Priestly sexual misconduct must be prevented at seminaries, Pope says

In a long speech addressed to members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope John Paul II said that canonical norms must be applied to punish priestly sexual misconduct, but the true solution of the problem lies at seminaries.

In the final part of his speech, the Pope addressed a “delicate and current question,” the “noteworthy increase” in disciplinary cases of “delicta graviora” –grave crimes- including “delicta contra mores” –crimes against social mores.

He said that 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”.

“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.”

“This,” he continued, “does not depend solely on the application of the canonical penal law, but finds greater guarantee in the just 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.”  “Therefore,” the Pontiff concluded, “I invite your congregation to collaborate with the other dicasteries of the Roman Curia 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.”

On April 30 2001, the Pope published the Motu Proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela  about the moral crimes reserved to the judgment of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

In that document the Pontiff reserved to this Congregation all moral crimes related to faith (like heresy or apostasy,) the sacraments (like acts of sacrilege) and crimes against social mores (all types of sexual misconduct).

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