Archbishop Filippo Iannone, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, attends a press conference to discuss revisions to the Code of Canon Law, at the Vatican June 1, 2021. Pope Francis has promulgated a revised section of the Code of Canon Law dealing with crimes and punishments. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A series of laws and procedures promulgated by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI and, especially, by Pope Francis to protect children, promote the investigation of allegations of clerical sexual abuse and punish offenders are included in a heavily revised section of the Code of Canon Law.

The revision of “Book VI: Penal Sanctions in the Church,” one of seven books that make up the code for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, was promulgated June 1 and will go into effect Dec. 8, Pope Francis wrote.

Rewriting 63 of the book’s 89 canons, the revision addresses a host of issues that have come up in the life of the church since St. John Paul II promulgated the code in 1983. The descriptions of crimes of sexual abuse, including child pornography, are more explicit, and the required actions of a bishop or superior of a religious order in handling allegations are more stringent.

The revised canons also include new references to the attempted ordination of a woman and to a variety of financial crimes; like with the new canons dealing with sexual abuse, they rely on language from laws promulgated separately over the past 20 years.

“In the past, much damage has been caused by a failure to perceive the intimate relationship existing in the church between the exercise of charity and recourse — when circumstances and justice require it — to the discipline of sanctions. This way of thinking, as experience has taught us, risks leading to a life of behavior contrary to the discipline of morals, for the remedy of which exhortations or suggestions alone are not sufficient,” Pope Francis wrote in “Pascite Gregem Dei” (Shepherd God’s Flock), the apostolic constitution promulgating the changes.

While church law applies to all Catholics, the pope said, for bishops, the observance of canon law “can in no way be separated from the pastoral ‘munus’ (service) entrusted to them, and which must be carried out as a concrete and inalienable requirement of charity not only toward the church, the Christian community and possible victims, but also toward those who have committed a crime, who need both mercy and correction on the part of the church.”

Over the years, he said, it became clear that the code’s description of crimes and penalties needed to be “modified in such a way as to allow pastors to use it as a more agile salvific and corrective instrument, to be employed promptly and with pastoral charity to avoid more serious evils and to soothe the wounds caused by human weakness.”

The revised book was presented to the press June 1 by Archbishop Filippo Iannone and Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. In 2009, Pope Benedict had asked the council to begin the revision project.

The revision moves the canons about the sexual abuse of children — on the part of a priest, religious or layperson working for the church — out of the section on violations of the obligation of celibacy and into a newly titled section of “Offenses Against Human Life, Dignity and Liberty.”

It adds to canon law the crime of “grooming,” calling for penalties, including dismissal from the priesthood for a cleric who “grooms or induces a minor or a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason or one to whom the law recognizes equal protection to expose himself or herself pornographically or to take part in pornographic exhibitions, whether real or simulated.”

However, the revised language still refers to rape and other forms of sexual abuse as “an offence against the Sixth Commandment” — You shall not commit adultery.

The continued use of the Sixth Commandment to refer to any improper, immoral or even criminal sexual activity “is traditional” in church law, Bishop Arrieta said, and for Catholics its meaning “is clear,” which is necessary when drafting a law that will be valid on every continent and in every culture.

In incorporating recent church law regarding abuse, the new code does not refer to abuse of “vulnerable” adults or “vulnerable persons” as Pope Francis did in his May 2019 motu proprio, “Vos estis lux mundi.”

Bishop Arrieta said the term “vulnerable person,” while understood and recognized in the law of many countries, is not universally accepted as a legal category of persons deserving special protection. Instead, the new law refers to people whom the law recognizes as deserving of the same protection extended to minors and those with “an imperfect use of reason.”

The revised law also foresees penalties for “a person who neglects to report an offence, when required to do so by a canonical law.”

Bishop Arrieta said that provision refers to the obligation to report serious crimes, such as sexual abuse, to church authorities, not civil authorities. If criminal reporting to the state is obligatory, the state will enforce that, he said.

