Canon Law: an Overview for the Civil Attorneys Seeking to Assist and Defend Priests
Scope and Purpose
This primer is designed to provide civil attorneys insight and understanding of key aspects of Church Law which impact and govern those processes which can be used by Church authority to limit or even deprive clergy of the rights they enjoy. Since 2002, the Church’s penal law and accompanying procedure have been front and center in the way that the Church has addressed allegations of abuse and unfitness for ministry.
The challenge with any legal system is respect for both the common good and also the individual’s rights throughout the entire process. This primer has been created as a hopeful bridge for civil attorneys who are called to serve clergy and who need canonical guidance and assistance to understand the interplay of Civil law and Church law. This work was completed with gratitude to Reverend Monsignor Michael Higgins, S.T.D., J.C.D., Executive Coordinator of Justice for Priests and Deacons who inspired this primer.
Introduction: Theology of Law
While Theology as articulated by Saint Anselm is faith seeking understanding, Canon law is the vehicle whereby that faith that we share, live and proclaim is directed towards respecting both the wider Christian community while balancing the rights of the individual Christian. Canon law identifies the rights of the faithful (clergy and laity alike). Canon law identifies and creates order for the Christian community and limits both the rights of the laity and clergy in recognition for the interplay between the rights and obligations of the community and the individual.
Canon law governs and impacts many actions daily in the life of the Church from the worship at Sunday Mass, to who can receive Holy Communion and whether and if a Catholic can marry a second time in the Catholic Church. Similarly, the day-to-day life of clergy is governed by Canon law and the rights that priests have when challenged or accused is our focus of this primer.
Like the Civil law, the interplay between constitutional law, statutory law and case law all interact to determine how the accused are treated and the limits of their rights during any such process brought against them. Likewise, Canon law determines the right of the accused to counsel, to know what is asserted against him, what process is to be utilized and what rights the cleric has in virtue of his dignity (and if applicable ecclesiastical office) during the pendency of such a process.
While theology assists us in understanding, God, the Church and the mechanism for our salvation, Canon law provides the faithful with the practical import and application of how to live out that faith while honoring the supreme Law of the Church which is the salvation of souls.
Notably, “the relationship between theology and canon law can be best summarized by saying that in theology the Church contemplative is speaking to the people, and in canon law the Church active is guiding the faithful…The two operations blend into one but without losing their distinctive characters: they mutually support each other. They together reveal something of the internal life of God’s covenanted community.”
Basic Interpretative Rules of Canon Law
As with any legal system there are interpretative norms to understand and appreciate how laws are to be read and understood consistent with their text and context. Similarly, Canon law identifies those provisions which identify and explain the posture that all canonists must take in reviewing, understanding and evaluating Church Law.
Canons 17-19 of the Code of Canon Law provide practitioners with the basic understanding of how to apply and interpret the law, evidence and any and all actions taken by ecclesiastical authority in dealing with allegations leveled against clergy or the laity.
Canon 17 states: “…Ecclesiastical laws must be understood in accord with the proper meaning of the words considered in their text and context. If the meaning remains doubtful and obscure, recourse must be made to parallel places, if there are such, to the purpose and circumstances of the law, and to the mind of the legislator.”
Sometimes the obvious is stated in the Code of Canon Law. Specifically, when reading Canon law, as with the Civil law, it is notable to realize that words in canonical legislation are tempered by canonical jargon, the canonical tradition (including the 1917 Code of Canon Law and Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches), but also the Second Vatican Council. Beyond these sources of legislation, official documents from the Holy See are attributed considerable weight and assist in understanding the law. Apostolic Constitutions, encyclicals, apostolic letters, moto proprios, instructions, etc. all guide and assist in interpretation of the law.
Beyond these sources, the law states to look to those teachings, documents from the Holy See (from the Holy Father himself) and those dicasteries which serve the Holy Father in Rome (the Congregations, the Tribunals, etc.) to provide insight and explanation to the law. For the normal practitioner, the letter of the law and useful commentaries on the law are great sources to understand and appreciate various aspects of each relevant canon.
Canon 18 states: “…Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are subject to strict interpretation.”
In the realm of advocating for clergy or laity who have been accused of some wrongdoing in the Church, this canon is extremely important in understanding the perspective and demeanor of Church Law. Whenever a law restricts a freedom, or can be used to punish, such a law and its application (by extension) must be subject to a narrow or strict interpretation. This canon flows from the long-standing canonical principle that odious matters are to be restricted and favors amplified “odia restringi, et favores convenit ampliari” .
Canon 19 states: “…If a custom or an express prescript of universal or particular law is lacking in a certain matter, a case, unless it is penal, must be resolved in light of laws issued in similar matters, general principles of law applied with canonical equity, the jurisprudence and practice of the Roman Curia, and the common and constant opinion of learned persons.”
The final basic interpretative canon identifies and confirms our earlier perspective on interpretation of law by looking not only to the letter of the law, but also to how the law is applied in actual circumstances. Specifically reviewing decrees from Congregations of the Holy See, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Apostolic Signatura provide further clarity and insight into how the canons are actually applied and play out in real life circumstances.
An additional perspective is noted in this canon that gives import to the concept of canonical equity. Canonical equity is a fluid concept whose imprecision may frustrate civil attorneys, however, from the canonical tradition, this concept reflects a perspective of applying the law with mercy and avoiding mere juridical formalism, which unfortunately can be quite common in civil legal instances.
The Relationship between a Cleric and his Bishop
In the Catholic Church, there are seven sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist (which form the Sacraments of Initiation), Penance and Anointing of the Sick (which form the Sacraments of Healing) and Marriage and Holy Orders (which form the Sacraments of Vocation). Upon reception of Holy Orders (which includes diaconate, priesthood and episcopacy) by being ordained a Deacon, a validly baptized Catholic man becomes incardinated into a Diocese or Religious Order .
It is through the act of receiving Ordination to the Diaconate that a person becomes a Cleric and acquires both rights and obligations in virtue of this Ordination. The technical term identifying this new relationship for the ordained Deacon is incardination. Diaconate is the doorway through which clerics are incardinated or hinged to their Diocese or Religious Order. Through incardination a Cleric acquires a lifelong relationship with specific rights and duties ordered to his new legal relationship through ordination to the Diaconate. Only through excardination, commission of a certain illegal act under Canon Law, death or dismissal from the clerical state does a cleric lose incardination in a Diocese or Religious Community.
Through incardination a cleric is chosen to serve a Diocese or Religious Community according to the direction and authority (faculties) given by the Diocesan Bishop or Religious Superior. Through incardination, the cleric is subject to the authority of the Diocesan Bishop or Religious Superior who must act consistent with higher legal authority and consistent with the Code of Canon Law.
It is notable that while clergy can be viewed in some sense similar to being employed in a Diocese or with a Religious Community, the Code of Canon Law does not view the relationship between a cleric and his Diocese or Religious Community as one of employment, but one whereby regardless of whether a cleric is currently in active ministry, the obligation of financial support, health insurance and welfare lies solely with the cleric’s Diocese or Religious Community. As a result, all priests are entitled to support regardless of whether in active ministry or not.
Moreover, Canon 281 of the Code of Canon Law indicates that clergy dedicated to ministry are entitled to remuneration consistent with their condition. Similarly Canon 384 also speaks to the decent support that priests are entitled to deriving from their status as dedicated to priestly ministry. By analogy, we also look to Canon 1350 of the Code of Canon Law, which speaks to the right to financial support and/or sustenance depending on the status of the priest, even if the priest was dismissed from the clerical state due to having committed a canonical delict so as to not allow the priest to become destitute. The obligation to the validly ordained priest remains with his Diocese of incardination or Religious Community.
Further identifying the material support obligations for a Diocese towards an incardinated priest, a response from a question posed by the Australian Bishops to the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts (PCILT) from 2000, clarifies what remuneration is as noted in both canons 281 and 384. PCILT articulated specifically that:
“[…] The remuneration of which canon 281 speaks cannot be considered to be a ‘stipend’, that is, it is not to be considered compensation for work performed, agreed upon and measured in relationship to either the quantity or the quality of the services rendered.[…]
[…]From this perspective, one sees the radical difference between the ‘remuneration’ given to a cleric and the salary or stipend paid to the laity: above all, it is not the quantity of services performed that needs to be recognized and proportionately compensated, but rather the person of the cleric, who offers his services, or should offer his services, for reasons other than those which would motivate the average laborer.”
Here we see a few points. First, we see that in citing from the law, we also see how a Dicastery of the Holy See applies those canonical provisions (in accord with canons 17 and 19). Moreover, we see that unlike those laity employed by the Catholic Church or in secular society, the material support for priests is not dependent upon whether the priest is currently serving in a parish or on administrative leave, a sabbatical or out of ministry (but retaining his clerical status) his support remains and continues.
Rights of Clergy
In order to understand those basic rights enjoyed by Clergy, it is necessary to delineate and identify them at this time:
(1) the right to communicate their needs and concerns to the Bishop (canon 212) ,
(2) the right to express his opinion as to those aspects pertaining to the good of the Church (canon 212, §3) ,
(3) the right to freedom of inquiry and expression once directed concerning the sacred disciplines (canon 218) ,
(4) the right to protection of privacy and good reputation (canon 220) ,
(5) the right to vindicate his rights according to canonical process (canon 221) ,
(6) the right to challenge the judicial and administrative decisions of the Diocesan Bishop concerning his life and ministry (canons 1732-1739 and according to the rules on trials) ,
(7) the right to not be punished except consistent with the letter and spirit of the law (canon 221, §3) ,
(8) the right to financial provision, annual vacation, freedom to tender resignation from ecclesiastical office and the right not to be removed from an ecclesiastical office except for grave or just causes depending upon the nature of the appointment. (canons 281, 283, 187, 193, 1740-1747).
Protecting the Rights of the Accused Cleric
Whenever rights are threatened through an investigation or allegation, as with the civil law, it is prudent and most advisable to consult an attorney. Similarly, when a priest has any notice either orally, in writing or even through the proverbial grape vine of an investigation or any accusation, it is absolutely imperative that he acquire a skilled canon lawyer to advise him proceeding forward.
