BOOK VI : SANCTIONS IN
PART I : OFFENCES AND PUNISHMENTS IN GENERAL
TITLE I: THE PUNISHMENT OF OFFENCES IN GENERAL
Can. 1311 The Church has its
own inherent right to constrain with penal sanctions Christ's
faithful who commit offences.
Can. 1312 §1 The penal sanctions in the Church are:
1° medicinal penalties or censures, which are listed in cann. 1331-1333;
2° expiatory penalties, mentioned in Can. 1336;
§2 The law may determine other
expiatory penalties which deprive a member of Christ's faithful
of some spiritual or temporal good, and are consistent with the
Church's supernatural purpose.
§3 Use is also made of penal remedies and penances: the former primarily to prevent offences,
the latter rather to substitute for or to augment a penalty.
TITLE II: PENAL LAW AND PENAL PRECEPT
Can. 1313 §1 If a law is changed after an offence has been committed, the law more
favorable to the offender is to be applied.
§2 If a later law removes a law, or at least a penalty, the penalty immediately lapses.
Can. 1314 A penalty is for the most part ferendae sententiae, that is, not binding upon the
offender until it has been imposed. It is, however, latae
sententiae, so that it is incurred automatically upon the
commission of an offence, if a law or precept expressly lays this
Can. 1315 §1 Whoever has legislative power can also make penal laws. A legislator can,
however, by laws of his own, reinforce with a fitting penalty a
divine law or an ecclesiastical law of a higher authority,
observing the limits of his competence in respect of territory or
§2 A law can either itself determine the penalty or leave its determination to the prudent
decision of a judge.
§3 A particular law can also add other penalties to those laid down for a certain offence in a
universal law; this is not to be done, however, except for the
gravest necessity. If a universal law threatens an undetermined
penalty or a discretionary penalty, a particular law can
establish in its place a determined or an obligatory penalty.
Can. 1316 Diocesan Bishops are to take care that as far as possible any penalties which are to
be imposed by law are uniform within the same city or region.
Can. 1317 Penalties are to be
established only in so far as they are really necessary for the
better maintenance of ecclesiastical discipline. Dismissal from
the clerical state, however, cannot be laid down by particular
Can. 1318 A legislator is not to threaten latae sententiae penalties, except perhaps for some
outstanding and malicious offences which may be either more grave
by reason of scandal or such that they cannot be effectively
punished by ferendae sententiae penalties. He is not, however, to
constitute censures, especially excommunication, except with the
greatest moderation, and only for the more grave offences.
Can. 1319 §1 To the extent to which a legislator can impose precepts by virtue of the power of
governance in the external forum, to that extent can he also by
precept threaten a determined penalty, other than a perpetual
§2 A precept to which a penalty is attached is not to be issued unless the matter has
been very carefully considered, and unless the provisions of Can.
1317 and 1318 concerning particular laws have been observed.
Can. 1320 In all matters in which they come under the authority of the local Ordinary,
religious can be constrained by him with penalties.
TITLE III: THOSE WHO ARE LIABLE TO PENAL SANCTIONS
Can. 1321 §1 No one can be punished for the commission of an external violation of a law or
precept unless it 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
Can. 1322 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
Can. 1323 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 chanceoccurrence 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 cann. 1324, §1, n. 2 and 1325;
7° thought, through no personal fault, that some one of the circumstances existed which
are mentioned in nn. 4 or 5.
Can. 1324 §1 The perpretrator 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;
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 by reason of necessity or
grave inconvenience, if the act 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
Can. 1325 Ignorance which is
crass or supine or affected can never be taken into account when
applying the provisions of cann. 1323 and 1324. Likewise,
drunkenness or other mental disturbances cannot be taken into
account if these have been deliberately sought so as to commit
the offence or to excuse it; nor can passion which has been
deliberately stimulated or nourished.
Can. 1326 §1 A judge may 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 has abused a position of
authority or an office, in order to commit a crime;
3° an offender 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.
§2 In the cases mentioned in 1, if the penalty constituted is latae sententiae, another
penalty or a penance may be added.
Can. 1327 A particular law may, either as a general rule or for individual offences, determine
excusing, attenuating or aggravating circumstances, over and above the cases mentioned in cann. 1323-1326. Likewise,
circumstances may be determined in a precept which excuse from, attenuate or aggravate the penalty constituted in the precept.
Can. 1328 §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
Can. 1329 §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.
Can. 1330 §1 An offence which consists in a declaration or in some other manifestation of
doctrine or knowledge, is not to be regarded as effected if no
one actually perceives the declaration or manifestation.
TITLE IV: PENALTIES AND OTHER PUNISHMENTS
CHAPTER I : CENSURES
Can. 1331 §1 An excommunicated person is forbidden:
1° to have any ministerial part in the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Eucharist or in
any other ceremonies of public worship;
2° to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments;
3° to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, functions or acts of governance.
§2 If the excommunication has been imposed or declared, the offender:
1° proposing to act in defiance of the provision of §1, n. 1 is to be removed, or else
the liturgical action is to be suspended, unless there is a grave
reason to the contrary.
