The ordination of women as Roman Catholic priests is a "crime against the faith," the Vatican said on Thursday as it issued a raft of new disciplinary rules.
Cases of "attempted ordination of women" will henceforth be handled by the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), a Vatican statement said.
The new rules put attempts at ordination of women among the "most serious crimes," along with paedophilia, updating a 2007 CDF decree according to which those who attempt to ordain women -- and the women concerned -- are subject to automatic excommunication.
The Vatican on Thursday also issued new rules on the handling of sex abuse cases, ordering quicker investigations of paedophile priests and extending the statute of limitations by 10 years to 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi underscored how the ordination of women is "a crime against sacraments," while paedophilia should be considered a "crime against morals."
In May, an Austrian Catholic bishop said the Church should re-think ordaining women in the wake of the widespread paedophilia scandal.
Eight Roman Catholic activists staged a demonstration in favour of women's ordination in St Peter's Square in June, asking Pope Benedict XVI to open the ranks of priests to women to renew the Church and solve a chronic shortage of priests around the world.
The US-based Women's Ordination Conference cites Vatican statistics that nearly half of the world's parishes and missions do not have a resident priest.