Administrative Justice for Dicasteries

ParYves Alain

Administrative Justice for Dicasteries

Chapter 8 : Administrative Justice for Dicasteries

(Extracts of the book Administrative Justice in the Catholic church, by Yves Alain Ducass, Paris 2018, 374 p).

We have seen that the Vatican Dicasteries had the responsibility of dealing with hierarchic recourses that they received in their respective areas of competence. It is not possible to carry out a detailed analysis, because their number is very important and their confidentiality must be preserved. We must therefore content ourselves with fragmentary information drawn from three major secondary sources:

  • The competencies of the Dicasteries, as specified in the Apostolic Constitutions Regimini Ecclesiae Universae of 1967 and then Pastor Bonus, as well as subsequent motu proprio and the general regulation of the Roman Curia of 30 April 1999[1];
  • The administrative and judicial activity of the Dicasteries, as is published annually in the activity reports of the Holy See[2], commented on by authors such as Mgr. Charles Lefebvre[3], or specifically addressed by authors such as Punderson[4] or Marchesi[5];
  • Contentious-administrative recourse against decisions of the Dicasteries, which are included in the case-law of the Second Section of the Supreme Tribunal, gathered into our database.

Canonists sometimes provide qualitative comments on the Dicasteries, whose decisions are challenged. Similarly, Sergio Aumenta believes that

the acts that have been contested originate largely within two congregations (for the clergy and for the IVC), whereas the other Congregations are represented in very small numbers. »

In 2009, Kurt Martens stated that

Cases in the area of parish law are probably the most numerous: recourses against the suppression, merger, or alteration of parishes and the reduction to profane use of the parish church.[6].

Thanks to our gathering and analysis of jurisprudence[7], we are able to qualify and clarify these assertions—despite the incomplete nature of the information which could be verified, thanks to cooperation with the Second Section. First of all, here is a list of the Dicasteries[8], as they stand after the Apostolic Constitutions of 1967 and 1988:

Doctrine of the Faith (Art. 29-40) Doctrine of the Faith (Art. 48-55)
Oriental Churches (Art. 41-45) Oriental Churches (Art. 56-61)
Discipline of the Sacraments (Art. 54-57) Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (Art. 62-70)
Rites (Art.  58-64) Causes of Saints (Art. 71-74)
Bishops (Art. 46-53) Bishops (Art. 75-82)
Evangelization of Peoples and Propagation of the Faith (Art. 81-91) Evangelization of Peoples (Art. 85-92)
Clergy (Art.  65-70) Clergy (Art. 93-98)
Religious and Secular Institutes (71-74) Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (c. 105-111)
Catholic Education (Art. 75-80) Catholic Education (originally Congregation for Seminaries and Educational Institutions) (Art. 112-116)
Commissions (Art. 83-84 ; 99-104)
Offices (Art. 114-134) Secretariats[9]
Tribunals (Art. 104-113) Tribunals[10] (Art. 117-130)
Pontifical Councils (Art. 92-102) Pontifical Councils[11] (Art. 131-170)
Administrative Services (Art. 171-182)
Advocates and Institutions Attached to the Holy See (Art. 183-193)

Let us examine their legal activity in favor of law and justice. As of 15 February 2017, our database contained a total of 853 contentious-administrative recourses for which Dicastery is specified.

Among these recourses, 116 of them are the subject of a sentence of rejection in limine or non-admission to discussion, while the corresponding decision of the Tribunal is itself the subject of recourse. Including these as recourses against a decision of the Supreme Tribunal, the number of recourses by Dicastery where the administrative acts being challenged had originated are as follows:

Congregation/Council Recourse Percentage
Clergy 353 41 %
Consecrated Life 230 27 %
Supreme Tribunal 116 14 %
Laity and Family 39 4.5 %
Oriental Churches 30 3,5 %
Evangelization of Peoples 25 3 %
Education 23 3 %
Bishops 9 1 %
APSA 9 1 %
Doctrine of the Faith 5 0.5 %
Divine Worship 4 0.5 %
Other 10 1 %

The Congregation for Clergy and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life are at the top, with 41% and 27% of recourses respectively, which allows us to quantify the usual appraisals of authors.

But the presence of the Supreme Tribunal[12] in third position, with 14% of the recourses[13], constitutes a great surprise with respect to the canonical literature.

Rather than stay in the realm of generalities, let us try to clarify the situation for each Dicastery.

