A top Vatican canon lawyer has pointed out that existing Church law already provides adequate means of addressing the problem of sexual harassment involving priests.

In a speech delivered at the University of Milan last May 3, Archbishop Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, suggested that Catholic officials should not rely immediately on secular authorities to handle such issues, since the Church’s own canonical structure is designed to promote the confidence of the faithful in the integrity of the Church and her mission.

“The Church certainly recognizes the authority of the civil judicial authorities in the cases that concern crimes in the civil realm,” the archbishop said. “But the Church cannot renounce her own juridical and disciplinary instruments, that are designed for the specific requirements of ecclesial justice.”

Archbishop Herranz observed that the Code of Canon Law (#1395) already prescribes the penalty of “laicization” for priests who are guilty of pedophilia.

A priest who is “laicized” is one stripped of his priestly authority and duties, thus returning to lay status.

Meanwhile, as sex scandals involving the Catholic Church are gradually surfacing nationwide, a former state prosecutor has suggested incarceration as punishment for errant priests aside from laicization.

“The Catholic Church, being morally ascendant over the laity, should remove the pedophile priests and send them to jail,” said lawyer Eric Mallonga, who currently handles cases of minors raped by priests.

Mallonga, who was one of the guests in the TV show Isyu last May 16, said that pedophile priests abuse the trust given to them as representatives of Christ on earth.

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“They pretend to be representatives of Christ and yet they commit shameful crimes which could never be accepted by the victims,” he said.

Mallonga currently handles the case against Rev. Fr. Macario Apuya of the Society of the Divine Word, who allegedly raped a 14-year-old girl about 2 years ago in his assigned parish in Pangasinan. Alder T. Almo and Eldric Paul A. Peredo with reports from the Catholic World News and the Philippine Star

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