2° invalidly exercises any acts of governance which, in accordance with §1, n.3, are unlawful;
3° is forbidden to benefit from privileges already granted;
4° cannot validly assume any dignity, office or other function in the Church;
5° loses the title to the benefits of any dignity, office, function or pension held in the Church.
Can. 1332 One who is under interdict is obliged by the prohibition of Can. 1331 §1, nn. 1
and 2 - if the interdict was imposed or declared, the provision of
Can. 1331 §2, n. 1 is to be observed.
Can. 1333 §1 Suspension, which can affect only clerics, prohibits:
1° all or some of the acts of the power of order;
2° all or some of the acts of the power of governance;
3° the exercise of all or some of the rights or functions attaching to an office.
§2 In a law or a precept it may be prescribed that, after a judgement which imposes or
declares the penalty, a suspended person cannot validly perform acts of the power of governance.
§3 The prohibition never affects:
1° any offices or power of governance which are not within the control of the Superior who
establishes the penalty;
2° a right of residence which the offender may have by virtue of office;
3° the right to administer goods which may belong to an office held by the person suspended,
if the penalty is latae sententiae.
§4 A suspension prohibiting the receipt of benefits, stipends, pensions or other such things,
carries with it the obligation of restitution of whatever has
been unlawfully received, even though this was in good faith.
Can. 1334 §1 The extent of a suspension, within the limits laid down in the preceding canon,
is defined either by the law or precept, or by the judgement or
decree whereby the penalty is imposed.
§2 A law, but not a precept,
can establish a latae sententiae suspension without an added
determination or limitation; such a penalty has all the effects
enumerated in Can. 1333 §1.
Can. 1335 If a censure prohibits the celebration of the sacraments or sacramentals or
the exercise of a power of governance, the prohibition is
suspended whenever this is necessary to provide for the faithful
who are in danger of death. If a latae sententiae censure has not
been declared, the prohibition is also suspended whenever one of
the faithful requests a sacrament or sacramental or an act of the
power of governance; for any just reason it is lawful to make
such a request.
CHAPTER II : EXPIATORY PENALTIES
Can. 1336 §1 Expiatory penalties can affect the offender either forever or for a
determinate or an indeterminate period. Apart from others which
the law may perhaps establish, these penalties are as follows:
1° a prohibition against residence, or an order to reside, in a certain place or territory;
2° deprivation of power, office, function, right, privilege, faculty, favor, title or
insignia, even of a merely honorary nature;
3° a prohibition on the exercise of those things enumerated in n. 2, or a prohibition on
their exercise inside or outside a certain place; such a
prohibition is never under pain of nullity;
4° a penal transfer to another office;
5° dismissal from the clerical state.
§2 Only those expiatory penalties may be latae sententiae which are enumerated in §1, n. 3.
Can. 1337 §1 A prohibition against residing in a certain place or territory can affect both
clerics and religious. An order to reside in a certain place can
affect secular clerics and, within the limits of their constitutions, religious.
§2 An order imposing residence in a certain place or territory must have the consent of the
Ordinary of that place, unless there is question of a house set
up for penance or rehabilitation of clerics, including extradiocesans.
Can. 1338 §1 The deprivations and prohibitions enumerated in Can. 1336 §1, nn. 2 and 3 never
affect powers, offices, functions, rights, privileges, faculties,
favors, titles or insignia, which are not within the control of
the Superior who establishes the penalty.
§2 There can be no deprivation
of the power of order, but only a prohibition against the
exercise of it or of some of its acts; neither can there be a
deprivation of academic degrees.
§3 The norm laid down for censures in Can. 1335 is to be observed in regard to the
prohibitions mentioned in Can. 1336 §1, n. 3.
CHAPTER III : PENAL REMEDIES AND PENANCES
Can. 1339 §1 When someone is in a proximate occasion of committing an offence or when, after
an investigation, there is a serious suspicion that an offence has been committed, the Ordinary either personally or through
another can give that person warning.
§2 In the case of behavior which gives rise to scandal or serious disturbance of public
order, the Ordinary can also correct the person, in a way
appropriate to the particular conditions of the person and of what has been done.
§3 The fact that there has been a warning or a correction must always be proven, at least
from some document to be kept in the secret archive of the curia.
Can. 1340 §1 A penance, which is imposed in the external forum, is the performance of some work
of religion or piety or charity.
§2 A public penance is never to be imposed for an occult transgression.
§3 According to his prudent judgement, the Ordinary may add penances to the penal remedy of
warning or correction.
TITLE V: THE APPLICATION OF PENALTIES
Can. 1341 The Ordinary is to start a judicial or an administrative procedure for the
imposition or the declaration of penalties only when he perceives
that neither by fraternal correction or reproof, nor by any
methods of pastoral care, can the scandal be sufficiently
repaired, justice restored and the offender reformed.
Can. 1342 §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; in every case, penal remedies and penances may 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.
Can. 1343 If a law or precept gives the judge the power to apply or not to apply a penalty, the
judge may also, according to his own conscience and prudence, modify the penalty or in its place impose a penance.