  1. Recourses in Relation to Each Congregation

1.1. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The competences of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the heir to the “Holy Office,” are defined, during the period under study, by the motu proprio « Integrae servandae » of 7 December 1965, Articles 29 to 40 of Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, then 48 to 55 of Pastor Bonus of which a few excerpts will be found here[14], as well as by the motu proprio “Tredici Anni”of 6 August 1982[15] and Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela of 30 April 2001. Even if its role is mainly to promote sacred doctrine, the Congregation has retained the competences of the disciplinary order, to safeguard the faith which is a « common good,” a richness for all, starting with the poorest and the most disadvantaged when they are faced with falsehoods[16].

Historically, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has always exercised and continues to exercise judicial power for certain specific causes related to the defense of the faith and morals, and also the dignity of the sacraments, particularly reconciliation and the Eucharist[17].

When the Congregation is confronted with facts or theories that give rise to confusion, here is the procedure that it uses, as described by its Prefect in 1985:

Above all, we encourage bishops and Superiors General to enter into dialogue with the author, if they have not already done so. It is only when we do not clarify things in this way […] that we enter into an explanatory dialogue with the author. Firstly we communicate to him our opinion, developed after the examination of his works, done with the help of various experts. He has the ability to get back to us and lets us know if we have misinterpreted his thinking. After an exchange of letters (and sometimes a series of interviews), we will respond to him by giving him a definitive opinion, suggesting that he lay out all the clarifications from our dialogue in an article.[18]

In 2015, the Congregation’s disciplinary office recorded 607 cases that met the criteria of Article 10 of the Congregation’s regulations, including:

  • 518 relating to major crimes,
  • 43 relating to offenses against the faith, that is to say cases of heresy, apostasy or schism[19],
  • 20 relating to various other problems[20].

In 2010, the activity report also mentioned 19 cases relating to private revelations.

Francis Morrisey[21] described a few cases of jurisprudence, relating to hierarchical recourse or to questions asked by bishops to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith. They are:

  • The resumption of the priestly ministry;
  • The financial situation of laicized priests and their right to pension benefits;
  • Dismissal from the clerical state for persons with psychological difficulties[22].

It is surprising to see that of all these cases, only five are the subject of proceedings brought before the Supreme Tribunal, and to our knowledge, none of them was the subject of a judgment in favor of the petitioner:

  • In 1968, a recourse against a decision of the Holy Office relating to a post-mortem rehabilitation was rejected in limine[23].
  • In 1969, a priest made recourse against a decision of rejection of the congregation in respect to the maintenance of his salary when he had reached the age of 65. This recourse was not admitted to discussion by a decision of the Congress of 17 November 1970, confirmed by the College on 19 February 1972[24].
  • In 1987, a priest made recourse against a sentence of excommunication latae sententiae, but the recourse was not admitted to discussion, because the decision had been validated by the Pope, which made it ineligible for any recourse[25].
  • In 1989, two recourses were registered against decisions of the CDF, without further clarification as to their nature or their outcome. [26]
  • In 1998, a priest made recourse against a sentence of suspension, but it probably was not admitted to discussion by the Congress of 25 September 2000[27].

However, the competences of the Congregation, defined in Articles 48 to 55[28]  of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus[29] are very broad, on top of which it also gives its opinion to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for the title of Doctor of the Church[30], and to the Congregation for Clergy for the approval of catechisms and works of catechetical formation[31].

In addition, these competences have been expanded by the motu proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, promulgated on 30 April 2001 by Pope John Paul II, by which sexual abuse committed by a cleric on a minor under 18 years was added to the list of delicta graviora reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Without prolonging our discussion unduly, let us remember that the Congregation has the possibility of making extrajudicial decisions pursuant to Article 21 of the norms on the more serious offenses[32], which make reference to canon 1270[33] or to the sense of canon 1722[34] of the 1983 Code, inspired by canons 1956 to 1958 of the 1917 Code. Authors such as Griffin[35] have estimated that this canon permits superiors to immediately take precautionary measures for provisionally removing any priest accused of sexual abuse of minors, even before the ordinary has informed him of the accusations and the evidence which will enable him to defend himself, in accordance with canon 1720 n. 1.

Canon 18[36], however, would justify a contrary position. From a detailed analysis of the sources of canon 1722, John P. Beal believes that the measure of provisional exclusion that is foreseen may be imposed only after a thorough analysis of the situation, since priests retain, before and after being accused, their right to a good reputation (c. 220) and to decent remuneration (c. 282).

