Everybody relax. As widely expected, Rome is about to issue new rules for handling priests who sexually abuse minors, including those who view child pornography and abuse adults with mental disabilities, classifying such acts as grave canonical crimes. Oh, and the new document will include those who try to ordain women and women who try to get ordained.
Over to you, John Thavis:
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.
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.
And about those already self-excommunicated attempted ordainers of women and women who try to be ordained:
Pope John Paul’s 2001 document [adding sexual abuse to the list of delicta gravoria and giving the CDF jurisdiction over such crimes] 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.
It will be interesting to see how the new norms and their accompanying documentation handle the issue of women’s ordination. Footnote? Bullet point? Boldfaced and highlighted? Whatever the case, why now? To fuel the suspicion that in the 1980s and ’90s the CDF was more interested in disciplining “liberal” doctrinal abusers than it was abuser priests?
(More from David Gibson here.)