On June 1, 2021, Pope Francis promulgated the revised Book VI of the 1983 Code of Canon Law with the Apostolic Constitution “Pascite gregem Dei.” The text of “Pascite” is currently not available in English, but see here for the Latin from the Vatican; L’Osservatore Romano has both the Latin text of “Pascite” and the new Latin canons on one page, while the English translation of the canons is here. The changes will go into effect on December 8th, 2021.

The revised Book VI contains numerous significant changes, which Crux, the AP via America, and CNS have analyzed. The Pillar has a more detailed canonical analysis.

Of interest to religious congregations is the inclusion of religious and laypeople in the revised canon 1398, which reads:

Can. 1398 — § 1. A cleric is to be punished with deprivation of office and with other just penalties, not excluding, where the case calls for it, dismissal from the clerical state, if he:

1° commits an offence against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with a minor or with a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason or with one to whom the law recognises equal protection;

2° grooms or induces a minor or a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason or one to whom the law recognises equal protection to expose himself or herself pornographically or to take part in pornographic exhibitions, whether real or simulated;

3° immorally acquires, retains, exhibits or distributes, in whatever manner and by whatever technology, pornographic images of minors or of persons who habitually have an imperfect use of reason.

§ 2. A member of an institute of consecrated life or of a society of apostolic life, or any one of the faithful who enjoys a dignity or performs an office or function in the Church, who commits an offence mentioned in § 1 or in can. 1395 § 3 is to be punished according to the provision of can. 1336 §§ 2-4, with the addition of other penalties according to the gravity of the offence [emphasis added].

Commenting on this, The Pillar writes:

A rather dramatic change is that religious brothers and sisters, and even lay Catholics, can also be punished in canon law for various canonical offenses related to sexual abuse. For most of the last two decades, ambiguity about that possibility has been raised as a major gap, or lacuna, in the Church’s existing penal law.