1.2. Congregation for the Eastern Churches

The competences of this Congregation derive from Articles 41 to 45 of Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, and 56 to 61 of Pastor Bonus[37].

This Congregation applies and enforces the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, and its decisions are the subjects of 30 contentious-administrative recourses, classic cases of exclaustration[38] and resignations[39]  of religious, deposition of a Superior General[40], transfers of parish priests[41], and remuneration or property rights[42].

These recourses show that the administrative justice is effective in the Oriental Churches.

1.3. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

In its scope of competence governed by Articles 62 to 70 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus [43], the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments makes clear reference to its juridic activity.

… requests for interpretation, for clarification of liturgical-disciplinary standards, or reporting of irregularities in the field of the sacraments, whether liturgical or disciplinary. These issues are examined and evaluated with a view to being able to offer direction for a suitable solution. […] The competent office has examined and brought to a close cases involving exemptions from priestly obligations, dispensations from irregularities or impediments for candidates for sacred orders, and priestly ordination for permanent deacons or for priests laicized in their time[44].

Unlike the other Congregations, it appeals to the Catholic faithful to help enforce the law, denounce abuses and make hierarchical recourse in cases which could not be resolved at the local level. Unfortunately, too few of the faithful know about the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, on certain things to observe and to avoid concerning the Most Holy Eucharist, of which here is an excerpt:

In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favoritism.

We are therefore confident that the Congregation will solve new controversies which may occur, in particular about funerals, knowing that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has published new norms on this matter, of which this is an extract:

When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law[45].

The contentious-administrative recourses identified against the decisions of this Congregation are four in number. They are:

  • The recourse of an American religious against the prohibition of the use of certain elements in a church[46];
  • The recourse of an American layman against a decision relating to the renovation of a parish church[47];
  • The double recourse of a bishop against a change in the name of a church and of a parish[48];
  • The recourse of a layman against the rejection of an edition of the Roman Missal[49].

1.4. Congregation for the Causes of Saints

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, governed by the Articles 71 to 74 of Pastor Bonus, seems little affected by the administrative justice of the Church.

The main problem encountered in the field comes from the fact that the causes of the rich and powerful are sometimes better treated than those of the humble and the poor[50]. We have been witnesses of tension and suffering on the part of the families and friends of the blessed, saints and unsung martyrs.

A contribution of Canonists without Borders could possibly be useful in this area to assist in the development of records of postulation in poor countries and for poor people.

1.5. Congregation for Bishops

In its field of competence, governed by Articles 75 to 80 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus[51], the Congregation for Bishops has promulgated individual administrative decrees which have been the subject of 9 contentious-administrative recourses, half of which relate to the diocese of Lleida in Spain, which has been the subject of recourse by bishops about division of property between two dioceses[52].

1.6. Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

The competences of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and Propagation of the Faith were the result of Articles 81 to 91 of Regimini Ecclesiae Universae. Becoming the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, its competences are now governed by Articles 85 to 92 of Pastor Bonus.

Its decisions have been the subject of 25 contentious-administrative recourses, the majority from priests, following a decision of suspension[53], excardination[54], transfer[55], or loss of the clerical state[56].

These elements show that justice is operational for the priests in mission, and perhaps a little less for religious, who were the authors of only two recourses, concerning resignations[57].

On an other hand, we can see that Canonists without Borders receives a relatively large number of inquiries related to administrative ecclesial controversies in Africa, with a much larger proportion than the number of recourses.

1.7. Congregation for the Clergy

Blessed Pope Paul VI established the Congregation for the Clergy on 31 December 1967, reorganizing the former Congregation for the Council, of which one decision was the subject of recourse. The responsibilities of the Congregation for the Clergy are the subject of Articles 65 to 70 of Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, then Articles 93 to 98 of Pastor Bonus[58].

Here is an excerpt from its 2014 activity report regarding administrative justice:

In the course of 2014, the administrative office of the Congregation for the Clergy has accomplished its work of monitoring the good administration of ecclesiastical goods belonging to public juridic persons[59].

Decisions are the subject of 353 known contentious-administrative recourses, with the distribution of petitioners as below, when they are known:

It should be noted that recourses relating to the obligations of pious associations are the responsibility of the Congregation for the Clergy, and not of the Council for the Laity[60].

1.8. Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

The competences of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, which later became the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, are defined by Articles 75 to 80 of Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, then by Articles 105 to 111 of Pastor Bonus[61].