Often a priest engages a canon lawyer much later in a process after exercising less than his best judgment and while pressure is being brought to bear on him from his Bishop or Chancery to take a course of action against his best interests and in contravention of his rights. Engaging a canon lawyer as soon as the Diocese invites a priest to a Chancery meeting is essential as often the priest is lulled into a false sense of security (since such a scenario has never occurred to him before) that the Diocese will look out for his interests.
Sadly, the posture most frequent is one of a Diocese protecting itself and creating a posture being against the priest under investigation or who has been accused, concerned only with protecting the liability and assets of the Diocese and unconcerned with the rights of the accused cleric.
Beyond identifying these foundational rights, what happens when a priest is accused by his Bishop or Superior? What rights specifically does that priest have when, for example the allegation is of a most serious nature, sexual abuse of a minor? A practitioner of Canon law identifies those key canons which form the basis for some of the most common concerns upon learning of an allegation of abuse against a priest. The relevant canons are 50, 51, 220, 221, 487, §2, and 1620, 7º and they form an operative basis for initial defense of a priest accused under Church Law. These canons cannot be viewed separately, but instead intertwined and as forming the legal authority and basis for an initial defense of the accused cleric.
Canon 50 states: “…Before issuing a singular decree, an authority is to seek out the necessary information and proofs and, insofar as possible, to hear those whose rights can be injured.”
Often times, a priest is required to come immediately to the Chancery where the Bishop will be present along with his Vicar General and Chancellor or chief canonist to present an allegation against the priest. Often times the decision will already be made to place the priest on administrative leave and/or to suspend the priest from ministry before the priest even arrives for the meeting. Moreover, such negative actions can be taken orally by a Bishop and his Chancery Staff leaving the priest confused, anxious and wholly unclear as to his status. However, the law is crystal clear.
Before a Bishop makes such a decision to suspend or even place a priest on administrative leave (cf. canon 1722 ), the Bishop must hear from the priest in question. Failing to do so runs afoul of this canon, natural law principles of the right of defense which are not dispensable and are essential to any fair process.
When an allegation arises, this is a pivotal moment and often times because of what the priests says in response can be an effective ministerial death-knell; it is absolutely essential to know what precisely is being alleged against a priest. Moreover, that priest must recognize immediately his right to remain silent and not respond at all substantively to the allegation proffered as often any explanation by the priest is viewed not as exculpatory, but unfortunately as a form of corroboration and admission by the Diocese. Words can be twisted, misunderstood or confused and the initial confusion of such a meeting can have permanent negative effects on a priest and his ability to ever minister again.
When meeting with Diocesan officials, because of the inherent power-imbalance, such meetings should be utilized by the priest as opportunities to learn about the nature of the allegation, to learn about his status as a priest (whether he has been placed on so-called administrative leave or suspended), to respectfully demand that the actions of the Diocese be put in writing and provided to the priest and also to allow the priest to know it totality the substance of the allegation against him along with his canonical counsel.
Often times since this is a matter purely of Church law, civil attorneys are barred from representing the priest at such meetings with the Diocese. While this can be a source of frustration, the civil attorney should recognize immediately the need for his/her client to retain canonical counsel immediately as the two disciplines require expert representation to address and consider the interplay of each as it relates to the priest’s rights.
Canon 51 states: “A decree is to be issued in writing, with the reasons at least summarily expressed if it is a decision.”
When a Diocese has decided to take some action based on an allegation, such a circumstance cannot be presented merely orally to the priest. The priest has a right to know with precision what exactly he is being accused of, why, from whom and the reasons articulated in the Decree must be stated at least in summary fashion. It is not uncommon for the Diocese to compose a Decree which simply makes vague allegations and assertions against the priest which are in violation of this canon. Precision is necessary so that the investigation does not become a proverbial fishing expedition against the priest.
Canon 220 states: “No one is permitted to harm illegitimately the good reputation which a person possesses nor to injure the right of any person to protect his or her own privacy.”
Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of any Diocese receiving an allegation is the rapidity often with making the allegation known threw dissemination both orally (at Masses at the parish where the priest currently or last served), through diocesan publications (website, newspaper, etc.) which effectuates in real terms a true injury to the priest’s good reputation and privacy. Once such an accusation is made public, it is impossible to un-ring the proverbial bell. Even after an accusation comes forward, is made public by the Diocese and after a process which results in the priest being exonerated, it is impossible to restore that priest’s reputation. As a result, advocating early for the priest for his good reputation is essential. Optimally, preventing any disclosure of an allegation is best, but often after intervention of the Diocesan Review Board (and a finding of that consultative Board that the accusation has a ‘semblance of truth’) the Diocese will publicize an allegation causing untold and permanent harm to a priest’s reputation. A major point of focus should be on protecting the priest’s reputation at the outset and duration of the process (if one ensues).
Another component of serious concern for any priest relating to this canon is the right to privacy. The biggest component in practice for a priest accused relating to the right to privacy is the right to not be compelled to undergo a psychological assessment by the Diocesan Bishop or Religious Community. Often, even if no canonical delict is alleged against the priest, or a priest is found to be not guilty, a Diocese will require a priest to undergo a psychological assessment to demonstrate his fitness for resumption of priestly ministry.
In the Code of Canon Law, unless a priest holds an ecclesiastical office (e.g. pastor, parochial vicar, etc.) he does not have a right to minister. As a result, even if no canonical crime has been committed by the priest (or he has been found not guilty of an allegation), a Diocesan Bishop may still require that priest to ‘demonstrate fitness for priestly ministry’. Currently, the only way that most Dioceses in the United States will accept a priest for resumption of ministry after an allegation has been leveled against him, is to undergo a psychological assessment to ‘prove’ his fitness for ministry. Besides the serious practical concerns over conceding to such a practice, such an assessment can be highly intrusive and invasive of the priest’s conscience. Because of this, clergy have a right to refuse a psychological assessment ordered by their Diocesan Bishop.
Specifically, as to the requirement to undergo a psychological evaluation, the Holy See has constantly defended the right of a person to refuse psychological evaluation. (cf. Acta Apostolicae Sedis LIII (1961).
Pope Paul VI held the opinion that psychological testing is an invasion of the internal forum. He instructed Cardinal Villot, then Cardinal Secretary of State, to make his mind known to the bishops of the Church. This was done in a letter dated 6 August 1976, which was sent to all the Nuncios for transmission to the bishops of the world (cf. Segreteria di Stato, N.311157, 6 August 1976).
On October 8, 1998, the Congregation for the Clergy wrote:
“It is the constant teaching of the Magisterium that investigation of the interior and moral status of any member of the Christian faithful cannot be carried on except with the consent of the one to undergo such evaluation, as is clearly written about in the instruction of the Secretariat of the State in their August 6, 1976 letter to Pontifical Representatives.”
In addition, quoting from a response from the Congregation for the Clergy to a U.S. Diocesan Bishop, the following was noted:
“It may be opportune to note that the recurrent is correct in affirming that he cannot be obliged to submit to a psychological examination or to avail himself of professional psychological treatment, much less to present a copy of the eventual report to Your Excellency or other third parties. Your Excellency will certainly appreciate that these are matters which touch upon the internal forum and that it is for the cleric himself to submit to such treatment and to determine the release and use of personal documents, such as reports that might be prepared concerning his treatment (cf. cann. 130; 220 CIC; mutatis mutandis Congregation for Catholic Education: Guidelines for the use of psychology in the admission and formation of candidates for the Priesthood (29 June 2008); nn. 5; 11; 12; Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, Instruction on the Renewal of Formation for Religious Life (6 January 1969), n. 11 § III: AAS 61 (1969), 113).”
Citing from these sources, it is undeniable that any priest can assert successfully the right to avoid being required to undergo psychological evaluation by a Diocesan Bishop or Religious Superior.
Canon 221 states:
“…§1. The Christian faithful can legitimately vindicate and defend the rights which they possess in the Church in the competent ecclesiastical forum according to the norm of law.
§2. If they are summoned to a trial by a competent authority, the Christian faithful also have the right to be judged according to the prescripts of the law applied with equity.
§3. The Christian faithful have the right not to be punished with canonical penalties except according to the norm of law.”
Sometimes the obvious needs to be reminded and articulated. Punishment in the Church, as with civil society can only come about through the presence of a violation of the law after being proven by a fair, impartial process. Anything less, yields no penalty against the cleric in question. Often it is falsely asserted by some in authority that by challenging a decision of a Bishop is itself wrong and disobedient. However, each and every member of the Christian faithful (those validly baptized and in full communion with the Catholic Church) have the right to a fair, full process and spirited defense of their canonical and natural law rights consistent with the letter of this canon.
Bishops must be reminded that sometimes the rights and authority that they possess is superseded by Universal Law promulgated by the Pope of Rome through the Code of Canon Law. This canon clearly identifies that provision and empowers any member of the Christian faithful seeking justice to be able to take those steps necessary to protect and vindicate their rights within the Catholic Church.
Canon 487, §2 states: “Interested parties have the right to obtain personally or through a proxy an authentic written copy or photocopy of documents which by their nature are public and which pertain to their personal status.”
Often in the pursuit of effectively vindicating and defending a cleric’s rights, a request is made to not only see the entirety of the evidence marshaled against a cleric, but also to be afforded the opportunity to review in totality the cleric’s personnel file. Those files which touch upon and affect the cleric’s personal status cannot be withheld from the cleric. In spite of the fact that many dioceses attempt to do just that, this canon authorizes the cleric to request and review (and by extension his canonical counsel) that personnel file in its entirety since sometimes it can happen that decisions about a priest’s fitness for ministry (or assertions to the contrary) arise from a review of a priest’s personnel file and notes placed in the file over many years.
In order for the cleric to know, respond and defend himself against such notations in his file (often times such files are incomplete, composed from second-hand sources, summaries which fail to identify the source for the information, unsworn assertions against a priest, etc.) he has a right to know such information in its entirety. It is also appropriate to request to review any and all information which may be in the secret archive of the Diocese regarding the priest.
