Vatican revising canon law on abuse penalties, cardinal says

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Catholic News Service

24 July 2014

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Church law has procedures and penalties for effectively dealing with allegations of clerical sexual abuse, but the Vatican is working to revise a section of the Code of Canon Law to make those norms and procedures clearer and, therefore, more effective, said the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

“We want to make this delicate material more accessible, more understandable and easier for bishops to apply,” Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, council president, told the Vatican newspaper.

In the interview published July 24 in L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said his office has been working since 2008 to revise “Book VI: Sanctions in the Church,” a section of the Code of Canon Law.

The penalties and punishments offered by church law should be applied, he said.

“In the face of a negative action, which harms the good of a person and therefore the good of the church, penal law expects a reaction, that is the pastor inflicting a canonical penalty,” the cardinal said.

If a bishop does not react by imposing a punishment on a priest guilty of the crime of sexual abuse, he said, “in some way that would be, or would seem to be, consenting to the evil committed. A negative act necessarily must be condemned; it requires a reaction.”

At the same time, he said, the bishop must recognize that the infliction of a penalty is ultimately for the good of the abuser as well. Penalties in canon law are designed to “encourage the conversion of those who commit crimes.”

In a May 2013 interview with Catholic News Service, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, council secretary, also spoke of the work of revising that section of canon law.

Bishop Arrieta had said the current Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, was written with such an emphasis on the role of the individual bishop in his local diocese that each bishop bore the full weight of deciding when and how to intervene and what sort of sanction or punishment to impose on the guilty.

The law ended up being too vague, and church sanctions were being applied so haphazardly, that the church appeared to be divided, he said.

The two chief concerns in the revised section, as in all church law, Bishop Arrieta said, are “to safeguard the truth and protect the dignity of persons.”

At the same time, the rules are more stringent — “if someone does this, he must be punished,” the bishop said. While it withdraws the discretionary power of the bishop in certain cases, he said, “it is for the good of the bishop.”


15 Responses to Vatican revising canon law on abuse penalties, cardinal says

  1. Sylvia says:

    This is good news. Let’s hope the penalty of laicization of clerical predators is clear and unambiguous, and applicable to all clergy who prey on the young, vulnerable, innocent and/or trusting.

  2. PJ says:

    “At the same time, he said, the bishop must recognize that the infliction of a penalty is ultimately for the good of the abuser as well. Penalties in canon law are designed to “encourage the conversion of those who commit crimes.”” What a crock of shit!
    I have a much easier method of dealing with convicted pervert collars…once convicted, defrock them, period. See?…didn’t need to hold hearings, pray, or convene a study group that would take years to resolve! But wait…this church and collars don’t really want to admit their crimes so they’ll talk about it, say they’re sorry, promise to fix the issue and ultimately, do nothing.

    • 1 abandoned sheep says:

      P J, your hate of all things and people Catholic is painted in red in every one of your postings. Maybe you need your own hate web site.

      • PJ says:

        1as: You are sadly mistaken and entitled to your own opinion. I’ve obviously hit a nerve with you and won’t apologize for that. I do not “hate all things and people Catholic”…only the convicted/charged pervert collars and those who defend them. Plain and simple. And as you have not walked in my shoes, you have no way of knowing why I feel that way. I could share that with you but I’m not sure you would understand.

        • 1 abandoned sheep says:

          And just how do you know I have not walked in shoes LIKE yours?
          I have, and my story is my story.
          I have not read anywhere that you have attacked the Boy Scouts, Jewish Rabbis, or any of the many Protestant denominations where adherents and clergy have been convicted of sex abuse. You simply hate the Roman Catholic Church.

          • PJ says:

            Hey blind sheep…I respect the meaning behind this site and in case you haven’t read it, here is the title on the homepage…”Blogging the sex abuse scandal and betrayals of trust in the Roman Catholic Church in Canada”.
            Does it mention any of the groups you mentioned? No!! So shut your cake hole.

  3. northernfancy says:

    Hi there, PJ: Keep up the good work and don’t let any bleating discourage you. I look forward to your comments and usually learn something. Keep well.

  4. Sylvia says:

    1 abandoned sheep
    PJ was molested by a Roman Catholic priest. Please allow those who have been sexually abused by priests the rare privilege of expressing themselves. I will moderate. Rather than correct and condemn those who annoy you, pray for them.

  5. Disgusted in the Arctic says:

    PJ: Ovine version: “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb”?
    Sheep: That is between PJ and God. Or to put in a caprine (goat) themed version: (Head) butt out.

  6. JG says:

    Criticism of the Catholic Church shouldn’t be the greatest fear for the “followers”, or the “faithful” ….That is somewhat of a favor, to criticize “the church”. They can then “correct” their ways, their words, their actions or just their views…
    “Indifference” is its greatest challenge…and the only enemy, of their own making!
    …”anti-Catholic ” in the present context should bring out “humility”, “repentance” and “thankful Praise” for this “perceived” enemy who can only help you and the church to become “better”…
    It is the choice between Love and hate once again; the only truly “christian” dilemma. The frills and the rituals of “the church” are not the garment of the Cross: PJ and the others have been wearing that cloth…and “1as” is included in that number I know….
    So why do you not see “that” in one another? …and let God see the rest!

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