Pope Francis with member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during their Plenary Assembly in the Vatican Pope Francis with member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during their Plenary Assembly in the Vatican  (Vatican Media)

Pope to CDF: Judicial action alone is not enough to fight abuse in the Church

Pope Francis meets with members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the occasion of their Plenary Assembly, and focuses on the importance of three words during their mission: dignity, discernment, and faith.

By Vatican News staff writer

Pope Francis on Friday welcomed members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in the Vatican for their Plenary Assembly.

In his address, the Pope renewed his gratitude for their "valuable service to the universal Church in promoting and safeguarding the integrity of Catholic doctrine on faith and morals." 

He also offered a reflection focused on three words: dignity, discernment, and faith. 


Opening with the first word - dignity - Pope Francis reiterated what he wrote at the beginning of his Encyclical Fratelli tutti, stressing that "it is my great desire 'that, in this time in which we are given to live, by recognising the dignity of every human person, we may revive among all a worldwide aspiration to fraternity'."

In this regard, the Pope explained that if fraternity is the destination that the Creator has designed for the journey of humanity, "the main road remains that of recognising the dignity of every human person."

He noted that in our time, which is "marked by so many social, political and even health-related tensions", there is a growing temptation to consider the other person as "a stranger or an enemy", thus denying him of her real dignity. 

The Church, however, "from the very beginning of her mission" has alwasy proclaimed the intangible value of human dignity, stressed the Pope, adding that the human person is, in fact, "the masterpiece of Creation".

With this in mind, Pope Francis thanked all the members of the CDF for the reflection they have initiated "on the value of human dignity, taking into account the challenges posed by current reality in this regard."

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Pope Francis then went on to discuss the second word: discernment. He noted that "more and more today, believers are being asked for the art of discernment."

The Pope said, "The exercise of discernment finds a necessary application in the fight against abuses of all kinds" and that with God's help, the Church is "resolutely pursuing her commitment to bring justice to the victims of abuse by her members."

“In this light, I have recently updated the Norms on crimes reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the desire to make judicial action more incisive. Judicial action alone cannot be enough to stem the phenomenon, but it is a necessary step towards re-establishing justice, repairing the scandal and emending the offender.”

He went on to stress that a similar commitment is also expressed in the dissolution of the marriage bond in favorem fidei.

"When, by virtue of Petrine power, the Church grants the dissolution of a non-sacramental marriage bond, it is not just a question of putting a canonical end to a marriage, which has already failed in fact, but, in reality, through this eminently pastoral act I always intend to foster the Catholic faith - in favorem fidei! - in the new union and in the family, of which this new marriage will be the nucleus," the Pope explained.


The last of the three words was faith. The Pope said the CDF "is called not only to defend but also to promote the faith."

Without faith, he continued, "the presence of believers in the world would be reduced to that of a humanitarian agency."

Faith must be at the heart of the life and action of every baptised person, stressed the Pope, adding that it must not be a "generic" or "vague" faith, "like watered-down wine that loses its value"; but "genuine" and "straightforward".

“Let us not be content with a lukewarm and habitual faith, like out of a manual. Let us cooperate with the Holy Spirit and with each other, so that the fire that Jesus came to bring into the world may continue to burn and inflame the hearts of all.”

21 January 2022, 11:00