CODE OF CANON LAW
BOOK VI. SANCTIONS IN THE CHURCH
SANCTIONS IN THE CHURCH
DELICTS AND PENALTIES IN GENERAL
THE PUNISHMENT OF DELICTS IN GENERAL (Cann. 1311 - 1312)
Can. 1311 The Church has the innate and proper right to coerce offending
members of the Christian faithful with penal sanctions.
Can. 1312 §1. The following are penal sanctions in the Church:
1/ medicinal penalties, or censures, which are listed in cann. 1331-1333;
2/ expiatory penalties mentioned in can. 1336.
§2. The law can establish other expiatory penalties which deprive a member of
the Christian faithful of some spiritual or temporal good and which are
consistent with the supernatural purpose of the Church.
§3. Penal remedies and penances are also used; the former especially to
prevent delicts, the latter to substitute for or to increase a penalty.
PENAL LAW AND PENAL PRECEPT (Cann. 1313 - 1320)
Can. 1313 §1. If a law is changed after a delict has been committed, the law
more favorable to the accused is to be applied.
§2. If a later law abolishes a law or at least the penalty, the penalty
Can. 1314 Generally, a penalty is ferendae sententiae, so that it does not
bind the guilty party until after it has been imposed; if the law or precept
expressly establishes it, however, a penalty is latae sententiae, so that it is
incurred ipso facto when the delict is committed.
Can. 1315 §1. A person who has legislative power can also issue penal laws;
within the limits of his competence by reason of territory or of persons,
moreover, he can by his own laws also strengthen with an appropriate penalty a
divine law or an ecclesiastical law issued by a higher authority.
§2. The law itself can determine a penalty, or its determination can be left
to the prudent appraisal of a judge.
§3. Particular law also can add other penalties to those established by
universal law for some delict; however, this is not to be done except for very
grave necessity. If universal law threatens an indeterminate or facultative
penalty, particular law can also establish a determinate or obligatory one in
Can. 1316 Insofar as possible, diocesan bishops are to take care that if
penal laws must be issued, they are uniform in the same city or region.
Can. 1317 Penalties are to be established only insofar as they are truly
necessary to provide more suitably for ecclesiastical discipline. Particular
law, however, cannot establish a penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.
Can. 1318 A legislator is not to threaten latae sententiae penalties except
possibly for certain singularly malicious delicts which either can result in
graver scandal or cannot be punished effectively by ferendae sententiae
penalties; he is not, however, to establish censures, especially
excommunication, except with the greatest moderation and only for graver
Can. 1319 §1. Insofar as a person can impose precepts in the external forum
in virtue of the power of governance, the person can also threaten determinate
penalties by precept, except perpetual expiatory penalties.
§2. A penal precept is not to be issued unless the matter has been considered
thoroughly and those things established in cann. 1317 and 1318 about particular
laws have been observed.
Can. 1320 The local ordinary can coerce religious with penalties in all those
matters in which they are subject to him.
THE SUBJECT LIABLE TO PENAL SANCTIONS (Cann. 1321 - 1330)
Can. 1321 §1. No one is punished unless the external violation of a law or
precept, committed by the person, is gravely imputable by reason of malice or
§2. A penalty established by a law or precept binds the person who has
deliberately violated the law or precept; however, a person who violated a law
or precept by omitting necessary diligence is not punished unless the law or
precept provides otherwise.
§3. When an external violation has occurred, imputability is presumed unless
it is otherwise apparent.
Can. 1322 Those who habitually lack the use of reason are considered to be
incapable of a delict, even if they violated a law or precept while seemingly
Can. 1323 The following are not subject to a penalty when they have violated
a law or precept:
1/ a person who has not yet completed the sixteenth year of age;
2/ a person who without negligence was ignorant that he or she violated a law
or precept; inadvertence and error are equivalent to ignorance;
3/ a person who acted due to physical force or a chance occurrence which the
person could not foresee or, if foreseen, avoid;
4/ a person who acted coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave,
or due to necessity or grave inconvenience unless the act is intrinsically evil
or tends to the harm of souls;
5/ a person who acted with due moderation against an unjust aggressor for the
sake of legitimate self defense or defense of another;
6/ a person who lacked the use of reason, without prejudice to the prescripts
of cann. 1324, §1, n. 2 and 1325;
7/ a person who without negligence thought that one of the circumstances
mentioned in nn. 4 or 5 was present.
