Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vatican revises norms for clerical abuse of minors, other ‘exceptionally serious’ crimes

The Holy See Press Office has published a revised edition of the 2001 norms dealing with clerical abuse of minors and other “exceptionally serious” crimes against faith and morals.

“The norms of canon law dealing with crimes of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy have been published today in a comprehensive and updated form, in a document which covers all the crimes the Church considers as exceptionally serious and, for that reason, subject to the competency of the Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” said Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the director of the Holy See Press Office. “Apart from sexual abuse, these include crimes against the faith and against the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Holy Orders.”
The revised norms, approved by Pope Benedict XVI on May 21, were sent by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to all the bishops of the Church on that date.

The revised norms (Normae de Gravioribus Delictis) codify seven modifications originally made by Pope John Paul II and confirmed by Pope Benedict in 2005-- most significantly the increase of the statute of limitations to 20 years, the right to lift the statute on a case-by-case basis, and the faculty to request that the Pontiff dismiss offenders from the clerical state without an ecclesial trial. Another modification granted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “the right, as mandated by the Roman Pontiff, to judge Cardinals, Patriarchs, Legates of the Apostolic See, [and] Bishops.”

The revised norms also list crimes against faith and morals that were not included in the 2001 document, including heresy, apostasy, schism, “the indirect violation of the seal” of Confession, “the recording and divulgation of a sacramental confession done with malice,” “the attempted ordination of a woman,” and “the acquisition, possession or distribution of pornographic images of minors under the age of 14, a clerico turpe patrata [shamefully accomplished by a cleric], in any way and by any means.” Furthermore, the revised norms state that “a person over 18 years of age who is developmentally disabled is equated to a minor” in the norms’ treatment of the “more grave delicts against morals.”

The Holy See Press Office noted that the essence of the 2001 document remained unchanged; rather, “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith felt it necessary to propose certain changes to these norms, not modifying the text in its entirety, but rather only in a few areas, in an effort to improve the application of the law.” Thus the following serious crimes are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the 2001 norms and in the 2010 revision:

•throwing away, taking or retaining the consecrated species for a sacrilegious purpose, or profaning the consecrated species
•attempting the liturgical action of the Eucharistic sacrifice or the simulation thereof [citing Canon 1378, this norm applies to persons who have not been ordained priests]
•concelebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice together with ministers of ecclesial communities which do not have Apostolic succession nor recognize the Sacramental dignity of priestly ordination
•consecrating one matter without the other in a Eucharistic celebration or both outside of a Eucharistic celebration
•absolution of an accomplice in the sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue
•solicitation to sin with the confessor against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, in the act of, context of or pretext of the Sacrament of Penance
•direct violation of the Sacramental seal
•the violation of the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, committed by a cleric with a minor under the age of 18.

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