Pope Francis changed the system of punishment in the Church



The revision of the canons on sanctions was initiated by order of Pope Benedict XVI.

Olga Sakun – Vatican City

The apostolic constitution of Pope Francis Pascite gregem Dei was promulgated, which reform the Sixth Book of the Code of Canon Law – “Sanctions in the Church”.

“On the path of her earthly wandering,” writes the Holy Father, “since apostolic times, the Church has established rules of conduct for itself, which over the centuries have formed a single body of norms that must be fulfilled and unite the People of God, for the observance of which the bishops are responsible. These norms reflect the faith that we all profess, from it draw their binding strength and are based on it, showing the motherly mercy of the Church, always aware of its goal – the salvation of souls. Due to the need to regulate the life of the community over time, these norms must be closely linked with social changes and with the new needs of the People of God, which sometimes requires changes and adaptation to changing conditions. “

The Pope reminds us that today we are not experiencing an era of change, but a change of era, therefore it was necessary to revise the system of sanctions introduced by Pope John Paul II on January 25, 1983 through the Code of Canon Law. This had to be done in order to “make it easier for the pastors to use them quickly as a tool of salvation and correction, with pastoral mercy, in order to avoid more serious crimes and to heal wounds caused by human weakness.”

To this end, in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI commissioned the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts to begin revising the criminal legislation contained in the 1983 Code. The original version of the revised Book Six was sent to all episcopal conferences, all departments of the Roman Curia, senior abbots of monastic institutions, faculties of canon law, and other competent institutions. The comments from this first review were passed on to the expert group, who revised the first version and passed it on to the advisory board. The final version of the new text was analyzed at the plenary session of the members of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which made some amendments and transmitted the text to the Holy Father in February 2020.

Explaining the essence of the changes, Pope Francis emphasizes “the need for mercy not only in relation to the Church, the Christian community and possible victims (crimes), but also to those who have committed crimes and need both mercy and correction from the Church.”

In the past, it was precisely this lack of understanding of the intimate connection between mercy and the application of punitive discipline that led to negative consequences, including the commission of such acts against the discipline of morals, which required more than simple admonitions and admonitions. As a result, certain types of difficult-to-correct behaviors have become entrenched, often creating temptation and confusion among the faithful. The negligence of a pastor in applying the punishing system means that he does not perform his ministry faithfully and honestly: Christian love should encourage pastors to punish discipline whenever circumstances require it, while three tasks should be taken into account: restoring justice, punishing the guilty and eliminating temptation.

The Pope once again reminds us that the canonical sanction is applied for a salutary purpose and for the purpose of correcting evil, and it is imposed for the good of the believers.

The new text of the Sixth Book of the Code of Canon Law includes various amendments to existing law and introduces penalties for some new types of crimes. Some formulations have been improved, for example, those concerning the right to defense, the termination of punishments, and a clearer definition of sanctions has been given. In particular, along with the sexual crimes of the clergy against minors, punishments have been introduced for the same crimes committed by members of the institutions of God-ordained life and other believers, and these crimes themselves, previously listed in the chapter “Crimes against special obligations”, are now included in “Crimes against life. dignity and freedom of a person ”. Numerous innovations concern the management of church property; for example, in the case of corruption, there are penalties for both the corrupt and the corrupt.

The new text will enter into force on December 8 this year, and it cancels the previous version despite any objections, “even if they are worthy of special attention,” says the apostolic constitution.

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