Offense by a Cleric
against the Sixth Commandment
with a Minor

The Code determines in various canons what is meant by a minor and an adult. This varies according to the matter at hand, e.g., the reception of baptism, consent for marriage. Concerning an offense against the sixth commandment by a cleric with a minor, in c. 1395, §2 the 1983 Code determined this by stating "with a minor below the age of sixteen years" (cum minore infra aetatem sedecim annorum). This same age was specified in the 1917 Code: "cum minoribus infra aetatem sexdecim annorum" (c. 2359, §2). Sixteen years of age means the day after a person’s birthday unless the individual was born at midnight (see cc. 202-203).

Effective April 25, 1994, a derogation for the United States from the Code of Canon Law concerning offenses against the sixth commandment committed by a cleric with a minor was granted for a period of five years: "With regard to canon 1395, §2, 2_: this norm is to be applied to delicts committed with any minor as defined in canon 97, §1, and not only with a minor under sixteen years of age." This derogation was given a ten year extension to take effect on April 26, 1999.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its letter Ad exsequendam ecclesiasticam legem of May 18, 2001, implementing the apostolic letter motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, of April 30, 2001 promulgating the norms on the more serious offenses reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith modified this norm and raised for the universal Church the age of the minor to eighteen: "Delictum contra mores, videlicet: delictum contra sextum Decalogi praeceptum cum minore infra aetatem duodeviginti annorum a clerico commissum" (A delict against morals, namely: the delict committed by a cleric against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with a minor below the age of eighteen years).

Since neither the special 1994 derogation for the United States nor Ad exsequendam ecclesiasticam legem is retroactive, only those acts are considered to be an offense as set forth by c. 1395, §2 if the minor had completed his/her sixteen year prior to April 25, 1994. The age of eighteen applies to those delicts committed after that date.

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