Can. 1324 §1. The perpetrator of a violation is not exempt from a penalty,
but the penalty established by law or precept must be tempered or a penance
employed in its place if the delict was committed:
1/ by a person who had only the imperfect use of reason;
2/ by a person who lacked the use of reason because of drunkenness or another
similar culpable disturbance of mind;
3/ from grave heat of passion which did not precede and hinder all
deliberation of mind and consent of will and provided that the passion itself
had not been stimulated or fostered voluntarily;
4/ by a minor who has completed the age of sixteen years;
5/ by a person who was coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave,
or due to necessity or grave inconvenience if the delict is intrinsically evil
or tends to the harm of souls;
6/ by a person who acted without due moderation against an unjust aggressor
for the sake of legitimate self defense or defense of another;
7/ against someone who gravely and unjustly provokes the person;
8/ by a person who thought in culpable error that one of the circumstances
mentioned in can. 1323, nn. 4 or 5 was present;
9/ by a person who without negligence did not know that a penalty was
attached to a law or precept;
10/ by a person who acted without full imputability provided that the
imputability was grave.
§2. A judge can act in the same manner if another circumstance is present
which diminishes the gravity of a delict.
§3. In the circumstances mentioned in §1, the accused is not bound by a latae
Can. 1325 Crass, supine, or affected ignorance can never be considered in
applying the prescripts of cann. 1323 and 1324; likewise drunkenness or other
disturbances of mind cannot be considered if they are sought deliberately in
order to commit or excuse a delict, nor can passion which is voluntarily
stimulated or fostered.
Can. 1326 §1. A judge can punish the following more gravely than the law or
precept has established:
1/ a person who after a condemnation or after the declaration of a penalty
continues so to offend that from the circumstances the obstinate ill will of the
person can prudently be inferred;
2/ a person who has been established in some dignity or who has abused a
position of authority or office in order to commit the delict;
3/ an accused person who, when a penalty has been established against a
delict based on negligence, foresaw the event and nonetheless omitted
precautions to avoid it, which any diligent person would have employed.
§2. If the penalty established in the cases mentioned in §1 is latae
sententiae, another penalty or a penance can be added.
Can. 1327 Particular law can establish other exempting, mitigating, or
aggravating circumstances besides the cases in cann. 1323-1326, either by
general norm or for individual delicts. Likewise, circumstances can be
established in a precept which exempt from, mitigate, or increase a penalty
established by the precept.
Can. 1328 §1. A person who has done or omitted something in order to commit a
delict and yet, contrary to his or her intent, did not commit the delict is not
bound by the penalty established for a completed delict unless the law or
precept provides otherwise.
§2. If the acts or omissions are by their nature conducive to the execution
of the delict, however, their perpetrator can be subjected to a penance or penal
remedy unless the perpetrator voluntarily ceased from carrying out the delict
which had been initiated. If scandal or some other grave damage or danger
resulted, however, the perpetrator, even if he or she voluntarily desisted, can
be punished with a just penalty, although one lesser than that established for a
Can. 1329 §1. If ferendae sententiae penalties are established for the
principal perpetrator, those who conspire together to commit a delict and are
not expressly named in a law or precept are subject to the same penalties or to
others of the same or lesser gravity.
§2. Accomplices who are not named in a law or precept incur a latae
sententiae penalty attached to a delict if without their assistance the delict
would not have been committed, and the penalty is of such a nature that it can
affect them; otherwise, they can be punished by ferendae sententiae penalties.
Can. 1330 A delict which consists in a declaration or in another
manifestation of will, doctrine, or knowledge must not be considered completed
if no one perceives the declaration or manifestation.
PENALTIES AND OTHER PUNISHMENTS (Cann. 1331 - 1340)
Can. 1331 §1. An excommunicated person is forbidden:
1/ to have any ministerial participation in celebrating the sacrifice of the
Eucharist or any other ceremonies of worship whatsoever;
2/ to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments;
3/ to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, or functions
whatsoever or to place acts of governance.