We will not expand on the hierarchical recourses addressed to this congregation, as we have already discussed it in Chapter 6; but we will add some information drawn from its activity report for 2015[62]:

  • 73 penalties of administrative acts and dispensations from of canonical or constitutional norms were granted for questions relating to the novitiate, the profession, priestly or diaconal ordination or the governance of institutes at all levels.
  • 357 questions were assessed, concerning the status, behavior, controversies, and other issues pertaining to consecrated persons, communities and institutes.

We have identified 230 contentious-administrative recourses against decrees of this Congregation, with a breakdown by petitioner as follows:

1.9. Congregation for Catholic Education

In the activity report for this congregation[63], we found no information on the treatment of hierarchical recourses.

Yet, our database includes 23 contentious-administrative recourses provisions relating to decrees of the Congregation for Catholic Institutes, which became the Congregation for Catholic Education in 1988.

The recourses are essentially about transfers or revocations of missions of teachers[64] or rectors[65] ; transfers[66] and non-admissions to seminaries. One recourse relates to the suppression of a theology faculty[67].

  1. Recourses to Other Dicasteries

2.1. The Secretariat of State

The state of Vatican City has its own judicial bodies and its own gendarmerie which, in 2016, had executed two arrest-warrants and 33 arrests; and from 2013 to 2016, the Tribunal seized more than 12 million Euros, including one million in 2016, after reporting by the Financial Information Authority (AIF)[68].

The Secretariat of State also intervenes in matters of administrative justice of the Church, insofar as it instructs the administrative recourses referred to the Holy Father, deciding whether to reject or to transmit them to him.

The Second Section of the Apostolic Signatura is not competent to deal with appeals against acts of the Secretariat of State, because it holds that decisions of the Secretariat are political acts, not administrative acts[69].

2.2. Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life[70]

The result of a merger of the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and for the Family, the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life has competence in matters depending on the Apostolic See for the promotion of life and of the apostolate of the laity, for the pastoral care of the family and its mission.

Its section for families has taken on the competences of the corresponding Dicastery, whose decisions were the subject of only one identified recourse, for the resignation of one of the members of this Council[71].

Its section for the laity[72] took on the activities of the Council for the Laity, for which the activity report mentions hierarchical recourses in response to the consultations of new associations:

It has resolved controversies submitted for its consideration by associations of the faithful with administrative recourses[73].

Its decrees are the subject of 38 identified contentious-administrative recourses, 14 of which were made by the laity, 13 by juridic persons, 3 by bishops, 2 by priests, and 6 have no identified petitioner.

An appeal concerning a decree of the Council for the Family was admitted to discussion, but it was subsequently rejected[74].

2.3. Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development[75]

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, created by the motu proprio of 17 August 2016, comes from grouping four Dicasteries: the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, and the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers.

We have not identified any appeal against decrees of this Dicastery, nor against those of other pontifical councils; but Cardinal Turkson, Prefect of the Congregation, devoted an entire book to the battle against corruption in the Church and society. Here is an excerpt:

In the first place, there is the justice that corruption denies, because it denies freedom. […] For the offense of corruption, which is located in the social sphere, the intervention of the State, which ensures the administration of justice, can and should be provided[76].

From our point of view, this recommendation could usefully be applied to the Church, where Pope Francis believes that corruption is not absent, and where an administrative tribunal has been constituted.

2.4. Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA)

The State of Vatican City has its own justice system, of which there are several organs. In accord with canon 1254, the temporal goods of the Church are intended for specific purposes: « to order divine worship, to care for the decent support of the clergy and other ministers, and to exercise works of the sacred apostolate and of charity, especially toward the needy.”

Two Secretariats are responsible for property belonging to the Holy See,: the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), and the Secretariat for the Economy, established in 2014. By the motu proprio I Beni Temporali of 4 July 2016, Pope Francis clarified the respective competencies of the two organizations, separating clearly and unequivocally the direct management of the patrimony, and control of this management activity.

Nine decisions of this Dicastery have been the subject of canonical recourse, and in at least two cases[77], the College has found a violation of the law by the APSA:

In case Prot. 22221/90 CA, following appeal 18707/86 Prot CA, the Tribunal ruled in favor of a priest against the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), in considering that there was a procedural defect in a decision relating to the appointment of a Extraordinary Professor[78], and it decided in favor of a restoration of the previous situation (restitutio in integrum).

Administrative Justice has therefore worked well with this Dicastery.