Canon 1620, 7º states: “A sentence suffers from the defect of irremediable nullity if…the right of defense was denied to one or the other party…”
While this canon speaks specifically to a judicial trial (as opposed to an administrative process), the fundamental principle remains clear. A decision is no decision whatsoever if the right of defense is denied to one party. Similarly, if the right to defense is denied to a priest during an administrative process, by extension as well, the process’ decision is invalid as is the process from the point when the accused’s right of defense began to be denied. From that point forward all acts (decrees) on the matter are invalid and the Bishop or Religious Superior must go back to the moment when the accused’s right of defense was denied and ensure that the accused’s right of defense is protected.
In the aforementioned aspects of this primer, there are general principles at play along with some practical implications to the canons mentioned to provide insight and perspective to those civil attorneys who may be required to represent clergy when allegations are presented against clergy. Multiple concerns are at play. When a priest is accused it is not just his job on the line, but his calling, his reputation, his ability to ever ‘work’ again in his chosen ‘field’, his friends are limited, his circle of support is also limited and also his financial concerns are all tied to this accusation – in essence, it is an all or nothing proposition.
Because of this, the normal considerations for representing a person in an employment dispute lacks many essential characteristics. Perhaps it can be best analogized to someone threatening an attorney with being disbarred, divorced, divesting his/her entire equity interest in his/her firm permanently and causing his/her children to never see the father the same again. Because of the magnitude of damage which can be caused by a mere accusation brought against a priest, zealous advocacy must be tempered by the reality of working with the institutional Catholic Church. The same tactics relied upon by civil counsel in civil litigation or criminal defense is often ineffective and may even be harmful in the canonical setting. Patience, building rapport and a thorough understanding of the interplay between Church Law and the Civil law are necessary to most effectively advocate and represent a priest when accused.
The following points provide insight and guideposts when a priest is accused.
(1) As soon as an accusation is suspected or known, retain canonical counsel immediately.
(2) Do not allow a priest to ever meet with Diocesan Officials regarding an accusation without properly preparing/admonishing him about the right to remain silent and not respond to any accusation.
(3) Remind the priest that any and all meetings with Diocesan Officials optimally should occur only with canonical and/or civil counsel present and the results of such meetings should be in writing.
(4) Make sure to not speak to the allegation presented, but instead take time to consider, reflect and respond in writing to the accusation. Everything a priest says in such a setting can, will and ought to be expected to be used against him.
(5) Never counsel a priest-client to resign from his office as pastor, parochial vicar, anything. There is absolutely zero gained from resigning from an ecclesiastical office (and of course also the priesthood) without serious consideration of these options after much prayer, discernment and deliberation.
(6) Never agree to undergo psychological counseling or an assessment without absolute certainty that the information will not be shared with the Diocese and absolutely assurances that the proposed assessment team is not biased or working for the interests of the Diocese (as sadly often can be the case).
(7) Firmly assert the right to know fully the accusation and the proofs (evidence) which have been furnished for the accusation.
(8) Firmly assert the right to respond both orally and in writing to any and all accusation leveled against a priest-client after first having an opportunity to know the accusation and having an opportunity to review all relevant evidence marshaled on the matter.
(9) Request that all legal representation fees be paid for by the Diocese or Religious Community. The costs associated with canonical/legal representation can be the difference between being stone-walled and receiving effective advocacy. Many well-intentioned priest-canon lawyers offer their services pro bono; the magnitude and time necessitating effective advocacy for accused clerics demands more than the time and effort needed for a pro bono case. Even if a priest-canonist offers to work pro bono, justice and fairness necessitate that the priest-canonist be properly compensated so that his time and talent are respected and so that the accused is provided with a zealous canonical advocate.
(10) Never hesitate to get a second opinion in these matters. Canonical advocacy is an area where experience matters and can be extremely helpful. Don’t be proud – ask for a second opinion!
(11) If you have a case requiring civil or criminal representation, strongly consider bringing in a canonist as an Expert Witness to present your case to a jury/judge.
(12) Canon Law and Civil Law are very different disciplines; treat them as such. Techniques and strategies in one system may be unethical and even constitute malpractice in another – knowing each is essential to advocating for your client. Do not be intimidated by this foreign legal system, but instead realize its differences and associate with canonical counsel from the outset.
As noted at the outset, this primer is designed to give civil counsel an overview of Canon Law and those aspects of Canon Law which can impact the rights of priests especially in situations where the priest has been accused of wrongdoing.
This primer is not meant to be exhaustive, but instead meant to provide useful ideas, concepts and strategies to assist with representing priests who find themselves on the receiving end of an accusation. The topics and canons noted earlier form a substantial amount of issues and concerns which arise during representation of priests who have been accused of wrongdoing or considered unfit for ministry by their Bishop or Religious Superior. Knowing how to tackle those concerns while being aware of the pitfalls that can occur is essential in providing hope to priests who call upon you for legal assistance.
If you need immediate assistance for a canon lawyer, be sure to call Justice for Priests and Deacons at: (760) 321-4842(760) 321-4842 to protect and vindicate a priest’s canonical rights. Without an awareness of the rights which can be impacted, a priest’s ability to minister can be forever lost. With this primer, hopefully the rights of priests will be honored, respected and justice will prevail to properly protect and vindicate their rights in the Catholic Church.
In considering the various processes which may be employed for any allegation of wrongdoing against a priest, the following information provides a technical overview of Church law and processes.
I. THE ACCUSATION
When an allegation is brought to the attention of the ordinary, before even notifying the accused, he is to follow CIC [Codex Iuris Canonici, 1983] c. 1717; CCEO [Corpus Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, 1990] c. 1468. 1 If the accusation involves the sexual abuse of a minor (under the age of 18), he is to apply EN [Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, Revised, 2006], 11. 2 At this point, a bishop who allows a good promoter of justice to follow the law of the Church will go a long way to avert many of the normal injustices that continue to occur to this day. He should first inform the accuser or guardian of their right to file a report with the public authorities.
Cooperation with such an investigation involves handing over only the pertinent information requested. 3 In other words, the hierarch shouldn’t just hand over the priest’s personnel file, but rather a written request, specifying the types of pertinent documents, needs to be presented first. Copies of all public (external forum) documents can be made. Confidential documents that are gained by means of the internal forum (e.g., psychological reports) are excluded. 4 The secret archives protect the acta from an ecclesiastical trial that includes the preliminary investigation. 5 Thus fair to hand over would be all letters that express such suspicions, and any memos from diocesan officials of phone conversations or other encounters dealing with the accusations provided the civil Statute of Limitations doesn’t preclude such a request for those documents. Any hierarch who is in violation of this can be put on trial in Rome at the request of the injured party.
II. RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED
If the hierarch is obligated by civil law to make a report, then he is to do so. 6 Failure to do so in a timely manner (before contacting even the accused) may make him liable to civil charges, especially if the accused cleric flees the country. Once this report has been made, he is to follow EN 6, 7 where he could make his first contact with the accused informing him that an allegation has been made against him and advise him of his rights. 8 Any violation of this by the hierarch (abuse of ecclesiastical authority) 9 allows the cleric as the injured party to bring him to trial before the appropriate ecclesiastical authority. These rights include the presumption of innocence and Due Process before any penalties can be imposed, 10 gaining the assistance of civil and canonical counsel, 11 the right to remain silent, 12 and the right to present a defense at the conclusion of the investigation if the accusation is deemed sufficiently credible to proceed. 13
Common violations for which hierarchs should be held accountable are first of all notifying the cleric of the accusation before notifying him of his rights especially that of bringing along canonical and civil counsel. Even though any confession made is invalid without such counsel and informing him of his right to not incriminate himself, it becomes impossible to undo such an act. Still, the one culpable remains liable for the damage done, 14 and if this prevents the cleric from being assigned, then the amount of lost wages and benefits certainly could present a significant severance packet that could be petitioned for in Rome to which the guilty party would be obligated to pay upon approval.
Secondly, paying any settlement that short circuits the ecclesiastical process or denies the presumption of innocence can be handled the same way as above. A hierarch who refuses to cover the reasonable legal expenses of a canonical advocate that must be provided or rejects the one freely nominated by the accused that would be otherwise qualified can appeal this decision in Rome. The cleric is responsible for his civil legal fees or to supplement the difference his canonical advocate charges compared to standard rate that the diocese would pay one of their advocates or the additional travel expenses for one who lives quite a distance away.
Another important right that must be considered is that of prescription 15 known in civil law as the “Statute of Limitations”. On April 25, 1994 16 in the United States, the prescription for sexual abuse of a minor was raised to 10 years after their 18th birthday (before they turned 28) that would become the universal norm on April 30, 2001 with the Motu proprio of Pope John Paul II Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela [SST], 4.1 and 5.1 which also granted sole jurisdiction to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF] for graviora delicta (cf. SST, 1). 17
This means that if there were no allegations of sexual abuse being committed after April 25, 1994, the hierarch’s capacity to act on them falls under the old law 18 where they had to be denounced within five years after their sixteenth birthday (before they turned 21). Thus, the hierarch could not impose any penalties forcing him to work out an agreeable solution with the accused. A future assignment lies solely with the discretion of the hierarch, where no one else has the authority to tell him how to assign any of his subjects, so if there is to be no future assignment all the rest has to be worked out.
If the hierarch is barred from acting due to prescription, EN, 8A 19 states he may apply to the CDF for the derogation from the law of prescription indicating the relevant grave reasons. For denunciations made prior to April 30, 2001, the CDF instructed the American Hierarchy in the summer of 2004 that after November 21, 2004 no such derogations would be granted. If the hierarch is unable to convince the CDF that the accused against whom a penal process is barred by prescription is a predator that requires the imposition of the perpetual penalty of ex officio dismissal, 20 then the hierarch who refuses to assign such a priest must financially support him or reach an administrative solution (cf. below). Even though such an ex officio dismissal from the Holy Father can’t be appealed, a querela nullitatis explained below is still possible. For most other cases, the prescription is just three years after the last alleged offense has been committed. 21
Ideally if the (Latin Rite) hierarch chooses to conduct the preliminary investigation before notifying the cleric especially in the case that the civil statute of limitations precludes the involvement of civil authorities, he should hand this over to the promoter of justice. 22 This is the ideal way to go about it since it becomes very difficult for a cleric to focus on his ministry when he knows that an accusation is hanging over his head.
