There are two problems here leading to confusion. 1. You're listening to Newsweek, etc., which has a strong anti-Catholic bias. 2. You're confusing civil law with canon law. This decree today deals with canon law.
Here's an article on it that, though long, that actually includes the newly released documents, translated into Engish. Note a couple of things that I've put in bold print.
Sexual Abuses. New Norms "Concerning Most Serious Crimes"
[The complete version in English will be posted online as soon as possible}
by Federico Lombardi
ROME, July 15, 2010 – In 2001 the Holy Father John Paul II promulgated a very important document, the Motu Proprio "Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela", which gave the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [in the photo] responsibility to deal with and judge a series of particularly serious crimes within the ambit of canon law.
This responsibility had previously been attributed also to other dicasteries, or was not completely clear.
The Motu Proprio (the "law" in the strict sense) was accompanied by a series of practical and procedural Norms, known as "Normae de gravioribus delictis". Over the nine years since then, experience has naturally suggested that these Norms be integrated and updated, so as to streamline and simplify the procedures and make them more effective, and to take account of new problems.
This has been achieved principally by the Pope attributing new "faculties" to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; faculties which, however, were not organically integrated into the initial Norms. This has now come about, within the context of a systematic revision of those Norms.
The serious crimes to which the regulations referred concerned vital aspects of Church life: the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance, but also sexual abuse committed by a priest against a minor under the age of eighteen.
The vast public echo this latter kind of crime has had over recent years has attracted great attention and generated intense debate on the norms and procedures applied by the Church to judge and punish such acts.
It is right, then, that there should be complete clarity concerning the regulations currently in force in this field, and that these regulations be presented organically so as to facilitate the work of the people who deal with these matters.
An initial clarification - especially for use by the media - was provided recently with the publication on the Holy See website of a brief "Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations". The publication of the new Norms is, however, quite a different thing, providing us with an official and updated legal text which is valid for the whole Church.
In order to facilitate the reading of the Norms by a non-specialist public, particularly interested in the problems of sexual abuse, we will seek to highlight a number of important aspects.
Among the novelties introduced with respect to the earlier Norms, mention must be made, above all, of measures intended to accelerate procedures, such as the possibility of not following the "judicial process" but proceeding by "extrajudicial decree", or that of presenting (in particular circumstances) the most serious cases to the Holy Father with a view to dismissing the offender from the clerical state.
Another Norm intended to simplify earlier problems and to take account of the evolution of the situation in the Church concerns the possibility of having not only priests but also lay persons as members of the tribunal staff, or as lawyers or prosecutors. Likewise, in order to undertake these functions it is no longer strictly necessary to have a doctorate in canon law, but the required competency can also be proved in another way; for example, with a licentiate.
Another aspect worthy of note is the increase of the statue of limitations from ten years to twenty years, with the possibility of extension even beyond that period.
Another significant aspect is establishing parity between the abuse of mentally disabled people and that of minors, and the introduction of a new category: paedophile pornography. This is defined as: "the acquisition, possession or disclosure" by a member of the clergy, "in any way and by any means, of pornographic images of minors under the age of fourteen".
Regulations concerning the secrecy of trials are maintained, in order to safeguard the dignity of all the people involved.
One point that remains untouched, though it has often been the subject of discussion in recent times, concerns collaboration with the civil authorities. It must be borne in mind that the Norms being published today are part of the penal code of canon law, which is complete in itself and entirely distinct from the law of States.
On this subject, however, it is important to take note of the "Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations", as published on the Holy See website. In that Guide, the phrase "Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed" is contained in the section dedicated to "Preliminary Procedures". This means that in the practice suggested by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith it is necessary to comply with the requirements of law in the various countries, and to do so in good time, not during or subsequent to the canonical trial.
Today's publication of the Norms makes a great contribution to the clarity and certainty of law in this field; a field in which the Church is today strongly committed to proceeding with rigour and transparency so as to respond fully to the just expectations of moral coherence and evangelical sanctity nourished by the faithful and by public opinion, and which the Holy Father has constantly reiterated.
