Solicitation (Lat. sollicitare), technically in canon law the crime of making use of the Sacrament of Penance, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of drawing others into sins of lust. The Church legislation on this point is very severe, and numerous popes have denounced this crime vehemently and decreed punishments for its commission. The principal document on the subject is that of Gregory XV, “Universi Gregis” (August 30, 1622), confirmed by the Constitution of Benedict XIV, “Sacramentum paenitentiae” (June 1, 1721). There are, in addition, a number of other pontifical Constitutions and Decrees of the Holy Office on the same subject, notably those of September 27, 1724, February 20, 1867, and July 20, 1890. The crime of sollicitatio ad turpia is defined as the soliciting any person to carnal sin, to be committed with himself or another, by any priest secular or regular, immediately before, during, or immediately after sacramental confession, or on the occasion of or under pretext of confession, or in the confessional itself or in any other place generally used for hearing confessions, or in a place chosen by the penitent to make a confession, and this whether a sacramental confession be actually made or not. Moreover, the crime of solicitation may be committed not merely by words, but also by signs or other expressive actions, or by a letter to be read then or afterwards. If any penitent has been thus solicited to sin, he or she cannot be absolved by any confessor until the penitent actually denounces the delinquent priest to the proper ecclesiastical authority or promises to make such denunciation as soon as possible. Even though the wicked confessor has since amended his life, or though the crime of solicitation took place many years ago, the obligation of denouncing him still remains, because the law is made, not merely to procure amendment, but also to inflict punishment. If the penitent, without sufficient cause, does not make the denunciation within a month from the time he or she has learned the obligation to do so, excommunication is incurred ipso facto. When the negligence has been repaired, any approved priest may absolve from the excommunication. If the penitent has reasonable ground for fearing serious damage to self or family from a formal denunciation, some other method of informing on the delinquent priest may be sought for. The denunciation is to be made to the bishop of the place where the penitent lives. If the soliciting priest be of another diocese, the ordinary of the person solicited will forward the denunciation to the bishop of the accused confessor. The denunciation must be sworn to and be made personally and by word of mouth if possible. It may also be done, in special cases, by writing or by a third party. When the denunciation is made by letter, it must be signed with full name and address, and must be a circumstantial account of the alleged crime. Whether the penitent has consented to the solicitation or not need not be expressed. Bishops are directed to pay no attention whatever to anonymous letters of denunciation. On the receipt of the accusation, the ecclesiastical authority makes inquiry as to the reputation and reliability of the accuser. If the confessor be found guilty, he is subject to suspension from the exercise of his orders, privation of his benefices, dignities, and offices with perpetual inability to receive such again. Regulars, in addition, lose the right of voting or being voted for in the chapter of their religious order. Benedict XIV added perpetual exclusion from celebrating Mass. While the Church is thus severe on delinquent confessors, she is equally careful to protect innocent priests from calumnious charges. If any one falsely denounces a confessor on the charge of solicitation, the caluminator can obtain absolution for the perjured falsehood only from the pope himself, except at the point of death.
WILLIAM H. W. FANNING