Petersnet Documentary Message
January 09, 2002

The publication yesterday in the Acta Apostolica Sedes of a motu proprio from May 19, 2001 changes the way certain serious crimes are handled among the clergy. The Pope has reserved to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the punishment of grave crimes on the part of priests against the sacraments or involving the sexual abuse of minors.

Eight offenses come under the new procedures:

  * Disrespect toward the Eucharist
  * Concelebrating with a non-ordained person
  * Saying Mass for a sacrilegious purpose
  * Using the Confessional to solicit sex
  * Violating the seal of the confessional
  * Sins of impurity with those under 18 years of age

According to Catholic World News, bishops who become aware of such offenses are required to report them to the Vatican in addition to conducting their own investigations. Punishment is reserved to the CDF, which will also keep an open file of such cases for 10 years (or 18 years in the case of sexual abuse of minors).

Clearly the Pope believes these crimes are now so widespread and so damaging to the faithful -- and local remedies have been so ineffective -- that discipline must be centralized. For this reason, I have reluctantly included in this week's documents an excellent article on the disastrous impact of the final item in the list.

In an age of collegiality, this centralization of discipline can only be viewed as a most extraordinary development.