Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Processing cases of graviora delicta, 2 March 2010, Private.

On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, Father Lawrence Jurcak, Father Michael Joyce, CM and Sister Sharon Euart, RSM met with Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice and Monsignor Robert Deeley on the occasion of the CLSA officers’ biennual visit to the Holy See. During the meeting Monsignor Scicluna offered suggestions to assist canonists in the processing of cases forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was agreed that he would review and approve a summary report of his observations that would be shared with the membership of the Canon Law Society of America. Below are the highlights of the discussion.

Preparation of Graviora Delicta causes:

* Every element included in the tabella should be documented.

* All elements of the tabella should be completed.

* The priest should be heard before the cause is sent to CDF. Msgr. Scicluna noted that this practice is praeter legem in the Latin code but it is contained in the Oriental code.

* The bishop should include all of the information that he has about the priest so that Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has the same information. This includes psychological evaluations.

* The votum of the ordinary is very important. The bishop is aware of the implications of the allegation and conveys that through his opinion to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

* The votum must address the accusation and the imputability of the accused.

* It must indicate what procedure is recommended to resolve the issue and explain why that procedure is requested.

* It must explain the status of any civil proceedings.

* It must address the age of the accused and his prospects for future ministry.

* It should present any other issue that the ordinary finds significant regarding the priest.

* When the ordinary addresses the question of suitability for ministry, he must be complete in presenting information including other problematic issues.

* The accused (and his advocate) have no right to see the votum of the bishop, since it is not a judgment but a preliminary personal evaluation of the case for the exclusive perusal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

* If the ordinary is recommending dismissal from the clerical state, he is to inform the cleric about his right to request a dispensation from all obligations arising from ordination, including that of sacred celibacy. The ordinary is to indicate the cleric’s response to this information.

Violation of the Seal of Confession

* It is important to distinguish between what is heard during the testimony and what is put into writing as a report. In transmitting the allegation a further violation of the seal of confession must be avoided.

* When informing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, inform the Congregation that the seal of confession has been violated, adding the relevant circumstances but omitting any mention of the sin.

* Do not mention what was disclosed in the violation.

Investigator of the Penal Procedure:

* The investigator (the one carrying out the preliminary investigation of c. 1717 CIC) must have some knowledge of the canonical procedure of the penal process and an awareness of Catholic teaching.

* The investigator is to provide a summary of the testimony of witnesses.

* The witness is to sign the summary prepared by the investigator.

* Verbatim transcripts of depositions are not necessary.

Pornography related to minors:

* Mandates of civil agencies must be strictly enforced in cases involving pornography. In many jurisdictions it is illegal for the diocese to conduct any investigation which involves accessing the pornography.

* Do not proceed with investigation of cases involving pornography without referring to civil agencies.

* Dismissal from the clerical state is generally not imposed as an ex officio penalty for cases involving only the use of pornography.

Penal Trials:

* The joinder of the issue is very important in penal cases. It must be accurately prepared. The requested penalty must be appropriate to the crime, and reflective of the particular law of the Essential Norms in the USA.

* The acts of the preliminary investigation must be included in the acts of the penal process.

* Canon 1560 §2 allows the victim and the accused to be present simultaneously with the auditor in special circumstances.

* The presiding judge and the Promoter of Justice have a duty to advise the alleged victim of the right to request appropriate reparation of damages (cc. 1729-1731).

* The resolution of damages may be done prior to the trial (c. 1718 §4).

* Canon 1573 establishes the possibility of substantiating the testimony of a single witness through ancillary evidence.

* Msgr. Scicluna recommended a general examination of advocate’s fees. They should be established according to canonical principle ex aequo et bono.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Processing cases of graviora delicta, 2 March 2010, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2010, 63-65.