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Pope extends deadline to appeal dismissal from religious institutes
In an Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio, Pope Francis extends to thirty days the deadline for consecrated persons who are dismissed from religious institutes to appeal the judgment against them, a change which seeks to guarantee the person's rights.
By Salvatore Cernuzio
In order to guarantee a more definite and adequate protection of the rights of persons who are dismissed from Institutes of Consecrated Life – resulting in a change in their juridical status - Pope Francis has decided to lengthen the time in which it is possible to submit an appeal to the competent authority.
Those dismissed from such Institutes will now have “thirty days” to present their appeal, and will no longer need “to request in writing the revocation or correction of the decree to its author.”
The previous deadline had been ten days for the Latin Church, and fifteen for the Eastern Churches.
The Holy Father amended the relative canons (canon 700 of the Code of Canon Law and canon 501 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches) with an Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio, which was signed on 2 April at St Peter’s and published on Monday.
Canon Law had provided that, in order for a decree of dismissal issued against a professed religious to be valid, it must indicate the right of the dismissed religious to appeal to the competent authority within ten days (fifteen days for the Eastern Churches) of receiving notification of the decree. An appeal has “suspensive effect” while the appeal is being considered.
Reasons for the change
According to Pope Francis, the original time limits “cannot be said to be congruent with the protection of the rights of the person.”
Instead, he wrote in his Letter, “a less restrictive modality of the terms of transmission of the appeal would allow the person concerned to be able to better evaluate the charges against them, as well as to be able to use more appropriate modes of communication.” The decision to lengthen the time limit to thirty days addresses these concerns.
Rights of persons
The Pope explained his decision by citing the sixth general principle that the Synod of Bishops, in October 1967, adopted for the revision of the Code of Canon Law: “it is expedient that the rights of persons be appropriately defined and safeguarded.”
This principle, said the Pope, “remains valid today, granting the safeguarding and protection of subjective rights a privileged place in the legal order of the Church.” This principle is especially relevant “in the most delicate events of ecclesial life, such as procedures concerning the legal status of persons.”
Respect for the process
Pope Francis also acknowledged “the danger” that the procedure envisaged by canons 697-699 of Canon Law and canons 497-499 of the Code of the Eastern Churches “may not always be correctly followed.”
This procedure provides, among other things, for the admonition of the religious in writing or in front of two witnesses, with the explicit imposition of dismissal in the event of failure to repent, clearly notifying him or her of the cause of the dismissal and granting them full faculty to defend themself.
If the proper procedure is not respected, the Pope emphasized, it could “put at risk the validity of the procedure itself and consequently the protection of the rights of the dismissed person”.
The Pope’s new provisions will take effect on 7 May 2023.