The Dispatch: More from CWR...

A theory for the canonical prosecution of an ‘Uncle Ted’ type of prelate

What does canon law say about the reprehensible conduct alleged against former-Cardinal-but-still Archbishop Theodore McCarrick?

Pope Francis gestures during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 4. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

To the extent that the burgeoning crisis in the Church (one I think scarcely paralleled in Church history) now involves the Roman Pontiff, canon law is of limited—not none, but limited—value in dealing with some of its key aspects, including its most urgent aspectthe credible allegation that Pope Francis knowingly protected and even favored at least one homo-sexually active prelate and certain of his enablers in the Roman Curia and a national episcopate.

Respectful of the nature of the Church as willed by Christ, no mechanism of canon law provides for the removal of a pope from office. Even the automatic loss of papal office for heresy theorized by some saints and scholars (a theory I basically support) does not envision a process to remove a pope from office but rather declares that the conditions for loss of office have been satisfied. Because, however, I do not think that Francis has committed an act of heresy (see Canon 751) I speculate no further on this papal loss-of-office scenario and—prescinding from how Francis might eventually choose to respond to allegations against his own actions—I instead turn to what canon law has to say about the reprehensible conduct alleged against former-Cardinal-but-still Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, emeritus of the Archdiocese of Washington.

First, the canonical problem.

Canon law’s alleged inability to take cognizance of sexual relations by clerics between themselves and/or with ‘lay adults’ (a recent euphemism describing seminarians!) supposedly springs from the admittedly narrow wording of Canon 1395 even as broadened by provisions of m.p. Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela. But while I would contest that pessimistic interpretation on other grounds, conceding the inability of Canon 1395 to reach these offenses simply prompts the question as to whether other norms might yet enable a formal penal canonical response against an “Uncle Ted” kind of prelate. I think some other norms might.

Besides the sweeping powers of a pope broadly articulated by Canon 331, etc., powers conferred by Christ such that even a seriously compromised pope could still wield them for the protection of the Church, of more specific relevance to us is, among other norms,Canon 1399, the final penal norm of Book VI of the 1983 Code. Note that, as McCarrick and some others are bishops and often cardinals, the broad papal criminal authority over such figures implicit in Canon 331 is expressly recited in Canon 1405.

To be sure, Canon 1399 must be approached with caution by ecclesiastical leaders but it exists precisely because the Legislator knows that not all grave offenses, though quite deserving of punishment, can be adequately ‘pre-visioned’ in the text of the law. Because the Church sometimes needs a demonstrable way to respond to heinous but unimaginable offenses (the sexual exploitation of seminarians by bishops would be an example) Canon 1399 authorizes a “just penalty” for the “external violation of a divine … law” when the gravity of the offense “demands punishment and there is an urgent need to … repair scandal.”

Now assuming, first, that dismissal from the clerical state (laicization) of an Uncle Ted-type predator, a cleric who apparently long used his ecclesiastical positions to procure sexual victims, would be considered a “just penalty” for such conduct, and assuming, second, that there is “an urgent need to repair scandal” in such cases, nevertheless a third, necessary question remains: whether “divine law” forbids the kind of clerical sexual misconduct alleged against McCarrick. I think it does. The argument runs thus:

Sacrilege is forbidden by divine law and includes “profaning or treating unworthily … persons … consecrated to God.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 2120. Clerics, and a fortiori bishops, as persons consecrated to God, are forbidden to engage in, inter alia, sexual misconduct under pain of committing not only an offense against victims but also a “sacrilege” against themselves, this, even if the sexual relations with another were consensual. Peters, “Canonical considerations”, esp. pp. 157-167 and numerous sources cited therein. Note, moreover, that obligations arising from divine law, such as a cleric’s obligation to avoid sacrilege against his own person, are not subject to prescription. See, e.g., Canon 199.