The revised code also says, “Both a person who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive the sacred order, incur a ‘latae sententiae’ (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; a cleric, moreover, may be punished by dismissal from the clerical state.”

Given that Pope Francis in April 2020 formed a second “Study Commission on the Female Diaconate,” Bishop Arrieta was asked why the revised canon did not specify priestly ordination, leaving open the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate.

Canon law, he said, relies on the current state of the teaching of the church. “If we come to a different theological conclusion, we will modify the norm,” he said, just as was done in January when Pope Francis ordered a change in the wording of canon law so that women, as well as men, could be formally installed as lectors and acolytes.


Newlyweds Diego Fernandes and Deni Salgado kiss through protective face masks during their wedding ceremony with only witnesses and no guests in Naples, Italy, March 20, 2020. Public gatherings are banned as part of Italy’s lockdown measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (CNS photo/Ciro De Luca, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While uncertainty in the world may deter young couples from taking the next big step in their relationships, the vocational call to marriage is a risk worth taking, Pope Francis said.

Marriage “is a challenging journey, at times difficult, sometimes even confrontational, but it is worth the risk,” the pope said. “And in this lifelong journey, the husband and wife are not alone: Jesus accompanies them.”

In a video message released by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network June 1, the pope offered his prayer intention for the month of June, which he dedicated to “the beauty of marriage.”

Acknowledging the belief that young people “do not want to get married, especially in these difficult times,” the pope said that marriage and sharing one’s life “is a beautiful thing.”

“Marriage is not just a ‘social’ act,” he said. “It is a vocation that is born from the heart, it is a conscious lifelong decision that requires a specific preparation.”

“Please, never forget! God has a dream for us — love — and he asks us to make it our own,” the pope said.

At the start of each month, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network posts a short video of the pope offering his specific prayer intention.

Reciting his intention, the pope prayed for “young people preparing for marriage with the support of a Christian community, so that they may grow in love, generosity, faithfulness and patience.”

The Pope Video was first launched in 2016 to encourage people to join an estimated 50 million Catholics who already had a more formal relationship with the prayer network — better known by its former title, the Apostleship of Prayer.

The prayer network is more than 170 years old.


Pope Francis greets people during his general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican June 2, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Christians can rest assured that in moments of trial, suffering or even sin, Jesus is interceding for them before God, Pope Francis said.

“Even if our prayers were only mutterings, if they were compromised by a wavering faith, we must never stop trusting in him,” the pope said June 2 during his weekly general audience.

“Don’t forget: ‘Jesus is praying for me,'” he said. “In the moment of trial, in the moment of sin, even in that moment, Jesus with so much love is praying for me.”

Arriving in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, the pope spent some time greeting pilgrims, blessing children and religious articles.

Continuing his series of talks on prayer, the pope reflected on how prayer was fundamental to Christ and his mission, especially when it came to choosing his disciples.

Recalling St. Luke’s account of Jesus praying the day before he chose his disciples, the pope said that “judging from how those men were to behave, it would seem that the choice was not the best because they all fled, they left him alone before the Passion.”

However, “it is precisely this — especially the presence of Judas, the future traitor — that demonstrates that those names were inscribed in God’s plan,” he said.

Jesus’ moments of prayer on behalf of his disciples, especially for Peter who would deny Christ, were an act of love that showed that even in times of failure, “the love of Jesus does not stop,” the pope continued.

“Jesus’ love and prayer for each of us does not stop, indeed it becomes more intense, and we are at the center of his prayer!” Pope Francis said. “We must always remember this: Jesus is praying for me; he is praying now before the Father and he is showing him the wounds he bore, so that the Father can see the price of our salvation; it is the love that he has for us.”

Reflecting on other moments in the Gospels, including Peter’s profession of faith and the Transfiguration, the pope noted that the “great turning points of Jesus’ mission are always preceded by prayer.”

Jesus, he added, “not only wants us to pray as he prays, but assures us that, even if our attempts at prayer are completely useless and ineffective, we can always count on his prayer.”

Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope recalled a bishop who told him that during a time of great trial, he looked up in St. Peter’s Basilica and saw Jesus’ words at the Last Supper: “I have prayed for you, Peter.”

“That gave him strength and comfort,” the pope said. “And this happens every time any of us knows that Jesus is praying for him or her. Jesus prays for us. Right now, in this moment.”



Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston greets newly ordained Deacon Bruce Flagg during an ordination Mass for permanent deacons at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston Feb. 20, 2021. Deacon Flagg, who is deaf, assists with deaf ministry in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. (CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Based on responses to a questionnaire sent to all U.S. dioceses, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate estimates there are about 19,000 deacons in the United States today.

The number, though, is dropping, mirroring trends seen in religious life and the priesthood for the past half-century.

“Responding offices reported that 410 deacons retired from active ministry and 378 died. Another 587 were ordained to the permanent diaconate during 2020,” said the report, “A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate: A Study for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,” issued June 1. The trend goes back to at least 2014.

Deacons are getting older, too. The CARA report said 35% are 70 or older, 40% are ages 60-69, 21% are ages 50-59, just 5% are ages 40-49, and only 1% are under 40.

“Latin rite arch/dioceses reported having 12,292 permanent deacons active in ministry. The single eparchy (participating in the questionnaire) reported 11 active permanent deacons. Extrapolating to include dioceses and eparchies that did not respond to the survey, it can be estimated that there are 14,722 deacons active in ministry in the United States today, or about 78% of all permanent deacons,” the report said, adding the estimated number of all deacons is 19,008.

CARA also figures that, if 78% of deacons are in active ministry, then 17% are retired, 2% are on a leave of absence, 2% have been suspended from active ministry, and 2% inactive for other reasons.

Retirement age differs from diocese to diocese. Forty-two percent of dioceses have no retirement age for deacons. Of the others, no diocese requires deacons to retire until they reach at least age 70, while 88% require retirement at ages 75-79, and 10% mandate retirement at ages 70-74. One percent does not require retirement until at least age 80.

The archdiocese with the most deacons is the Archdiocese of Chicago, with 852, exactly twice that of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ 426.

Other dioceses and archdioceses with at least 250 deacons are, in descending order, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, 367; the Archdiocese of San Antonio, 364; the Archdiocese of New York, 305; the Archdiocese of Atlanta, 299; the Archdiocese of St. Louis, 297; the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, 268; the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 265; and the Archdiocese of Boston, 255.

But other dioceses have a much smaller ratio of Catholics to deacons. The Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky leads the way with a ratio of 508 Catholics per deacon.

Other dioceses with ratios under 900 Catholics per deacon, in ascending order, are the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, 640; the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, 703; the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, 725; the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, 747; the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, 779; the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, 783; the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, 871; and the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, 893.

According to CARA, 93% of deacons are married, 4% are widowed, 2% have never married, 1% are divorced and have not remarried, and fewer than 1% remarried subsequent to diaconal ordination.

CARA said the racial and ethnic makeup of U.S. deacons is 72% white, 21% Hispanic, 4% Asian/Pacific Islander, 3% Black, and fewer than 1% Native American or other.

The report said 93% of deacons are incardinated in the diocese in which they serve, and 6% are incardinated in another Latin-rite diocese but serving with faculties in their diocese of residence. Fewer than 1% are incardinated in Eastern Catholic churches or as members of religious orders.

“One in nine active permanent deacons are financially compensated for ministry in 2020, a continuation of a downward trend from 27% in 2001, 26% in 2017, and 15% in 2019,” the report said.

Also, “87% of responding arch/dioceses and arch/eparchies require post-ordination formation for deacons,” CARA said. “Among those that do require post-ordination formation, the median number of hours required per year is 20.”

How dioceses deal with diaconal ministry also were questionnaire topics.

Eighty percent of responding dioceses say they have a plan for placement and ministry of deacons, and 93% have an active formation program for the diaconate. Of those that don’t, 78% said they were planning to establish one within the next two years.

