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Vatican official says church law adequate for sex abuse cases

While American bishops will meet next month to determine national policies regarding priestly sexual misconduct, the Vatican's top canon law official has pointed out that existing Church law already provides adequate means of addressing the problem.

In a speech he delivered at the University of Milan last week, Archbishop Julian Herranz said that the Church has the canonical structures in place to handle questions of priestly sexual misconduct.

For example, the archbishop observed that the Code of Canon Law (#1395) already prescribes the penalty of laicisation for priests who are guilty of pedophilia.

Archbishop Herranz, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, was one of the Vatican officials involved in the recent "summit meeting" with the leadership of the US bishops' conference.

Archbishop Herranz also suggested that Catholic officials cannot rely entirely on secular authorities to handle such issues, since the Church's own canonical structure is designed to promote the confidence of the faithful in the integrity of the Church and her mission.

"The Church certainly recognises the authority of the civil judicial authorities in the cases that concern crimes in the civil realm," the archbishop said. "But the Church cannot renounce her own juridical and disciplinary instruments, that are designed for the specific requirements of ecclesial justice."

Code of Canon Law: Offences and Punishments in General
Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts


13 May 2002