Today, Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) Executive Director Erin Saiz Hanna made the following statement in response to the Vatican’s announcement that priests who sexually abuse minors, view child pornography, or sexually abuse mentally disabled adults, along with those who ordain women or women who attempt to be ordained, will now be included among the list of “delicta gravioria,” or the most serious crimes against church law. The ordination of women is now classified as a “crime against the sacraments,” which includes any action that defiles or desecrates the Eucharist.
The Vatican’s decision to list women’s ordination in the same category as pedophiles and rapists is appalling, offensive, and a wake-up call for all Catholics around the world. This new canonical declaration which names women’s ordination as a serious crime against the Roman Catholic Church is medieval at best. The idea that a woman seeking to spread the message of God somehow “defiles” the Eucharist reveals an antiquated, backwards Church that still views women as “unclean” and unholy.
It is clear this recent decision was made out of fear of our growing numbers. The Vatican is using this attempt to extinguish the widespread call for women’s equality in the church. In a statement published on May 29, 2008 in L’Observatorio Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, all women who “attempt ordination” and the bishops who ordain them are automatically excommunicated, known as latae sententiae. Adding delicta gravioria as a scare tactic to already “excommunicated” women and the priests who support us is ridiculous and does not make a bit of difference. Excommunication will not work, and neither will this. In the face of one closed door after another, Catholic women will continue to make a way when there is none. We will continue to speak out. And women will continue to prophetically answer their call to priestly ordination with or without the Vatican’s approval.
Furthermore, we are extremely disheartened that the Vatican did not appropriately use this opportunity to meaningfully address the handling of sexual predators in its ranks. While some strides were made in this revision the 2001 sexual abuse policy, it does not go far enough. We are calling on our members to take action: express their concern and call for real accountability by demanding that the hierarchy release the names of all accused Catholic leaders; reach out to survivors and take steps to make sure children are protected now; and, discontinue all financial contributions that benefit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.