§2. If the excommunication has been imposed or declared, the offender:
1/ who wishes to act against the prescript of §1, n. 1 must be prevented from
doing so, or the liturgical action must be stopped unless a grave cause
2/ invalidly places acts of governance which are illicit according to the
norm of §1, n. 3;
3/ is forbidden to benefit from privileges previously granted;
4/ cannot acquire validly a dignity, office, or other function in the Church;
5/ does not appropriate the benefits of a dignity, office, any function, or
pension, which the offender has in the Church.
Can. 1332 The prohibitions mentioned in can. 1331, §1, nn. 1 and 2 bind an
interdicted person. If the interdict has been imposed or declared, however, the
prescript of can. 1331, §2, n. 1 must be observed.
Can. 1333 §1. Suspension, which can affect only clerics, prohibits:
1/ either all or some acts of the power of orders;
2/ either all or some acts of the power of governance;
3/ the exercise of either all or some of the rights or functions attached to
§2. A law or precept can establish that a suspended person cannot place acts
of governance validly after a condemnatory or declaratory sentence.
§3. A prohibition never affects:
1/ the offices or the power of governance which are not under the power of
the superior who establishes the penalty;
2/ the right of residence which the offender may have by reason of office;
3/ the right to administer goods which may pertain to the office of the
person suspended if the penalty is latae sententiae.
§4. A suspension prohibiting a person from receiving benefits, a stipend,
pensions, or any other such thing entails the obligation of making restitution
for whatever has been received illegitimately, even if in good faith.
Can. 1334 §1. Within the limits established by the preceding canon, either
the law or precept itself or the sentence or decree which imposes the penalty
defines the extent of a suspension.
§2. A law, but not a precept, can establish a latae sententiae suspension
without additional determination or limitation; such a penalty has all the
eVects listed in can. 1333, §1.
Can. 1335 If a censure prohibits the celebration of sacraments or
sacramentals or the placing of an act of governance, the prohibition is
suspended whenever it is necessary to care for the faithful in danger of death.
If a latae sententiae censure has not been declared, the prohibition is also
suspended whenever a member of the faithful requests a sacrament or sacramental
or an act of governance; a person is permitted to request this for any just
Can. 1336 §1. In addition to other penalties which the law may have
established, the following are expiatory penalties which can affect an offender
either perpetually, for a prescribed time, or for an indeterminate time:
1/ a prohibition or an order concerning residence in a certain place or
2/ privation of a power, office, function, right, privilege, faculty, favor,
title, or insignia, even merely honorary;
3/ a prohibition against exercising those things listed under n. 2, or a
prohibition against exercising them in a certain place or outside a certain
place; these prohibitions are never under pain of nullity;
4/ a penal transfer to another office;
5/ dismissal from the clerical state.
§2. Only those expiatory penalties listed in §1, n. 3 can be latae
Can. 1337 §1. A prohibition against residing in a certain place or territory
can affect both clerics and religious; however, the order to reside in a certain
place or territory can affect secular clerics and, within the limits of the
§2. To impose an order to reside in a certain place or territory requires the
consent of the ordinary of that place unless it is a question of a house
designated for clerics doing penance or being rehabilitated even from outside
Can. 1338 §1. The privations and prohibitions listed in can. 1336, §1, nn. 2
and 3, never affect powers, offices, functions, rights, privileges, faculties,
favors, titles, or insignia which are not subject to the power of the superior
who establishes the penalty.
§2. Privation of the power of orders is not possible but only a prohibition
against exercising it or some of its acts; likewise, privation of academic
degrees is not possible.
§3. The norm given in can. 1335 for censures must be observed for the
prohibitions listed in can. 1336, §1, n. 3.
PENAL REMEDIES AND PENANCES
Can. 1339 §1. An ordinary, personally or through another, can warn a person
who is in the proximate occasion of committing a delict or upon whom, after
investigation, grave suspicion of having committed a delict has fallen.
§2. He can also rebuke a person whose behavior causes scandal or a grave
disturbance of order, in a manner accommodated to the special conditions of the
person and the deed.
§3. The warning or rebuke must always be established at least by some
document which is to be kept in the secret archive of the curia.
