Pope allows cardinals, bishops to be tried by Vatican's lay criminal tribunal

Muri Assunção, New York Daily News on

Published in Religious News

Cardinals and bishops will now be allowed to be tried by the Vatican’s lay criminal tribunal, according to a decree issued Friday by Pope Francis.

Until now, the Catholic Church’s most senior officials accused of criminal offenses could only be tried by their peers in the "Corte di Cassazone" (Court of Cassation), which is presided over by a cardinal.

On Friday, Francis changed the policy in a document named “motu proprio,” which amends the judicial system of the Vatican City State promulgated in March 2020, according to Vatican News.

The new law makes clear that Vatican City State judges have jurisdiction over Holy See cardinals and bishops — although the pope will still have to authorize any trials before they can proceed.

According to Religion News Service, the decree represents a “strike against clericalism in the church, which Francis has combated since becoming pope.”


When the new motu proprio comes into effect — the day after its publication in the L’Osservatore Romano — cardinals and bishops being tried for criminal offenses will be prosecuted and judged “like everyone else and by the same Vatican Court,” Vatican News noted.

The message sent to cardinals and bishops — that Francis is committed to hold them accountable for criminal misconduct — comes a day after the announcement of a law aimed at cracking down on corruption in the Roman Catholic Church.

On Thursday, Francis set a 40 euro ($48) gift cap for all Vatican employees, according to The Associated Press.

Senior management and administrators will be required to declare that they are clear of convictions or investigations regarding terrorism, money laundering or tax evasion. They will also be prohibited from investing in companies whose principles go against the church’s doctrine.

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