2.5. Labor Office of the Apostolic See (ULSA)[79]

In 1988, a recourse against a firing within the Fabbrica di San Pietro was not admitted to discussion[80]. In 1992, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura was not considered competent to deal with two recourses filed in 1990 by the Labor Office of the Apostolic See and by an employee of the Holy See[81]. In effect, this agency, which was established on 1 January 1989 by Pope John Paul II, has the characteristics of a Tribunal, with a board of conciliation and arbitration, the decisions of which are not subject to recourse[82].

Its 2015 activity report shows its juridic activity:

Approximately 80 workers turned to the APSA, receiving advice and assistance, with the aim of preventing or solving controversies, thereby helping to improve the workplace climate and the quality of work. In 25 cases, the ULSA offered to collaborate with administrators, in order to contribute to clarifying existing standards. In 10 cases, the ULSA was contacted by retirees or their lawyers, for clarification of institutional obligations. […] Two workers and pensioners submitted a formal request to the Director of the ULSA under Article 11 of its statutes. One, which was declared inadmissible, was connected to a recourse to the College of Conciliation and Arbitration of the ULSA. The other was declared closed, as a result of the abandonment on the part of the person concerned[83].

2.6. The Roman Rota

Article 126 of Pastor Bonus qualifies the Roman Rota as a court, which mainly issues judgments subject to recourse to the Supreme Tribunal, in accord with Article 122 of Pastor Bonus which is beyond the scope of our study. It also issues administrative acts concerning alimony, which have been the subject of several contentious-administrative recourses, cited in the activity reports of the Second Section[84].

2.7. The Apostolic Signatura

It can be observed that Article 121 of Pastor Bonus employs the term “Dicastery” with regard to the Apostolic Signatura, confirming the fact that it is both a court and an administrative body. In this regard, we will consider to be “administrative acts” those decisions of the Second Section not to admit some recourses to discussion.

These decisions are indeed subject to recourse to the College of the Second Section, and they are also an important part of the recourse, even if the publications of the Tribunal pass over them in silence:

  • The activity report that it prepares each year for the Acta Apostolicae Sanctae is silent on the fact that many of the decrees of the Apostolic Signatura are the subject of recourse to the College of Fathers, preferring instead to indicate the Dicastery of origin for those decrees not admitted to discussion;
  • The compendium of case law of the promoter of justice of the Tribunal[85] indicates recourses against the decisions of the Congress of non-admission to discussion; but it suggests that recourses against the decisions of the Congress would not have been admitted to discussion by the College, while the College reviewed and confirmed the decision of the Congress not to admit them to the discussion.

In light of our database, we will consider that the College has given a negative response to the recourse, asserting that there is no violation of law in the decision of the Congress. Finally, our database reports 122 recourses to the College of Fathers against decisions of the Secretary or the Congress of the Second Section[86], a fact which shows that the possibility of recourse is not an empty word. Nevertheless, the low number of recourses accepted[87] prompts a question that we will discuss in the third Part of this book.

[1] AAS 91 (1999) 629-699.

[2] We will rely mainly on the last published report, for the year 2015.

[3] Lefebvre (Mgr Charles), Actes récents du Saint Siège, in L’année canonique, 1971, p. 655 673.

[4] Punderson (Joseph R.), hierarchical recourse to the Holy See: Theory and practice, CSLA Prodeedings 62 (2000), 19-47.

[5] Marchesi (Mario), « I ricorsi gerachici presso i dicasteri dalla Curia », Ius ecclesiae, 8 (1996) 71-96.

[6] Martens (Kurt), Protection of Rights… », op. cit. p. 681.

[7] Cf. the chapter on the database.

[8] Pastor Bonus Art. 2 — § 1. By the word « dicasteries » are understood the Secretariat of State, Congregations, Tribunals, Councils and Offices, namely the Apostolic Camera, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

  • 2. The dicasteries are juridically equal among themselves.
  • 3. Among the institutes of the Roman Curia are the Prefecture of the Papal Household and the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

[9] Secretariat of State, Secretariat for the Economy, Council for the Economy, Council for Social Communications.

[10] Apostolic Penitentiary, Roman Rota, Apostolic Signatura.

[11] The Pontifical Councils for the Laity, for the Promotion of Christian Unity, for the Family, Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, for Interreligious Dialogue, for Culture, for Social Communications, for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

[12] In jurisprudence, the Tribunal is often listed as HST, huius supremi tribunalis

[13] The actual percentage is, in our opinion, more important than the figure indicated, because the Activity Report of the Holy See (AAS (2004), p. 726) indicates that 100% of the cases considered in plenary consist of recourses against decrees of Congregations, while some of them relate to recourses against decrees of the Tribunal of non-admission to the discussion.

