Official – Vatican does compare child abuse with ordaining women

Apologists for the Vatican have recently claimed that the Catholic Church does not compare sexually abusing a child with attempting to ordain a woman, but that it merely included both crimes in the same document as a procedural matter.

However, this is not true. A Vatican official has explicitly described the crimes contained in this document as being “on the same level” of seriousness. They are the “Delicta Graviora”, the crimes which the Catholic Church considers the most serious of all, and which are reserved to the Holy See for judgment.

In 2007, the Vatican published a pamphlet on Paedophilia and the Priesthood, written by Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and member of the editorial commission of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This pamphlet explicitly states:

“The seriousness with which the Church evaluates and judges acts of pedophilia is shown by the fact that with a new law passed in 2001, the Holy See (and not the local bishops) decided to reserve the right to judge those crimes…

The fact that the Pope wanted to reserve to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — a dicastery of the Holy See — judgment of the acts of pedophilia committed by priests, shows that the Church considers those acts to be very serious, serious crimes on the same level of the other two serious crimes — reserved to the Holy See — that can be committed against two sacraments: the Eucharist and the holiness of confession.”

In 2010, with the updated document Normae de Gravioribus Delictis, the Vatican has now added the attempted ordination of women to this strange list of the most serious crimes of all.

And the direction of the comparison is not that they consider these theological crimes to be as serious as sexually abusing a child, but that they consider sexually abusing a child to be as serious as these theological crimes, to be judged by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which used to be the Congregation of the Inquisition.

For example, sexually abusing a child is listed not as a crime against the child, but as a crime against the Biblical commandment forbidding adultery. And attempting to ordain a woman attracts a more serious punishment than sexually abusing a child. This is the type of morality that results when people put theology ahead of reality.

Ethical issues should be evaluated on the basis of human rights, compassion, well-being and suffering, not on the basis of theological dictates from people who believe they are getting messages from the creator of the universe.


“Vatican City” by @Doug88888 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Michael Nugent


  1. Avatar
    Roedy Green August 05, 2010

    The Pope clearly has been either unwilling or ineffective at curbing child abuse by the priests. This matter should be handled by civil authorities. The pope, and the priests are not above the law. It is amazing how we have allowed his instititution to exist even after repeated offenses. Any summer camp, school etc. with that sort of record would have been shut down centuries ago.

  2. Avatar
    Cian August 05, 2010

    They seem intent on making themselves the most hated boys club in the world! More’s the power to them.

    Read Martin Ridges book “Breaking the Silence” to see the clergies casual attitude to children being raped by both priests and lay teachers. An excellent book that inspires admiration, pity and disgust in equal mesure.

  3. Avatar
    Vespasian August 20, 2010

    The vatican’s list of most serious crimes in order of importance:
    No 1. Wearing a condom
    No 2. Ordaining women priests
    No 3254. Raping a seven year old boy

  4. Avatar
    Monado September 03, 2010

    In other words, “Thanks be to Jaysus I only raped my altar boy and didn’t succumb to the demonic temptations of admitting that women can be spiritual leaders.”

  5. Avatar
    Mick from Oz September 14, 2010

    Hang about, if they thought that ordaining women was on exactly the same level of seriousness as child abuse then there’d be woman Catholic priests in almost every congregation on the planet!

    That and a massive public relations campaign to deny it ever happened/blame the victim and/or say it’s the same everywhere else.

  6. Avatar
    nickandrew October 17, 2010

    The really disturbing part is this:

    The fact that the Pope wanted to reserve to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — a dicastery of the Holy See — judgment of the acts of pedophilia committed by priests, […]

    Which authority gave them the right to judge paedophilia? That’s a crime and a matter for the police and courts.