The XX Factor

The Vatican’s Primary Concern Is Protecting Its Brand

The Vatican released new rules yesterday that would make it easier for church officials to punish priests found guilty of sexually abusing children, The New York Times reported. Kind of a day late-really, about 30 or 40 years late. And more than $1 short: The rules don’t require bishops to report every allegation of child sexual abuse to the police, which strikes me as a no-brainer but which seems to elude the Catholic hierarchy, and they don’t hold bishops accountable for sexual abuse that occurs during their tenure.

But what the rules do rather forcefully is equate the ordination of women with child sexual abuse-and schism and heresy. Here’s the money quote from the Times :

The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, an American priest with the Maryknoll religious order, said that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent him an excommunication letter within two months after he participated in a ceremony ordaining women, but that the Congregation had taken years while it considered the requests of bishops to defrock pedophiles.

“What I did, supporting the ordination of women, they saw as a serious crime,” Father Bourgeois said. “But priests who were abusing children, they did not see as a crime. What does that say?”

What it says is that the Vatican’s primary concern is protecting the brand. Like a besieged major corporation, the Vatican has blamed everyone and everything but itself for the pedophilia scandal: homosexuality within the clergy, Jewish journalists, the permissive culture of the 1960s. After some withering criticism earlier this year when the sexual abuse scandal flared in Europe, it’s become deft at window-dressing, at giving the appearance of seriousness in addressing sexual abuse without actually getting serious about its root causes, the church’s own culpability, or adequate redress. The Vatican isn’t interested in fundamental change, the kind that would occur, for instance, with the ordination of women.

Photograph of Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi and Vatican doctrinal official Monsignor Charles Scicluna by Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images.