[14] Art. 48 — The proper duty of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the whole Catholic world; so it has competence in things that touch this matter in any way.

Art. 51 — To safeguard the truth of faith and the integrity of morals, the Congregation takes care lest faith or morals suffer harm through errors that have been spread in any way whatever.

Wherefore:  1. it has the duty of requiring that books and other writings touching faith or morals, being published by the Christian faithful, be subjected to prior examination by the competent authority;

  1. it examines carefully writings and opinions that seem to be contrary or dangerous to true faith, and, if it is established that they are opposed to the teaching of the Church, reproves them in due time, having given authors full opportunity to explain their minds, and having forewarned the Ordinary concerned; it brings suitable recourses to bear, if this be opportune.
  2. Finally, it takes good care lest errors or dangerous doctrines, which may have been spread among the Christian people, do not go without apt rebuttal.

Art. 52 — The Congregation examines offences against the faith and more serious ones both in behaviour or in the celebration of the sacraments which have been reported to it and, if need be, proceeds to the declaration or imposition of canonical sanctions in accordance with the norms of common or proper law.

[15] For the International Theological Commission.

[16] Ratzinger (Cardinal Joseph), « Entretiens sur la foi », remarks reported by Vittorio Messori, Paris, 1985, Fayard, p. 25/252.

[17] Amato (Mgr Angelo), then secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, « The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has always been a Tribunal, » in Zenit, 1 April 2004.

[18] Ratzinger (Cardinal Joseph), « Entretiens sur la foi », op. cit. p. 78/252.

[19] According to canons 751 and 1364, heresy is punishable by excommunication.

[20] ASS (2015), p. 621.

[21] Morrisey (Rev. Francis G.), « Penal Law in the Chirch today: Recent Jurisprudence and Instructions » in Advocacy Vademecum, edited by Patricia M. Dugan ed. Wilson & Lafleur, Collection Gratianus, Montréal 2006, p. 49-66.

[22] The CDF specifies that in this case, it may not be a criminal decision.

[23] Prot. 221/68 CA.

[24] This is the case of recourse Prot. 1123/69/CA made by the Reverend Antonius, 65 years old, who claimed the continuance of his salary, whereas it had declined when he became a priest emeritus. The Congress did not allow the case to enter discussion, and the College confirmed the decision of the Congress.

[25] The recourses for which the registration no. is unknown, having been the subject of a decision of the Congress on 28 November 1987. Cf. ASS (1988), p. 1403.

[26] The recourses for which the registration numbers are unknown, cited by ASS (1988), p. 1403 and ASS (1990) p. 1203.

Prot. 29064/88/CA, having been the subject of a decision of the Congress on 25 September 2000. Cf. ASS (1998), p. 883 and ASS (2000), p. 893.

[27] Prot. 29064/88/CA, having been the subject of a decision of the Congress on 25 September 2000. Cf. ASS (1998), p. 883 and ASS (2000), p. 893.

[28] Cf. supra.

[29] Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, 25 June 1988 (DC 85 [1988] 897-912; 972-983).

[30] Cf. article 73 de Pastor Bonus.

[31] Cf. article 94 de Pastor Bonus.

[32] Art. 21 § 1. § 1. The more grave delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are to be tried in a judicial process.

  • 2. However, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may:

1° decide, in individual cases, ex officio or when requested by the Ordinary or Hierarch, to proceed by extrajudicial decree, as provided in can. 1720 of the Code of Canon Law and can. 1486 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. However, perpetual expiatory penalties may only be imposed by mandate of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

2° present the most grave cases to the decision of the Roman Pontiff with regard to dismissal from the clerical state or deposition, together with dispensation from the law of celibacy, when it is manifestly evident that the delict was committed and after having given the guilty party the possibility of defending himself.

[33] Can.  1720 —  If the ordinary thinks that the matter must proceed by way of extrajudicial decree:

1/ he is to inform the accused of the accusation and the proofs, giving an opportunity for self-defense, unless the accused neglected to appear after being properly summoned;

2/ he is to weigh carefully all the proofs and arguments with two assessors;

3/ if the delict is certainly established and a criminal action is not extinguished, he is to issue a decree according to the norm of canons 1342-1350, setting forth the reasons in law and in fact at least briefly.

