WHEN the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith published the Normae de gravioribus delictis (Norms concerning the most serious crimes) last July 15, 2010, the media, which Fr. Federico Lumbardi, the Vatican spokesperson, referred to as “non-specialist public,” was immediately on hand to lash out its own reading of the norms.
The loudest among them was the New York Times which eclectically made a big brouhaha on why the issue of ordination of women as priests was categorized on the same parallel with the grave offense as pedophilia. Its July 15 issue wrote: “But what astonished many Catholics was the inclusion of the attempt to ordain women in a list of the “more grave delicts,” or offenses, which included pedophilia, as well as heresy, apostasy and schism.”
The social media that has grown exponentially in months made trending of this issue with not a few making it appear that the Vatican was embattled and out of its wits. Even the blog of the Vatican Information Service was swamped with online comments such as: “The ordination of women as one of the most serious crimes against the Roman Catholic canon law, or “delicta graviora”—putting it in the same category as sexual abuse of children by priests, is reprehensible.” Or another “I most emphatically denounce the comparison of ordained women with pedophile priests.” And more of such stuff.
Fr. Lombardi is right with his “non-specialist public” allusion. Its either the mainstream media did not read the norms well or were heavily influenced by a secularist agenda or both. Because, really the norms did not make any parallelism between ordination of women and pedophilia. It is, in fact, an improvement to the application of Pope John Paul II’s Motu Proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela of 2001 that gave the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith responsibility to address serious crimes within the ambit of Canon Law.
Commendably, the Norms have codified serious crimes against the faith, and more serious crimes against the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist (Art 3), Sacrament of Penance (Art 4), Sacrament of the Holy Orders (Art 5), and against Catholic Morals (Art 6). The ordination of women is mentioned, obviously, in the crimes against the Sacrament of Holy Orders, while pedophilia is treated under the crimes against Catholic morals. But singling out just these two issues is a misreading of the Norms that deals with all serious crimes against faith and morals.
Indeed, the Norms are a feat that should in fact be hailed in that it will serve every bishop fulfill his responsibilities, including the handling in the best possible way allegations of sexual abuse by clerics. Perhaps, the “more serious crimes” (graviora delicta) are those that try to embezzle the truth.