Close to two-thirds of dioceses have an active deacon council or deacon assembly, and responding dioceses were about evenly split as to whether they had a formal policy for deacons who got divorced or separated after their ordination.

“As our world continues to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent deacons provide an encouraging witness to the love and mercy of Christ,” said Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

In a statement accompanying the release of the CARA report, he emphasized the importance of permanent deacons to the church, saying: “They bring the light and presence of Jesus into many different areas of society — preaching the Gospel in their jobs, within their families, to the poor and among their broader communities.”


Bo Fuller, Assistant Chef at Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen, receives a COVID-19 vaccination on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, during a special clinic at the kitchen held by the clinics at Scranton Primary Health Care Center.

SCRANTON – Guests of Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen were able to receive more than a warm, nutritious meal on Wednesday, June 2. Visitors were also able to get a free COVID-19 vaccination.

Through a partnership with the clinics at Scranton Primary Health Care Center, Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen was able to offer the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine from 10:30 a.m. until 12:45 p.m.

After helping to cook the daily meal of stuffed peppers, mashed potatoes and green beans, Saint Francis of Assisi Assistant Chef Bo Fuller rolled up his sleeve to get the single-dose vaccine.

“It needs to be done. It was a personal choice. I decided to go with it,” Fuller said. “It was convenient and it was here.”

In addition to the vaccines distributed at the kitchen on June 2, free vaccines will also be available for anyone at the kitchen on Wednesday, June 9, from 10:30 a.m. until 12:45 p.m. No reservations are required.

“It was no problem at all,” Rose McIntosh of Dalton said after receiving her shot at the kitchen. “My doctor suggested I get it because I’m a diabetic and my husband has COPD.”

McIntosh volunteers with the Friends of the Poor and says having the vaccines available at Saint Francis Kitchen was quick and convenient.

“I’m usually always down here. My son lives in Finch Towers and I come down and see other people. I’m usually always down in Scranton,” she added.

One guest who received a vaccination – David – knows the importance of being immunized first-hand. He had COVID-19 in December.

“I don’t want it again,” David explained. “It was bad for almost three weeks, headaches and muscle aches, my whole body.”

It was only after walking in the door of Saint Francis Kitchen that David learned the free vaccines were available from Executive Director Rob Williams. David wasted no time in getting the shot, he received it before he even ate his meal.

“I didn’t know they had them. I had scheduled one and I missed the appointment. I tried to get another one and they didn’t have any available at that time and I gave up for a couple days,” David said.

Two weeks after receiving his vaccine, David will be considered fully vaccinated and he looks forward to that time.

“This will help me move around a little bit more with freedom,” he said with a smile.



June 2, 2021

WASHINGTON– Each year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) observes Religious Freedom Week. Beginning with the feast day of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, and including the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, the week-long commemoration ends with the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Religious Freedom Week will be observed this year from June 22 to June 29 and the theme chosen is Solidarity in Freedom. “Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community” (Fratelli tutti, 116). Religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all.

The USCCB has prepared resources to “Pray – Reflect – Act” which may be found at: Each day focuses on different religious liberty topics of concern for the bishops. These materials were prepared to help people understand religious liberty from a Catholic perspective, pray about particular issues, and act on what they learn by advocating for policies that promote religious freedom.

The USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty collaborated with the Office of International Justice and Peace to raise awareness and show solidarity with people throughout the world who suffer for their faith, from the persecution of Christians in Nicaragua to highlighting Pope Francis’s trip to Iraq this year. Domestically, a major area of concern continues to be freedom for Catholic institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and child welfare service providers, to carry out their missions with integrity.

Through prayer, education, and public action during Religious Freedom Week, the USCCB hopes to promote the essential right of religious freedom for Catholics and for those of all faiths.

Connect with the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty.  Text FREEDOM to 84576 and sign up for First Freedom News, the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty’s monthly newsletter.