Of course, many other measures and initiatives are required from the various ecclesiastical bodies. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is currently examining how to help the bishops of the world formulate and develop, coherently and effectively, the indications and guidelines necessary to face the problems of the sexual abuse of minors, either by members of the clergy or within the environment of activities and institutions connected with the Church, bearing in mind the situation and the problems of the societies in which they operate.
This will be another crucial step on the Church's journey as she translates into permanent practice and continuous awareness the fruits of the teachings and ideas that have matured over the course of the painful events of the "crisis" engendered by sexual abuse by members of the clergy.
In order to complete this brief overview of the principal novelties contained in the "Norms", mention must also be made of those that refer to crimes of a different nature. In this case too it is not so much a case of introducing new substance as of integrating rules that are already in force so as to obtain a better ordered and more organic set of regulations on the "most serious crimes" reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
These include crimes against the faith (heresy, apostasy and schism) for which competency normally falls to ordinaries, although the Congregation becomes competent in the case of an appeal; the malicious recording and disclosure of sacramental Confession about which a decree of condemnation was published in 1988; and the attempted ordination of women, about which a decree was published in 2007.
NEW NORMS "DE GRAVIORIBUS DELICTIS" – MAY 21, 2010
§ 1. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, according to art. 52 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, judges delicts against the faith, as well as the more grave delicts committed against morals and in the celebration of the sacraments and, whenever necessary, proceeds to declare or impose canonical sanctions according to the norm of both common and proper law, with due regard for the competence of the Apostolic Penitentiary and in keeping with Agendi ratio in doctrinarum examine.
§ 2. With regard to the delicts mentioned above in § 1, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by mandate of the Roman Pontiff, may judge Cardinals, Patriarchs, Legates of the Apostolic See, Bishops as well as other physical persons mentioned in can. 1405 § 3 of the Code of Canon Law, and in can. 1061 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
§ 3. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judges the reserved delicts mentioned in § 1 according to the following norms.
§ 1. The delicts against the faith referred to in art. 1 are heresy, apostasy and schism according to the norm of can. 751 and 1364 of the Code of Canon Law, and can. 1436 and 1437 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
§ 2. In the abovementioned cases referred to in § 1, it pertains to the Ordinary or Hierarch to remit, by norm of law, if it be the case, the latae sententiae excommunication and likewise to undertake a judicial trial in the first instance or issue an extrajudicial decree, with due regard for the right of appeal or of recourse to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
§ 1. The more grave delicts against the sanctity of the most Holy Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Eucharist reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for judgment are:
1° the taking or retaining for a sacrilegious purpose or the throwing away of the consecrated species, as mentioned in can. 1367 of the Code of Canon Law, and in can. 1442 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches;
2° attempting the liturgical action of the Eucharistic Sacrifice spoken of in can. 1378 § 2, n. 1, of the Code of Canon Law;
3° the simulation of the same, spoken of in can. 1379 of the Code of Canon Law and in can. 1443 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches;
4° the concelebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice prohibited in can. 908 of the Code of Canon Law, and in can. 702 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, spoken of in can. 1365 of the Code of Canon Law, and in can. 1440 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, with ministers of ecclesial communities which do not have apostolic succession and do not acknowledge the sacramental dignity of priestly ordination.
§ 2. Also reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the delict which consists in the consecration for a sacrilegious purpose of one matter without the other or even of both, either within or outside of the eucharistic celebration. One who has perpetrated this delict is to be punished according to the gravity of the crime, not excluding dismissal or deposition.
§ 1. The more grave delicts against the sanctity of the Sacrament of Penance reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are:
1° the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, mentioned in can. 1378 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law, and in can. 1457 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches;
2° attempted sacramental absolution or the prohibited hearing of confession, mentioned in can. 1378 § 2, 2° of the Code of Canon Law;
3° simulated sacramental absolution, mentioned in can. 1379 of the Code of Canon Law, and in can. 1443 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches;
4° the solicitation to a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue in the act, on the occasion, or under the pretext of confession, as mentioned in can. 1387 of the Code of Canon Law, and in can. 1458 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, if it is directed to sinning with the confessor himself;
5° the direct and indirect violation of the sacramental seal, mentioned in can. 1388 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law, and in can. 1456 §1 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches;
§ 2. With due regard for § 1, n. 5, also reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the more grave delict which consists in the recording, by whatever technical means, or in the malicious diffusion through communications media, of what is said in sacramental confession, whether true or false, by the confessor or the penitent. Anyone who commits such a delict is to punished according to the gravity of the crime, not excluding, if he be a cleric, dismissal or deposition.
