The Vatican issued revisions to its internal laws on Thursday making it easier to discipline sex-abuser priests, but caused confusion by also stating that ordaining women as priests was as grave an offense as pedophilia.
The decision to link the issues appears to reflect the determination of embattled Vatican leaders to resist any suggestion that pedophilia within the priesthood can be addressed by ending the celibacy requirement or by allowing women to become priests.
“It is very irritating that they put the increased severity in punishment for abuse and women’s ordination at the same level,” said Christian Weisner, the spokesman for “We Are Church,” a liberal Catholic reform movement founded in 1996 in response to a high-profile sexual abuse case in Austria. “It tells us that the church still understands itself as an environment dominated by men.”
For more than two decades, polls have shown that large majorities of American Catholics favor allowing women to be ordained as priests, despite the lack of support for it among church leaders. The latest poll of American Catholics by The New York Times and CBS News, released in May, showed that 59 percent favored ordaining women, while 33 percent were opposed.