Sacramentum Poenitentiae

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Sacramentum Poenitentiae was an apostolic constitution promulgated by Pope Benedict XIV in 1741. It is a four-page document establishing general notice of the problem of sexual abuse amongst the clergy in the Roman Catholic Church.

It regulates that a priest who is complicit in a sin against the sixth commandment is incapable of validly absolving his accomplice from that sin, except in danger of death, and then only if no other priest is available.[1]

It was the fifth document in the canon-law book that was used to train all priests between 1918 and 1982. Specifically, the Sacramentum Poenitentiae addresses the soliciting of sex from people, including children, by priests during confession.

The document has been cited often in legal battles surrounding the sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy, usually as a rebuttal to church officials' claims that they were unaware of the occurrences of abuse.


  1. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainDelany, Joseph (1907). "Accomplice". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 1. New York: Robert Appleton. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Peters, Edward N. (2011). "Retrospectives on Benedict XIV's const. Sacramentum poenitentiae (1741)". Apollinaris: comentarium iuridico-canonicum. Rome, IT: Pontifical Lateran University. 84: 581–605. ISSN 0392-2359.