Home - VIS Vatican - Receive VIS - Contact us - Calendar

The Vatican Information Service is a news service, founded in the Holy See Press Office, that provides information about the Magisterium and the pastoral activities of the Holy Father and the Roman Curia...[]

Last 5 news

VISnews in Twitter Go to YouTube

Thursday, July 15, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 15 JUL 2010 (VIS) - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith today published its new "Norms concerning the most serious crimes". Given below is the text of an explanatory note on the new measures, issued by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J.

  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 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.
OP/                                    VIS 20100715 (1190)


  1. Response from A Roman Catholic Womenpriest
    15 July 2010
    The ordination of women as one of the most serious crimes against Roman Catholic canon law, or "delicta graviora" – putting it in the same category as sexual abuse of children by priests, is reprehensible.
    We demand the vatican affirm women's full equality in the church including priestly ministry. We demand an end to misogyny in the Catholic Church. We demand that the vatican adopt reforms to transform church laws and practices to reflect transparency, accountability, justice and equality for all.
    Roman Catholic Womenpriests believe this vatican document is intended to specifically intimidate priests who choose to walk in solidarity with us to attain justice for women in our church. Priests like Roy Bourgeois, Maryknoll priest of 38 years, founder of the School of the Americas Watch and 2010 nominee for the Nobel Prize for Peace. Bourgeois participated in the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska in Lexington, Kentucky, on Aug. 9, 2008.
    However, our experience is that every ordained woman has priests in good standing working with her to prepare for ordination. Their courage and ommitment to women's equality in the Catholic Church is surely the fruit of the Spirit, moving the Church into conversion.
    They are not abandoning us. Their resolve to assist us grows stronger with every posturing threat that emanates from the Vatican. They are sick of living divided lives as priests and men.
    The same is true for the laity, including those in religious life.
    The male hierarchy , declared in May 2008 that we women, those ordaining us, and any who attend or support us would be self-excommunicating themselves as well. Yet, we continue to be supported by the people at the grassroots of the church.
    That threat has not deterred the faithful thousands who attend Roman Catholic women’s ordinations all over the United States and Canada yearly. RCWP numbers have erupted from seven to over 100 ordained women in the last eight years since the first ordination in 2002 on the Danube in Europe. The attendance by thousands of Catholics is saying to the vatican the inequality imposed by the hierarchy which excludes women from priesthood is simply not acceptable any longer.
    The vatican is ignored and has become irrelevant, if not ludicrous, to the people of God as a source of Catholic ethics, doctrine, dogma, truth and justice. Jesus would not join your church.
    Categorizing the ordaination of women with priest pedophilia as “sin” is not only wrong; it is plain stupid.
    Instead of excommunications and condemnations, the vatican would do well to correct the damaging behaviors of patriarchy, the abuse of spiritual power. We suggest that the vatican begin true renewal of itself by ending clergy abuses of power of all kinds towards nuns, women priests, and lay women in the Church who have as oppressed and exploited for millennia. They are as much as the victims of the church as the survivors of sexual abuse.
    RCWP has asked the member states of the United Nations to support us in our quest for justice for women within the Roman Catholic Church and for justice for victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse. It is unjust and discriminatory that the males at the vatican continue to deny us employment and decision-making within the Roman Catholic Church. This behavior is a violation of international law, our human rights, the example of Jesus and the integrity of conscience.
    The Spirit of John XXIII and the Vatican II council is moving strongly and will not be stopped by the self-serving dictates coming from the vatican today.
    Rev. Alice M. Iaquinta, M. Div.
    Roman Catholic Womenpriests Midwest Region

  2. Needless to say, the only bit that the media got in some countries was ordination of women. There should be a mention of the reasons (the Church doesn't have authority to change what Christ indicated and so forth) in anticipation.

  3. What would Jesus do? I can not find any place where Jesus would exclude anyone from his salvation, nor do I find where Jesus discriminated against anybody in his teachings or his gifts. I will follow Jesus and not the dictates of men.

  4. What would Jesus do? I would say... What Jesus has done? and we know it for sure.We are all church but it doesn't mean that it is "my Church" in fact is "Jesus' Church", the Church doesn't belong to any of us (not even the Pope). That is why certain things are very difficult to change...simply because Jesus did things in His way and not in our way...and He is the true Head of the Church. Pope and Bishops with all their human mistakes try to spread the message of Jesus. History tells us that many mistakes has been done...but also we know that the message has been preserve.
    Jesus was killed because not everybody agreed what He preached. The history goes on...

