French bishops create a canonical tribunal with national jurisdiction

The President of the Conference of Bishops of France, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, November 7, 2022

The French episcopate installed, Monday, December 5 in Paris, a new structure in the internal law of the Catholic Church: a national canonical criminal court (TPCN), which will have the function, in particular, of dealing with cases of ault. on adults. The creation of this court by the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) is part of the various measures decided to respond to the scandals of violence in the Church.

In addition to cases of priests or lay people guilty of violence against adults, this TPCN – which does not replace civil justice – may also be seized of cases of breach of trust, spiritual abuse, or even financial crimes. , according to the CEF. On the other hand, it will not be competent for cases of pedocrime, currently judged in the Vatican.

The shock report of the Sauvé commission, who had documented the extent of pedocrime in the Churchhad recommended the establishment ” without delay “ of such a tribunal, ensuring in particular the integration within it of “specially trained lay judges”. Of the thirteen members who were sworn in on Monday, eight are priests and five are lay people.

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Damages to victims

“We are the only country to have a court specialized in criminal matters for the Church” and having “a national competence”, ured Joseph de Metz-Noblat, bishop of Langres (Haute-Marne) and president of the Council for canonical questions at the CEF. He did, however, admit a “background in the Netherlands”which includes only seven dioceses when France has a hundred.

Until now, the cases that the TPCN will be seized of have come under the courts set up in each diocese (or inter-diocesan courts). But the bishop was accused of being both judge and party – he could be judge of a priest of his own diocese – in a case. And the jurisdictions of the Church were not always endowed with sufficiently numerous personnel or sufficiently trained in canon law. With the TPCN, which will begin to operate in January, the causes will be out of place “which is a guarantee of independence”, we ured the CEF. All the baptized, clerics or laity, can address themselves to him.

The penalties pronounced may be prohibition to remain in a place, to exercise a ministry, the deprivation of an office, even dismissal from the clerical state or excommunication. The court may also order the guilty party to pay damages to the victims who are civil parties to the trial.

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The World with AFP

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