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This article provides a general account of the universal law of sanctions in the Roman Catholic Church. The crisis of the Catholic Church caused by clergy sexual abuse of minors has revealed, among other things, the widespread well-intentioned but naïve inclination to resort to penal law as opposed to any theology of mercy and forgiveness. Although the author argues that penal law has a proper place in the Catholic Church, he considers that in a voluntary community that shares a homogeneous system of moral values without strong penalties involving deprivation of liberty – a community like the Catholic Church – moral and administrative sanctions could be more effective than penal sanctions. A distinction between administrative sanctions and penal sanctions, and therefore between administrative tribunals (should they be established) and penal tribunals, is highly recommended.
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