Bishop dismisses attempts to connect women's ordination with child abuse


THE FACT that a variety of issues are dealt with in the Vatican’s Normae de Gravioribus Delictisdocument, published this week, “does not imply in any context that all these issues are equivalent”, Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey has said.

“Some media interpretation” of the document “attempts to draw an equivalence between the ordination of women and child sexual abuse. This is unfounded. The former offence relates to the sacraments, the latter to immorality.”

Bishop McAreavey, co-chair of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Communications, was reacting to comment yesterday on the inclusion of procedures for dealing with those who ordain women priests in a document which deals primarily with how clerical child sex abuse should be handled by canon law.

Pargraph 13 of Normae de Gravioribus Delictissays: “The attempted ordination of a woman has also been introduced as a delict in the new text, as established by the decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 19 December 2007.”

The decree referred to stated that, “He who shall have attempted to confer holy orders on a woman, as well as the woman who may have attempted to receive holy orders, incurs in a latae sententiaeexcommunication, reserved to the Apostolic See.”

Of the document, published on Thursday, Bishop McAreavey said: “I very much welcome this comprehensive and updated publication which will help us deal with the very serious crime and sin of child sexual abuse.”

Dublin abuse victim Marie Collins said she found it “beyond belief” that sanctions for those participating in the ordination of women and celebrating the Eucharist with Protestant ministers could be part of a document that dealt with child abuse.

She noted that sanctions where the ordination of women were concerned included “automatic excommunication”, but that there was “no such sanction for child abuse”. The most that could happen a priest abuser was that he would be laicised, she said.

Addressing other aspects of the document, Ms Collins pointed out that even by extending the statute of limitations to 20 years for such abuse, the Vatican would still not be able to investigate her case under canon law. She did not feel able to bring her abuse to the attention of church authorities for 25 years after it happened.

She was also struck by the absence of any instruction on reporting abuse to the civil authorities and of any sanction for those who did not do so.

Soline Humbert, of the Brothers and Sisters in Christ group, which campaigns for women’s ordination, said she was “shocked” that the Vatican could put the issue “and paedophilia in the same document”.

It was “symptomatic of a deep dissonance and dissociation” in the church.

Christine Buckley, who had been in Dublin’s Goldenbridge orphanage as a child, said the document illustrated “a malaise in the church which has been there from the beginning” where women were concerned.

Maeve Lewis of the One in Four group said of the document that “anything which helps keep children safer is to be welcomed” but she believed its statute of limitations “should go altogether”.

She also believed that laicisation of an abuser priest was not desirable and that the Vatican model should be as that employed by Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese whereby an abuser priest was instead monitored by a childcare professional.