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One of these things is not like the others

Vatican Even when the Vatican does the right thing in connection with sexual abuse, it does so in a way that undermines its credibility. That's the case with revisions in church law strengthening discipline for priests who abuse minors. Article 6 of new "Substantive Norms" published this week extends to 20 years the statute of limitations for accusations of abuse before church tribunals and adds possession of child pornography and the abuse of mentally disabled adults to a list of "more grave delicts against morals."

But before you get to Article 6, there is Article 5, which deals with another "grave delict" -- the attempt to ordain a woman as a priest, an offense that can lead to excommunication. (Other articles deal with offenses such as desecrating the Eucharist and violating the seal of the confessional.)  A reader can be excused for thinking that the church sees a moral equivalence between ordaining women and abusing a child.

To be fair, that interpretation was rejected by the Vatican's internal prosecutor, who said that "sexual abuse and pornography are more grave dealings, they are an egregious violation of moral law. Attempted ordination of women is grave, but on another level." And it is true that sexual offenses are described as "grave delicts against morals," while ordaining women is simply a "grave delict." But that fine print is easy to overlook.

Poor PR is the least of the Vatican's derelictions in responding to the sex-abuse scandal. But appearances do matter, and including sexual abuse and the ordination of women in the same document is a public-relations disaster.

-- Michael McGough

Photo: Vatican doctrinal official Monsignor Charles Scicluna, outlining new rules on the handling of abuse cases. Credit: Filippo Monteforte / AFP/Getty Images


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Seven Star Hand

Hello all,

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The Vatican is being set up for a much bigger fall than most are expecting. Some amazingly damaging information about pivotal religious assertions is about to become widely available and understood. This child abuse scandal and other unfolding debacles are merely proof of their absolute lack of veracity, before the real controversy is unsealed. Here's an early peek at a late draft of my upcoming new book for parties like yourself, who are more likely to make good use of the information.

Finishing the Mysteries of Gods and Symbols

Peace and Wisdom,




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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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