“More serious crimes against morals”

The Vatican has strengthened the canon law provisions for punishing cases of abuse. The norms of the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published in full for the first time on Thursday, have been revised in parts. The Normae de gravioribus delictis (Norms on Serious Crimes) are not just about abuse cases, they also address serious crimes against faith and sacraments. The Catholic News Agency (KNA) documents the document in excerpts:

First part Substantive norms Art. 1 § 1. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, according to Art. 52 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus Offenses against the Faith and More Serious Offenses against Morals and Those Committed in the Celebration of the Sacraments, to determine or impose canonical penalties, as appropriate, in accordance with general or special law, without prejudice to the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Penitentiary and the validity of the Order for Doctrinal Review. (…) Art. 6 § 1. The more serious offenses against morals reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are: 1° The offense against the sixth commandment committed by a cleric with a minor under eighteen years of age; with respect to this offense, a person whose use of reason is habitually impaired is assimilated to the minor. 2° The acquisition, keeping and distribution of pornographic images of minors under fourteen years of age, in any form and by any means, by a cleric, with evil intent. § 2. A cleric who has committed the offenses of § 1 is to be punished according to the seriousness of the crime, the de-longing or deposition not excluded. Art. 7 § 1. Without prejudice to the right of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to derogate from the statute of limitations in individual cases, the prosecution of the crimes reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is subject to a limitation period of twenty years. § 2. The statute of limitations runs according to can. 1362 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law and can. 1152 § 3 of the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches . In the case of the offense according to Art. 6 § 1, 1o on the other hand, the limitation period begins to run from the day on which the minor reaches the age of eighteen years. Part Two Procedural Standards Title I Composition and Jurisdiction of the Court Art. 8 § 1. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the Supreme Apostolic Tribunal for the Latin Church as well as for the Eastern Catholic Churches for the treatment of the offenses set forth in the preceding articles. § 2. This Supreme Tribunal shall also deal with the other crimes with which the accused is charged by the Procurator of the Church, provided that there is a connection in the person or through complicity in this regard. § 3. The judgments of this supreme court, made within the limits of its own jurisdiction, are not subject to the approval of the pope. (…) Art. 16 Whenever the Ordinary or Hierarch receives at least probable news of a more serious crime, he must inform the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, after conducting a preliminary investigation. If the Congregation does not refer the case because of special circumstances, it shall instruct the Ordinary or the Hierarch to proceed further, without prejudice to the right to appeal, if necessary, against a judgment of first instance to the Supreme Tribunal of the Congregation. Art. 17 When a case is submitted directly to the Congregation and no preliminary investigation has yet taken place, the procedural preparatory measures which, according to general law, belong to the Ordinary or the Hierarch, may be carried out by the Congregation itself. (…) Title II Rules of Procedure Art. 21 § 1. The more serious crimes reserved for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith must be investigated in a canonical criminal trial. § 2. However, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is free: 1° to decide in individual cases ex officio or at the request of the Ordinary or the Hierarch, according to can. 1720 of the Code of Canon Law and can. 1486 of the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches to proceed by way of extrajudicial decree; however, indefinite penalties of expiation can only be imposed by order of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 2° Very serious cases, where the crime committed is evident and the accused had been given the opportunity to defend himself, to be submitted directly to the Pope for a decision on the removal from the clerical state or on the deposition together with the dispensation from the obligation of celibacy. (…) Art. 30 § 1. The above procedures are subject to pontifical official secrecy. § 2. Whoever violates official secrecy or, whether by trickery or by serious negligence, causes damage to another to the accused or to witnesses, shall, upon application of the injured party or even on his own motion, be subject by the superior court to appropriate penalties. Art. 31 In these proceedings, in addition to the provisions of the present norms, which apply to all courts of the Latin Church and of the Eastern Catholic Churches, the canons on offenses, penalties, and penal procedure of the one as well as of the other code must be applied.

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