Now, bringing these sacramental, moral, and ecclesiological values together—values represented with more or less explicitness in canon law (but which, we see now, are worthy of much better explicitation in the Code)—I think, in brief, that the Roman Pontiff could conclude that: upon achieving moral certainty regarding sacrilege committed by a cleric (let alone a bishop) against his own person, he (the pope) could punish such an offender with penalties up to and including dismissal from the clerical state regardless of when the sexual predation or exploitation was committed and irrespective of when it was discovered. The pope could, but need not, use a dicastery such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate and assess the evidence in these cases but final judgment in the case remains with him. A pope’s use of, or failure to use, such canonical measures as seem to be available to him would be subject to the judgment of history (and of God), of course, but not to that of any other power.

I am not aware that this ‘clerical sacrilege’ theory for the prosecution of prelates for sexual misconduct under Canons 331 and 1399 has been widely explored yet and, even as I reflect on it, I can anticipate some objections to the theory along with, I hasten to add, some responses to those objections, although obviously a fuller discussion of those matters goes beyond what can be attempted here. For now, I merely raise this theory of the case for consideration by those who might be called upon to deal with current and future complaints against bishops and, in the meantime, want to suggest to the faithful that, while penal canon law certainly stands in need of several reforms, it might not be, even now, quite as powerless to confront evil in episcopal ranks as some might fear.

About Edward N. Peters 111 Articles
Edward N. Peters, JD, JCD has doctoral degrees in canon and common law. Since 2005 he has held the Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. His personal blog on canon law issues in the news may be accessed at the "In the Light of the Law" site.

35 Comments

  1. Mr. Peters,
    Canon law isn’t infallible. You are inferring that Christ not only willed the Papacy but that He willed that each and all of them never be removed by other members of the Church. I suspect we will be getting a number of Julius III type Popes in the future…active gay Popes with a partner who darken the light of the Church as it should shine to the nations. Read yesterday’s America magazine…they are numerous and brash. And you’re saying Christ wills that darkening which happened in the 10th, 11th, 15th etc. centuries. Something is missing in that view. It smacks of idolatry of the papal office. Canons can be changed. Total immunity from losing the office for Popes should be.

    • yes, liberals think that 2+2=5, and that a colored faced piece on the rubics cube ‘is right’ when it is in the correct place/corner though not in the correct orientation (id est, all the colored faces are not on their proper side…); and so you correctly speak of God’s Will but do not orient It correctly to It’s correct orientation – viz., is the correct orientation to His Direct Will or Permissive Will…? You mentioned Infallibilty but have this piece of your argument cube both in the wrong place/corner and wrong orientation… Try a faithful magazine to discover these two obvious liberal wrongs and what the Truth is ‘today, yesterday and forever’…or maybe the Catechism, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Magisterial-Holy Spirit Teaching, et al… Blessings and mercies in JMJ

      • I find your post unclear in the extreme. And thanks for the condescension but I read the entire bible and the entire Summa T….how ’bout you? Did you read them?How can the Church be a light to the nations when it structurally is set up to be a flickering light periodically thanks to deficient Popes.

