The Holy See has revised some norms concerning "exceptionally serious" crimes against faith and morals.
All the delicts will be handled by the tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Besides the Church’s three great tribunals (Segnatura, Rota, Penitentiary), Congregations also have juridical sections. The CDF has both a doctrinal section and a juridical section.
The revised norms were approved by Pope Benedict XVI on 21 May. They were distributed to all the bishops.
Among the major changes are an increase in the "statute of limitations" for certain crimes from to 20 years and also the possibility of waiving the limitation completely depending on the case. Requests can be made to the Pope to dismiss clerics from the clerical state without an canonical trial. Also, the CDF will now be able to try and judge cardinals, patriarchs, and bishops at the Popes behest.
Keep in mind that the new norms deal with crimes against morals, but also of faith. In addition to the sexual abuse of minors crimes – which will probably be the sole focus of much of the press – the new norms also cover heresy, apostasy, schism, not just direct but also indirect violation of the seal of Confession, recordings of a sacramental confession done with malice, the attempted ordination of a woman to Holy Orders, 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.”
The following graviora delicta – more serious crimes – are reserved to the CDF:
throwing away, taking or retaining the consecrated species for a sacrilegious purpose, or profaning the consecrated species (Tell that to priests and others who know better when they pout the Precious Blood down sacristy sinks and sacraria!) 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] (Read: pretending to say Mass) concelebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice together with ministers of ecclesial communities which do not have Apostolic succession nor recognize the Sacramental dignity of priestly ordination (what has been called communicatio in sacris) The more grave delict of the attempted sacred ordination of a woman is also reserved to the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Those who attempt to ordain and be ordained incur automatic excommunication.
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.
All of these things are sins again faith and/or morals. Sometimes one, sometimes both.
One of the reasons why the norms have been so complicated in the past, and words such as "secrecy" have been used – to the delight of Hell’s Bible which distorted the reality behind the objective of secrecy – was to protect the dignity of the sacrament of penance, the internal forum, and the people involved.
Another thing you will perhaps will see in the press, secular and Catholic, are criticisms of the list of crimes. They may complain that, for example, trying to ordain a woman is not nearly as horrible as abusing a minor and it shouldn’t simply be lumped in with other sins, as if they all did they same damage. In a sense, they are right, especially from the perspective of the victim of abuse. But they are wrong from another perspective. Critics might assert that pouring the Precious Blood down the sink or selling a Host or pretending to ordain a woman is a "victimless" crime, bad to be sure but really not that bad. They are wrong.
There are still victims: the whole Church suffers because all the crimes involved attack who and what the Church is.
The crimes do belong together when seen in the correct perspective.
All of the crimes here involve sacred things.
Even the crime of abusing a minor outside the context of confession involves something sacred because it involves an ordained person, a sacred person.
Abuse of the Blessed Sacrament is the worst of all, because it involves God truly sacramentally present. Simulation of Mass or Ordination or any other sacraments is an abuse of the sacred. All these crimes tear at the very heart of the Church herself and they therefore merit being called graviora or "more serious".
The abuse of the young can leave hideous scars. These crimes are so serious that they demand the most serious attention and measures. They also deserve serious attention not just because of the harm done to the individual victims but because, since they involve priests (and sometimes the sacrament of penance when people are at their most vulnerable) and therefore the fabric of the Church herself.
That said, John Allen, the fair-minded and nearly ubiquitous columnist still sadly writing for the NCFishwrap, covering the presser for the release of the documents, reported that:
At a Vatican briefing this morning, Maltese Monsignor Charles Scicluna, an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, denied that the Vatican equates women’s ordination with the sexual abuse of children. An illicit ordination, Scicluna said, is a “"sacramental" crime, while abuse is a "moral" crime.
Frankly, I think that attempted ordination of women and abuse of the Blessed Sacrament, violation of the seal are all also moral crimes. But let’s move along.
Since graviora delicta are so terrible, there is now a more robust way of dealing with them.
Also, modern communication methods and travel make it possible to move more swiftly.
Furthermore, the lengthy process of dismissal of a priest from the clerical state had to be unsnarled. In justice, the norms had to be revised.
Furthermore, measures had to be taken to protect the good name of those who were falsely accused, as has been known to happen.
In any event, there is also a long history of the development of these new norms available, which you would do well to read in order to gain some perspective about what the Holy See has done in the past and what it is doing now.
- Vatican revises norms for clerical abuse of minors, other ‘exceptionally serious’ crimes (VIS)
- Congregazione Per La Dottrina Della Fede: Breve Relazione Circa Le Modifiche Introdotte Nelle Normae De Gravioribus Delictis Riservati Alla Congregazione Per La Dottrina Della Fede
- Congregazione Per La Dottrina Della Fede: Lettera Ai Vescovi Della Chiesa Cattolica E Agli Altri Ordinari E Gerarchi Interessati Circa Le Modifiche Introdotte Nella Lettera Apostolica Motu Proprio Data "Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela"
- Normae De Gravioribus Delictis
- Introduzione Storica Alle Norme Del Motu Proprio "Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela" (2001)
- Nota Del Direttore Della Sala Stampa Della Santa Sede, Rev.do P. Federico Lombardi, Sul Significato Della Pubblicazione Delle Nuove "Norme Sui Delitti Più Gravi"
UPDATE 19:56 GMT:
I mentioned that some would freak out that women’s ordination was included in the list. Note in Hell’s Bible‘s article by Rachel Donadio:
But in a move that infuriated victims’ groups and put United States bishops on the defensive, it also codified “the attempted ordination of women” to the priesthood as one of the church’s most grave crimes, along with heresy, schism and pedophilia.
And as I have said in these electronic pages many times, for Pope Benedict’s detractors and the Church’s habitual critics, nothing the Church does can ever be good enough. To wit:
Bishopaccountability.org, which tracks cases of sex abuse by priests cases worldwide, said the changes “amount to administrative tinkering of a secretive internal process.”
Then there is this from deservedly excommunicated Roy Bourgeois, Maryknoller and perhaps not yet ex-priest:
“What I did, supporting the ordination of women, they saw as a serious crime,” Father Bourgeois said. “But priests who were abusing children, they did not see as a crime. What does that say?”
It is patently false that the Church didn’t see the abuse of children as a crime.
Roy Bourgeois is a liar and Hell’s Bible doesn’t correct the manifest lie because it the truth in this matter isn’t the news that fits.
Thus, the journalistic integrity of Rachel Donadio, Laurie Goodstein, and her editorial overlords at Hell’s Bible.