Canonist to Vatican archbishop: No, Church law doesn’t excommunicate papal critics

Canonist to Vatican archbishop: No, Church law doesn’t excommunicate papal critics

John-Henry Westen

December 7, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – A controversy launched by Vatican Archbishop Rino Fisichella over the possibility of automatic excommunication for those who, the archbishop claims, use words as “physical violence” against the pope [Papal critics threatened with excommunication as Year of Mercy begins], has been answered by well-known canonist Edward Peters.

In a blog post today, Peters says Fisichella “was speaking in the context of faculties to absolve from automatic excommunications, and as there is an automatic excommunication against those who employ physical force against the pope (1983 CIC 1370 § 1), I am guessing that Fisichella might be thinking that ‘harsh language’ against the pope is a canonical crime that makes one liable to excommunication. If so, he is mistaken.”

Archbishop Fisichella made his remarks at a Vatican press briefing while explaining how Pope Francis’s new “Missionaries of Mercy” will have the power to forgive penalties previously reserved to the Holy See. In reference to Canon 1370, which imposes automatic excommunication for “physical violence” against the Roman Pontiff, Archbishop Fisichella said: “I would say that we need to understand well ‘physical violence,’ because sometimes words, too, are rocks and stones, and therefore I believe some of these sins, too, are far more widespread than we might think.”

Peters points out that Canon 18 “requires penal canons to be read strictly (i.e., as narrowly as reasonably possible).” He notes that Canon 1370 criminalizes ‘vim physicam’ against the pope, not ‘verba aspera’ or variants thereon, and I know of no canonical commentary that includes ‘words’ as a species of ‘physical force’ in this context.” Rather, Peters points to four canon law commentaries which all “expressly exclude ‘verbal violence’ from the range of actions penalized under Canon 1370.”

See Dr. Ed Peters’ full blog post here.

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3 comments on “Canonist to Vatican archbishop: No, Church law doesn’t excommunicate papal critics

  1. And a collective sigh of relief goes up from the AQ community…

    May his reign be short.

  2. Posted by Aged parent at on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

    Some of us might have this response to Fisichella’s veiled excommunication threats

    Seriously though, the good Archbishop would help himself if he would delve more deeply into Church history. Legitimate and respectful criticism of the Pope when necessary has been going on in the Church since Christ Himself walked the earth, and has continued on since then.

    One doesn’t need to bore readers with the obvious historical examples that abound. Catholics know that when their leaders go astray they have the right and the duty to express their thoughts, even if those thoughts are not the kind that high-ranking Churchmen wish to hear.

    Would the good Archbishop be shocked to learn that Jesus Christ Himself said to the first pope, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” ?

    If nothing else Fisichella’s ludicrous remarks indicate that the current Pope’s hangers-on (and maybe Francis himself) are in desperation mode.

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