    • Pope Benedict had a draft of a reform of Canon Law on sanctions tending to make them more specific distributed to the Bishops’ Conferences, and I assume faculties of Canon Law, but nothing came of that. Such changes in Canon Law are possible, but they would need to be well studies and made after wide consultation. Pope Francis changed canons regarding nullity with almost no consultation and taking into account mostly the situation he experienced in Buenos Aires. We don’t need another such quickie and deficient reform of Canon Law. The so-called Dallas Charter is bad law and should never have been approved by Rome. Its application by bishops has brought another dark side to the sexual abuse crisis which is the large number of innocent priests who have been falsely accused and jailed or laicized, deprived of the right to due process and even defamed by their bishops, havinge had their names published on diocesan websites, and in such things as the recent PA AG report which contains much calumny against dead and living priests. Zero tolerance and automatic expulsion from the priesthood is a bad idea and has brought about several theological and canonical problems. The bishps at Dallas bought into the notion that the problem was “pedophilia” when two years later the John Jay report clearly shows that the problem is homosexuality. I understand that McCarrick had an important role in the formulation of the so-called Dallas Charter, which is basically knee-jerk legislation, and obviously, the likes of him had an interest in the proclamation of the pedophilia narrative. Besides, the bishops didn’t apply the same standards to themselves as to their priests. One of the negative rotten fruits of all of this is the loss of confidence of priests in their bishops. Does the Church still believe in the power of grace and the possibility of true conversion? Does it still believe in the doctrine of the priestly character? Does the Church still believe that truth and justice have to be established? I have been told that if a priest is called into the Chancery, besides getting a chill down his spine wondering what they are going to accuse him of, is advised to go there only in the company of a civil and canon lawyer. How can this be squared up with Vatican II’s teaching on the relationship between priests and their bishops? Now, having lost the confidence of their priests, bishops are up the creek even more, because the laity are furious with them due to their silence about McCarrick’s shenanigans and about their complete lack of oversight or supervision (the term bishop comes from the Greek episkopos, meaning supervision or oversight) of their own seminaries and having appointed sexually active priests as formators and professors in them, and thus having lost many good men who could have become fine priests.
      Another thing that may be needed is to break up huge diocese like LA, NY, Chicago and others. LA has 4 million Catholics, and I know that the Archbishop is just not capable of controlling what is going on there. In Ireland, there are 28 dioceses for 4.5 million Catholics, although Dublin could also be broken up. That could involve getting rid of Auxiliary Bishops. What sense does having several pastoral regions under an Auxiliary instead of creating a new diocese which the bishop could truly govern himself? The amount of bureaucracy, which has increased enormously since Vatican II should be cut back, and the Bishops’ Conference brought down to size, or radically reformed so that each bishop would truly fulfill his duties and not depend so much on Rome and the Bishops’ Conference to do what he should be doing.

  2. Surely same sex acts are forbidden by the church and always have been, as are all sexual acts against children or the vulnerable. Don’t these, in and of themselves, render the person unfit for ministry?

    • “Surely same sex acts are forbidden by the church and always have been, as are all sexual acts against children or the vulnerable. Don’t these, in and of themselves, render the person unfit for ministry?”

      It should do but now you get protected and promoted for sexual deviancy.

    • One size doesn’t fit all. Suppose you have a priest who after say 40 years of fruitful ministry was accused of some act and there is only one accusation and this is actually impossible to prove and should have prescribed. If it can be proven, then some canonical penalties could be imposed, but not laicization, for reasons I have mentioned in another comment. In the U.S. there is a great incentive to make false accusations as the bishops have handed out astronomical sums of money, advised by lawyers and insurance companies. In the case of Public School teachers and employees, where sexual abuse of minors is maybe 10 times worse than among Catholic clergy, the victim has only 90 days to report the matter. Why doesn’t the PA AG investigate them? Because the powerful teachers’ unions don’t allow it?
      I am not minimizing sins against the 6th commandment by clergy, but we have be base our judgment on truth and justice, which is mostly lacking in the press. Obviously, there are cases which merit laicization, those. However, what does a priest do once he has been laicized? He is not likely to be hired and will probably be under great stress and supposing that he has a tendency towards Same-Sex Attraction, which can be minimized by means or proper therapy and spiritual formation, being kicked out only makes him more likely to fall into more sins. SSA is not a black and white affair. It is more of a spectrum. In any case, do you know how many “credible” accusations of sexual abuse of minors there have been in 2015 among the 39,000 U.S. priests? FIVE, and similar numbers. The problem is priests who have assumed the gay identity and lifestyle. Those with SSA who don’t have this deep-seated homosexual identity can be helped to live a chaste life with the combination of therapy, spiritual life and friendship and priestly fraternity. However, these should not be accepted in a seminary until they have overcome that problem, and much less ordained. If they are already priests, then the Church should not boot them out, but help them to live their commitment to celibacy, as it has to do with heterosexual priests and lay Catholics who do feel SSA but with the grace of God live chastity.
      Another fact is that the vast majority of the cases are not anal penetration, but other acts of lesser gravity, although of course not allowed for celibate priests.
      Civil laws are made to apply to all cases, but Canon Law is more open to dispensations and equitative application to each case, as the purpose of the Church is the salvation of souls and of its sanctions, the conversion of the sinner.

