dealing with sex abuse allegations.

The revisions were expected to extend the church law's statute of limitations on accusations of sexual abuse, from 10 years after the alleged victim's 18th birthday to 20 years. For several years, Vatican officials have been routinely granting exceptions to the 10-year statute of limitations.

The revisions also make it clear that use of child pornography would fall under the category of clerical sexual abuse of minors. In 2009, the Vatican determined that any instance of a priest downloading child pornography from the Internet would be a form of serious abuse that a bishop must report to the doctrinal congregation, which oversees cases of sexual abuse. [see links below on Canadian Bishop charged with child pornography]

In addition, the revisions will make clear that abuse of mentally disabled adults will be considered equivalent to abuse of minors. In the law on the sexual abuse of minors, the term "minors" will include "persons of who suffer from permanent mental disability," sources said.

When Pope John Paul II promulgated the norms on priestly sex abuse in 2001, he gave the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith juridical control over such cases.

The revisions incorporate changes made by Pope John Paul in 2003; those simplified some of the procedures and gave the doctrinal congregation the power, in some "very grave and clear cases," to laicize without an ecclesiastical trial priests who have sexually abused minors.

In April, the Vatican placed online a guide to understanding the church's provisions for sex abuse cases. That guide mentioned the revisions under preparation and said those revisions would not change the basic procedures already in place.

The sources said the Vatican was not preparing to publish other documents on priestly sex abuse. Although some have argued that some of the strict sex abuse norms adopted by U.S. bishops in 2002 should be universalized, the sources said there was no imminent plan to do that.

Pope John Paul's 2001 document distinguished between two types of "most grave crimes," those committed in the celebration of the sacraments and those committed against morals. Among the sacramental crimes were such things as desecration of the Eucharist and violation of the seal of confession.

Under the new revisions, the "attempted ordination of women" will be listed among those crimes, as a serious violation of the sacrament of holy orders, informed sources said. As such, it will be handled under the procedures set up for investigating "delicta graviora" under the control of the doctrinal congregation.

In 2008, the doctrinal congregation formally decreed that a woman who attempts to be ordained a Catholic priest and the person attempting to ordain her are automatically excommunicated. In 1994, Pope John Paul said the church's ban on women priests is definitive and not open to debate among Catholics.

This article was found at:

http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1002827.htm


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The Guardian - U.K. July 14, 2010

A Vatican PR catastrophe

A coming revision of Vatican rules yokes together women priests and child abuse

by Andrew Brown | Commentary


One thing in favour of organised religion is that it could be used to to drive spin doctors insane. Suppose you were charged with PR for the Vatican, and learned of an upcoming revision of the code of Canon Law, which would make plain that child abuse is classified as amongst the gravest offences a priest can commit – that's the good news. Then you read on, and discover that the same revision will add to this list of dreadful offences the attempted ordination of women. Really.

One can see how this happened. The serious offences here being classified are divided into moral and sacramental ones; roughly speaking those which anyone might commit, and those which only a priest can, by virtue of his office. So the moral offences include child abuse, the use of child pornography, and so forth. The sacramental offences are things like violating the seal of the confessional, desecrating the eucharistic Host – and taking part in a ceremony where a woman is ordained. The sacramental offences are only of concern to the Catholic hierarchy, whereas the moral ones are almost certain to be crimes under the civil law as well. But the important thing from the point of a Vatican lawyer is that the most serious of all these cases, of whatever sort, are dealt with in Rome.

Obviously, if what you are trying to do is to maintain a functioning priesthood, then ritual or sacramental crimes are just as capable of destroying it as moral ones. So from that perspective it is makes perfect sense to have a list which combines the two, and I don't think (though I may be wrong) that any official Catholic would maintain that assisting at the ordination service of a woman is morally comparable to child abuse. It's just that both are absolutely incompatible with the Catholic priesthood.

Still, it's a conjunction that really isn't going to play very well in the outside world. A body which had any grasp of public relations would publish the revisions in two batches.



This article was found at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2010/jul/14/religion-feminism-vatican
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CBC News - Canadian Press July 15, 2010

Vatican extends sex abuse statute of limitations


The Vatican issued a revised set of church guidelines Thursday to respond to the clerical sex abuse scandal, targeting priests who molest the mentally disabled as well as children, and defining child pornography as a canonical crime, but making few substantive changes to existing practice.

The new rules made no mention of the need for bishops to report clerical sex abuse to police, provided no sanctions for bishops who cover up for abusers and did not include any "one-strike and you're out" policy for pedophile priests as demanded by some victims.

Victims' advocates said the revised guidelines amounted to little more than "administrative housekeeping" of existing practice when what was needed were bold new rules threatening bishops who fail to report abuse.

The Vatican's sex crimes prosecutor acknowledged it was "only a document," and didn't solve the problem of clerical abuse. He defended the lack of any mention of the need to report abuse to police, saying all Christians were required to obey civil laws that would already demand sex crimes be reported.

"If civil law requires you report, you must obey civil law," Monsignor Charles Scicluna told reporters. But "it's not for canonical legislation to get itself involved with civil law."