This also insures that the investigation will be conducted in a timely manner. A good promoter of justice then can assure that everyone’s rights are preserved avoiding gross injustices that would later need to be corrected. The promoter of justice will be working with any accusers and should keep them informed of the next step in the process and the apparent strength of their case. He can also inform them of their right to canonical counsel as well.
In the Eastern Churches, CCEO, c. 1469.3 requires the eparch to inform the accused and give him the opportunity to respond before the preliminary investigation can be concluded. Once it has been determined that the allegation has at least the semblance of truth (all impossibilities that it happened as alleged have been ruled out), the case should be in the process of being sent to the CDF, and the temporary canonical penal remedies listed in EN 9 23 may be imposed.
EN 5 24 allows the hierarch to form a Review Board, where EN 4 25 lists their functions that include helping him assess the credibility of the allegation. It is highly recommended that the accused not appear before this Board, which is not to be a jury, unless with the help of his canonical advisor and civil attorney, he can clearly show the impossibility that any such act ever occurred to avert the case being sent to the CDF.
EN 7 26 also allows the hierarch to urge the accused to voluntarily comply with an appropriate medical and psychological evaluation at a facility that is mutually acceptable to both, where it is also highly recommended that the accused decline any such offer. An exception would be that the Review Board did deem the allegation to be incredible, but the accused did something to be in a vulnerable or imprudent position, where in line with EN 4, 27 the Review Board demands that it must be rectified before he may be reassigned for ministry. This also would apply for any admitted sexual impropriety that didn’t involve a minor. It must always be remembered that the obedience 28 that a cleric is to show to his superior cannot unlawfully violate his rights. 29
If it is deemed that the accusation does not have at least the semblance of truth (impossible to have occurred as attested) due to irreconcilable contradictions or lack of imputability to cleric such as not assigned to the parish at alleged time, the accuser should be informed of the difficulty. It is especially here that a good promoter of justice plays a most important role of convincing the Review Board and the Bishop that to go forward would be a waste of time.
If the cleric was informed of the accusation, he should be told about this outcome. The acts of the case (preliminary investigation) are to be placed in the secret archives. 30 No action can be taken against the cleric including sending the case to the CDF. If the accusation became public, the same means of communication must be utilized to declare that the accusation was deemed incredible and state why, since it should not have been made public at this point.
If the accusation is deemed to have at least the semblance of truth (there exists at least the possibility that it could have happened as attested) the hierarch must prepare the case to be sent to the CDF, SST, 13. 31 Only at this point is he to impose the canonical restrictions mentioned above. 32 If he imposed these earlier, unless he turned over the investigation to the civil authorities and is awaiting their results, he has unlawfully violated the cleric’s right to a good reputation, 33 and needs to rectify the situation as mentioned above.
Otherwise, the accused, as the injured party (reputation has been harmed), could invoke SST, 25 34 and file a report to the higher Turnus of the CDF that the hierarch has broken the Pontifical Secret. If the case is subsequently sent to the CDF, mention of this violation can also be made in the attached Defense Statement. Even though the accused has no right to inspect the acts of the preliminary investigation, the hierarch can make them available to him to present a defense that the CDF will accept as part of the materials sent to them.
If the accused confesses legitimately (with the help of his Canonical Advocate) to the crime of sexual abuse toward a minor, 35 and does not want to abide by the restrictions and monitoring imposed by the hierarch, he may petition for voluntary laicization that can be sent as part of the packet of materials to the CDF. However, during the canonical process, if he is not registered civilly as a sexual offender, the imposition of monitoring restrictions beyond those allowed by law 36 would violate his right to the presumption of innocence. 37
Any information gained by means of the internal forum including psychological reports can’t be used against the priest as in a penal trial, but only be used for his benefit, such as restoring him to office or his faculties once the situation that gave rise to it in the external forum has since been corrected by means of the internal forum. 38
Once the case is to be sent to the CDF nothing more can be done until the hierarch hears from the CDF instructing him on how to proceed. 39 So if he is a pastor, only a parochial administrator can be named to replace him. 40 This also means that the diocese/eparchy will have to support him financially during the trial. 41 However, this may be cut off legitimately if the cleric disobeys 42 the hierarch in not abiding by the lawful restrictions imposed. 43
III. PROCESS BEFORE THE CDF
After the CDF has reviewed the acts of the preliminary investigation and considered the Votum of the hierarch, they may: (i) try the case themselves; (ii) send it to the Feria VI (Saturday) Congress to recommend that the Holy Father impose the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state ex officio; (iii) instruct the hierarch to conduct a Judicial Trial in his own Tribunal; (iv) allow the hierarch to proceed by the administrative (extrajudicial) penal process. 44
The recommendation that the Holy Father impose dismissal ex officio seems to be done when the accused is considered to be a sexual predator (multiple victims or relapse after an intervention). With only one victim where the offense(s) stopped due to the volition of the accused or for a small number of victims where there has been a confession with intervention and no subsequent relapse, an administrative solution or voluntary laicization would only be allowed.
Moreover, the Administrative process appears to be allowed only for those cases where very little is disputed and hope is good for an agreeable resolution on both sides, however, if the facts or evidence are highly disputed the hierarch is instructed to conduct the Judicial Trial in his Tribunal.
IV. PROCESS WHEN REMANDED BACK TO THE HIERARCH
The Judicial Process consists usually of three judges 45 petitioned by the Promoter of Justice with a Notary present following the rules guiding an ordinary contentious process. 46 The Administrative Process is guided by CIC, c. 1720; CCEO, c. 1486 47 and is usually employed when the accused refuses to appear before a Tribunal or in the case mentioned above that would meet the approval of the CDF if there is no threat of appeal by either side. This would be a waste of time if the issues were highly disputed on both sides, where only the judicial process could effectively resolve this type of case.
The Administrative process requires that the accused be presented with all the proofs and given an opportunity (within a certain amount of time prescribed) to respond with a defense. The hierarch with two assessors (where preferably at least one of them has a degree in canon law to help draft the decree outlining the reasons in law and fact) accurately weighs all the proofs and arguments to come up with a just decision. Penal remedies and penances that are not perpetual penalties then can be applied.
Since these remedies or penances are of the nature of an agreement that resolves the issue, the conditions that will bring about a conclusion to any one of them must be clearly indicated (e.g., completion of a therapeutic program). If no such conditions were mentioned, the respective terms of the agreement would be deemed as permanently binding befitting the very nature of any agreement that foresees no future change. However, changes in the future are possible, meaning that a new agreement would have to be worked out and later sent on to Rome for approval, so in that sense, the agreement should strive to avoid any necessity for a future change if at all possible.
V. PROCESS FOR OTHER DELICTS RESERVED TO THE CDF
SST, 1ff., 48 grants the CDF sole jurisdiction utilizing the same process for the following graviora delicta: Sacrilege of the Eucharist; 49 Concelebration with non-Catholics; 50 Consecrating only one species or both outside of Mass; 51 Absolution of an Accomplice; 52 Solicitation; 53 Direct Violation of the Seal of Confession. 54 A special 1962 Instruction 55 from the CDF guides these processes mainly to protect the Sacramental Seal involving the Sacrament of Penance.
VI. PROCESS FOR NON-RESERVED DELICTS
Removal of the Pastor or his faculties for less serious crimes not reserved to the Holy See (CIC, cc. 1364-1399; CCEO, c. 1436-1467) is conducted through the diocesan Tribunal using the above process with recourse to the Metropolitan or Appellate Tribunal 56 and finally the Roman Rota 57 if a third instance (further appeal) is needed. The hierarch cannot dispense from procedural or penal laws or those matters reserved to the Apostolic See. 58 However, CIC, c. 1720; CCEO, c. 1486 59 does allow for an Administrative penal process as mentioned above. In this case recourse for secular clerics of the Latin Rite is made to the Congregation of Clergy, 60 or for Religious to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 61 or for Clerics of the Eastern Rites to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. 62 If the matter concerns Liturgical or Sacramental Discipline, then recourse is made to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. 63
If the matter is mixed so that it is unclear which Dicastery is competent, the case can be sent to the Apostolic Signatura to decide which is competent or appeal within 30 useful days from the date of notification against an unlawful decision of any Dicastery except the CDF. 64
VII. PROCESS FOR NON-DELICTS
Removal of a pastor involving a non-penal though serious matter (his ministry has become detrimental or at least ineffective through no serious fault of his own) is guided by the process outlined in CIC, cc. 1740-1747; CCEO, cc. 1389-1396. The serious reason needed for a bishop to remove legitimately a secular pastor must fall under one of the five categories listed. 65 If the pastor is a religious, CIC, c. 682.2 prevails that either the bishop or the major superior can remove the priest solely at his discretion for a just reason 66 where he is required only to inform the other hierarch of his decision that doesn’t need his consent.
The hierarch can designate a priest distinct from the two assessor pastors to conduct an investigation to see if the pastor’s ministry is harmful or ineffective and if it is, he must put it in writing. 67 The two pastors selected must be part of a group established beforehand by the Presbyteral Council who already accepted those names proposed by the hierarch for this purpose.
After the discussion with the two pastors, the report in writing containing the reasons and arguments can be redrafted and then signed by all three (proving that such a consultation had in fact occurred) to present to the pastor persuading him to resign. Once he has received this, he is given fifteen days to respond. Within the fifteen days, the pastor can respond in writing presenting his conditions if any (e.g., future assignment, retirement with pension, etc.) for submitting his resignation, 68 or request to see the acts of the case (the original investigation if it wasn’t already presented to him along with the reasons and arguments) to present objections and contrary proofs in his defense 69 within fifteen more days.
If the hierarch decides that the pastor’s arguments are insufficient, a new report must be drafted weighing all the arguments on both sides and signed again by the three and sent to the parish priest along with the signed decree removing him indicating whatever conditions were accepted. 70 Any recourse against the decree must be made to the hierarch within 10 canonical days of notification. 71 If the hierarch decides not to remove him, within 30 days he is to issue a definitive decree stating that fact bringing the case to a conclusion or amend his previous decree. 72
If after fifteen days, there was no response by the pastor to the initial invitation or defense presented after viewing the acts, he is to send a second letter by certified mail (needed to be presented as proof in the case that recourse is sought with Rome) indicating that a decree of removal will be issued fifteen days from the signed receipt or indication of refusal of this letter.
