Pope Francis Reforms Code of Canon Law's Penal Sanctions for Correction - FULL TEXT

Pope Francis had reformed penal sanctions in the Church: Mercy requires correction With the Apostolic Constitution “Pascite Gregem Dei,” Pope Francis reforms Book VI of the Code of Canon Law, continuing a revision begun by Benedict XVI and applying penal sanctions to more criminal offenses. The new text is a more agile tool for correction, which is to be applied promptly to “avoid more serious evils and to soothe the wounds caused by human weakness.”




 "Feed the flock of God, watching over them not because they are forced but willingly, as God pleases" (cf. 1 Pt 5: 2). The inspired words of the Apostle Peter echo in those of the rite of episcopal ordination: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, sent by the Father to redeem men, in turn sent the twelve apostles into the world, so that, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel to all peoples and bringing them together under the one shepherd, sanctify them and guide them to salvation. (...) It is Christ who, in the wisdom and prudence of the Bishop, guides the people of God on their earthly pilgrimage to eternal happiness "(cf. Ordination of the Bishop, Priests and Deacons, second "typical" edition for the Italian language, 1992, n. 42). And the Pastor is called to exercise his task "with advice, persuasion, example, but also with authority and sacred power" ( Lumen gentium , n. 27), since charity and mercy require that a Father also undertake to straighten what sometimes becomes wrong.

Proceeding on her earthly pilgrimage, since apostolic times, the Church has given herself rules of conduct which over the centuries have composed a cohesive body of binding norms which unite the People of God and whose observance the Bishops are responsible for. These norms reflect the faith that we all profess, from which they draw their binding strength, and based on it, they manifest the maternal mercy of the Church, which knows that it always has the salvation of souls as its goal. Having to regulate the life of the community over time, it is necessary that these norms are closely correlated with the social changes and the new needs of the People of God, which makes it sometimes necessary to modify them and adapt them to changed circumstances.

Among the rapid social changes we are experiencing, aware that "what we are experiencing is not simply an era of change, but a change of era" ( Audience with the Roman Curia on the occasion of the presentation of Christmas greetings , 21 December 2019), for adequately meet the needs of the Church throughout the world, the need to revise it was clear even criminal law promulgated by St. John Paul II, January 25, 1983 , the Code of Canon Law, and that it was necessary to modify it in order to allow Shepherds to use it as a more agile salvific and corrective tool, to be used promptly and with pastoral charity to avoid more serious evils and soothe the wounds caused by human weakness.

To this end, Benedict XVI , my venerable Predecessor, in 2007, gave a mandate to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts to start the study for a revision of the penal legislation contained in the 1983 Code. in concretely examining the new needs, in identifying the limits and shortcomings of current legislation and in indicating possible, clear and simple solutions. The study was carried out in a spirit of collegiality and cooperation, also with the help of experts and pastors and correlating possible solutions to the needs and character of the various local churches.

A first draft of the new Book VI of the Code of Canon Law was therefore drawn up, sent to all the Episcopal Conferences, the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Major Superiors of Religious Institutes, the Faculties of Canon Law and other ecclesiastical institutions, to collect the observations. At the same time, numerous canonists and experts in criminal law from all over the world were also consulted. The responses of this first consultation, duly ordered, were then transmitted to a special group of experts, who reviewed the draft in the light of the suggestions received, and then submitted it again to the scrutiny of the consultors. Finally, after further revisions and comparisons, the final draft was examined in the Plenary Session of the Members of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.Finally, having made the corrections inserted by the Plenary, the text was sent to the Roman Pontiff in February 2020.

The observance of penal discipline is a duty for the entire People of God, but the responsibility for its correct application - as stated above - belongs specifically to the Pastors and Superiors of the individual communities. It is a task that cannot in any way be separated from the pastoral munus entrusted to them, and that must be carried out as a concrete and inalienable need for charity not only towards the Church, the Christian community and any victims, but also towards of one who has committed a crime, which needs both mercy and correction by the Church.

In the past, the lack of perception of the intimate relationship existing in the Church between the exercise of charity and the recourse - where circumstances and justice so require - to sanctioning discipline has caused much damage. This way of thinking - experience teaches us - runs the risk of leading to behaviors contrary to the discipline of morals, whose remedy only exhortations or suggestions are not enough. This situation often carries with it the danger that with the passage of time, such behaviors become consolidated to the point of making it more difficult to correct and in many cases creating scandal and confusion among the faithful. This is why the application of penalties becomes necessary on the part of Pastors and Superiors.As a loving mother of June 4, 2016 and Vos estis lux mundi of May 7, 2019).

Indeed, charity requires that Pastors have recourse to the penal system as often as necessary, bearing in mind the three purposes that make it necessary in the ecclesial community, namely the restoration of the demands of justice, the amendment of the offender and the reparation of scandals.

As I said recently, the canonical sanction also has a restorative and salvific function and above all seeks the good of the faithful, for which "it represents a positive means for the realization of the Kingdom, for rebuilding justice in the community of the faithful, called to the personal and common sanctification "( To Participants in the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts , 21 February 2020).

Therefore, in compliance with the continuity with the general features of the canonical system, which follows a tradition of the Church consolidated over time, the new text introduces various kinds of changes to the current law and sanctions some new criminal figures, which respond to the increasingly widespread need in the various community to see restored the justice and order that the crime has broken.

The text has also improved from a technical point of view, especially as regards fundamental aspects of criminal law, such as the right of defense, the prescription of criminal prosecution, a more precise determination of penalties, which responds to the requirements of criminal law. and offers the Ordinaries and Judges objective criteria in identifying the most appropriate sanction to be applied in the specific case.

The principle of reducing the cases in which the imposition of a sanction is left to the discretion of the authority was also followed, so as to favor ecclesial unity in the application of penalties, servatis de iure servandis , especially for crimes. that greater damage and scandal cause in the community.

Having said all this, with the present Apostolic Constitution, I promulgate the revised text of Book VI of the Code of Canon Law as ordered and revised, in the hope that it will prove to be an instrument for the good of souls, and that its prescriptions will be applied by Pastors, when necessary, with justice and mercy, in the awareness that it belongs to their ministry, as a duty of justice - an eminent cardinal virtue - to impose penalties when the good of the faithful so requires.

Finally, so that everyone can easily understand the provisions in question in depth, I establish that this revision of Book VI of the Code of Canon Law be promulgated through the publication in L'Osservatore Romano , enter into force starting from December 8, 2021 and is subsequently inserted in the Official Commentary Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

I also establish that with the entry into force of the new Book VI, the current Book VI of the Code of Canon Law is abrogated , despite anything to the contrary, even if worthy of particular mention.

Given in Rome, at St. Peter's, Solemnity of Pentecost, May 23, 2021, the ninth year of my Pontificate.



FULL TEXT Source: Vatican va