The more grave delict of the attempted sacred ordination of a woman is also reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
1° With due regard for can. 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, both the one who attempts to confer sacred ordination on a woman, and she who attempts to receive sacred ordination, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.
2° If the one attempting to confer sacred ordination, or the woman who attempts to receive sacred ordination, is a member of the Christian faithful subject to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, with due regard for can. 1443 of that Code, he or she is to be punished by major excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.
3° If the guilty party is a cleric he may be punished by dismissal or deposition.
§ 1. The more grave delicts against morals which are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are:
1° the delict against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue committed by a cleric with a minor below the age of eighteen years; in this case, a person who habitually lacks the use of reason is to be considered equivalent to a minor.
2° the acquisition, possession, or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of fourteen, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology;
§ 2. A cleric who commits the delicts mentioned above in § 1 is to be punished according to the gravity of his crime, not excluding dismissal or deposition.
§ 1. A criminal action for delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is extinguished by prescription after twenty years, with due regard to the right of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to derogate from prescription in individual cases.
§ 2. Prescription runs according to the norm of can. 1362 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law, and can. 1152 § 3 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. However, in the delict mentioned in art. 6 §1 n. 1, prescription begins to run from the day on which a minor completes his eighteenth year of age.
The Constitution and Competence of the Tribunal
§ 1. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the Supreme Apostolic Tribunal for the Latin Church as well as the Eastern Catholic Churches, for the judgment of the delicts defined in the preceding articles.
§ 2. This Supreme Tribunal also judges other delicts of which a defendant is accused by the Promotor of Justice, by reason of connection of person and complicity.
§ 3. The sentences of this Supreme Tribunal, rendered within the limits of its proper competence, do not need to be submitted for the approval of the Supreme Pontiff.
§ 1. The Members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are ipso iure the judges of this Supreme Tribunal.
§ 2. The Prefect of the Congregation presides as first among equals over the college of the Members, and if the office of Prefect is vacant or if the Prefect himself is impeded, the Secretary of the Congregation carries out his duties.
§ 3. It is the responsibility of the Prefect of the Congregation to nominate additional stable or deputed judges.
It is necessary that such appointed judges be priests, of mature age, possessing a doctorate in canon law, outstanding in good morals, prudence and expertise in the law. Such priests may at the same time exercise a judicial or consultative function before another Dicastery of the Roman Curia.
To present and sustain an accusation a Promotor of Justice is to be appointed, who is to be a priest, possessing a doctorate in canon law, outstanding in good morals, prudence, and expertise in the law. He is to carry out his office in all grades of judgment.
For the functions of Notary and Chancellor, priests are appointed, whether or not they are officials of this Congregation.
The role of Advocate or Procurator is carried out by a priest possessing a doctorate in canon law. He is to be approved by the presiding judge of the college.
Indeed, in the other tribunals dealing with cases under these norms, only priests can validly carry out the functions of Judge, Promotor of Justice, Notary, and Patron [Procurator and Advocate].
With regard to the provisions of can. 1421 of the Code of Canon Law ,and can. 1087 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may dispense from the requirements of the priesthood and of a doctorate in Canon Law.
Whenever the Ordinary or Hierarch receives a report of a more grave delict, which has at least the semblance of truth, once the preliminary investigation has been completed, he is to communicate the matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which, unless it calls the case to itself due to particular circumstances, will direct the Ordinary or Hierarch how to proceed further, with due regard, however, for the right to appeal, if the case warrents, against a sentence of the first instance only to the Supreme Tribunal of this same Congregation.
If a case is referred directly to the Congregation without a preliminary investigation having been undertaken, the steps preliminary to the process, which fall by common law to the Ordinary or Hierarch, may be carried out by the Congregation itself.
With full respect for the right of defense, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may sanate acts in cases lawfully presented to it if merely procedural laws have been violated by lower Tribunals acting by mandate of the same Congregation or according to art. 16.