If the pastor has tried to resolve this issue of his removal in good faith with the hierarch, and his petition was rejected, or is dissatisfied with the amended decree, or the thirty days from the time he sent his petition have elapsed, he must seek recourse from the appropriate Congregation mentioned above within 15 canonical days to suspend the decree of removal. 73 It is recommended that an advocate or procurator appointed by the pastor make this recourse, but if not, one still could be appointed ex officio if needed. 74
A response from Rome at least accepting or rejecting the case is made within 4 months: 75 3 months plus 2 weeks for the mail to arrive in Rome and 2 more weeks to return. If there is no response in four months, 76 the Congregation can be impugned for dereliction of duty before the Apostolic Signatura. 77 It also has been known that hierarchs have received responses from the Holy See and buried them telling the cleric that Rome takes a long time to respond. This violation 78 can be pursued by means of the Roman Rota. 79 If no extension of a further three months is needed to study the case, the Dicastery either should confirm the decree, declare it invalid, or revoke it back to the hierarch to be amended or they can even amend it themselves. 80 If the amended decree is still unacceptable, the above process of seeking emendation with the author within ten canonical days (waiting another 30 days) then recourse back to the Dicastery within 15 days can be repeated.
If the Dicastery confirms the decree and further recourse is desired it must be sent to the Apostolic Signatura within the timeframe established in law from the date of notification specifying the law in procedure or the decision-making process that was violated along with the petition seeking reparation for all the damages. 81 This can be sent by means of the Apostolic Nunciature with a deposit for €1550 (about $2000). As is the case with the Roman Rota, they also only accept as an advocate/procurator someone from their list in the Annuario Pontificio.
Even decrees from the Holy Father or the Apostolic Signatura that can’t be appealed 82 can still be corrected by means of a complaint of nullity (querela nullitatis). 83 The complaint of nullity must be presented to the judge who pronounced the sentence 84 within ten years of the date it was published. The Oral Contentious Process (CIC, cc. 1656-1670; CCEO, c. 1343-1356) would be used to decide this matter. 85
The removal or restriction of faculties by administrative decree or precept is possible in line with CIC, cc. 48-52; CCEO, cc. 24, 1517.1, 1519.2. These must be in writing and are to be strictly interpreted. 86 The imposition of an obligation to do or omit something must be lawful, especially to urge the person(s) mentioned to follow the law. 87 It presupposes that the person(s) mentioned are not following the law, so proofs must be presented to such persons to offer a response. 88 The written decree is to take into account both the proofs and defense in the summary containing the reasons for the decision. 89 If a petition was involved (letter of complaint), the hierarch should simply send it to the person against whom the complaint was made along with a copy of his letter to the complainant granting a certain amount of time for a response (say 15 days). No response would carry the presumption that everything in the complainant’s letter was true. The response could also be sent to the complainant with the presumption of no response in fifteen days meaning the matter is resolved between them.
If the matter turns out to be much more complex or a lot more facts and proofs need to be resolved before a decision can be made, the matter can be handed over to the Promoter of Justice to help the hierarch investigate further in the hope of still handling this case administratively unless it becomes obvious that the only way the settle the dispute will be to present this case to the Diocesan Tribunal and nominate three to five judges. 90 The same rules of recourse/appeal apply taking into consideration whether or not the case was handled administratively or judicially.
VIII. PROCESS FOR A CONTENTIOUS TRANSFER OF A PASTOR
Regarding the transfer of pastors, CIC, cc. 1748-52; CCEO, cc. 1397-1400 apply. The hierarch should try to persuade the pastor to accept the transfer giving the pastoral reasons in writing, 91 where the pastor could offer his objections in writing. 92 The same two assessor pastors are to be consulted and if the hierarch remains convinced for the need of the transfer, a new letter reflecting all the arguments needs to be presented bearing all three signatures. 93 If the pastor still refuses, further objections can be raised, but if they fail to convince the bishop, he is to decree when the parish will be declared vacant to appoint a new pastor. 94 While the same means of recourse is available above, if it is a case between the reasonable demands of a hierarch v. the reasonable objections of a pastor, provided that the procedure was properly done, every time Rome will confirm the hierarch’s decree.
1 1717§1: Whenever the ordinary receives information, which at least seems to be true of an offense, he shall cautiously inquire personally or through another suitable person about the facts and circumstances and about imputability unless this investigation appears to be entirely superfluous. §2: Care must be taken lest anyone’s good name be endangered by this investigation. §3: The one who conducts the investigation has the same powers and obligations as an auditor in the process; this person cannot act as a judge in the matter, if a judicial process is set in motion later.
2 The diocese/eparchy will comply with all applicable civil laws with respect to the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities and will cooperate in their investigation. In every instance, the diocese/eparchy will advise and support a person’s right to make a report to public authorities.
3 Cf. CIC cc. 486-491; CCEO, cc. 256-261. 486§1: All diocesan and parochial documents must be protected with the greatest care. 487§2: It is a right of interested parties to obtain personally or through their proxy an authentic written copy or a photocopy of documents which are public by their nature and which pertain to the status of such persons. 489§1: There is also to be a secret archive in the diocesan curia or at least a safe or file in the ordinary archive, completely close and locked which cannot be removed from the place, and in which documents to be kept secret are to be protected most securely. 490§3: Documents are not to be removed from the secret archive or safe.
4 Cf. CIC, cc. 220, 630.4f., 1728.2; CCEO, cc. 23, 475, 539, 1471.2. 220: No one is permitted to damage unlawfully the good reputation, which another person enjoys, nor to violate the right of another person to protect his or her own privacy. 630§4: Superiors are not to hear the confessions of their subjects unless the latter request it of their own initiative. §5: …superiors are forbidden to induce their subjects in any way whatever to make a manifestation of conscience to them. 1728§2: The accused is not bound to confess the offense and cannot be constrained to take an oath.
5 Cf. CIC, cc. 489f., 1719; CCEO, cc. 259f. 489§2: Every year documents of criminal cases are to be destroyed in matter of morals in which the criminal has died or in which ten years have passed since the condemnatory sentence; but a brief summary of the case with the text of the definitive sentence is to be retained. 1719: The acts of the investigation, the decrees of the ordinary by which the investigation was opened and closed, and all that preceded it are to be kept in the secret archive of the curia if they are not necessary for the penal process.
6 CIC, c. 22; CCEO, c. 1504: Civil laws to which the law of the Church defers should be observed n canon law with the same effects, insofar as they are not contrary to divine law and unless it is provided otherwise in canon law.
7 EN 6: When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon is received, a preliminary investigation in accordance with canon law will be initiated and conducted promptly and objectively (CIC, c. 1717; CCEO, c. 1468). During the investigation the accused enjoys the presumption of innocence, and all appropriate steps shall be taken to protect his reputation. The accused will be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel and will be promptly notified of the results of the investigation. When there is sufficient evidence that sexual abuse of a minor has occurred, the Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith shall be notified. The bishop/eparch shall then apply the precautionary measures mentioned in CIC, canon 1722, or CCEO, canon 1473—i.e., withdraw the accused from exercising the sacred ministry or any ecclesiastical office or function, impose or prohibit residence in a given place or territory, and prohibit public participation in the Most Holy Eucharist pending the outcome of the process.
8 CIC c. 384; CCEO, c. 192.4f.: The diocesan bishop is to attend to presbyters with special concern…he is to protect their rights…he is also to make provision for their decent support and social assistance, in accord with the norm of law.
9 CIC, c. 1389; CCEO, c. 1464: §1: One who abuses ecclesiastical power or function is to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the act or omission not excluding deprivation from office unless a penalty for such abuse has already been established by a law or a precept. §2: One who through culpable negligence illegitimately places or omits an act of ecclesiastical power, ministry, or function which damages another person is to be punished with a just penalty.
10 CIC, c. 221; CCEO, c. 24: §1: The Christian faithful can legitimately vindicate and defend the rights which they enjoy in the Church before a competent ecclesiastical court in accord with the norm of law. §2: The Christian faithful also have the right, if they are summoned to judgment by competent authority, that they be judged in accord with the prescriptions of the law to be applied with equity. §3: The Christian faithful have the right not to be punished with canonical penalties except in accord with the norm of law.
11 Cf. CIC, cc. 7123, 1481, 1483; CCEO, cc. 1474, 1139, 1141. 1723§1: When citing the accused, the judge must invite the accused to appoint an advocate in accord with the norm of can. 1481, §1, within a period of time set by the judge. §2: But if the accused does not provide for this the judge is to name an advocate before the joinder of issues (contestatio litis) who will remain in this function as long as the accused has not personally appointed an advocate. 1481§1: A party can freely appoint a personal advocate and procurator; however, except for the cases stated in §§2 and 3, the party can petition and respond personally unless the judge has decided that the services of a procurator or an advocate are necessary. §2: The accused in a penal trial must always have an advocate either appointed by the accused or given by the judge. 1483: …the advocate must be a Catholic unless the diocesan bishop permits otherwise, must have a doctorate in canon law or be otherwise truly expert and must be approved by the same bishop.
12 CIC, c. 1728.2; CCEO, c. 1471.2: The accused is not bound to confess the offense and cannot be constrained to take an oath.
13 CIC, c. 1725; CCEO, c. 1478: In the discussion of the case, whether it be done in writing or orally, the accused always has the right to write or speak last either personally or through an advocate or procurator.
14 CIC, c. 128; CCEO, c. 935: Anyone who unlawfully inflicts damage upon someone by a juridic act, or indeed by any other act placed with malice or culpability, is obliged to compensate for the damage inflicted.
