Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sex Scandals & Women's Ordination

In July, the Catholic News Service reported that the Vatican was preparing to release an update to the 2001 norms established to deal with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. In essence, the Vatican is simply putting on paper what has been in practice since 2001 in relation to these norms. However, at the same time, while updating this particular portion of the norms, they also decided to address the issue of women's ordination. Both matters, sexual abuse of minors by clergy and women's ordination, fall under the classification of "delicta graviora" which lists the most serious crimes against Church law.

Does this decision by the Church to measure these two issues under the same category show an insensitivity or even misogyny toward women?

Is the Church equating women with sex offenders?

This is what many women who disagree with the teachings of the Church on the "male only" priesthood would have you believe. But, theirs is a shallow argument based on a desire to grasp at a power that does not belong to them. Their claims of misogyny in no way prove any level of disrespect for women by the Church, conversely their treatment of the issue is where the disrespect lies.

First, what is being listed and codified are actions -- the act of ordination of women and the act of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy. Both of these actions are against Church law. Women and men are created good by God, but what they attempt to do knowingly and of their own free will within this foreknowledge can be against Church law and considered a grievous offense.

Perhaps examining this from a secular/civil law perspective would help. The act of murder is unlawful and can be considered a felony offense; the act of prostitution is unlawful and can be considered a felony offense. Both are felony offenses, but one would not necessarily equate murder with prostitution. They are not the same but for the fact that the acts are grievously criminal and can be categorized under the same heading: felony.

If this can be understood in relation to a secular example, why would women have such a difficult time understanding in in relation to Church law? Jesus established a male priesthood, and for 2000+ years, this has been the case. Eileen Di Franco, a professed illicitly ordained female priest, attempts to make this apples to oranges comparison of sex abusers to women's ordination in an op/ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Her problem stems from the fact that, in response to her ordination, the Vatican has informed her and other women illicitly ordained that they have been excommunicated. This not only acknowledges publicly the mortal status of their disobedience, but removes them from licit reception of the sacraments. Without a doubt, and based on Scripture, the Church has the authority to do this. (cf. Mt. 16:19 -- power to bind and loose)

The conclusion Di Franco draws is illogical in that she believes it is a result of the Church's hatred of women. She goes as far as to call into question the Early Church Father's position on the Blessed Virgin, proclaiming it to be "pathological veneration of the Virgin Mary". This suggests that the Church Fathers conspired to find one woman to use as their poster child so that they could maintain exclusive power and subjugate women. Obviously, this is a ridiculous assertion, with no sound basis in history or in their writings.

While Di Franco is clearly a woman, and clearly in violation of Church law by virtue of her illicit ordination, her situation is clearly easier to adjudicate. In the case of sex offenders, there are any number of variables that must be considered. It is certainly a more intricate process of adjudication. And, as such, these two issues are not comparable but for where they land under the code's classification. One is an obvious and overt breech of Church law, the other is one that needs to be seriously investigated to protect and preserve the rights and reputations of all involved.

Indeed, the Church does love and respect women in their holy vocation to the religious life or as wives and mothers as is beautifully stated in Mulieris Dignitatem. One can find many other references to the Church's love of the created being, Woman. Mother Church entrusts women with many vital functions empowering them to be fully active participants in her life. Women do not need to change what is good and true and necessary for salvation in order to feel self worth. That is a function of a well developed relationship with Our Lord in the Sacraments. If a woman is willing to blatantly act against Church teaching, one might question whether that relationship is well developed.

Sexual abuse of minors and women's ordination are not analogous; one cannot compare the two in terms of the acts themselves beyond their being grievously illicit. Furthermore, in the case of alleged sexual abuse, one must carefully determine if there is abuse at all. In one, guilt is obvious from the start, in the other, guilt must be clearly determined. Thus, the Church is updating both issues efficiently to adjudicate both forms of scandal appropriately.

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