Victims' groups have accused the church's internal justice system of failing to deal with abuse allegations and allowing bishops to ignore complaints in order to protect the church.

"The first thing the church should be doing is reporting crimes to civil authorities," said Andrew Madden, a former Dublin altar boy who took the first public lawsuit against the church in Ireland in 1995.

"That's far, far more important than deciding whether a criminal priest should be defrocked or not," he told the AP in Dublin. "The church's internal rules are no more important than the rules of your local golf club."

Earlier this year, the Vatican advised bishops to follow civil reporting laws and report abuse "crimes" — not allegations — to police. But that call was included in a non-binding guideline posted on the Vatican website, not an official church document or piece of church legislation.

Sex crime allegations are handled by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1981 until he was elected pope in 2005.
Statute of limitations doubled

The new rules extend the statue of limitations for the congregation's handling of alleged priestly abuse to 20 years from 10 after the victim's 18th birthday, and can be extended beyond that on a case-by-case basis. Such extensions have been routine for years.

Defining the possession or distribution of child pornography as a canonical crime also simply makes current practice official.

The rules also list the attempted ordination of a woman as a "grave crime" to be handled according to the same set of procedures as sex abuse — despite arguments that grouping the two in the same document would imply equating them.

The new rules represent the first major Vatican document since the clerical abuse scandal erupted earlier this year, with hundreds of new cases coming to light of priests who molested children, bishops who covered up for them and Vatican officials who turned a blind eye for decades.

The bulk of the new document merely codified existing norms for dealing canonically with pedophile priests, making previous guidelines set down in 2001 and updated in 2002 and 2003 permanent and legally binding. The document — a letter from the congregation to bishops around the world — represents a permanent piece of church legislation as opposed to the ad hoc guidelines that had been used until now.

"That is a step forward because the norm of law is binding and is certain," Scicluna said. But he acknowledged that the document was just an instrument, a set of norms, and that its application both in Rome and in diocese around the world was key.

"It does not solve all the problems," Scicluna said. "It is a very important instrument, but it is the way you use the instrument that is going to have the real effect."

With so few real changes, Scicluna said he didn't expect a new flood of cases to come forward, as happened in 2003-04, after the abuse scandal exploded in the United States and some 80 per cent of the 3,000 cases handled by the congregation were opened.

"These new norms on sexual abuse really put into law the practice of the congregation," he said, adding that it was important to publish them so everyone can know what the rules are.

New elements in the text include treating priests who sexually abuse the mentally disabled — or an adult who "habitually lacks the use of reason" — with the same set of sanctions as those who abuse minors. Punishments can include being dismissed from the clerical state.

The Vatican in 2007 issued a decree saying the attempted ordination of women would result in automatic excommunication for the woman and the priest who tries to ordain her. That is repeated in the new document, adding that the priest can also be punished by being defrocked.

At a briefing Thursday, Scicluna defended the inclusion of both sex abuse and ordination of women in the same document as a way of codifying two of the most serious canonical crimes against sacraments and morals that the congregation deals with.

"They are grave, but on different levels," he said, and noted that the document also lists crimes against the sacraments including desecrating the Eucharist, violating the seal of the confessional and — for the first time — apostasy, heresy and schism.

This article was found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/07/15/vatican-abuse.html

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Spero News - July 15, 2010

Catholic Church to prosecute priest who supports gay marriage



Archbishop Carlos Jose Nanez of Cordoba, Argentina, has begun canonical proceedings against an Argentine priest for refusing to retract the statements he publicly made supporting same-sex “marriage.” Canon law, the law which regulates internal matters of the Catholic Church, has an effect only on adherents of the Catholic faith.

Fr. Jose Nicolas Alessio received an enormous amount of media attention for his statements supporting gay “marriage” while he was pastor of St. Cajetan’s in the city of Cordoba.

The priest has continued to make statements to the media in support of same-sex “marriage.” “As a cautionary measure, the archbishop has prohibited him from the public exercising of the priestly ministry, which means he cannot celebrate Mass or administer the sacraments of the Church publicly, and therefore, cannot continue as pastor,” the news service reported.

In his statement, Archbishop Nanez noted that, he has “exhausted all possible pastoral means to get Father Jose Nicolas Alessio to amend his ways and retract his statements” in support of same-sex “marriage.” The archbishop explained that since the priest has “denied every opportunity to modify his actions, I have decided to initiate canonical proceedings under the inter-diocesan Tribunal of Cordoba so that all action will take place according to current ecclesial law.”

This article was found at:

http://www.speroforum.com/a/36562/Catholic-Church-to-prosecute-priest-who-supports-gay-marriage

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CNN - July 15, 2010

Argentina legalizes same-sex marriage

By the CNN Wire Staff


Argentina became the first Latin American country on Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage.

Lawmakers in the Senate passed the bill after 14 hours of debate that began Wednesday and carried well into early Thursday morning, the state-run Telam news agency reported.

The bill had already passed the lower chamber of Congress.

It gives same-sex couples equal marriage rights, including the ability to adopt children.

