Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Private Letter concerning the faculty to remit the censures of canon 1364 and 1398, 8 April 2014.
Pontifical Council for Legislative TextsProt. N. 14452/2014
Vatican City, 8 April 2014
We have received your careful and detailed letter of 28 February 2014 (ad acta Prot. N. 14452/2014 of 17 March 2014) in which you inquired if the censures (specifically, excommunication) reserved to the delicts of canon 1364 and 1398 were reserved to the ordinary.
The internal forum, as is evident in the codal norm, is a juridic forum; within it is exercised the one potestas regiminis existing in the Church (canon 129 CIC): it also entails the execution of acts of jurisdiction which are occult, not public.
To absolve the censure is it necessary to have jurisdiction: the priest with permission to hear confessions can absolve sins, but this permission is not jurisdiction (juridical power to remove canonical penalties) and he cannot absolve (remove) any type of censure, unless he is given explicitly the delegated faculty to do so (except for the well-known case of canon 1357).
Except for cases reserved to the Apostolic See, the diocesan ordinary, by his own faculty, can absolve from latae sententiae penalties those who are juridically his subjects. Within the act of confession, having jurisdiction to absolve from these censures are all bishops (canon 1355 § 2 CIC), the diocesan penitentiary (canon 508 CIC), and the chaplain of hospitals, prisons, sea voyages, etc. (canon 566 § 2 CIC).
The priest who does not have this faculty and receives a penitent with a censure must defer absolution since he has not received such a faculty, asking the penitent to return at a suitable time or, even better, he must apply canon 1357, that is, he absolves the penitent, imposes a penance, and asks the penitent to return in order that the decision of the superior be communicated. As you know, in order to cater pastorally to the faithful, the recourse can also be made through the confessor.
Hoping to have complied with your request, we take this opportunity to extend best regards, and best wishes for the coming Easter celebrations.
+Juan Ignacio Arrieta
Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Private Letter concerning the faculty to remit the censures of canon 1364 and 1398, 8 April 2014, translated by John A. Renken (25 February 2017).