The Vatican's decision to declare the attempted ordination of women a major church crime reflects "the seriousness with which it holds offenses against the sacrament of holy orders" and is not a sign of disrespect toward women, Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington said July 15.
The archbishop, who chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine, spoke at a news briefing in the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops hours after the Vatican issued new norms for handling priestly sex abuse cases and updated its list of the "more grave crimes" against church law, including for the first time the "attempted sacred ordination of a woman."
In such an act, the Vatican said, the cleric and the woman involved are automatically excommunicated, and the cleric can also be dismissed from the priesthood.
Noting that women hold a variety of church leadership positions in parishes and dioceses, Archbishop Wuerl said, "The church's gratitude toward women cannot be stated strongly enough."
"Women offer unique insight, creative abilities and unstinting generosity at the very heart of the Catholic Church," he said.