When it comes to the sexual abuse of children and the vulnerable, is there a more lenient governance than the Catholic Church? The Vatican published new provisions to the Code of Canon Law on June 1st. The phrase “one step forward, two steps back” is too generous.
In a decades-delayed step forward, a priest found guilty of abuse can be removed from clerical duty and laicized “where the case calls for it.” This begs the question – what case of abuse doesn’t call for it? While offering some improvement, there are gray areas landscaped with loop holes where clergy child abuse can continue to thrive.
Coverage of the new provisions coincided with threats of excommunication aimed at pro-choice politicians in the U.S.
Those raised in Catholic schools, Kathy and myself included, are instructed that all life is precious and should be protected – from the womb to grave. The Vatican does not even pretend to apply pro-life doctrine consistently. That would be inconvenient.
Canon Law makes it excruciatingly clear who and what the Church holds as precious and to be protected. All life is not equal in the Church. There is a hierarchy to it. An unborn child is worth more than one who is alive. An abusive priest is worth more than both.
Thou Shall Not Be Protected
True to form, the legal wording is archaic and offensive. A priest who abuses a minor or vulnerable adult is breaking the sixth commandment (adultery) with that person. The Church has essentially told victims that it takes two to tangle. But that can be explained.
Over the centuries, the Catholic Church broadened the sixth commandment to include sex between unmarried people, prostitution, pornography, homosexual activity, masturbation, group sex, rape, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, and necrophilia.
The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta said the language makes the issue “clear” to Catholics living across various cultures on different continents, according to an article in National Catholic Reporter (NCR).
Let’s unpack that. First, it’s the Church leadership who lack clarity on this issue, not Catholics living across various cultures. Second, the broader context is still offensive! Would God place the sexual assault of children and rape in the same category as sexual relations between two or more consenting adults? Let’s ask Jesus. I believe his answer involves a millstone and drowning.
If the Vatican really wanted to make the issue clear they would refer to the fifth commandment – thou shall not kill. The term “soul murder” has been used by victims of clergy child sex abuse and advocates. Adultery means to alter or corrupt. Murder accurately describes the devastation and loss.
In an interview with NCR, Irish survivor Marie Collins, a former member of Pope Francis’ commission on clergy sex abuse, shared her disappointment with the provisions along with her thoughts on Cardinal Reinhard Marx. He requested permission to resign as a symbol of leadership’s responsibility for “systemic failure.” Pope Francis denied his request on June 10th.
If good men are giving up … it doesn’t say anything for the future. Because you need good men to stay there and fight.”Marie Collins in an interview with The National Catholic Reporter, June 17th