Pope Says "Balanced" Formation Will Help Avoid Future Scandals
Calls for Rigorous Sanctions against Priests Who Commit Crimes
Zenit.org [Vatican City]
February 6, 2004
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 customs" ("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."
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