For ordinary legal matters occurring within Vatican territory, there is a tribunal of first instance. Criminal cases are tried in Italian courts. There are three tribunals at the Vatican for religious cases. The Apostolic Penitentiary determines questions of penance and absolution from sin. The Roman Rota deals principally with marital issues but is also competent to handle appeals from any decisions of lower ecclesiastical courts. In exceptional cases, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature hears appeals from the Rota, which ordinarily is the court of last resort.
New codes of canon law for the government of the Latin Rite churches and the administration of the Curia were promulgated in 1918 and 1983. Eastern Rite churches have their own canon law.