Michelle Goldberg has an article at the Daily Beast on the church's other shameful legacy and how the Church equates ordaining women with pedophile priests.
The Vatican has now clarified—ordaining women is not quite as grave a crime as raping children.
On Thursday, the Vatican issued revisions to church law making it easier to punish pedophile priests, a welcome development. Yet it shocked much of the world by including, in its list of “more grave delicts,” not just the sexual abuse of children and the possession of child pornography, but also the attempted ordination of women priests. At the same time, the new rules have nothing to say about priests who fail to respond adequately to reports of sexual abuse. (If they did, writes Thomas Doyle in The National Catholic Reporter, they “would obviously nail the majority of U.S. bishops, both retired and active.”)
On Friday, amid widespread outrage, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who helped formulate the new rules, tried to walk back any suggestion of equivalency between female ordination and pederasty, telling Reuters that while both canonical crimes are listed in the same document, “this does not put them on the same level or assign them the same gravity.”
Hidden in all the uproar was an unfortunate truth. It would actually be a step forward if the church were to assign the same gravity to the sexual violation of children as it has to violations of its rigid doctrines on gender. Compare the church’s sluggish, defensive, obfuscatory record on sex abuse with its zealous prosecution of dissent against the all-male celibate priesthood. It’s been quite clear for a long time where its priorities lay.
Father Charles Curran, a professor at the Catholic University of America, was removed from his post and barred from teaching theology as a result of questioning church teachings on contraception, divorce, and homosexuality. Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle came under investigation for allowing the gay Catholic group Dignity to celebrate mass, among other infractions. As Bernstein and Politi reported, Hunthausen was subjected to a two-year investigation, which included interviews with 70 witnesses from his diocese and a 13-hour interrogation. He eventually retired early. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is currently engaged in a sweeping investigation of American nuns, apparently because they’re seen as insufficiently conservative.
Had similar inquisitorial energy been spent on rooting out abusive priests, far fewer children’s lives would have been blighted. But it wasn’t—perhaps because conservatives worried that sex abuse scandals would call priestly celibacy and the exclusion of women into question. As the historian Garry Wills wrote in his book Papal Sins, “For a priest to be a pedophile raises the question whether the celibate discipline for a whole class of men (not just for the spiritually gifted individual) is a false, because unrealizable, ideal.” Thus the church treated protecting its own norms about sex and gender as more important than protecting the children under its care.