Can. 1344 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;
2° abstain from imposing the penalty or substitute a milder penalty or a penance, if the
offender has repented and repaired the scandal, 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.
Can. 1345 Whenever the offender had only an imperfect use of reason, or committed the offence out
of fear or necessity or in the heat of passion or 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.
Can. 1346 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.
Can. 1347 §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, or at least seriously promised to make, reparation for the damage and scandal.
Can. 1348 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
or 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.
Can. 1349 If a penalty is indeterminate, and if the law does not provide otherwise, the
judge is not to impose graver penalties, especially censures, unless the seriousness of the case really demands it. He may not
impose penalties which are perpetual.
Can. 1350 §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.
Can. 1351 A penalty binds an offender everywhere, even when the one who established or imposed
it has ceased from office, unless it is otherwise expressly provided.
Can. 1352 §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.
Can. 1352 An appeal or a recourse against judgements of a court or against decrees which
impose or declare any penalty, has a suspensive effect.
TITLE VI: THE CESSATION OF PENALTIES
Can. 1354 §1 Besides those who are enumerated in cann. 1355--56, all who can dispense from a law
which is supported by a penalty, can also remit the penalty itself.
§2 Moreover, a law or precept
which establishes a penalty can also grant to others the power of remitting the penalty.
§3 If the Apostolic See has reserved the remission of a penalty to itself or to others, the
reservation is to be strictly interpreted.
Can. 1355 §1 Provided it is not reserved to the Apostolic See, a penalty which is established
by law and has been imposed or declared, can be remitted by the following:
1° the Ordinary who initiated the judicial proceedings to impose or declare the penalty, or who
by a decree, either personally or through another, imposed or declared it;
2° the Ordinary of the place where the offender actually is, after consulting the Ordinary
mentioned in n. 1, unless because of extraordinary circumstances this is impossible.
§2 Provided it is not reserved to the Apostolic See, a latae sententiae penalty established by
law but not yet declared, can be remitted by the Ordinary in respect of his subjects and of those actually in his territory or
of those who committed the offence in his territory. Moreover, any Bishop can do this, but only in the course of sacramental
Can. 1356 §1 A ferendae or a
latae sententiae penalty established in a precept not issued by
the Apostolic See, can be remitted by the following:
1° the Ordinary of the place where the offender actually is;
2° if the penalty has been imposed or declared, the Ordinary who initiated the judicial
proceedings to impose or declare the penalty, or who by a decree,
either personally or through another, imposed or declared it.
§2 Before the remission is granted, the author of the precept is to be consulted, unless
because of extraordinary circumstance this is impossible.
Can. 1357 §1 Without prejudice to the provisions of cann. 508 and 976, a confessor can in the
internal sacramental forum remit a latae sententiae censure of excommunication or interdict which has not been declared, if it
is difficult for the penitent to remain in a state of grave sin for the time necessary for the competent Superior to provide.
§2 In granting the remission, the confessor is to impose upon the penitent, under pain of again
incurring the censure, the obligation to have recourse within one
month to the competent Superior or to a priest having the
requisite faculty, and to abide by his instructions. In the
meantime, the confessor is to impose an appropriate penance and,
to the extent demanded, to require reparation of scandal and
damage. The recourse, however, may be made even through the
confessor, without mention of a name.
§3 The same duty of recourse, when they have recovered, binds those who in accordance with Can.
976 have had remitted an imposed or declared censure or one reserved to the Holy See.
Can. 1358 §1 The remission of a censure cannot be granted except to an offender whose contempt
has been purged in accordance with Can. 1347 §2. However, once
the contempt has been purged, the remission cannot be refused.
§2 The one who remits a censure can make provision in accordance with Can. 1348, and can
also impose a penance.
Can. 1359 If one is bound by a number of penalties, a remission is valid only for those
penalties expressed in it. A general remission, however, removes
all penalties, except those which in the petition have been concealed in bad faith.
Can. 1360 The remission of a penalty extorted by grave fear is invalid.
Can. 1361 §1 A remission can be granted even to a person who is not present, or conditionally.
§2 A remission in the external forum is to be granted in writing, unless a grave reason suggests
§3 Care is to be taken that the petition for remission or the remission itself is not made
public, except insofar as this would either be useful for the
protection of the good name of the offender, or be necessary to repair scandal.
Can. 1362 §1 A criminal action is extinguished by prescription after three years, except for:
1° offences reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;
2° an action arising from any of the offences mentioned in cann. 1394, 1395, 1397, 1398, which
is extinguished after five years;
3° offences not punished by the universal law, where a particular law has prescribed a
different period of prescription.
§2 Prescription runs from the
day the offence was committed or, if the offence was enduring or
habitual, from the day it ceased.
Can. 1363 §1 An action to execute a penalty is extinguished by prescription if the judge's
decree of execution mentioned in Can. 1651 was not notified to
the offender within the periods mentioned in Can. 1362; these
periods are to be reckoned from the day the condemnatory judgement became an adjudged matter.
§2 The same applies, with the necessary adjustments, if the penalty was imposed by an
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