The French Catholic Church has a national canonical criminal court

The Assembly of the Conference of Bishops of France.

Illustration ERIC CABANIS / AFP

Text by: RFI Follow

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This new unprecedented jurisdiction was inaugurated on Monday 5 December.

Its mission will be to deal with cases of sexual assault on adults.

Thus, the bishops of France are trying to respond to the scandals of sexual violence that continue to shake the Church.


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This was one of the recommendations of Ciase (Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church), whose report, submitted in October 2021,

had been a real shock.

This tribunal, which can be seized by any baptized person, will begin to function next January.

He will have to judge cases of sexual assault on adults but also breaches of trust, spiritual, and financial crimes.

As for the cases of


and the files directly concerning the bishops, they remain within the competence of the Vatican.


We are the only country to have for the Church a court specializing in criminal matters

" and having "

national jurisdiction

", assured Mgr Joseph de Metz-Noblat, bishop of Langres (Haute-Marne) and president of the Council for canonical questions at the conference of bishops of France.

judge and party

Until now, the cases that the national canonical tribunal will have to manage depended on tribunals installed in each diocese.

But this configuration posed a problem because the bishop was judge and judged, some believed.

Moreover, these jurisdictions often lacked personnel sufficiently competent in canon law.

This new tribunal will be composed of 13 people (8 priests and 5 lay people), including 4 women.

The penalties could be the obligation to move, the prohibition to exercise a ministry or to celebrate the mass, even the dismissal from the clerical state or the excommunication.

The culprits may also have damages to pay to their victims who may also seize the French courts in parallel.


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