Pope Tightens Canon Law Against Dissent
Pope John Paul II has issued a new apostolic letter, in the form of a Motu Proprio, tightening the disciplinary provisions of Canon Law that deal with theological dissent.
The short, four-page document, entitled Ad Tuendam Fidem, adds new paragraphs to the Code of Canon Law. (The new addition will also be made in the separate Code of Canon Law for the Eastern churches.) The purpose of the change is to defend the integrity of the faith against theological dissent.
In an introductory explanation, Pope John Paul writes, "In order to defend the faith of the Catholic Church against errors on the part of some of the faithful-- but especially among those dedicated to the study of sacred theology-- it seemed absolutely necessary that... some norms must be added" to the Church's law. The Holy Father further explained that the new paragraphs make clear the serious obligation of theologians to convey the faith accurately, and set forth the canonical sanctions that may be imposed on those who fail to uphold this duty.
Although Church leaders and theologians are asked to make a Profession of Faith-- indicating their acceptance of all the truths taught definitively by the Church-- the Pope points out, there had been no provision in the Code of Canon Law which corresponded directly to that oath.
The first new addition to the Code, therefore, adds to the existing #750 a second paragraph, making it clear that anyone who refuses to accept a proposition definitively taught by the Church is thus "in opposition to the doctrine of the Catholic Church." Next, #1371-- a canon dealing with ecclesiastical sanctions for those who reject Church authority-- is amended to stipulate that anyone who violates #750 is "to be punished with a just penalty."
The final part of the new apostolic letter applies the same changes to the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches. In that text, the corresponding changes affect #598 and #1436, respectively.
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