Church officials, especially those with Vatican offices, have faced stiff criticism since announcing last month revisions to the church laws that govern the handling of clerical sexual abuse cases and updates to its list of the “grave crimes,” which includes for the first time the “attempted sacred ordination of a woman.”
The Vatican announcement that the attempted ordination of women is a “grave crime” to be dealt with according to the same procedures as the sexual abuse of minors exposes the way those running our church actually think. In attempting to explain revised norms to church canons, they reveal the legalistic inner workings of their minds, and affirm unsettling psychological patterns of thought.
The latest attempt by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to stem the continuous onslaught of revelations of sex abuse and cover-up in Europe and elsewhere has some good and some bad aspects.
The first revision is relatively radical: the CDF now has the right to judge members of the ruling class (cardinals, bishops, and papal legates). Previously the Code reserved all cases involving accusations of violation of the church's criminal laws by bishops and above to the Pope. This change is a response to the constant criticism of the practice of giving bishops accused of sex abuse a free pass. The fact is that the popes could have disciplined errant bishops all along but instead chose to hide behind the myth that they are some sort of sacred nobility.
The announcement from Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of the new norms for “more serious crimes” (de gravioribus delictis) was certainly a step forward in the church’s law regarding the sexual abuse of children.
The three helpful changes in the church’s law are
- Now the victim of sexual abuse by a priest has up to the age of 38 to report the crime and have it canonically prosecuted.
- The sexual abuse by clergy of mentally incompetent victims, beyond the years of childhood, is now considered the same crime as abusing a minor.
- And the acquisition, possession or distribution of child pornography is a canonical crime in and of itself.
WASHINGTON -- Pope Benedict XVI has established an apostolic exarchate for the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in the United States and appointed Father Thomas Naickamparampil as its first bishop.
The pope also named the priest apostolic visitator for Syro-Malankara Catholics in Canada and Europe.
Creation of the exarchate and the priest's appointments were publicized in Washington July 14 by Msgr. Jean-Francois Lantheaume, charge d'affaires at the apostolic nunciature in Washington.
Bishop-designate Naickamparampil is a priest of the Archeparchy of Trivandrum, India.
An apostolic exarchate in the Eastern Catholic Church -- the equivalent of an apostolic vicariate in the Latin church -- is created by the Vatican for the pastoral care of Catholics in an area outside the territory of the Eastern Catholic Church to which they belong.
An apostolic visitator is a papal representative who is charged with familiarizing himself with the situation of a given community and reporting on its status to the Vatican.
Rome -- In the latest chapter of the Vatican's attempt to come to grips with the sexual abuse crisis, Pope Benedict XVI has approved a set of revisions to church law which are touted by the Vatican as a major contribution to "rigor and transparency," while derided by critics as "mere tweaking."
For the most part, Vatican sources said, the revisions consolidate existing practice rather than marking a dramatic new approach. Unveiled on July 15, the changes include:
Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church and to the Ordinaries and Hierarchs, regarding the modifications introduced in the
Normae de gravioribus delictis
Nine years after the promulgation of the Apostolic Letter Motu proprio data, «Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela», regarding the norms de gravioribus delictis reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this Dicastery held it necessary to proceed with a reform of the above mentioned text, emending it not in its entirety, but only in certain areas, in order to render the text more useful.
After a thorough and attentive study of the proposed modifications to the norms, the Fathers of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented the Roman Pontiff with a draft. The Holy Father approved and ordered the promulgation of these revised norms on 21 May 2010.
Attached with this letter is a brief description of the changes and amendments of the normative text, «Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela». In this way, the modifications are rendered more immediately accessible.
Rome, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 21 May 2010.
William Cardinal LEVADA
§ 1. The Congregation for the Doc¬trine of the Faith, according to art. 52 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus , judges delicts against the faith, as well as the more grave delicts committed against morals and in the celebration of the sacraments and, whenever necessary, proceeds to declare or impose canonical sanctions according to the norm of both common and proper law, with due regard for the competence of the Apostolic Penitentiary and in keeping with Agendi ratio in doctrinarum examine.
§ 2. With regard to the delicts mentioned above in § 1, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by mandate of the Roman Pontiff, may judge Cardinals, Patriarchs, Legates of the Apostolic See, Bishops as well as other physical persons mentioned in can. 1405 § 3 of the Code of Canon Law , and in can. 1061 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
§ 3. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judges the reserved delicts mentioned in § 1 according to the following norms.
VATICAN CITY -- Major renovations, infrastructure upgrades and a sluggish global economy left the Vatican City State budget in the red; however, donations to the pope were up from recent years.
The 2009 fiscal period marked the third year in a row that Vatican expenses outpaced revenues.
Following is a talk by Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa. Dowling told NCR in a telephone interview today that he gave the talk June 1 to a group of "influential lay Catholics" who meet periodically for lunch in Cape Town. The group, Dowling said, had asked him to speak "on how I view the current state of the church."
"In subsequent conversations, it became clear to me that the group of well-informed Catholic lay leaders wanted an analysis that would be open and very honest," Dowling said July 8. "Given the fact that it would be a select group with no media present, I decided I would be open and honest in my views to initiate debate and discussion."
A reporter, however, was present and what Dowling meant as an "off the record" conversation with lay leaders became local news. Dowling subsequently sent copies of his talk to his fellow South African bishops. NCR received a copy of the document and contacted Dowling to verify its authenticity.
Dowling sent NCR an original copy of the talk and gave us permission to post it online. Following is the text of Dowling's June 1 talk to lay Catholic leaders in South Africa.