Some Offenses by Priests to Be Judged Exclusively by Tribunal

Papal Document Focuses on Pederasty and Wrongdoing Involving Sacraments

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II has decided that some offenses by priests involving the Eucharist, the sacrament of reconciliation, and pederasty will be judged exclusively by the Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.



In a document issued "motu proprio" -- that is, on his own initiative -- the Pope outlined the rules. He signed the document, "Sacramentorum Sanctitati Tutela" (Tutelage of the Holiness of the Sacraments), last April 30 and had it sent to all bishops some time ago. It is recorded in the January issue of the "Acta Apostolicae Sedis" (Acts of the Apostolic See).

The one-and-a-half page text, published in Latin, refers to a four-page document of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This text, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the congregation, lists four "grave offenses" of priests against the Eucharist, three against the sacrament of reconciliation, and one against customs.

The congregation´s document indicates as grave offenses ("delicta") a priest´s "taking, keeping or throwing away the Holy Species for sacrilegious ends; committing an outrage against the liturgy of the eucharistic sacrifice or parodying it; concelebrating with priests of ecclesial communities that do not follow the apostolic succession or do not recognize the sacramental dignity of priestly ordination; consecrating one of the materials [bread and wine] and not the other for sacrilegious reasons, or consecrating both outside the eucharistic celebration."

The same document then explains the grave offenses against the sacrament of reconciliation: "To give absolution to someone who is an accomplice [of the priest] in a sin against the Sixth Commandment; to invite on the occasion, at the moment, or with the pretext of confession to sin against the Sixth Commandment; to violate directly the secret of confession."

The Sixth Commandment is "You shall not commit adultery."

Pederasty is the crime against customs. It is a "sin against the Sixth Commandment committed between a minor younger than 18 years, and a priest."

In virtue of these norms, issued by the congregation at the Pope´s request, any bishop or superior of a religious order or congregation who is aware of such offenses or crimes committed by priests is obliged to "carry out investigations" and to send the results to the Vatican congregation.

As of late today, the document had not yet appeared on the Vatican Web page.