With due regard for the right of the Ordinary to impose from the outset of the preliminary investigation those measures which are established in can. 1722 of the Code of Canon Law, or in can. 1473 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, the respective presiding judge may, at the request of the Promotor of Justice, exercise the same power under the same conditions determined in the canons themselves.
The Supreme Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judges in second instance:
1° cases adjudicated in first instance by lower tribunals;
2° cases decided by this same Supreme Apostolic Tribunal in first instance.
The Procedure to be followed in the Judicial Trial
§ 1. The more grave delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are to be tried in a judicial process.
§ 2. However, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may:
1° decide, in individual cases, ex officio or when requested by the Ordinary or Hierarch, to proceed by extrajudicial decree, as provided in can. 1720 of the Code of Canon Law and can. 1486 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. However, perpetual expiatory penalties may only be imposed by mandate of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
2° present the most grave cases to the decision of the Roman Pontiff with regard to dismissal from the clerical state or deposition, together with dispensation from the law of celibacy, when it is manifestly evident that the delict was committed and after having given the guilty party the possibility of defending himself.
The Prefect is to constitute a turnus of three or five judges to try the case.
If in the appellate stage the Promotor of Justice brings forward a specifically different accusation, this Supreme Tribunal can admit it and judge it as if at first instance.
§ 1. In cases concerning the delicts mentioned of in art. 4 §1, the Tribunal cannot indicate the name of the accuser to either the accused or his patron unless the accuser has expressly consented.
§ 2. This same Tribunal must consider the particular importance of the question concerning the credibility of the accuser.
§ 3. Nevertheless, it must always be observed that any danger of violating the sacramental seal be altogether avoided.
If an incidental question arises, the college is to decide the matter by decree most expeditiously [expeditissime, cf. cann. 1629, n.5 CIC; 1310, n. 5 CCEO].
§ 1. With due regard for the right to appeal to this Supreme Tribunal, once an instance has been finished in any manner before another tribunal, all of the acts of the case are to be transmitted ex officio to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as soon as possible.
§ 2 The right of the Promotor of Justice of the Congregation to challenge a sentence runs from the day on which the sentence of first instance is made known to this same Promotor.
Recourse may be had against singular administrative acts which have been decreed or approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in cases of reserved delicts. Such recourse must be presented within the preemptory period of sixty canonical days to the Ordinary Session of the Congregation (the Feria IV) which will judge on the merits of the case and the lawfulness of the Decree. Any further recourse as mentioned in art. 123 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus is excluded.
A res iudicata occurs:
1° if a sentence has been rendered in second instance;
2° if an appeal against a sentence has not been proposed within a month;
3° if, in the appellate grade, the instance is abated or is renounced;
4° if the sentence has been rendered in accord with the norm of art. 20.
§ 1. Judicial expenses are to be paid as the sentence has determined.
§ 2. If the defendant is not able to pay the expenses, they are to be paid by the Ordinary or Hierarch of the case.
§ 1. Cases of this nature are subject to the pontifical secret.
§ 2. Whoever has violated the secret, whether deliberately (ex dolo) or through grave negligence, and has caused some harm to the accused or to the witnesses, is to be punished with an appropriate penalty by the higher turnus at the insistence of the injured party or even ex officio.
In these cases, together with the prescripts of these norms, by which all Tribunals of the Latin Church and Eastern Catholic Churches are bound, the canons concerning delicts and penalties as well as the canons concerning the penal process of each Code also must be applied.
The Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope Benedict XV in 1917 recognized the existence of a number of canonical crimes or "delicts" reserved to the exclusive competence of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office which, as a tribunal, was governed by its own proper law (cfr. can. 1555 CIC 1917).
A few years after the promulgation of the 1917 Code, the Holy Office issued an Instruction, "Crimen Sollicitationis" (1922), which gave detailed instruction to local dioceses and tribunals on the procedures to be adopted when dealing with the canonical delict of solicitation. This most grave crime concerned the abuse of the sanctity and dignity of the Sacrament of Penance by a Catholic priest who solicited the penitent to sin against the sixth commandment, either with the confessor himself, or with a third party. The norms issued in 1922 were an update, in light of the Code of Canon Law of 1917, of the Apostolic Constitution "Sacramentorum Poenitentiae" promulgated by Pope Benedict XIV in 1741.
