Whatever is holy in the church comes from the grace of her Divine Founder. Whatever is sinful therein, originates from her human members.
While the sins of her faithful due to human weakness may be understandable, they nevertheless remain culpable and therefore duly punishable—even here and now.
The church has all the needed substantive laws and procedural norms to penalize errant priests, particularly those accused, tried and proven guilty of sexual misconduct of any kind. The penal laws of the church are applied to sinful priests and lay people alike, in the spirit of justice tempered with mercy, in the light of truth seen in the perspective of grace.
But this in no way means that she spares the rod when the rod should be applied for a threefold purpose: the amendment of the sinner, the example for the community, and the restoration of order and discipline in the church. This is especially true for errant members of the clergy. They should know better. They should likewise behave better. And they are wherefore held more accountable and punishable for their sinfulness.
Once a cleric is proven guilty of having violated his commitment to continence or his obligation to celibacy, he is subject to three categories of penal sanctions—depending on the gravity of his offense. The lightest penalty is removal from office whereby he is made a “floating” priest. The more severe punishment is his suspension from the ministry that forbids him from exercising priestly service. The most serious penal sanction is his dismissal from the clerical state that effectively and definitely removes him from the ranks of the clergy while still tied down by his commitment to continence and by the law of the Church.
The kindness, care and concern of the Church towards her children as their mother, may not certainly be interpreted as tolerance or insensibility. She is kind and compassionate but definitely just, too.
5 January 2000