VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John
Paul II said the Church should rigorously apply canon-law sanctions
against priests who commit crimes, and suggested the best guarantee for
the future is “correct and balanced” priestly formation.
The key lies in the priests living “with joy and generosity the style of
a humble, modest and chaste life which is the practical foundation of
ecclesiastical celibacy,” the Pope said today when greeting participants
of the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In his address, the Holy Father said he was saddened by the “noteworthy
increase” in the last two years of the number of disciplinary cases that
the Vatican congregation had to address given the “crimes against
morals” (“delicta contra mores”) attributed to priests.
In his 2001 letter “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela,” John Paul II
established certain crimes of priests reserved to the judgment of the
doctrinal congregation. They are, specifically, crimes against the faith
(for example, apostasy or heresy), against the sacraments (sacrilegious
acts, etc.), and against customs (in particular, pederasty).
“Canonical norms applied with justice and fairness tend to guarantee the
exercise of the right of defense of the accused as well as the needs of
the common good,” the Pope said.
Once there is evidence of the crime, it is “necessary to consider
thoroughly the just principle of proportionality between guilt and
punishment, as well as the predominant need to protect the People of
God,” he stressed.
However, the problem of the scandals of priests “does not depend solely
on the application of the canonical penal law,” the Holy Father said.
“Its best guarantee,” he added, “lies in the correct and balanced
formation of future priests, called in an explicit way to embrace with
joy and generosity the style of a humble, modest and chaste life which
is the practical foundation of ecclesiastical celibacy.”
John Paul II asked all the organizations of the Holy See “responsible
for the formation of seminarians and of the clergy to adopt the
necessary measures to assure that priests live in conformity to their
call and to their commitment to perfect and perpetual chastity for the
Kingdom of God.”