      • Unfortunately Fr Thomas the track record of men who engage in sex with other men is persistence. There may be instances in what you propose when a priest can be rehabilitated but the risk and chance of positive outcome are great for the former [risk and recurrence] quite narrow for the latter. The crux of our dilemma is simply put homosexual behavior. Although it may seem too severe to you and others there can be no compromise. Otherwise we fall back into the previous pattern, the trap of identifying mitigating factors and ensuring continuance of what must be purged from the Church. Pope John Paul II initially decided no one with same sex attraction can be admitted to the seminary. Under pressure he mitigated that allowing men with actually committed homosexual acts if they were three years past. That’s utter nonsense. The salvation of souls is too important than finding ways to admit homosexuals.

    • Our priest, in a Q&A after a session on “Building Bridges” to the LGBT community, using Fr. James Martin’s book as a guide, asserted that sex outside of marriage in a “committed, loving relationship” is “chastity”.

      So not all believe Catholic doctrine anymore, apparently including many priests, bishops and cardinals, unfortunately.

  3. “Uncle Ted Type Predators” include by complicity “Uncle Ted Type Enablers”. That expands the sentence of sacrilege. Your fellow canon lawyer Msgr Gerald Murray said on Arroyo’s World-Over that if the Pontiff demands the Uncle Ted types resign then he should be held to his own standard. That is voluntary of course [the Pontiff is again discussing his resignation due to age and lack of competence]. The canonical sentence of sacrilege if argued will likely be met by argument regarding conscience and culpability in today’s progressive climate. Although the original idea presented in this article if feasible should pursued. Any reasonable argument should be made to pressure the offenders.

    • A pope, who prior to his election, would deny an element of The Deposit of Faith, that which has been handed down from Christ, through Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and The Teaching of The Magisterium, and thus by denying an element of The Deposit of Faith, and the fact that “It is not possible to have Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion”, due to The Unity of The Holy Ghost (Filioque), would err in regards to Faith and Morals, and expose himself to be anti Christ, and thus anti Peter.
      Priort to being elected pope, Francis condoned same-sex sexual relationships that he defind as “private, do not include children, and are not called marriage”, and thus, according to Francis, “there is neither a third party, nor is society affected”.

      Catholics recognize Our Call To Holiness, is a Call to be chaste in our thoughts, in our words, and in our deeds, as we are Called to be “Temples of The Holy Ghost”. Private morality and public morality cannot serve in opposition to one another, due to The Unity of The Holy Ghost.

      Those who deny The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, deny that God Is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage, and thus by denying The Most Holy And Undivided Blessd Trinity, are apostates.

      An apostate cannot serve In Persona Christi.

  4. Thanks for this analysis!
    It sounds as if canon law needs reform to make a Pope liable to strong penalties for certain classes of action, including cover-ups. I make no claim about the culpability of the current Pope, pending further (necessary investigation). Perhaps canonical penalties on a Pope can serve as a future deterrent for any situations that can create incalculable damage in the Church. Plus underscore that Popes can be culpable, imperfect human beings.

    That said, I wonder what can or should be done in civil law. Here are some questions that I think are quite relevant, independently of what canon law has to say. There is very little public discussion as yet about how to answer these questions.

