More information regarding the soon-to-be-announced modifications to the Vatican's canonical guidelines for dealing with abusive priests and other sins came to the surface on Thursday. In addition to the previously leaked content, sins such as the attempted ordination of women and "crimes against the faith" will also be addressed by the pending Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) document.
Details of possible modifications have been produced by unnamed Vatican sources all week concerning the content of a new document that will update the Church's legal procedures for recognizing and punishing the most serious sins.
Reports concur across the board that there will be changes in the process of trying priests who have sexually abused minors, and that there will be an increase in the statute of limitations in these cases from the current 10 years to 20 years after the victim turned 18 years old.
According to the Mexican news agency Notimex, which cited unnamed Vatican sources, the scope of the 2001 decree will also be extended to include not only the "delicta graviora," or most serious sins, but a number of other sins typically examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, even though those sins are not mentioned in the 2001 decree.
This means that sins considered to be "less serious" will be officially subject to the same judicial procedures that were previously reserved in canon law only for sins against the Eucharist, the sacrament of Penance and sexual abuse of minors.
Sins such as the attempted ordination of women to the priesthood and the "crimes against the faith" of heresy, schism and apostasy, that have until now been investigated by the CDF only on an extraordinary basis will fall under their official jurisdiction, thus clearing up any confusion as to where cases must be reported. In other words, it formalizes procedures that may have been followed in practice, but were never made official.
According to the July 8 Notimex report, possession and distribution of child pornography will also be declared "serious sins" and, in cases in which they have been found guilty in civil courts, perpetrators could be sentenced without a canonical trial.
The modifications should be promulgated in the coming days, bearing the signature of the prefect of the CDF, Cardinal William Levada, and accompanied by notes explaining the changes and the history of the legislation.