06/01/2021, 17.01
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Pope reforms penal code adding financial offences and pornography

Francis upgrades the Vatican’s penal code with the Apostolic Constitution “Pascite gregem Dei” (Tend to God’s flock). Offences include accepting gifts in exchange of an illegal action or an omission by anyone holding office in or acting on behalf of the Church. Anyone breaking “the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with a minor” will also be punished, as will anyone ordaining a woman.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis has decided to reform the Church's penal code (Book VI of the Code of Canon Law). For the pontiff, this is a necessary step since “charity and mercy require a Father to commit himself also to straightening what at times becomes crooked” in order to adapt it to the reality of our times.

Henceforth, financial offences are included. Greater attention is paid to the use of new technologies and social media as well as modern sensitivity. The new rules include offences related to pornography and sexual mores, which are no longer “offences against special obligations” but become “offences against human life, dignity and liberty”.

New penalties are introduced, such fines and compensation for damages. The presumption of innocence is also added.

Canon 1379 remains whereby anyone who tries to ordain a woman and the woman herself are excommunicated. The issue of female ordination is part of discussion within the “synod” of German Catholics.

The Apostolic Constitution Pascite gregem Dei (Tend to God’s flock), which introduces the new rules, will enter into force on 8 December.

In it, Francis writes: “Having to regulate the life of the community over time, it is necessary that such rules be closely related to social change and the new needs of the People of God; sometimes, this makes it necessary to modify them and adapt them to changed circumstances.”

Hence, “charity requires that Pastors turn 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, reforming the offender and repairing the scandals.”

Specifically, punishments range from an “order”, for example paying a fine, to excommunication and the dismissal from the clerical state, if the offender is a priest. The highest punishment, excommunication, shall be applied to “A person who actually procures an abortion (Can, 1397) or someone who uses violence against the Pope (Can. 1370).

For priests, the highest punishment, dismissal from clerical state, will be applied if he “commits an offence against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with a minor or with a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason or with one to whom the law recognises equal protection” (Can. 1398). This shall also apply to anyone who “grooms or induces a minor or a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason or one to whom the law recognises equal protection to expose himself or herself pornographically or to take part in pornographic exhibitions, whether real or simulated;” or “immorally acquires, retains, exhibits or distributes, in whatever manner and by whatever technology, pornographic images of minors or of persons who habitually have an imperfect use of reason.”

Things are not better for “any person who by means of any technical device makes a recording of what is said by the priest or by the penitent in a sacramental confession, either real or simulated” (Can. 1386).

Can. 1367 includes lesser penalties or “censures” for “Parents and those taking the place of parents who hand over their children to be baptised or brought up in a non-Catholic religion”, as well as those who do “not obey the lawful command or prohibition of the Apostolic See or the Ordinary or Superior” (Can 1371).

The new rules often call for a “just penalty” for anyone “who steals ecclesiastical goods or prevents their proceeds from being received” (Canon 1376) or “gives or promises something so that someone who exercises an office or function in the Church” (Can. 1377), or “accepts such gifts or promises”, or, “in the exercise of an office or function requests an offering beyond that which has been established, or additional sums, or something for his or her own benefit”.

By the same token, “A judge must inflict a more serious punishment than that prescribed in the law or precept when [. . .] a person who is established in some position of dignity, or who, in order to commit a crime, has abused a position of authority or an office”. (FP)

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See also
New legislation against sex offences involving minors
New directives on Eucharist for the sick in the diocese of Incheon
Catholic Church and government united in fight against child pornography
Helping victims, forming good priests, cooperating with civil authorities to stop paedophilia
Pope “true law is inseparable from justice" in the Church


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