Can. 1340 §1. A penance, which can be imposed in the external forum, is the
performance of some work of religion, piety, or charity.
§2. A public penance is never to be imposed for an occult transgression.
§3. According to his own prudent judgment, an ordinary can add penances to
the penal remedy of warning or rebuke.
THE APPLICATION OF PENALTIES (Cann. 1341 - 1353)
Can. 1341 An ordinary is to take care to initiate a judicial or
administrative process to impose or declare penalties only after he has
ascertained that fraternal correction or rebuke or other means of pastoral
solicitude cannot sufficiently repair the scandal, restore justice, reform the
Can. 1342 §1. Whenever just causes preclude a judicial process, a penalty can
be imposed or declared by extrajudicial decree; penal remedies and penances,
however, can be applied by decree in any case whatsoever.
§2. Perpetual penalties cannot be imposed or declared by decree, nor can
penalties be so applied when the law or precept establishing them prohibits
their application by decree.
§3. What a law or precept states about the imposition or declaration of a
penalty by a judge in a trial must be applied to a superior who imposes or
declares a penalty by extrajudicial decree unless it is otherwise evident or
unless it concerns prescripts which pertain only to procedural matters.
Can. 1343 If the law or precept gives the judge the power to apply or not
apply a penalty, the judge can also temper the penalty or impose a penance in
its place, according to his own conscience and prudence.
Can. 1344 Even if the law uses preceptive words, the judge can, according to
his own conscience and prudence:
1/ defer the imposition of the penalty to a more opportune time if it is
foreseen that greater evils will result from an offerly hasty punishment of the
2/ abstain from imposing a penalty, impose a lighter penalty, or employ a
penance if the offender has reformed and repaired the scandal or if the offender
has been or, it is foreseen, will be punished sufficiently by civil authority;
3/ suspend the obligation of observing an expiatory penalty if it is the
first offense of an offender who has lived a praiseworthy life and if the need
to repair scandal is not pressing, but in such a way that if the offender
commits an offense again within the time determined by the judge, the person is
to pay the penalty due for each delict unless in the interim the time for the
prescription of a penal action has elapsed for the first delict.
Can. 1345 Whenever the offender had only the imperfect use of reason or
committed the delict from fear, necessity, the heat of passion, or mental
disturbance from drunkenness or something similar, the judge can also abstain
from imposing any penalty if he thinks that reform of the person can be better
accomplished in another way.
Can. 1346 Whenever the offender has committed several delicts, it is left to
the prudent decision of the judge to moderate the penalties within equitable
limits if the sum of the feren dae sententiae penalties appears excessive.
Can. 1347 §1. A censure cannot be imposed validly unless the offender has
been warned at least once beforehand to withdraw from contumacy and has been
given a suitable time for repentance.
§2. An offender who has truly repented of the delict and has also made
suitable reparation for damages and scandal or at least has seriously promised
to do so must be considered to have withdrawn from contumacy.
Can. 1348 When an accused is acquitted of an accusation or when no penalty is
imposed, the ordinary can provide for the welfare of the person and for the
public good through appropriate warnings and other means of pastoral solicitude
or even through penal remedies if the matter warrants it.
Can. 1349 If a penalty is indeterminate and the law does not provide
otherwise, the judge is not to impose graver penalties, especially censures,
unless the seriousness of the case clearly demands it; he cannot, however,
impose perpetual penalties.
Can. 1350 §1. Unless it concerns dismissal from the clerical state, when
penalties are imposed on a cleric, provision must always be made so that he does
not lack those things necessary for his decent support.
§2. In the best manner possible, however, the ordinary is to take care to
provide for a person dismissed from the clerical state who is truly in need
because of the penalty.
Can. 1351 Unless other provision is expressly made, a penalty binds the
offender everywhere, even when the authority of the one who established or
imposed the penalty has lapsed.
Can. 1352 §1. If a penalty prohibits the reception of the sacraments or
sacramentals, the prohibition is suspended as long as the offender is in danger
§2. The obligation to observe an undeclared latae sententiae penalty which is
not notorious in the place where the offender is present, is suspended totally
or partially whenever the offender cannot observe it without danger of grave
scandal or infamy.