    1.
    **If** Vigano’s allegations about the Pope prove true, are there *any* provisions in Vatican City State civil law (even if just by reasonable inference from the spirit of extant its laws), to handle cover-ups of abuse — by a Pope or high-ranking Vatician officials?

    At first glance, one might think: of course, civil procedures would naturally not be possible in the current formulation of the relevant laws in these places. So why even ask? On the other hand, the Wikipedia article about the law of Vatican City suggests that the issue might be much more complex than it might seem at first.

    2.
    If there are no ways to penalize a Pope or high-level clerics in Vatican City civil law, does this not suggest a need to change the law? Obviously, there are dangers in inviting secular officials outside Vatican City to intervene. The point though is that Vatican City civil law should be changed, so that penalties in civil law are handled internally and with full, condign justice.

    3.
    Civil law handling of Papal wrongdoing–not to mention high level clerics–may challenge the presumption of immunity that likely pervades the highest levels of the hierarchy. They have to be held to the same standards as the rank and file priest, on pains of a sort of super-clericalism.

    4.
    These questions pertain to civil law, which is distinct from canon law. But perhaps there is need of a change in canon law, to faciliate or promote adjudication in Vatican City civil law of hierarchical abuses as a supplement to penalties in canon law?

    5. What historical discussions have there been about a Pope being subject to civil law?

    I’m way out of my depth on all these issues and hope authors, who have the requisite expertise, can comment.

    Certainly these issues are going to become quite salient in the press in coming days, depending on what further (again, necessary) objective investigation brings up. So let’s get the discussion started.

    • I think the Church will have the key to this. Even if civil law prosecuted Uncle Ted or even the Pope their judgements would not impact the powers of either Uncle Ted or the Pope in the life of the Church.

      For the Church to overcome hypocrisy and scandal it has, in the first instance take care of the situation at that order of ecclesial powers. If that judgement means civil authorities then that is part of the whole judgement.

      My essential point is that only the Church can remove their ecclesial powers.

      • The ecclesial powers of the Pope and high level clerics must indeed be removed when they are involved in covering up and facilitating abuse. But this can’t be done without there also being civil penalties. To use your phrase, there must be a whole judgment.

        There has to be consistency in applying natural justice to any member of the Church, regardless their status. The Church already is now playing an active role in facilitating civil procedures against rank and file priests and recognizes that the latter have to be penalized in civil law.

        But the inconsistency of treatment in civil law thus far between the higher ups on the one hand, and rank and file priests they oversee on the other, is breathtaking. The higher ups rightfully hand over priests to civil authorities. But mechanisms within the Church need developing so that the higher ups themselves are not immune to the same penalties. Arguably the culpability of the higher ups is even greater than those of the rank and file, since the former have played such an important role in perpetuating the atmosphere of systematic cover-ups. They have maintained this sick status quo.

        There is also a matter here of restoring confidence in the Church. Path forward the Church has to reestablish its credibility, and therefore its countercultural efficacy. by showing the seriousness of its commitment to handling the problem of abuse. The best way to do this by showing the world that it can develop a really comprehensive and well-designed system of laws and procedures.

        Reform of the Church can only come–and endure–if canon law defines clear and unambiguous procedures for removal of ecclesial powers–including those of a wayward Pope– but also for facilitating civil procedures against high level clerics. The civil procedures could be those of Vatican City or guidelines for cooperation with civil authorities in other countries.

        Typo in my posting, incdentially; sentence should read:
        At first glance, one might think: of course, civil procedures would naturally not be possible in the current formulation of the relevant laws in Vatican City.

        • Here’s the thing: SOMEONE has the final word. Maybe you think it should be some sort of vote of the laity, like the voters in the United States; maybe you think it should be some sort of panel of experts chosen by … somebody? like the U.S. Supreme Court. I think you will see the problem right away. There is no guarantee that voters will make wise or virtuous decisions, whether we are talking about the American public or the Catholic laity; nor there is there any guarantee that an aristocracy, whether of justices or of Catholic lay experts, will make wise or virtuous decisions.

