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Vatican group considers excommunicating Catholics convicted of corruption or mafia-related crimes

19 June 2017 | by Daniele Palmer

'Our effort is to create a mentality, a culture of justice, that fights corruption and promotes the common good,' says Archbishop

A Vatican group, called for by Francis, is to draft a new document that will deal with excommunicating Catholics convicted of corruption or mafia-related crimes.

More than 50 magistrates, clergy, United Nations representatives and victims of organised crime came together to develop a text concerning “the question of excommunication for corruption and mafia association,” on 15 June.

The gathering – titled an “international debate on corruption” and hosted by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development – appears to be the Holy See’s latest attempt to tackle issues of public relevance by bringing together views and opinions of Christians and non-Christians alike.

"Our effort is to create a mentality, a culture of justice, that fights corruption and promotes the common good," said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's retired ambassador to the UN in Geneva, who was one of the conference participants.  

He said that the group were attempting to “identify concrete steps” that can be taken in producing laws and policies that would prevent corruption.

“Corruption,” he added, “is like a woodworm that infiltrates the processes of development for poor countries or in rich countries, which ruins the relations between institutions and people.”

The event acted in part as a launch for Cardinal Peter Turkson’s book, “Corrosione” (Corrosion in English), which contains a preface written by Francis in which he describes corruption as a “laceration” of the human heart, a disunity between man and God. Cardinal Turkson heads up the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

“Corruption,” the Jesuit Pope writes, “expresses the general form of the disordered life of the decadent man.” And this decadence is then what acts as “the weapon, the language” through which international criminal organisations interact.

Francis continues, writing that corruption is found not only within the context of organised crime, but also within modern culture. For Francis, the degradation and corrosion of the heart is the root-cause of modern day injustice and is leaving many “unable to even imagine the future”.

In the past, Francis has also spoken about corruption within the Holy See. In a meeting with the leaders of world male religious orders last November, he said that “there is corruption in the Vatican” and that it is only by the “grace of God” that he is able to “sleep well.”

A striking feature of the meeting was the diversity of its participants. Similarly, in line with his call to include a wider array of voices within Vatican discussions, Francis, in the preface, stated that “we, Christians and non-Christians, are snowflakes, but if we were to come together we could become an avalanche: a strong and constructive movement.”

The conference took place last week (15 June) in the Casino Pio IV, a villa in the Vatican Gardens and base for the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Excommunication, which bans Catholics from participating in the sacraments or communion, is one of the most severe penalties within the Church.

It has been used in the past to isolate a number of religious sects, such as the ultra conservative followers of French archbishop Marcel-Francois Lefebvre. 

PICTURE: Cardinal Peter Turkson



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