  5. I most emphatically denounce the comparison of ordained women with pedophile priests!

  6. I am Shocked! To read the pure contempt the Vatican displayed toward females made me ill. Women priests will put the pedophiles out of business in the Catholic Church,and the loving
    and always tolerant message of our Savior, Jesus
    Christ, will shine from the pulpits around the world. What would Christ want? To me the answer
    is obvious, Women Priests.

  7. One of the ideas Jesus promotes in the Lords Prayer is that we treat other people as we wish to be treated. Have you done this with regard to women?

    To mention the aspiration of some women to serve as priests in the Church, in a document talking about the destructive behaviour of existing male priests is insulting to all women beyond words. It proves that deep at its heart the Church believes women are fundamentally flawed, and not spiritually equal to men.

    The Church will no doubt hide behind the “who Jesus selected to be his apostles” argument. By that logic then only Jewish Arabic and Greek men should be priests. Men from all other ethnic groups should be excluded.

  8. What if Christ had been born a hemaphrodite? Would that have disqualified both men and women? Do you really believe Mother Teresa would not have been a good priest, Bishop, or Pope? I truly hope that when the Holy Spirit greets Pope Benedict, she gives him a piece of her mind. By eliminating women and married men from the clergy, you eliminate most of the flock - and you are settling for second best. Maybe that's why we have so many scandals in the clergy. What if Christ had been born Jessica Christ? Would that have made Benedict any different? Any less qualified to be Pope? Let's use some common sense here. (Male) Bishop O'Hara grad. Everyone write Pope Benedict at benedictxvi@vatican.va and let him know how bass ackwards the Church is on this one. Of course, at one time, they condemned people with the irrational idea that the earth wasn't the center of the universe too.

  9. I bet the pope would crap his draws if ALL women resigned themselves from going to church! What do you think ladies?? I see crap like this and I remember WHY I DONT step foot into a church but I do pray to GOD and I do believe with all my heart in GOD!! I just dont believe in popes like him for doing things like this! How dare he put women who love the Lord into a category with pedophile priests?? WTF??????

  10. No . Woman Priests would only add to lesbian "Women" priests and young minor girls be attacked as pray. Rome has got this right.
    This is the best Pope I can see to lead the Catholic Church from all what has happened.
    There will never be women in the Catholic CHURCH.
    It is not about equal status. It is about who was chosen to lead due to their strengths.....
    The day women are recognised by Rome will be the end of the Catholic Church we mustremeber what the prayer of St Michael the Archangel says. Women priests are doing the work for satan dressed as Holy people. No women priest ever.....

  11. It is very destructive when people who are not educated on the role of women in the Roman Catholic Church make inflammatory comments on instructions such as these. I am extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, a 56 year old woman,a physician, a wife and a mother. My Church lifts up women as She lifts up Mary,the Mother Of God. There are reasons that only men are ordained as priests.Learn them before you speak out of ignorance.

  12. Get a grip on reality boys. Just because BXVI wants Vatican II to go away - ANYWHERE - will not make it so. We are done with this Vatican's solipsistic nonsense, forever.

  13. I certainly understand the anger if the Vatican made sex crimes less important than ordination of women. I beileve abuse of minors by anyone, including clergy, to be a horrendous crime.

    I just finished reading the entire text of the norms and the summary of the changes to be added. First, it never says that womens ordination is worse. Secondly, it clarifies that sex abuse by a priest is serious and specifies a couple specific situations where a priest would be committing a severe immoral act. Thirdly, it specifies that a trial can be dispensed with so the Pope can discipline the priest immediately by removing him.

    You have to think of Canon Law like our legal process in the US, in the sense that if the law doesn't specifically state that a judge can do a specific thing, the judge can't do that. It has to be spelled out in the law. This is like that, it is a list of modifications to Pope Benedicts modifications of John Paul II's text. Its really all legalese that has to be put in. The specifics have to be clarified.

    I can see why people might jump to the conclusion that the abuse and ordination are being considered equal, but that isn't at all what this is even treating.

  14. It's all just wrong
    Let us move on (and away from religion)

  15. If you are not comfortable with the Church's law that prohibits the ordination of women, you can go and open your own "church". Don't destroy the Church Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted. Women ordination has no place in the teachings of Christ.


Copyright © VIS - Vatican Information Service