Sanctions in the Church
» Offenses and Penalties in General
» The Application of Penalties
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.
The Ordinary must start a judicial or an administrative procedure for the imposition or the declaration of penalties when he perceives that neither by the methods of pastoral care, especially fraternal correction, nor by a warning or correction, can justice be sufficiently restored, the offender reformed, and the scandal repaired.
§1. Whenever there are just reasons against the use of a judicial procedure, a penalty can be imposed or declared by means of an extra-judicial decree, observing canon 1720, especially in what concerns the right of defence and the moral certainty in the mind of the one issuing the decree, in accordance with the provision of can. 1608
. Penal remedies and penances may in any case whatever be applied by a decree.
§2. Perpetual penalties cannot be imposed or declared by means of a decree; nor can penalties which the law or precept establishing them forbids to be applied by decree.
§3. What the law or decree says of a judge in regard to the imposition or declaration of a penalty in a trial is to be applied also to a Superior who imposes or declares a penalty by an extra-judicial decree, unless it is otherwise clear, or unless there is question of provisions which concern only procedural matters.
If a law or precept grants the judge the faculty to apply or not to apply a penalty, he is, without prejudice to the provision of can. 1326
§3, to determine the matter according to his own conscience and prudence, and in accordance with what the restoration of justice, the reform of the offender and the repair of scandal require; in such cases the judge may also, if appropriate, modify the penalty or in its place impose a penance.
Even though the law may use obligatory words, the judge may, according to his own conscience and prudence:
1° defer the imposition of the penalty to a more opportune time, if it is foreseen that greater evils may arise from a too hasty punishment of the offender, unless there is an urgent need to repair scandal;
2° abstain from imposing the penalty or substitute a milder penalty or a penance, if the offender has repented, as well as having repaired any scandal and harm caused, or if the offender has been or foreseeably will be sufficiently punished by the civil authority;
3° may suspend the obligation of observing an expiatory penalty, if the person is a first-offender after a hitherto blameless life, and there is no urgent need to repair scandal; this is, however, to be done in such a way that if the person again commits an offence within a time laid down by the judge, then that person must pay the penalty for both offences, unless in the meanwhile the time for prescription of a penal action in respect of the former offence has expired.
Whenever the offender had only an imperfect use of reason, or committed the offence out of necessity or grave fear or in the heat of passion or, without prejudice to the provision of can. 1326
§1 n. 4, with a mind disturbed by drunkenness or a similar cause, the judge can refrain from inflicting any punishment if he considers that the person’s reform may be better accomplished in some other way; the offender, however, must be punished if there is no other way to provide for the restoration of justice and the repair of any scandal that may have been caused.
§1. Ordinarily there are as many penalties as there are offences.
§2. Nevertheless, whenever the offender has committed a number of offences and the sum of penalties which should be imposed seems excessive, it is left to the prudent decision of the judge to moderate the penalties in an equitable fashion, and to place the offender under vigilance.
§1. A censure cannot validly be imposed unless the offender has beforehand received at least one warning to purge the contempt, and has been allowed suitable time to do so.
§2. The offender is said to have purged the contempt if he or she has truly repented of the offence and has made suitable reparation for the scandal and harm, or at least seriously promised to make it.
When the person has been found not guilty of an accusation, or where no penalty has been imposed, the Ordinary may provide for the person’s welfare and for the common good by opportune warnings or other solicitous means, and even, if the case calls for it, by the use of penal remedies.
If a penalty is indeterminate, and if the law does not provide otherwise, the judge in determining the penalties is to choose those which are proportionate to the scandal caused and the gravity of the harm; he is not however to impose graver penalties, unless the seriousness of the case really demands it. He may not impose penalties which are perpetual.
§1. In imposing penalties on a cleric, except in the case of dismissal from the clerical state, care must always be taken that he does not lack what is necessary for his worthy support.
§2. If a person is truly in need because he has been dismissed from the clerical state, the Ordinary is to provide in the best way possible, but not by the conferral of an office, ministry or function.
A penalty binds an offender everywhere, even when the right of the one who established, imposed or declared it has ceased, unless it is otherwise expressly provided.
§1. If a penalty prohibits the reception of the sacraments or sacramentals, the prohibition is suspended for as long as the offender is in danger of death.
§2. The obligation of observing a latae sententiae penalty which has not been declared, and is not notorious in the place where the offender actually is, is suspended either in whole or in part to the extent that the offender cannot observe it without the danger of grave scandal or loss of good name.
An appeal or a recourse against judgements of a court or against decrees which impose or declare any penalty has a suspensive effect.
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