[34] Can. 1722 — To prevent scandals, to protect the freedom of witnesses, and to guard the course of justice, the ordinary, after having heard the promoter of justice and cited the accused, at any stage of the process can exclude the accused from the sacred ministry or from some office and ecclesiastical function, can impose or forbid residence in some place or territory, or even can prohibit public participation in the Most Holy Eucharist. Once the cause ceases, all these measures must be revoked; they also end by the law itself when the penal process ceases..

[35] Griffin (B. F.), « Canon 1722: Imposition of Administrative Leave Against an Accused”, in Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions, 1998, p. 103-108.

[36] Can. 18 — Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are subject to strict interpretation.

[37] Cf. Chapter 2.

[38] Prot 19323/87 CA

[39] Prot. 22637/91 CA ; Prot. 22638/91 CA ; Prot. 22639/91 CA ;

[40] ASS (1980), p. 1029.

[41] Prot. 31945/01 CA

[42] ASS (1980), p. 1029.

[43] Art. 62 — The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments does whatever pertains to the Apostolic See concerning the regulation and promotion of the sacred liturgy, primarily of the sacraments, without prejudice to the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Art. 63 — It fosters and safeguards the regulation of the administration of the sacraments, especially regarding their valid and licit celebration. It grants favours and dispensations not contained in the faculties of diocesan bishops in this matter.

Art. 66 — The Congregation provides attentive supervision to ensure that liturgical norms are accurately observed, and that abuses are avoided and eliminated where they are found to exist.

Art. 68 — It is also competent to examine, in accordance with the law, cases concerning the nullity of sacred ordination.

[44] ASS (2015), p. 640-641.

[45] Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo 15 August 2016, on the burial of the dead and the preservation of ashes in case of cremation.

[46] Prot 18881/87/CA : recourses of a religious of the Diocese of Miami, against a decision of 30 November 1986, not admitted to discussion by a decision of the Congress of 30 October 1990, confirmed by the College on 8 May 1993. Cf. in particular Ministerium Justitiae, p. 603-606.

[47] Prot 21024/89/CA : recourse of a layman of the Diocese of Cincinnati, not admitted to discussion by a decision of the Congress of 26 January 1990. Cf. in particular Ministerium Justitiae, p. 461-466.

[48] Prot. 29104/98/CA, cited by the AAS (1998) p. 883 and AAS (2002), p. 847 and Prot. 29341/98/CA, cited by AAS (1998), p. 883 and by AAS (2002) p. 849, having been the subject of a decision of the Congress of 22 July 2002, the content of which has not been revealed.

[49] Cas non référencé, enregistré en 1989, rejeté in limine, car déposé hors délais. Cf. ASS (1988), p. 1404.

[50] Cases not referenced, recorded in 1989, rejected in limine because filed outside of the time-limit. Cf. AAS (1988), p. 1404.

It is sufficient to note the distribution of the saints by continent, to the detriment of the poorer countries compared to the rest.

[51] Art. 75 — The Congregation for Bishops examines what pertains to the establishment and provision of particular Churches and to the exercise of the episcopal office in the Latin Church, without prejudice to the competence of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Art. 76 — This Congregation deals with everything concerning the constitution, division, union, suppression, and other changes of particular Churches and of their groupings. It also erects military ordinariates for the pastoral care of the armed forces.

[52] Prot. 29550/98 CA ; Prot. 29550/98 CA B ; Prot. 29550/98 CA C ; Prot. 36517/05 CA ; Prot. 37106/05 CA ; Prot. 37766/05 CA.

[53] Prot. 45545/11 CA

[54] Prot. 41703/08 CA

[55] Prot. 24487/93 CA ; Prot. 37521/05 CA

[56] Prot. 24604/93 CA ou Prot. 24635/93 CA

[57] Prot. 20783/89 CA and case cited in AAS (1989), p. 1218, without registration number.

[58] Art. 93 — Without prejudice to the right of bishops and their conferences, the Congregation for the Clergy examines matters regarding priests and deacons of the secular clergy, with regard to their persons and pastoral ministry, and with regard to resources available to them for the exercise of this ministry; and in all these matters the Congregation offers timely assistance to the bishops.

Art. 94 — It has the function of promoting the religious education of the Christian faithful of all ages and conditions; it issues timely norms so that catechetical instruction is correctly conducted; it gives great attention so that catechetical formation is properly given; and, with the assent of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it grants the prescribed approval of the Holy See for catechisms and other writings pertaining to catechetical instruction. It is available to catechetical offices and international initiatives on religious education, coordinates their activities and, where necessary, lends assistance.