          “The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.” — Hilaire Belloc
          Because knavish imbecility is a consequence of the Fall, it is inescapable.

    • Yes, you are out of your depth. There is an ancient principle which goes “Prima Sedes non iudicatur”, The Roman See cannot be judged by anyone, and thus the Pope. It was always considered in the early centuries to be the court of final appeal, and the idea that the Roman See would promote heresy was not contemplated. Also, you confuse the purpose of civil law and canon law. The Church’s whole purpose is the salvation of souls, even the most heinous offenders. Civil law is about justice in a society and the common good.
      There is no tribunal of any sort that can judge a sitting pope. If PF stonewalls and refuses to resign in spite of overwhelming evidence that he has covered Uncle Ted’s and other sexual abuse, no one can force him out. All that could be done is to try to convince him to resign for the good of the Church, but if he refuses, then nothing can be done. According to theologians like St. Robert Bellarmine and Francisco Suárez, if he fell into formal heresy, which is not the present case, he would automatically exclude himself from the office of Pope. Argentinians, who probably know him better, think that he will never resign and hold out to the bitter end. Of course, he could resign and give failing health as the motive, which nobody would believe. I don’t expect him to declare that he is resigning due to covering up the Uncle Ted case.

      • Because it is an ancient principle, does not mean it is subject to revision or challenge. That was one point of the posting, which I thought was clear.
        Also, I’m aware of the distinction between canon and civil law. My comments do not confuse them, but suggest their reconceptualization. Thought this was clear.

        • The following document suggests that internal norms for the governance of the Church can include reference to civil law. See there reference here to “Essential Norms”: http://www.usccb.org/upload/FAQs-canonical-process-sexual-abuse.pdf
          “According to the Essential Norms, which constitute law on sexual abuse
          of minors for the dioceses of the United States, the investigation should be conducted promptly and objectively. The Essential Norms also require the bishop to follow all civil reporting laws when the allegation concerns the sexual abuse of minors. Church officials are also to cooperate with civil authorities in their own investigations.”
          It would be interesting to hear a lot more about the canonical status of these “Essential Norms”. Presumably there are provisions for their enunciation in the 1983 canon law, by inference? If they are not there even implicitly, might some future revision of canon law enunciate or crystallize a similar norm explicitly for all regions of the world? This might help restore the Church’s credibility, plus help remedy a very old problem in the Church.
          I’m not so sure that the longstanding distinction between canon law and civil law is, or should be, as neat as Fr. Hennigan suggests. Why not admit areas of interaction between these two types of law, while recognizing their superarching distinction? It might be worthwhile to do an audit of those elements of canon law that implicitly reference and interact with other types of law (e.g., civil, but also natural), to understand the complexity of their relationships and how they are not necessarily siloed off.
          P.S. typo in above, should read: just because *canon* law does not provide for deposition of a Pope for (say) a cover-up–not to mention any number of other possible moral offenses–does not mean that canon law should not subject to revision in this respect. I wonder whether the lack of a provision for a deposition in this case doesn’t feed into a sort of super-clericalism that may be one contributing factor in the current crisis. To this, I would add that very little appears by way of what civil procedures are appropriate against a pontiff who is engaged in cover-ups. If that is what is happening in this pontificate. (The info at this point underdetermines any possible conclusion now.)

        • Exactly. It may be ancient but that means zilch if such a principle prevents the Church to be a light to all men. We are a flickering light to some…not a light at all to many potential converts if they fear leaving their child in a penance room with a priest. Since we have no idea…who is good or who is bad ourselves.
          Luther was 9 years old when Pope Alexander VI began his papacy and 20 years old when that papacy ended…which was the fornicating Cardinal/ Pope with 7 children…one with a married 25 year old…thus add in adultery. From the time Luther was 20 til he was 30, Pope Julius II was Pope and he had three daugthers while Cardinal. That behaviour plus Julius III the gay Pope (1550-1555) gave northern Europe even more reasons to leave the Church….plus a Japanese official toured Europe in the early 17th century and probably went back to Japan with a lot of such unseemly blocks to conversion…or blocks to even seeing the essence of Christianity.

