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The Law of Mercy

Canon 1317 of the 1983 Code states: "Penalties are to be established only insofar as they are truly necessary to provide more suitably for ecclesiastical discipline." The comparable canon in the 1917 Code is canon 2214, §2. In the classic commentary on this canon by Bouscaren, Ellis, and Korth, the caution of the Council of Trent is quoted:
 
  "Bishops and other Ordinaries should remember that they are shepherds and not slave-drivers, and that they must so rule over their subjects as not to domineer over them but to love them as sons and brothers; they should endeavor by exhortation and admonition to deter them from wrong-doing lest they be obliged to administer due punishment after faults have been committed. Yet if through human frailty their subjects do wrong, they must observe the precept of the Apostle, and reprove, correct, entreat, rebuke them in all patience and doctrine; for sympathy is often more effective for correction than severity, exhortation better than threats and punishment, kindness better than insistence on authority. If in view of the seriousness of a crime there be need for punishment, then they must combine authority with leniency, judgment with mercy, severity with moderation, to the end that discipline, so salutary and essential to public order, be maintained without asperity, and that those who have been punished may amend their ways, or, if they refuse to do so, that others may be deterred from wrong-doing by the salutary example of their punishment." (Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, de. ref., cap. 1. Quoted in T. Lincoln Bouscaren, S.J.; Adam C. Ellis, S.J.;  and Francis N. Korth, S.J., Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, Milwaukee: Bruce, Fourth Ed. (1966) 882-83).
 
 This same sentiment is conveyed in canon 1341 (1983 Code) which states: "An ordinary is to take care to initiate a judicial or administrative process to impose or declare penalties only after he has ascertained that fraternal correction or rebuke or other means of pastoral solicitude cannot sufficiently repair the scandal, restore justice, reform the offender."
 
These established principals seem to be overlooked in the "one-size-fits-all" approach of the Essential Norms.




 

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