A number of concerns had to be addressed, underlining the specificity of the legislation (with implications which are less relevant from the perspective of civil penal law): the respect of the dignity of the sacrament, the inviolable seal of the confessional, the dignity of the penitent and the fact that in most cases the accused priest could not be interrogated fully on what occurred without putting the seal of confession in danger.
This special procedure was based, therefore, on an indirect method of achieving the moral certitude necessary for a definitive decision in the case. This indirect method included investigating the credibility of the person accusing the priest and the life and behaviour of the accused priest. The accusation itself was considered the most serious accusation one could bring against a Roman Catholic priest. Therefore, the procedure took care to ensure that a priest who could be a victim of a false or calumnious accusation would be protected from infamy until proven guilty. This was achieved through a strict code of confidentiality which was meant to protect all persons concerned from undue publicity until the definitive decision of the ecclesiastic tribunal.
The 1922 Instruction included a short section dedicated to another canonical delict: the "crimen pessimum" which dealt with same-sex clerical misconduct. This further section determined that the special procedures for solicitation cases should be used for "crimen pessimum" cases, with those adaptations rendered necessary by the nature of the case. The norms concerning the "crimen pessimum" also extended to the heinous crime of sexual abuse of prepubescent children and to bestiality.
The Instruction "Crimen sollecitationis" was, therefore, never intended to represent the entirety of the policy of the Catholic Church regarding sexual improprieties on the part of the clergy. Rather, its sole purpose was to establish a procedure that responded to the singularly delicate situation that is a sacramental confession, in which the duty of complete confidentiality on the part of the priest corresponds, according to divine law, to the complete openness of the intimate life of the soul on the part of the penitent. Over time and only analogously, these norms were extended to some cases of immoral conduct of priests. The idea that there should be comprehensive legislation that treats the sexual conduct of persons entrusted with the educational responsibility is very recent; therefore, attempting to judge the canonical norms of the past century from this perspective is gravely anachronistic.
The 1922 Instruction was given as needed to bishops who had to deal with particular cases concerning solicitation, clerical homosexuality, sexual abuse of children and bestiality. In 1962, Blessed Pope John XXIII authorised a reprint of the 1922 Instruction, with a small section added regarding the administrative procedures to be used in those cases in which religious clerics were involved. Copies of the 1962 re-print were meant to be given to the Bishops gathering for the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). A few copies of this re-print were handed out to bishops who, in the meantime, needed to process cases reserved to the Holy Office but, most of the copies were never distributed.
The reforms proposed by the Second Vatican Council required a reform of the 1917 Code of Canon Law and of the Roman Curia. The period between 1965 and 1983 (the year when the new Latin Code of Canon Law appeared) was marked by differing trends in canonical scholarship as to the scope of canonical penal law and the need for a de-centralized approach to cases with emphasis on the authority and discretion of the local bishops. A "pastoral attitude" to misconduct was preferred and canonical processes were thought by some to be anachronistic. A "therapeutic model" often prevailed in dealing with clerical misconduct. The bishop was expected to "heal" rather than "punish". An over-optimistic idea of the benefits of psychological therapy guided many decisions concerning diocesan or religious personnel, sometimes without adequate regard for the possibility of recidivism.
Cases concerning the dignity of the Sacrament of Penance remained with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Holy Office; its name changed in 1965) after the Council, and the Instruction "Crimen Sollicitationis" was still used for such cases until the new norms established by the motu proprio "Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela" in 2001.
A small number of cases concerning sexual misconduct of clergy with minors was referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith after the Second Vatican Council. Some of these cases were linked with the abuse of the sacrament of Penance, while a number may have been referred as requests for dispensations from the obligations of priesthood, including celibacy (sometimes referred to as "laicization") which were dealt with by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith until 1989 (From 1989 to 2005 the competence in these dispensation cases was transferred to the Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship; from 2005 to the present the same cases have been treated by the Congregation for the Clergy).
The Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983 updated the whole discipline n can, 1395, § 2: "A cleric who in another way has committed an offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, if the delict was committed by force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of sixteen years, is to be punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants". According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law canonical trials are held in the dioceses. Appeals from judicial sentences may be presented to the Roman Rota, whereas administrative recourses against penal decrees are presented to the Congregation for the Clergy.
