Monsignor Charles Scicluna took part in a press briefing on Thursday for the release of modified Vatican norms on how to examine and punish cases involving the "most serious sins." He fielded a number of questions as to its content but underscored the importance of ongoing action for successfully bringing about change in the Church.
Journalists in the Holy See's Press Office spoke of the encounter as "unseen since the days of Cardinal Ratzinger." The Maltese promotor of justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith fielded questions on complex matters with apparent ease, answering journalists' queries regarding many aspects of the updates to the Motu Proprio of 2001 in both English and Italian.
About the concern in the media that sexual abuse against minors was being equated with the attempted ordination of women in the eyes of canon law, Msgr. Scicluna said in English, "They are not on the same level." Serious sins are divided into those against Christian morality and those committed during the administration of the sacraments, he explained.
Sexual abuses of minors and child pornography are the graver sins and represent "an egregious violation of moral law." And while the attempted ordination is grave, it's "on another level," he said, explaining that it is a wound that goes against the Catholic faith and the sacrament of Holy Orders.
"So they are (both) grave but on different levels," Msgr. Scicluna said, noting in Italian that their comparison is incidental as both "are found in the only document that attempts to put in order all of the competence on the delicts that are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
He also defended Pope Benedict XVI's stance on the obligation to obey civil law in cases of sexual abuse of minors. Msgr. Scicluna said the Pope has been "very clear. The Christian obeys civil law when it is just and there is no doubt that in this case civil law is just."
The promotor of justice added that when the law allows the victim to choose whether or not to report a crime, their wishes must also be respected.
He also called an additional wording that gives the CDF the ability to examine the actions of Church prelates and functionaries an "important signal because it means that the congregation will be able to investigate and then submit its results to the Pope."
On behalf of the CDF, Msgr. Scicluna thanked the Holy Father for his "stamp" on the revision of the norms.
"So," he concluded, "I think this is a very important step from the point of canon law, from a technical point. But, a document is always a document, it does not solve all the problems. It is a very important instrument, but it is the way you use the instrument that is going to have the real effect on the Church."