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Statement on The Canonical Changes on Penal Sanctions in the Church on June 1, 2021.

The Catholic Women’s Council (CWC) is a global umbrella group of Roman Catholic networks working for the full recognition of Women’s dignity and equality in the Church.

We, in the Leadership of the Catholic Women’s Council (CWC) are aware that the revisions in the Code of Canon Law published today were long overdue and address various crimes and penalties, including those related to clergy sexual abuse.

However, we are deeply pained to know that the ordination of women is included here and considered an offence against the sacraments. We would like to point out that women’s aspiration to ordination is nothing but a quest for the recognition of women’s equality and dignity on par with men in the Church. But the Vatican considers this a crime that falls under the category that incurs a latae sententiae excommunication in the Church.  This is deplorable, unacceptable and hurtful to women. It undermines the dignity of women.

We welcome the changes and clarification regarding abuse against minors as a step in the right direction. However, the violation of the vow of chastity by a priest often leads to the abuse of other adults – mainly women – because abuse takes place when a person with superior power exploits and takes advantage of a vulnerable person and causes physical and psychological harm to that person.  The experience of abuse of women must not be erased, or sublimated under the term “protectee”. We express our solidarity with all those whose lives have been derailed by clergy sexual and spiritual abuse. Our prayers and sympathy are with you.

We urge the Vatican and all bishops to enter into dialogue with the Catholic Women’s Council (CWC) and our member organisations to find new ways of listening to women who feel called to ministry, so that women’s quest for equality is understood sensitively and not arbitrarily classified as an offence against the Sacraments.  We ask that there be a deeper ecclesial debate around the world on the application and interpretation of the amendments and that the many vocation stories of women be duly appreciated and, above all, recognized.

The church has been dominated by the thoughts, words and decisions of men for centuries. It is time that we break out of a culture of male supremacy and return to the equality that Jesus created for women when he included them in his ministry by sharing the word with them (Luke 10:38-42), commissioning a woman to bring the Good News of his resurrection to the world (Jn.20:11-17), and he confirmed the woman who had anointed him with the assurance that wherever the gospel was preached she would be remembered (Mk 14:6-9).

When women’s ordination and the abuse of minors were first declared Delicta Graviora offences in 2010, Catholics around the world reacted with horror. But the Vatican did not listen to the sensus fidei (the sense of faith of the people of God). This time we hope that the Vatican will hear the voices of protest.

We remind our brothers in the Vatican that “with regard to the fundamental rights of the person, every kind of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, colour, social situation, language or religion, must be overcome as contrary to the will of God.” (Gaudium et Spes, 29). We, therefore, demand no less than that the Vatican implement our Church’s own teachings, which assure us that all people stand as equals before our God.

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