In 1994 the Holy See granted an indult to the Bishops of the United States: the age for the canonical crime of sexual abuse of a minor was raised to 18. At the same time, prescription (canonical term for Statute of Limitations) was extended to a period of 10 years from the 18th birthday of the victim. Bishops were reminded to conduct canonical trials in their dioceses. Appeals were to be heard by the Roman Rota. Administrative Recourses were heard by the Congregation for the Clergy. During this period (1994 - 2001) no reference was made to the previous competence of the Holy Office over such cases.
The 1994 Indult for the US was extended to Ireland in 1996. In the meantime the question of special procedures for sexual abuse cases was under discussion in the Roman Curia. Finally Pope John Paul II decided to include the sexual abuse of a minor under 18 by a cleric, among the new list of canonical delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Prescription for these cases was of ten (10) years from the 18th birthday of the victim. This new law was promulgated in the motu proprio "Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela" on 30 April 2001. A letter signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, respectively Prefect and Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was sent to all the Roman Catholic Bishops on 18 May 2001. This letter informed the bishops of the new law and the new procedures which replaced the Instruction "Crimen Sollicitationis".
The acts that constitute the most grave delicts reserved to the Congregation were specified in this letter, both those against morality and those committed in the celebration of the Sacraments. Also given were special procedural norms to be followed in cases concerning these grave delicts, including those norms regarding the determination and imposition of canonical sanctions.
The delicta graviora reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were as follows:
1. Delicts against the sanctity of the Most Holy Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Eucharist:
Throwing away, taking or retaining the consecrated species for a sacrilegious purpose, or profaning the consecrated species (CIC can. 1367; CCEO can. 1442).
Attempting the liturgical action of the Eucharistic sacrifice or the simulation thereof (CIC can. 1378 § 2 n. 1, can. 1379; CCEO can. 1443).
Concelebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice together with ministers of ecclesial communities which do not have Apostolic succession nor recognize the Sacramental dignity of priestly ordination (CIC can. 908, 1365; CCEO can. 792, 1440).
Consecrating one matter without the other in a Eucharistic celebration or both outside of a Eucharistic celebration (cf. CIC can. 927).
Delicts against the sanctity of the Sacrament of Penance:
Absolution of an accomplice in the sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue (CIC can. 1378 § 1; CCEO can. 1457).
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 (CIC can. 1387; CCEO can. 1458).
Direct violation of the Sacramental seal (CIC can. 1388 § 1; CCEO can. 1456).
Delicts against morality:
The violation of the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, committed by a cleric with a minor under the age of 18.
The procedural norms to be followed in these cases were as follows:
- Whenever an Ordinary or Hierarch had at least probable knowledge (notitiam saltem verisimilem habeat) of the commission of one of the reserved grave delicts, after having carried out the preliminary investigation, he was to inform the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which, unless it called the case to itself because of special circumstances, would indicate to the Ordinary or Hierarch how to proceed. The right of appeal against a sentence of the first instance was to be exercised only before the Supreme Tribunal of the Congregation.
- Criminal action in the cases reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was extinguished by a prescription of ten years. It was also foreseen that prescription would be computed according to the norms of CIC can. 1362 § 2 and CCEO can. 1152 § 3, with the singular exception of the delict contra sextum cum minore, in which case prescription would begin to run from the day when the minor had completed his eighteenth year of age.
- In tribunals established by Ordinaries of Hierarchs, for the cases of the more grave delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative could be validly performed only by priests. Furthermore, upon completion of the trial in the tribunal in any manner, the acts of the case were to be transmitted ex officio, as soon as possible, to the Congregation.
It was also established that all of the tribunals of the Latin Church and of all Eastern Catholic Churches were to observe the canons on delicts, penalties and the penal process of both Codes respectively. These were to be followed together with the special norms given by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Nine years after the promulgation of the motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, 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.
After a serious and attentive study of the proposed changes, the Cardinals and Bishops Members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented the results of their decisions to the Supreme Pontiff and, on 21 May 2010, Pope Benedict XVI gave his approval and ordered the promulgation of the revised text.
The text of the Norms on delicta graviora currently in force is the text approved by the Holy Father Benedict XVI on 21 May 2010.
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