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Chinese bishops must repent illicit ordinations, Vatican says

June 13, 2011

Chinese prelates who were ordained without Vatican approval, or participated in such illicit ordinations, should make a public display of their repentance, the Vatican has said.

A new document from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the Vatican body charged with interpretation of canon law, has underlined the determination of the Holy See to stop the unauthorized ordinations of bishops which have been organized by the Catholic Patriotic Association in defiance of the Vatican.

The Vatican document, which was published in L’Osservatore Romano, reminds readers that the ordination of a bishop without permission from the Holy See is a grave canonical offense, for which the penalty is automatic excommunication. That penalty may not be incurred if a bishop is forced to participate in the ceremony, the Pontifical Council concedes. Nevertheless, the illicit ordinations cause division in the Church, and those who have been involved should undertake some public penance to atone for their misdeeds.

The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts suggests that bishops who admit their involvement in an illicit ordination should not celebrate the sacraments, should not receive the Eucharist, and should not participate in the administration of a diocese—in other words, they should observe the restrictions imposed on those who have been excommunicated—until they are absolved of their offense.

The Vatican statement leaves open the possibility that the Holy See might take action to discipline those bishops who show “an attitude incompatible with the requirements of communion” by failing to undertake this public repentance.


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  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jun. 13, 2011 5:34 PM ET USA

    Whoa! Now this is more like it. It's time we start penalizing the guilty and supporting the innocent.