15 Cf. CIC, cc. 197, 1362; CCEO, c. 1540, 1152. 197: The Church accepts prescription as it exists in the civil legislation of the respective nations, as a means of acquiring or losing a subjective right and of freeing oneself from obligations. 1362: A criminal action is extinguished by prescription in three years unless it is a question of: 1° offenses reserved to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; 2° an action due to offenses mentioned in cann. 1394, 1395, 1397 and 1398, which have a prescription of five years; …§2 Prescription starts on the day the offense was committed or on the day when it ceased if the offense is continuous or habitual.
16 Rescript from the Secretariat of State (Prot. No. 346.053), dated April 25, 1994, the age of the minor of CIC c. 1395.2; CCEO, c. 1453.1 was raised from “below the age of 16” to “below the age of 18” and the prescription was extended from five years to “10 years after the victim turns 18” effective in the territory of the United States
17 SST, Art. 1, §1: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith according to the norm of art. 52 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus judges more grave delicts (delicta graviora) whether against morals or committed 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. Art. 4, §1: Reservation to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is also extended to a delict against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue committed by a cleric with a minor below the age of eighteen years. Art. 5, §1: Criminal action for delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is extinguished by prescription after ten years.
18 CIC, c. 1313.1; CCEO, c. 1412.2: If a law is changed after an offense has been committed the law, which is more favorable to the accused, is to be applied.
19 EN, 8A: If the case would otherwise be barred by prescription, because sexual abuse of a minor is a grave offense, the bishop/eparch may apply to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a derogation from the prescription, while indicating relevant grave reasons.
20 Cf. November 7, 2002 derogation from SST by Pope John Paul II, permitting the CDF to derogate from prescription and February 7, 2003 derogation granting the CDF to refer grave and clear cases to the Pope for ex officio dismissal.
21 CIC, c. 1362; CCEO, c. 1152: A criminal action is extinguished by prescription in three years unless it is a question of: 1° offenses reserved to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; 2° an action due to offenses mentioned in cann. 1394, 1395, 1397, and 1398, which have a prescription of five years.
22 CIC, c. 1717, 1721; CCEO, c. 1468, 1472: 1717, §1: Whenever the ordinary receives information, which at least seems to be true of an offense, he shall cautiously inquire personally or through another suitable person about the facts and circumstances and about imputability unless this investigation appears to be entirely superfluous. §2: Care must be taken lest anyone’s good name be endangered by this investigation. §3: The one who conducts the investigation has the same powers and obligations as an auditor in the process; this person cannot act as a judge in the matter, if a judicial process is set in motion later. 1721, §1: If the ordinary decrees that a judicial penal process is to be begun, he is to give the acts of the investigation to the promoter of justice who is to present a libellus of accusation to the judge in accord with the norms of cann. 1502 and 1504. §2: The promoter of justice constituted as such by the higher court acts as the petitioner before that tribunal.
23 At all times, the diocesan bishop/eparch has the executive power of governance, within the parameters of the universal law of the Church, through an administrative act, to remove an offending cleric from office, to remove or restrict his faculties, and to limit his exercise of priestly ministry.
24 EN 5: The review board, established by the diocesan/eparchial bishop, will be composed of at least five persons of outstanding integrity and good judgment in full communion with the Church. The majority of the review board members will be lay persons who are not in the employ of the diocese/eparch; but at least one member should have particular expertise in the treatment of the sexual abuse of minors. The members will be a will be appointed for a term of five years, which can be renewed. It is desirable that the Promoter of Justice participate in the meetings of the review board.
25 EN 4: To assist diocesan/eparchial bishops, each diocese/eparchy will also have a review board, which will function as a confidential consultative body to the bishop/eparch in discharging his responsibilities. The functions of this board may include: A. advising the diocesan bishop/eparch in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and in his determination of suitability for ministry.
26 EN 7: The alleged offender may be requested to seek, and may be urged voluntarily to comply with, an appropriate medical and psychological evaluation at a facility mutually acceptable to the diocese/eparchy and to the accused.
27 EN 4: To assist diocesan/eparchial bishops, each diocese/eparchy will also have a review board, which will function as a confidential consultative body to the bishop/eparch in discharging his responsibilities. The functions of this board may include: A. advising the diocesan bishop/eparch in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and in his determination of suitability for ministry.
28 CIC, c. 273; CCEO, c. 370: Clerics are bound by a special obligation to show reverence and obedience to the Supreme Pontiff and to their own ordinary.
29 CIC, cc. 384, 618; CCEO, c. 192. 384: The diocesan bishop is to attend to presbyters with special concern…he is to protect their rights. 618: Superiors are to exercise their power received from God through the ministry of the Church, in a spirit of service. Therefore, docile to the will of God in carrying out their duty, they are to govern their subjects as children of God and, promoting their voluntary obedience with reverence for the human person, they are to listen to them willingly and foster their working together for the good of the institute and of the Church, but with the superiors’ authority to decide and prescribe what must be done remaining intact.
30 CIC, c. 1719; CCEO, c. 1470: The acts of the investigation, the decrees of the ordinary by which the investigation was opened and closed, and all that preceded it are to be kept in the secret archive of the curia if they are not necessary for the penal process.
31 SST, Art. 13: Whenever the Ordinary or Hierarch receives a report of a reserved delict which has at least a semblance of truth [notitiam saltem verisimilem], once the preliminary investigation has been completed, he is to communicate the matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which unless it calls the case to itself due to particular circumstances, will direct the Ordinary or Hierarch [how] to proceed further, with due regard, however, for the right to appeal against a sentence of the first instance only to the Supreme Tribunal of the same Congregation.
32 CIC, c. 1722; CCEO, c. 1473: To preclude scandals, to protect the freedom of witnesses and to safeguard the course of justice, having heard the promoter of justice and having cited the accused, the ordinary at any stage of the process can remove the accused from the sacred ministry or from any ecclesiastical office or function, can impose or prohibit residence in a given place or territory, or even prohibit public participation in the Most Holy Eucharist; all these measures must be revoked once the reason for them ceases; they also end by the law itself when the penal process ceases.
33 CIC, cc. 1717.2, 220; CCEO, c. 1468.2, 23. 1717, §2: Care must be taken lest anyone’s good name be endangered by this investigation. 220: No one is permitted to damage unlawfully the good reputation, which another person enjoys nor to violate the right of another person to protect his or her own privacy.
34 SST, Art. 25, §1: Cases of this nature are subject to the pontifical secret. §2: Whoever has violated the secret, whether deliberately (ex dolo) or through grave negligence, and has cause some harm to the accused or to the witnesses, is to be punished with an appropriate penalty by the higher Turnus at the request of the injured party or even ex officio.
35 CIC, c. 1395.2; CCEO, c. 1453.1: If a cleric has otherwise committed an offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of sixteen, the cleric is to be punished with just penalties, including dismissal from the clerical state if the case warrants it.
36 Cf. CIC, c. 1722; CCEO, c. 1473: To preclude scandals, to protect the freedom of witnesses and to safeguard the course of justice, having heard the promoter of justice and having cited the accused, the ordinary at any stage of the process can remove the accused from the sacred ministry or from any ecclesiastical office or function, can impose or prohibit residence in a given place or territory, or even prohibit public participation in the Most Holy Eucharist; all these measures must be revoked once the reason for them ceases; they also end by the law itself when the penal process ceases.
37 CIC, c. 221; CCEO, c. 24: The Christian faithful can legitimately vindicate and defend the rights, which they enjoy in the Church before a competent ecclesiastical court in accord with the norm of law. §2: The Christian faithful also have the right, if they are summoned to judgment by competent authority, that they be judged in accord with the prescriptions of the law to be applied with equity. §3: The Christian faithful have the right not to be punished with canonical penalties except in accord with the norm of law.
38 Cf. CIC, cc. 1339f.; CCEO, c. 1427: 1339, §1: An ordinary can admonish personally or through another person one who is in the proximate occasion of committing an offense or upon whom, after an investigation has been made, there has fallen a serious suspicion of having committed an offense. §2: An ordinary can likewise rebuke a person from whose behavior there arises scandal or serious disturbance of order in a manner accommodated to the special conditions of the person and the deed. §3: Proof of admonishment and of rebuke must always be retained, at least by some document, which is preserved in the secret archive of the curia. 1340, §1: A penance, which can be imposed in the external forum, is some work of religion, piety or charity to be performed. §2: A public penance is never to be imposed for an occult transgression. §3: An ordinary can prudently attach penances to the penal remedy of admonishment or of rebuke.
39 CIC, c. 1512,5; CCEO, c. 1194,5: The litigation begins to be pending and therefore the principle becomes operative: while a suit is pending, nothing new is to be introduced (lite pendente, nihil innovetur).
40 CIC, c. 539; CCEO, c. 298: When a parish becomes vacant or when the pastor is prevented from exercising his pastoral office in the parish due to captivity, exile, banishment, incapacity, ill health or some other cause, the diocesan bishop is to appoint as soon as possible a parochial administrator, that is, a priest who substitutes for the pastor in accord with the norm of can. 540: §1: A parochial administrator is bound by the same duties and enjoys the same rights as a pastor unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise. §2: A parochial administrator is not permitted to do anything, which can prejudice the rights of the pastor or harm parish goods. §3: After he has fulfilled his function the parochial administrator is to render an account to the pastor.
41 CIC, cc. 281, 1746; CCEO, cc. 390, 1395. 1746: When the pastor has been removed, the bishop is to provide for him through an assignment to another office, if he is suitable for this, or through a pension, as the case requires and circumstances permit. 281, §1: When clerics dedicate themselves to the ecclesiastical ministry they deserve a remuneration which is consistent with their condition in accord with the nature of their responsibilities and with the conditions of time and place; this remuneration should enable them to provide for the needs of their own life and for the equitable payment of those whose services they need. §2: Provision is likewise to be made so that they possess that social assistance by which their needs are suitably provided for if they suffer from illness, incapacity or old age. §3: Married deacons who dedicate themselves completely to the ecclesiastical ministry deserve a remuneration by which they can provide for their own support and that of their families, married deacons, however, who receive remuneration by reason of a civil profession which they exercise or have exercised are to take care of their own and their family’s needs from the incomes derived from their profession.
42 Cf. CIC, c. 273; CCEO, c. 370: Clerics are bound by a special obligation to show reverence and obedience to the Supreme Pontiff and to their own ordinary.
