The Church’s new penal system

Book deals with the Vatican’s new penal regulations promulgated by Pope Francis in June this year.

Venice – Italy (19/12/2021 21:00, Gaudium Press) The presentation of the book “The new penal system of the Church” by Prof. Dr. Bruno Fabio Pighin took place at the St. Pius X Canon Law Faculty of the Patriarchate of Venice.

In June this year, Pope Francis promulgated, with the Apostolic Constitution Pascite gregem, the new penal normative, the fruit of a process begun more than ten years ago on the initiative of Pope Benedict XVI, with consultation with all the pastors and multiple organisms of the universal Church. Among the canonists who worked on this adaptation of the Church’s legislation is Professor Pighin. His book becomes the first to comment on the normative; thus Pope Francis himself, aware of the publication, asked for a copy for himself.

The Patriarch of Venezia, Francisco Moraglia, opened the session by explaining how the new pastoral and salvific needs of the Church required adaptation, taking into account the human weakness of the men who compose it in the state of viators.

Two professors of Ecclesiastical Penal Law summarised the value of the publication. Prof. Davide Cito of the Holy Cross University in Rome and Prof. Giuseppe Comotti of the Venetian Faculty.

In his speech, Dr. Cito explained how the previous legislation left open many doors to “discretionality” in the application of penalties; that is, bishops, judges could apply penalties or not for canonical offences committed and proven. This gave rise to a mistaken understanding of the indispensable need to safeguard the necessary restitution of Justice, the reparation of scandals, and the amendment of the accused that every ecclesiastical offence implies. Recalling the conversation of Zacchaeus, when he received Our Lord into his house, he quoted the Redeemer’s words: “Today salvation has come into this house”, which only happened after the publican had publicly declared his intention of reparation for the wrongs done. At times this need for reparation, even with public retraction of the errors committed or the scandal caused, is fundamental so that Justice may be re-established, and the scandal in the People of God ceases.

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Prof. Comotti pointed out how the book clearly explains that the new Church legislation promulgated by Pope Francis, is not just an adjustment of details, but the product of years of study and analysis of the experiences of the previous normative, currently aiming at a change of perspectives, longed for by both Pope Benedict XVI, and the current pontiff. The penal system must assume, in the Church willed by Christ, a relevant role in the exercise of all authority, in the protection of the rights of the faithful, in particular of the victims. Among the novelties included in the new legislation is the explicit declaration of the presumption of innocence of any accused, the need to always allow the right of defense, whether in judicial or administrative proceedings, and the absolute necessity, on the part of whoever applies a sentence, to have moral certainty of the guilt of the accused.

Prof. Pighin’s work has a Foreword by Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, in which, among other praises, he highlights the audacity of this publication, which comes to light after the promulgation by Pope Francis of the new penal normative of the Church, in June this year, and before its entry into force, which took place on 12 December 2021.

By José Manuel Jiménez Aleixandre


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