The Episcopate of the Polish Catholic Church is set to approve a plan to introduce financial penalties for clerics found guilty by the Church’s court of breaching canon law.
According to the plan, the maximum penalty that could be levied would amount to €15,000, with any rulings needing to be ratified by the Vatican.
Financial penalties are now possible, according to Pope Francis’s amended canon legal code introduced at the end of 2021. The code allows for priests to be punished financially for their misdemeanors, and they can also have their pay suspended.
The code of canon law nor any church act specified the amount of these fines, leaving that for the conferences of bishops to decide.
The proposal to be considered by the Polish Episcopate will be debated during a meeting later this month. The scheme envisages a minimum fine being half of one’s minimum monthly pay, with a maximum penalty of no more than 20 times the minimum monthly pay. This means that the fines will automatically be indexed from year to year according to the rate of increase in minimum pay.
The penalties can be levied by church courts or bishops. The offenses the scheme will include corruption and mismanagement of church property, but they will also cover demanding money from parishioners over and above the prices set for performing a given service and refusing to perform such a service without additional payment. The Church will also be able to fine clerics found guilty of sexual offenses when they have not been defrocked.
The problem facing the Church in activating such a system is the fact that it does not have the necessary instruments to actually execute the fines. For example, there are no church bailiffs to seize property or money belonging to clerics.