43 CIC, c. 1722; CCEO, c. 1473: To preclude scandals, to protect the freedom of witnesses and to safeguard the course of justice, having heard the promoter of justice and having cited the accused, the ordinary at any stage of the process can remove the accused from the sacred ministry or from any ecclesiastical office or function, can impose or prohibit residence in a given place or territory, or even prohibit public participation in the Most Holy Eucharist; all these measures must be revoked once the reason for them ceases; they also end by the law itself when the penal process ceases.
44 CIC, c. 1720; CCEO, c. 1486: If the ordinary decides that he is to proceed by a decree without a trial: 1° he is to inform the accused about the accusation and the proofs, giving the person the opportunity of self-defense unless the accused neglects to be in court after having been duly summoned; 2° he is to consider carefully the proofs and arguments with two assessors; 3° if the offense is certainly proved and the criminal action has not been terminated, he is to issue the decree in accord with cann. 1342-1350 [no perpetual penalties are allowed, only penal remedies or penances (cf. cc. 1339f.)], explaining the reasons in law and in fact, at least briefly. 1350, §1: Unless it is a question of dismissal from the clerical state [perpetual penalty], when penalties are imposed upon a cleric provision must always be made that he does not lack those things which are necessary for his decent support. §2: In the best manner possible the ordinary is to see to the care of a person dismissed from the clerical state who is truly in need due to the penalty.
45 CIC, c. 1425.1,2; CCEO, c. 1084.1,2: §1: Every contrary custom being reprobated, the following cases are reserved to a collegiate tribunal of three judges: 2° penal cases: a) concerning offenses which can entail the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state; b) concerning the imposition or declaration of excommunication.
46 Cf. CIC, cc. 1721, 1728.1, 1501-1655; CCEO, cc. 1472, 1471.1, 1185-1342. 1721, §1: If the ordinary decrees that a judicial penal process is to be begun, he is to give the acts of the investigation to the promoter of justice who is to present a libellus of accusation to the judge in accord with the norms of cann. 1502 and 1504. §2: The promoter of justice constituted as such by the higher court acts as the petitioner before that tribunal. 1728, §1: With due regard for the prescriptions of the canons of this title, unless the nature of the matter is opposed, the canons on trial in general and on ordinary contentious trials must be applied in the penal trial, observing the special norms for cases which refer to the public good.
47 If the ordinary decides that he is to proceed by a decree without a trial: 1° he is to inform the accused about the accusation and the proofs, giving the person the opportunity of self-defense unless the accused neglects to be in court after having been duly summoned; 2° he is to consider carefully the proofs and arguments with two assessors; 3° if the offense is certainly proved and the criminal action has not been terminated, he is to issue the decree in accord with cann. 1342-1350 [no perpetual penalties are allowed, only penal remedies or penances (cf. cc. 1339f.)], explaining the reasons in law and in fact, at least briefly. 1350, §1: Unless it is a question of dismissal from the clerical state [perpetual penalty], when penalties are imposed upon a cleric provision must always be made that he does not lack those things which are necessary for his decent support. §2: In the best manner possible the ordinary is to see to the care of a person dismissed from the clerical state who is truly in need due to the penalty.
48 SST, Art. 1, §1: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith according to the norm of art. 52 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus judges more grave delicts (delicta graviora) whether against morals or committed 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. Art. 2, §1: The delicts against the sanctity of the Most Holy Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Eucharist, reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for judgment are: 1° the taking or retaining for a sacrilegious purpose, or the throwing away of the consecrated species mentioned in can. 1367 of the Code of Canon Law and in can. 1442 of the Code of Canons of the Easter Churches; 2° attempting the liturgical offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice mentioned in can. 1378, §2, n.1, of the Code of Canon Law, or the simulation of the same mentioned in can. 1379 of the Code of Canon Law and in can. 1443 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches; 3° the concelebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice prohibited in can. 908 of the Code of Canon Law and in can. 702 of the Code of Canons of the Easter Churches; mentioned in can. 1365 of the Code of Canon Law and in can. 1440 of the Code of Canons of the Easter Churches, with ministers of ecclesial communities, which do not have apostolic succession and do not acknowledge the sacramental dignity of priestly ordination. §2: Also reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the delict, which consists in the consecration for a sacrilegious purpose of one matter without the other in a Eucharistic celebration. One who has perpetrated this delict is to be punished according to the gravity of the crime, not excluding dismissal or deposition. Art. 3: The delicts against the sanctity of the sacrament of Penance reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for judgment are: 1° the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, mentioned in can. 1378, §1, of the Code of Canon Law and in can. 1457 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, 2° the solicitation to a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue in the act, on the occasion, or under the pretext of confession, mentioned in can. 1387 of the Code of Canon Law and in can. 1458 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, if it is directed to sinning with the confessor himself, 3° the direct violation of the sacramental seal mentioned in can. 1388, §1, of the Code of Canon Law and in can. 1456, §1, of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
49 CIC, c. 1367; CCEO, c. 1442: A person who throws away the consecrated species or who takes them or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if a cleric, he can be punished with another penalty including dismissal from the clerical state.
50 CIC, cc. 908, 1365; CCEO, c. 702, 1440. 908: It is forbidden for Catholic priests to concelebrate the Eucharist with priests or ministers of churches or ecclesial communities, which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church. 1365: A person guilty of prohibited participation in sacred rites (communicatio in sacris) is to be punished with a just penalty.
51 CIC, c. 927: It is sinful, even in extreme necessity, to consecrate one matter without the other or even both outside the celebration of the Eucharist.
52 CIC, c. 1378.1; CCEO, c. 1457: A Priest who acts against the prescription of can. 977 [The absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue is invalid, except in danger of death.] incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.
53 CIC, c. 1387; CCEO, c. 1458: Whether in the act or on the occasion or under the pretext of confession, a priest who solicits a penitent to sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue is to be punished with suspension, prohibitions and deprivations in accord with the seriousness of the offense; and in more serious cases, he is to be dismissed from the clerical state.
54 CIC, c. 1388.1; CCEO, c. 1456.1: A confessor who directly violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if he does so only indirectly, he is to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the offense.
55 Instructio de modo procedendi in causis sollicitationis, CDF 1962.
56 CIC, c. 1438ff. 1438: With due regard for the prescription of can. 1444, §1, n. 1 [the Roman Rota tries in second instance, cases which have been adjudicated by the ordinary tribunals of first instance and brought before the Holy See by means of legitimate appeal]: 1° from the tribunal of a suffragan bishop appeal is made to the metropolitan tribunal but the prescription of can. 1439 is to be observed; 2° in cases in first instance tried before the metropolitan, appeal is made to the tribunal which he has permanently designated with the approval of the Apostolic See; 3° for cases tried before a provincial superior, the tribunal of second instance is before the supreme moderator; for cases tried before the local abbot, the tribunal of second instance is before the abbot superior of the monastic congregation. 1439, §1: If a single tribunal of first instance has been established for several dioceses in accord with the norm of can. 1423, the conference of bishops must establish a tribunal of second instance with the approval of the Apostolic See unless the dioceses are all suffragans of the same archdiocese. §2: The conference of bishops can establish one or several tribunals of second instance with the approval of the Apostolic See even beyond the cases mentioned in §1.
57 CIC, c. 1443f. 1443: The ordinary tribunal established by the Roman Pontiff to receive appeals is the Roman Rota. 1444, §1: The Roman Rota tries: 1° cases which have been adjudicated by the ordinary tribunals of first instance and brought before the Holy See by means of legitimate appeal; 2° in third and further instance, cases already tried by the Roman Rota itself or by any other tribunals whatsoever, unless the case is considered res iudicata.
58 CIC, c. 87.1; CCEO, c. 1538.1: As often as he judges that a dispensation will contribute to the spiritual good of the faithful, the diocesan bishop can dispense from both universal and particular disciplinary laws established for his territory or for his subjects by the supreme authority of the Church. He cannot dispense, however, from procedural or penal laws or from those laws whose dispensation is especially reserved to the Apostolic See or to another authority.
59 If the ordinary decides that he is to proceed by a decree without a trial: 1° he is to inform the accused about the accusation and the proofs, giving the person the opportunity of self-defense unless the accused neglects to be in court after having been duly summoned; 2° he is to consider carefully the proofs and arguments with two assessors; 3° if the offense is certainly proved and the criminal action has not been terminated, he is to issue the decree in accord with cann. 1342-1350 [no perpetual penalties are allowed, only penal remedies or penances (cf. cc. 1339f.)], explaining the reasons in law and in fact, at least briefly. 1350, §1: Unless it is a question of dismissal from the clerical state [perpetual penalty], when penalties are imposed upon a cleric provision must always be made that he does not lack those things which are necessary for his decent support. §2: In the best manner possible the ordinary is to see to the care of a person dismissed from the clerical state who is truly in need due to the penalty.
60 Pastor Bonus, 93: Without prejudice to the right of bishops and their conferences, the Congregation examines matters regarding priests and deacons of the secular clergy, with regard to their persons and pastoral ministry, and with regard to resources available to them for the exercise of this ministry, and in all these matters the Congregation offers timely assistance to the bishops.
61 Pastor Bonus, 105: The principal function of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life is to promote and supervise in the whole Latin Church the practice of the evangelical counsels as they are lived in approved forms of consecrated life and at the same time the work of societies of apostolic life.
62 Pastor Bonus, 56: The Congregation for the Oriental Churches considers those matters, whether concerning persons or things, affecting the Oriental Catholic Churches.
63 Pastor Bonus, 62: Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments does whatever pertains to the Apostolic See concerning the regulation and promotion of the sacred liturgy, primarily of the sacraments, without prejudice to the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
64 Pastor Bonus, 123, §1: The Signatura adjudicates recourse lodged within the peremptory limit of thirty useful days against singular administrative acts whether issued by the dicasteries of the Roman Curia or approved by them, whenever it is contended that the impugned act violated some law either in the decision-making process or in the procedure used. §2: In these cases, in addition to the judgment regarding illegality of the act, it can also adjudicate, at the request of the plaintiff, the reparation of damages incurred through the unlawful act. §3: The Signatura also adjudicates other administrative controversies referred to it by the Roman Pontiff or by dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as well as conflicts of competence between these dicasteries.