Art. 95 — § 1. The Congregation is competent concerning the life, conduct, rights, and obligations of clergy.

  • 2. It advises on a more suitable distribution of priests.
  • 3. It fosters the ongoing education of clergy, especially concerning their sanctification and the effective exercise of their pastoral ministry, most of all in the fitting preaching of the Word of God.

[59] ASS (2014), p. 722, translated from Italian.

[60] Prot 13782/81 CA

[61] Art. 105 — The principal function of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life is to promote and supervise in the whole Latin Church the practice of the evangelical counsels as they are lived in approved forms of consecrated life and, at the same time, the work of societies of apostolic life.

Art. 106 — § 1. The Congregation erects and approves religious and secular institutes and societies of apostolic life, or passes judgement on the suitability of their erection by the diocesan bishop. It also suppresses such institutes and societies if necessary.

[62] Example: ASS, (2015), p. 746.

[63] ASS 2015 p. 748-765

[64] Prot. 10977/79 CA ; Prot. 27795/97 CA

[65] Prot 37707/05 CA; Prot. 30520/99 CA.

[66] Prot. 30435/99 CA; Prot. 30520/99 CA; Prot. 32728/01 CA; Prot. 33447/02 CA ; Prot 37707/05 CA…

[67] Prot. 30678/99 CA ; Prot. 30677/99 for non-admission to the seminary ; Prot. 22396/91 CA

[68] Milano (Gian Piero), Promoter of Justice, speech at the inauguration of the Judicial Year of Vatican City, 18 February 2017.

[69] Prot. 214/70 CA, declaration of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, December 28, 1981,cited by Michael Landau, Amtsentbehung… op. cit. p. 321, note 306

[70] As of 15 August 2016, the Dicastery combines the competencies of the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and for the Family.

[71] Prot. 18972/87 CA.

[72] The Pontifical Council for the Laity is competent in those matters pertaining to the Apostolic See regarding the promotion and coordination of the apostolate of the laity and, generally, in those matters respecting the Christian life of laypeople.

[73] ASS (2014), p. 845.

[74] Prot 18972/87 CA.

[75] As of 1 January 2017, World Day of Peace, the Dicastery combines the expertise of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, Pastoral Care of Migrants and Immigrants, and Health Care Workers.

[76] Turkson (Card Peter Kodwo Appiah) Corrosione, Combattere la corruzione nella Chiesa e nella società, Milano Rizzoli, June 2016,

[77] Prot. 22113/90 CA cited by ASS (1992) p. 1115 et ASS (1993) p. 1272

[78] Prot. 22221/90 CA cited by ASS (1993), p. 1271 et 1272, after recourse Prot 18707/86 CA,

[79] This Office was established on 1 January 1989 by Pope John Paul II. It intervenes in matters of labor law for the employees of the Holy See.

[80] ASS (1978) p. 625.

[81] Prot. 22046/90 CA et 22583/91 CA cités par ASS (1992) p. 1116. Decision of the Congress of  28 November 1992.

[82] Cf. Statutes of the Organization: www.ulsa.Va/content/ulsa/it/Chi siamo/Statuto1.html.

[83] ASS (2015), p. 1093, Translated from Italian.

[84] For 116 cases, we have been able to identify the Dicastery of origin.

[85] Montini (Gian-Paolo), Conspectus decisionum, Periodica 103 (2014) 27- 66: « De recursus adversum decretum rejectionis a Congressu latum. Recursus non admittitur ad disceptationem »

[86] For 116 cases, we have been able to identify the Dicastery of origin.

[87] Prot. 12300/80 CA ; 22113/88 CA ; 23443/92 CA ; 23444/92 CA ; 23445/92 CA ainsi que deux cas cités par ASS (1981) p. 951 et ASS (1989), p. 1218.

À propos de l’auteur

Yves Alain administrator

Je suis un homme ordinaire, évoluant d'une posture de sachant à celle de sage. La vie m'a donné de nombreux privilèges : français, catholique, marié, père de six enfants, grand-père, ingénieur polytechnicien, canoniste, médiateur, coach, écrivain et chef d'entreprise ( Il me faut les lâcher peu à peu pour trouver l'essentiel. Dans cette quête, j'ai besoin de Dieu, de la nature et peut-être de vous.