Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Pope issues Motu Proprio revising penal law for Eastern-rite Churches


Pope revises penal law of the Eastern Churches

With a new Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio, Pope Francis introduces changes to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. The changes are similar to those made to the Latin Code of Canon Law in 2021, while preserving the distinctive characteristics of Eastern canon law.

By Vatican News

In a new Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio, Pope Francis has revised the penal law of the Eastern Churches, harmonizing some aspects of the Eastern discipline with that of the Latin Church, while preserving the distinctive features of Eastern law. The Letter, with the incipit Vocare peccatores [full text in Latin], was signed on 20 March, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, this year, and published on Wednesday. The new law will enter into force on 29 June 2023, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Pope Francis had already amended Book VI of the Code of Canon Law concerning penal sanctions in the Latin Church in 2021, with the Apostolic Constitution Pascite gregem Dei. This was a work of revision begun under Pope Benedict XVI.

At the time, Pope Francis explained that it was clear that the penal discipline promulgated by St. John Paul II in the 1983 Code of Canon Law needed to be revised, “so that the Church’s pastors can employ it as a more flexible means of correction and salvation, capable of being applied swiftly and with pastoral charity in order to avoid more serious evils and to bring healing to injuries caused by human weakness.” The new Book VI of the Latin Code entered into force on 8 December 2021.

The Pope stated that it is “a concrete and essential requirement of charity, not only towards the Church, the Christian community and potential injured parties, but also towards those who commit crimes and are themselves in need of the Church’s mercy and correction.” He noted that “in the past, great damage was done by a failure to appreciate the close relationship existing in the Church between the exercise of charity and recourse — where circumstances and justice so require — to disciplinary sanctions.”

In today’s Apostolic Letter, the Pope states clearly that the purposes of punishment are the restoration of justice, the correction of the offender, and the reparation of the offence and the damage. Pastors, therefore, manifest their solicitude when they strive to correct the behaviour of the Christian faithful who do wrong.

“The new norms determine much more clearly when ecclesiastical authority must intervene in the case of offences,” explains Monsignor Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Dicastery for Legislative Texts. “They are more precise and the penalties to be imposed are also clearer, better determined. Moreover, Eastern discipline has also been harmonised with Latin discipline in many aspects, such as the abuse of minors and the protection of the sacraments.”

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