Can. 1353 An appeal or recourse from judicial sentences or from decrees,
which impose or declare a penalty, has a suspensive effect.
THE CESSATION OF PENALTIES (Cann. 1354 - 1363)
Can. 1354 §1. In addition to the persons listed in cann. 1355-1356, all who
can dispense from a law which includes a penalty or who can exempt from a
precept which threatens a penalty can also remit that penalty.
§2. Moreover, a law or precept which establishes a penalty can also give the
power of remission to others.
§3. If the Apostolic See has reserved the remission of a penalty to itself or
to others, the reservation must be interpreted strictly.
Can. 1355 §1. Provided that the penalty has not been reserved to the
Apostolic See, the following can remit an imposed or declared penalty
established by law:
1/ the ordinary who initiated the trial to impose or declare a penalty or who
personally or through another imposed or declared it by decree;
2/ the ordinary of the place where the offender is present, after the
ordinary mentioned under n. 1 has been consulted unless this is impossible
because of extraordinary circumstances.
§2. If the penalty has not been reserved to the Apostolic See, an ordinary
can remit a latae sententiae penalty established by law but not yet declared for
his subjects and those who are present in his territory or who committed the
offense there; any bishop can also do this in the act of sacramental confession.
Can. 1356 §1. The following can remit a ferendae sententiae or latae
sententiae penalty established by a precept not issued by the Apostolic See:
1/ the ordinary of the place where the offender is present;
2/ if the penalty has been imposed or declared, the ordinary who initiated
the trial to impose or declare the penalty or who personally or through another
imposed or declared it by decree.
§2. The author of the precept must be consulted before remission is made
unless this is impossible because of extraordinary circumstances.
Can. 1357 §1. Without prejudice to the prescripts of cann. 508 and 976, a
confessor can remit in the internal sacramental forum an undeclared latae
sententiae censure of excommunication or interdict if it is burdensome for the
penitent to remain in the state of grave sin during the time necessary for the
competent superior to make provision.
§2. In granting the remission, the confessor is to impose on the penitent,
under the penalty of reincidence, the obligation of making recourse within a
month to the competent superior or to a priest endowed with the faculty and the
obligation of obeying his mandates; in the meantime he is to impose a suitable
penance and, insofar as it is demanded, reparation of any scandal and damage;
however, recourse can also be made through the confessor, without mention of the
§3. After they have recovered, those for whom an imposed or declared censure
or one reserved to the Apostolic See has been remitted according to the norm of
can. 976 are also obliged to make recourse.
Can. 1358 §1. Remission of a censure cannot be granted unless the offender
has withdrawn from contumacy according to the norm of can. 1347, §2; it cannot
be denied, however, to a person who withdraws from contumacy.
§2. The person who remits a censure can make provision according to the norm
of can. 1348 or can even impose a penance.
Can. 1359 If several penalties bind a person, a remission is valid only for
the penalties expressed in it; a general remission, however, takes away all
penalties except those which the offender in bad faith omitted in the petition.
Can. 1360 The remission of a penalty extorted by grave fear is invalid.
Can. 1361 §1. A remission can also be given conditionally or to a person who
§2. A remission in the external forum is to be given in writing unless a
grave cause suggests otherwise.
§3. Care is to be taken that the petition of remission or the remission
itself is not divulged except insofar as it is either useful to protect the
reputation of the offender or necessary to repair scandal.
Can. 1362 §1. Prescription extinguishes a criminal action after three years
unless it concerns:
1/ delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;
2/ an action arising from the delicts mentioned in cann. 1394, 1395, 1397,
and 1398, which have a prescription of five years;
3/ delicts which are not punished in the common law if particular law has
established another period for prescription.
§2. Prescription runs from the day on which the delict was committed or, if
the delict is continuous or habitual, from the day on which it ceased.
Can. 1363 §1. Prescription extinguishes an action to execute a penalty if the
offender is not notified of the executive decree of the judge mentioned in can.
1651 within the time limits mentioned in can. 1362; these limits are to be
computed from the day on which the condemnatory sentence became a res iudicata.
§2. Having observed what is required, the same is valid if the penalty was
imposed by extrajudicial decree.