  5. Talk about legal justice? Cannon law is rigged! The real disgrace may be that civil law is not involved in the process. As for heads of state, like Trump and any Pope, no one should be above the law!

    • It’s certainly good to hear that “legal justice”, as you call it, is not rigged! I wonder if that applies in every country, or just the good ol’ U.S. of A.?

    • No, canon law is inadequate for this situation but not rigged. There is a possible way forward within Canon Law…that is the point of his writing…(stand corrected if I am being overly optimistic!).

    • “It’s pouring rain so I can’t have a picnic.”
      Morgan’s reply: “Trump! Ordain women!”

      “A train derailed.”
      Morgan’s reply: “Trump! Ordain women!”

      “Drat, I just stubbed my toe.”
      Morgan’s reply: “Trump! Ordain women!”

      “The eruption of Krakatoa caused considerable destruction.”
      Morgan’s reply: “Trump! Ordain women!”

  6. Thank you Mr Peters. I studied Canon Law only a tiny bit but loved it. When I read you article I did so several times and quickly found myself reading between the lines. I say this so you can correct me if I am wrong.

    I found Canon 1399 ‘the breach in the wall’ in which case there was a certain freedom instantiated by the legislators to find a way forward to address the unforeseen.

    Brilliant!

    It is certainly true that the First See can be judged by no one. But the First See is under Christ. Christ abhors hypocrisy and scandal which threatens the capacity of the universal Church to teach.

    I pray and hope that those in a position to formulate a sound response to the hypocrisy and scandal which threatens to utterly undo the Church will not find they have no way forward for the sake of Christ and His Church. Perhaps you have had something to add in this way, I do not know.

    At this time true Canonists are our best hope for a solid response.

    God Bless you.

  7. So even if the bishop of Rome were a serial killer, found guilty by the civil courts, and imprisoned, there would be no way or rationale to disenthrone him or remove him from office? Does that even sound reasonable?

    • Very good question. Sol I’m convinced that if such were to occur the Church would [at least must] act as a body and remove him. The Eternal law and its requisite Justice rises above any canonical restriction.

    • Yes! It is indeed unreasonable, if there is not a clear mechanism for deposing a wayward Pope. (Again, innocent until proven guilty; the available information undetermines judgment about the current Pope–at this point, though there are many reasons for concern.)

      A commission of sound canon lawyers needs to work with civil lawyers to craft new laws, both canon law and their relationship to civil law–including (or particularly) Vatican City civil law, as it pertains to a Pope and his inner circle. There need to be well defined procedures for facilitating penalties within civil law, including those of Vatican City.

      **We certainly don’t need media speculation about whether, e.g., Wuerl can be whisked to the City to evade prosecution!**

      The mere announcement of the forming of such a commission could do tremendous good to control damage in this environment. It will show that the institutional Church is handling the matter. Which it is not, at this moment, because it does not have the resources to do so. Incalculable damage has now been done.

      I would also argue too for a full scale revision of canon law to make it more transparent. It is so much the purview of experts, a real specialty. We need that specialty, of course, but it seems that every time someone needs to interpret law (at least on many issues), a layperson will easily be bewildered. Constitutional law is similarly murky in many respects and full of ambiguity and imprecisions, but at least a layperson can get a sense of what’s going on.

      • How did it work out for England when the English government removed protestant heretics from the Church? I’ll tell you, the government decided it didn’t want Catholics either, and hundreds of years of mass murder and confiscation of Church property ensued.

        That is what you get when you put the government over and above the Church.

