On Thursday, new rules were issued by the Vatican on ordaining women as priests. “A grave crime” they say, as serious as pedophilia. The new rules were issued by the Congregation for Doctrine of Faith (CDF). The Vatican considers ordaining women as priest “a grave crime against the faith”.

VATICAN CITY - APRIL 24:  Pope Benedict XVI blesses a woman as he leads his inaugural mass in Saint Peter's Square April 24, 2005 in Vatican City. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims attended the first mass led by the 265th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The update to an earlier 2007 CDF decree, those involved in ordaining women as priests, as well as the women themselves, will be automatically excommunicated. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi describes the ordination of women as “a crime against the sacraments”. Pedophilia is considered a “crime against morals”. Both now will be dealt with equal speed and harshness.

Pressure has been building on the Vatican to permit women being ordained into the priesthood. Recent pedophilia and other sex abuse scandals in the Church, as well as the chronic shortage of priests in general, have had an impact. Nearly half of all parishes and missions worldwide do not have a resident priest.

In the United States, five women have been ordained as bishops as part of a reform initiative. Pope Benedict XVI has opposed such reforms. The new rule issued Thursday means that the five women now face excommunication, as well as those who ordained them. The Vatican concludes ordaining women priests as a grave crime. All of those involved will be defrocked.