65 CIC, c. 1741: The reasons for which a pastor can be legitimately removed from his parish are especially the following: 1° a way of acting which is gravely detrimental or disturbing to the ecclesial community; 2° incompetence or a permanent infirmity of mind or body which renders a pastor incapable of performing his duties in a useful way; 3° loss of good reputation among upright and good parishioners or aversion to the pastor which are foreseen as not ceasing in a short time; 4° grave neglect or violation of parochial duties which persist after a warning; 5° poor administration of temporal affairs with grave damage to the Church whenever this problem cannot be remedied in any other way.
66 CIC, c. 682, §2: A religious can be removed from the office entrusted to him or her either at the discretion of the authority who entrusted it, after having notified the religious superior, or at the discretion of the superior, having notified the authority, and neither requires the consent of the other. CIC, c. 193.3; CCEO, cc. 975.2: When, in accord with the prescriptions of law, an office has been conferred on someone at the prudent discretion of a competent authority, that person can be removed from office for a cause which is, in the judgment of the same authority, considered just.
67 CIC, c. 1742.1; CCEO, c. 1391.1: If after an inquiry has been conducted, it is proven that a cause mentioned in can. 1740 is present, the bishop is to discuss the matter with two pastors from the group permanently selected for this by the presbyteral council after their being proposed by the bishop; but if subsequently he decides that the removal must take place, he is paternally to persuade the pastor to resign the pastorate within a period of fifteen days, after he has explained, for validity, the reason and the arguments for removal.
68 CIC, c. 1743, 1746; CCEO, c. 1392, 1395. 1743: A resignation by a pastor can be submitted not only purely and simply but also conditionally provided that this can be legitimately accepted by the bishop and is actually accepted. 1746: When the pastor has been removed, the bishop is to provide him through an assignment to another office, if he is suitable for this, or through a pension, as the case requires and circumstances permit.
69 CIC, c. 1745,1; CCEO, c. 1394,1: But if the pastor opposes the cause alleged for removal and its reasons, alleging reasons which appear insufficient to the bishop, in order for the latter to act validly, he is to: 1° invite the pastor to organize his challenges to removal in a written report, having inspected the acts, and also to offer proofs to the contrary, if he has any.
70 CIC, c. 1745,2f.; CCEO, c. 1394,2f.: 2° consider the matter with the same pastors mentioned in can. 1742, §1 unless others must be designated due to their inability, after has completed the instruction if necessary; 3° finally determine whether or not the pastor must be removed and promptly issue a decree on the matter.
71 CIC, c. 1734; CCEO, c. 999, 1487.1: §1: Before proposing recourse, a person must seek the revocation or emendation of the decree in writing from its author; when such a petition is proposed it is understood that the suspension of the execution of the decree is also being petitioned. §2: The petition must be made within a peremptory period of ten available days (tempus utile) from legal notice of the decree.
72 CIC, c. 1745,3, 1735; CCEO, c. 1394,3. 1745.3: finally determine whether or not the pastor must be removed and promptly issue a decree on the matter. 1735: If, within thirty days from the time when the petition mentioned in can. 1734 has come to him, the author of the decree communicates a new decree by which he corrects the prior one or decrees that the petition must be rejected, the period for recourse runs from the notice of the new decree; but if within the thirty days he decrees nothing the period runs from the thirtieth day.
73 CIC, c. 1737; CCEO, c. 1001f.: §1 One who claims to have been injured by a decree can make recourse for any just reason to the hierarchic superior of the one who issued the decree; the recourse can be proposed before the author of the decree, who must immediately transmit it to the competent hierarchic superior. §2: Recourse must be proposed within a peremptory period of fifteen available days which run from the day on which the decree was published in cases mentioned in can. 1734, §3, but in other cases they run in accord with the norm of can. 1735 [from the 30th day of no response to petition to revoke decree].
74 CIC, c. 1738; CCEO, c. 1003: The one taking recourse always has a right to use an advocate or a procurator, avoiding useless delays; and indeed an advocate ex officio is to be constituted, if the one taking recourse lacks an advocate and the superior thinks one necessary; but the superior can always command that the one taking recourse be present to be questioned.
75 CIC, c. 57.1; CCEO, c. 1518.1: As often as the law requires a decree to be issued or if an interested party legitimately presents either a petition or a recourse to obtain a decree, the competent authority should provide for the matter within three months from the receipt of the petition or recourse unless another time period is prescribed by law.
76 CIC, c. 57.2f.; CCEO, c. 1518.2f.: §2 When this period of time has passed, if the decree has not been given, the response is presumed to be negative regarding the presentation of a further recourse. §3: A presumed negative response does not exempt the competent authority from the obligation of issuing the decree and even making reparation for damages possibly incurred in accord with the norm of can. 128: Anyone who unlawfully inflicts damage upon someone by a juridic act, or indeed by any other act placed with malice or culpability, is obliged to compensate for the damage inflicted.
77 Cf. CIC, cc. 1445, 1457; CCEO, c. 1115. 1445, §2: This same tribunal [The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura] deals with contentions legitimately referred to it which arise from an act of ecclesiastical administrative power, with other administrative controversies which are referred to it by the Roman Pontiff or by the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and with a conflict of competence among these dicasteries. 1457: Judges who refuse to try a case when they are certainly and obviously competent, who declare themselves competent without any legal basis and hear and decide cases, who violate the law of secrecy or who inflict some damage on litigants out of malice or serious negligence can be punished by the competent authority with fitting penalties, including deprivation of office.
78 CIC, c. 1389; CCEO, c. 1464: §1: One who abuses ecclesiastical power or function is to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the act or omission not excluding deprivation from office unless a penalty for such abuse has already been established by a law or a precept. §2: One who through culpable negligence illegitimately places or omits an act of ecclesiastical power, ministry or function which damages another person is to be punished with a just penalty.
79 Cf. CIC, c. 1405; CCEO, c. 1060: §3: Judgment of the following is reserved to the Roman Rota: 1° bishops in contentious cases, with due regard for the prescription of can. 1419, §2: But if the action concerns the rights or the temporal goods of a juridic person represented by the bishop, the appellate tribunal judges in first instance.
80 CIC, c. 1739; CCEO, c. 1004: The superior who examines the recourse has the power, as the case requires, not only to confirm the decree or to declare it null but also to rescind, to revoke, or if it appears to the superior to be more expedient, to amend, subrogate or obrogate the decree.
81 Pastor Bonus, 123, §1: The Signatura adjudicates recourse lodged within the peremptory limit of thirty useful days against singular administrative acts whether issued by the dicasteries of the Roman Curia or approved by them, whenever it is contended that the impugned act violated some law either in the decision-making process or in the procedure used. §2: In these cases, in addition to the judgment regarding illegality of the act, it can also adjudicate, at the request of the plaintiff, the reparation of damages incurred through the unlawful act.
82 CIC, c. 1629; CCEO, c. 1310: There is no room for appeal: 1° from a sentence of the Supreme Pontiff himself or of the Apostolic Signatura; 2° from a sentence vitiated by nullity unless it is joined with a complaint of nullity according to the norm of can. 1625.
83 CIC, c. 1620f.; CCEO, c. 1303. 1620: A sentence is vitiated by irremediable nullity if: 3° the judge passed the sentence under duress from force or grave fear; 6° one person acted in the name of another without a legitimate mandate; 7° the right of defense was denied to one or other party; 8° it did not settle the controversy even partially. 1621: The complaint of nullity mentioned in can. 1620 can always be proposed by way of exception in perpetuity and by way of action before the judge who pronounced the sentence within ten years from the date of publication of the sentence.
84 CIC, c. 1624; CCEO, c. 1305: The judge who pronounced the sentence examines the complaint of nullity.
85 CIC, c. 1627; CCEO, c. 1308: Cases involving a complaint of nullity can be treated according to the norms for the oral contentious process.
86 CIC, c. 36; CCEO, c. 1512: §1: An administrative act is to be understood in accord with the proper meaning of the words and the common usage of speech. In a doubtful situation, administrative acts are subject to a broad interpretation except for the following administrative acts which are subject to a strict interpretation: those dealing with lawsuits, those threatening or inflicting penalties, those which restrict the rights of a person, those which injure the acquired rights of others, or those which benefit private individuals and are contrary to the law.
87 CIC, c. 49: An individual precept is a decree directly and legitimately enjoining a determined person or persons to do or to omit something, especially concerning the urging of the observance of a law.
88 CIC, c. 50; CCEO, c. 1517.1: Before issuing an individual decree an authority should seek out the necessary information and proofs, and also hear those whose rights can be injured, insofar as this is possible.
89 CIC, c. 51; CCEO, c. 1519.2: A decree should be issued in writing, giving, in the case of a decision, the reasons which prompted it, at least in a summary fashion.
90 CIC, c. 1425.2; CCEO, c. 1084.2: The bishop can entrust more difficult cases or cases of greater importance to the judgment of three or five judges.
91 CIC, c. 1748; CCEO, c. 1397: If the good of souls or the need or advantage of the Church requires that a pastor be transferred from his parish which he is governing usefully to another parish or to another office, the bishop is to propose the transfer to him in writing and persuade him to consent to it for the love of God and of souls.
92 CIC, c. 1749; CCEO, c. 1398: If the pastor does not intend to yield to the counsel and persuasion of the bishop, he is to explain his reasons in writing.
93 CIC, c. 1750; CCEO, c. 1399.1: Notwithstanding the reasons alleged, if the bishop judges that he is not going to change his plans, he is to discuss the reasons which favor or oppose the transfer with the two pastors chosen in accord with can. 1742, §1; if he then decides to implement the transfer, he is to repeat the paternal exhortations to the pastor.
94 CIC, c. 1751; CCEO, c. 1399.2f.: §1: When this has been done, if the pastor still refuses and the bishop thinks the transfer must be made, he is to issue a decree of transfer stating that the parish shall be vacant after the lapse of a predetermined time. §2: If this period of time has passed in vain, he is to declare the parish vacant.