The law was backed by the center-left government of President Cristina Kirchner, who has said she will sign it.

The majority Roman Catholic country follows a few others around the world where same-sex marriage is legal. Among them are the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.

Last month's congressional vote and Wednesday's Senate vote are the latest moves in a pro-gay marriage trend in Argentine politics.

Last year, a judge in Buenos Aires ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage was illegal, paving the way for such marriages in the capital of Argentina.

An injunction by another judge stopped what would have been the first same-sex marriage there.

Ultimately, Latin America's first same-sex marriage happened in Argentina in a southern state with a pro-gay marriage governor.

This article was found at:

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/07/15/argentina.gay.marriage/index.html

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Secular News Daily - July 16, 2010

Annie Laurie Gaylor: Catholic Statement Today Caricatures Itself



Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-President of the Freedom of Religion Foundation, takes on the Vatican’s decision to make ordaining women a crime equal to raping children.

Today it was reported that the Vatican considers the ordination of women as priests to be as “grave” an offense as pedophilia in the ranks of its priesthood. The headline,“Vatican: Ordaining women as bad as pedophilia,” could have been written by the editors of The Onion.

At a Thursday news conference at the Vatican, Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, who handles sexual abuse cases, listed what the Vatican calls the “more grave delicts” or offenses. These include:

* Sexual abuse and pornography
* Attempted ordination of women
* Heresy
* Apostasy
* Schism

(The Catholic sense of proportion is to rate criminal, premeditated, predatory assaults against children as the equivalent of ending sex discrimination in the priesthood and no worse than “apostasy and schism.”)

Scicluna said: “Sexual abuse and pornography are more grave delicts, they are an egregious violation of moral law. 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.” (In order words, it’s apparently even worse! What’s a “moral violation” against a helpless child compared to the horror of a woman at the altar?)

Those 59% of U.S. Catholics who favor the ordination of women ought to “vote with their feet.” Why do liberal and thoughtful Catholics cling to this corrupt and antediluvian institution? Women don’t just hold up half the sky, they hold up the pillars of the Catholic Church with their faithful support and church attendance. Those in the Catholic pews lend their credibility, not just their money, and therefore become part of the problem.

Why would any one wish to be on the side of a church which has institutionalized child abuse and its cover-up, and now compounds its injury to women by the insult of declaring that their inclusion in the priesthood would be just as bad as a priest raping a 12 year old?

The Catholic Church is pathetically blind to its own sins. It still doesn’t require mandatory reporting of suspected crimes to civil authorities by bishops. It calls the prospect of a woman priest as bad as a male priest who has actually used his “man of God” prestige to systemically prey, rape, molest and pillage minors.

The Catholic Church’s timing is very poor. The Vatican made this utterly odious comparison the very same week the world learned that the former bishop of Bruges, Belgium, had systematically sexually abused his own nephew for years. The New York Times reported earlier in the week that the 42-year-old nephew of Roger Vangheluwe helped to force his resignation in April by threatening to go public with the abuse. (Since his resignation, nearly 500 have come forward in Belgium to report abuse by priests.) According to the logic of the Church, a woman priest would be just as immoral as its bishop, who wasn’t just a pedophile and child molester, but an incest abuser!

The reason the Catholic Church attracts (and apparently is run by) so many perverts is because it perverts human nature by devaluing women.

This article was found at:

http://www.secularnewsdaily.com/2010/07/16/annie-laurie-gaylor-catholic-statement-today-caricatures-itself/
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New York Times - July 16, 2010

Editorial: Tone-Deaf in Rome



There was not much to like in the Vatican’s news conference this week about its pedophilia scandal, but among all the defensive posturing and inept statements, there was one real stunner: The citing of the movement for the ordination of women as a “grave crime” that Rome deems as offensive as the scandal of priests who sexually assault children.

Calls for ending the ban on women priests are only a blip on the ecclesiastical radar screen. Yet Vatican officials gratuitously raised them at the news conference, while they offered limited antidotes to the crimes of sexual abuse and the long history of bishops dithering and covering up these crimes.

They doubled the internal statute of limitations to 20 years for defrocking abusers. Yet they failed to emphasize the problem as a state crime as the American bishops did after being forced to dismiss more than 700 priests. “It’s not for canonical legislation to get itself involved with civil law,” one prelate airily declared, insisting Rome’s existing “guidelines” — not mandates — are sufficient for prelates to obey civil laws.

American bishops finally signaled an end to recycling serial predators through parishes by committing to zero tolerance and requiring secular authorities to be alerted from the beginning. These two steps should be embraced by the Vatican worldwide.

A third measure proposed by the Catholic laity panel that investigated the Roman Catholic Church in the United States is no less important — that there must be consequences for culpable bishops who protected pedophile clergy and paid hush money to victims. Neither the American bishops nor the Vatican have dared so far to bring offending prelates to full accountability.

Catholic parents, their trust violated, deserve to hear clear and firm countermeasures for enacting Pope Benedict XVI’s promises for reform. Red herrings about female priests only display the tone-deafness of the Vatican’s dominant male hierarchy.

This article was found at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/17/opinion/17sat4.html

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