Sanctions in the Church
» Offenses and Penalties in General
» The Subject Liable to Penal Sanctions
Canons 1311-1399 as reflected here took effect on December 8, 2021. The abrogated canons may be found by selecting "Original 1983 Code" in the dropdown menu.
§1. Any person is considered innocent until the contrary is proved. No one can be punished unless the commission by him or her of an external violation of a law or precept is gravely imputable by reason of malice or of culpability.
§2. A person who deliberately violated a law or precept is bound by the penalty prescribed in that law or precept. If, however, the violation was due to the omission of due diligence, the person is not punished unless the law or precept provides otherwise.
§3. Where there has been an external violation, imputability is presumed, unless it appears otherwise.
Those who habitually lack the use of reason, even though they appeared sane when they violated a law or precept, are deemed incapable of committing an offence.
No one is liable to a penalty who, when violating a law or precept:
1° has not completed the sixteenth year of age;
2° was, without fault, ignorant of violating the law or precept; inadvertence and error are equivalent to ignorance;
3° acted under physical force, or under the impetus of a chance occurrence which the person could not foresee or if foreseen could not avoid;
4° acted under the compulsion of grave fear, even if only relative, or by reason of necessity or grave inconvenience, unless, however, the act is intrinsically evil or tends to be harmful to souls;
5° acted, within the limits of due moderation, in lawful self-defence or defence of another against an unjust aggressor;
6° lacked the use of reason, without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1324
§1 n. 2 and 1326§1 n. 4;
7° thought, through no personal fault, that some one of the circumstances existed which are mentioned in nn. 4 or 5.
§1. The perpetrator of a violation is not exempted from penalty, but the penalty prescribed in the law or precept must be diminished, or a penance substituted in its place, if the offence was committed by:
1° one who had only an imperfect use of reason;
2° one who was lacking the use of reason because of culpable drunkenness or other mental disturbance of a similar kind, without prejudice to the provision of can. 1326
§1 n. 4;
3° one who acted in the heat of passion which, while serious, nevertheless did not precede or hinder all mental deliberation and consent of the will, provided that the passion itself had not been deliberately stimulated or nourished;
4° a minor who has completed the sixteenth year of age;
5° one who was compelled by grave fear, even if only relative, or who acted by reason of necessity or grave inconvenience, if the offence is intrinsically evil or tends to be harmful to souls;
6° one who acted in lawful self-defence or defence of another against an unjust aggressor, but did not observe due moderation;
7° one who acted against another person who was gravely and unjustly provocative;
8° one who erroneously, but culpably, thought that some one of the circumstances existed which are mentioned in can. 1323
nn. 4 or 5;
9° one who through no personal fault was unaware that a penalty was attached to the law or precept;
10° one who acted without full imputability, provided it remained grave.
§2. A judge can do the same if there is any other circumstance present which would reduce the gravity of the offence.
§3. In the circumstances mentioned in§1, the offender is not bound by a latae sententiae penalty, but may have lesser penalties or penances imposed for the purposes of repentance or repair of scandal.
Ignorance which is crass or supine or affected can never be taken into account when applying the provisions of cann. 1323 and 1324
§1. A judge must inflict a more serious punishment than that prescribed in the law or precept when:
1° a person, after being condemned, or after the penalty has been declared, continues so to offend that obstinate ill will may prudently be concluded from the circumstances;
2° a person who is established in some position of dignity, or who, in order to commit a crime, has abused a position of authority or an office;
3° a person who, after a penalty for a culpable offence was constituted, foresaw the event but nevertheless omitted to take the precautions to avoid it which any careful person would have taken;
4° a person who committed an offence in a state of drunkenness or other mental disturbance, if these were deliberately sought so as to commit the offence or to excuse it, or through passion which was deliberately stimulated or nourished.
§2. In the cases mentioned in§1, if the penalty constituted is latae sententiae, another penalty or a penance may be added.
§3. In the same cases, if the penalty constituted is discretionary, it becomes obligatory.
A particular law may, either as a general rule or for individual offences, determine other excusing, attenuating or aggravating circumstances, over and above the cases mentioned in can. 1323-1326
. Likewise, circumstances may be determined in a precept which excuse from, attenuate or aggravate the penalty constituted in the precept.
§1. One who in furtherance of an offence did something or failed to do something but then, involuntarily, did not complete the offence, is not bound by the penalty prescribed for the completed offence, unless the law or a precept provides otherwise.
§2. If the acts or the omissions of their nature lead to the carrying out of the offence, the person responsible may be subjected to a penance or to a penal remedy, unless he or she had spontaneously desisted from the offence which had been initiated. However, if scandal or other serious harm or danger has resulted, the perpetrator, even though spontaneously desisting, may be punished by a just penalty, but of a lesser kind than that determined for the completed crime.
§1. Where a number of persons conspire together to commit an offence, and accomplices are not expressly mentioned in the law or precept, if ferendae sententiae penalties were constituted for the principal offender, then the others are subject to the same penalties or to other penalties of the same or a lesser gravity.
§2. In the case of a latae sententiae penalty attached to an offence, accomplices, even though not mentioned in the law or precept, incur the same penalty if, without their assistance, the crime would not have been committed, and if the penalty is of such a nature as to be able to affect them; otherwise, they can be punished with ferendae sententiae penalties.
An offence which consists in a declaration or in some other manifestation of will or of doctrine or of knowledge is not to be regarded as effected if no one actually perceives the declaration or manifestation.
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