        • Your comments would not apply if the Church itself played a role in defining the civil law of the Vatican City and making it suitably punitive for the crimes incurred.
          Also, I think almost everyone agrees that handing over abusers to civil authorities is a good idea, e.g. as it has happened in the U.S. . Do you disagree? I hope not.
          Yes, there can be problems if a civil authority is incapable of meting out condign justice. But well-designed canon law applicable to handing over clerics to civil authorities could help this.

    • Julius III (1550-1555) was an active homosexual and madly in love with a young guy named Innocenzio whom he made cardinal at about 18 and granted him a salary of 12,000 ducates and a whole lot of properties. Before being pope, he also had him adopted by his brother so that he could be considered his nephew. Later, when the pope was dead, Innocenzio lead a dissolute life and murdered several people as well as other crimes. Bot are buried in the Church of Santa María sul Monte. Also in the Villa Giulia which he had built, there are some pornographic frescoes. Twenty years after his death Pope St. Pius V was elected, So, we cannot exclude that the mess the Church is in will not be followed by a period of great reform and a return to the authentic Tradition. It wouldn’t be the first time such a thing has happened. It may be that Archbishop Viganó is he first providential step towards such a major clean up in the Church and a return to authentic doctrine as well as a correction of some of the aspects of Vatican II.

  8. The ‘clerical sacrilege’ theory for the prosecution of prelates for sexual misconduct under Canons 331 and 1399 expounded by Mr. Peters exposes brilliantly, if unintentionally, the woeful inadequacy of canon law to address the heinous sins and outrageous civil crimes and canonical delicts that Archbishop Vigano’s accusations identify. As several other commenters here have pointedly noted and as both Faith and reason confirm, a pope’s incumbency in office is intended solely and exclusively for the good of the Church and the salvation of souls, not as a license for a pope to promote consciously and deliberately sins that “cry out to heaven for vengeance” with lies, hypocrisy, terror, and repression. A pope who thus acts shows himself not as a Vicar of Christ but as a Judas and a devil. The root of such conduct can only be apostasy and heresy which do not require one to “dig, dig, dig” in order to bring them to the light of day. In the infallible words of Eternal Wisdom it is “by their fruits ye shall know them”. Where there is moral deviance, there is doctrinal deviance and where there is doctrinal deviance, there is moral deviance. One does not need to chase recondite and obscure will-o’-the-wisp canonical theories to see that a morally evil pope is also a doctrinally heretical pope who not only can but even more must be deposed and consigned to the outer darkness where he belongs.

    • So the Church’s own law is inadequate and the government isn’t? So you want to put the government above the Church?

      Whey is the law inadequate according to you? Because you find the Pope disagreeable and are angry you have no way to get rid of him because you personally disagree with him.

      That is a dangerous position to take. By this same reasoning, who is to stop anyone who finds you disagreeable from getting rid of you? Or from getting rid of the Church when the government finds her disagreeable?

      • Please point out to me where I have said “the government above the Church” in my comment. It does not exist since I never wrote such a thing. Even a 1st grade elementary school student who is learning to read would immediately realize that. What I find disagreeable are your truculent and obtuse accusations that have no relation to anything I wrote, anything I sought to address, or anything that is germane to the subject at hand. I suggest that you take your medications and return to your anger-management session.

  9. Please point out to me where I have said “the government above the Church” in my comment. It does not exist since I never wrote such a thing. Even a 1st grade elementary school student who is learning to read would immediately realize that. What I find disagreeable are your truculent and obtuse accusations that have no relation to anything I wrote, anything I sought to address, or anything that is germane to the subject at hand. I suggest that you take your medications and return to your anger-management session.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. A theory for the canonical prosecution of an ‘Uncle Ted’ type of prelate -
  2. Viganò Watch: Saturday Edition – Big Pulpit
  3. Je l’admets: le catholicisme est irréfutable. – Phileo-sophia
  4. Le postmodernisme des catholiques du XXIe siècle – Phileo-sophia

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