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CDF Ruling on Refusal of Certain Cases

July 30, 2004

Your Eminence/Your Excellency,

            I hasten to inform you that I have recently received from Archbishop Angelo Amato, SDB, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a letter informing me of a recent decision taken by that Congregation.  In his letter dated July 14 he writes,

“As of the Solemnity of Christ the King, 21 November 2004, this Dicastery will no longer accept cases referred to it in which graviora delicta have been denounced to an Ordinary prior to the promulgation of the motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela (30 April 2001) and in which the said delicts are bound by prescription.  Both conditions must be present for this Dicastery to refuse referral. …After that date Ordinaries will be responsible for addressing such cases according to the norm of law both universal and particular (cfr. Can. 223  2) but will not be authorized to take canonical penal action whether judicial or administrative concerning the said delicts.  This new policy notwithstanding, the right of making recourse to this Dicastery remains open to any cleric who is aggrieved by decisions of his Ordinary in this regard.”

            After consulting with Bishop Thomas Doran, Chairman of the Committee on Canonical Affairs, as well as with the CDF itself, it seems clear that this decision is simply a method by which the CDF is seeking to understand the total number of cases which it will need to handle with its staff.  At the same time, it encourages justice for alleged victims and most especially for priests who find themselves accused but whose cases, for whatever reason, might have not been submitted.  This decision applies only to cases which are both barred by prescription and which have already been presented to the proper Ordinary of the cleric current or past.  Because personal ignorance of such a prior denunciation by the present Ordinary will not suspend the policy of refusal, it will be essential that each Ordinary be totally aware of all cases in the Diocesan archive.  However, this also means that old cases which are newly discovered can still be referred to the CDF as we have been doing.

            The CDF has also indicated that the non-referral of such barred cases does not in any way preclude the application of other administrative non-penal remedies which are in the spirit of the Essential Norms that we have been following as particular law since their promulgation.  Hence an appropriate use of Canon 223  2 in context of Norm 9 should still be considered.  Such cases should still processed and documented according to the usual canonical norms, aware that the right of recourse is still available to any cleric who feels himself aggrieved by that decision.

            As we work within the parameters of this decision, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, Professor of Canon law at the Catholic University of America serves as a special consultant to us in these matters and that he can be reached at 202-541-3118 or at rjenkins@usccb.org and that he is available to assist you and answer any questions about matters relating to the implementation of Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela.

            With the hope that this information is helpful to you, I am

                                                                                    Fraternally yours in the Lord,



                                                                                    Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory

                                                                                    Bishop of Belleville



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