The tribunal, which had been formed by Pope Alexander III in 1179, has never before divulged details of the cases it scrutinizes, cases that were considered so heinous by the Catholic Church that only the Pope can grant absolution to the perpetrator.
But now in an effort to present a more transparent image and to encourage more people to make confessions, the tribunal held a two-day conference in Rome in which it discussed its purpose and inner workings.
"Even though it's the oldest department of the Holy See, it's very little known - specifically because by its nature it deals with secret things," the Telegraph quoted Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, the tribunal's second most senior official, as saying.
While priests and bishops have always dealt with confessions of murder or genocide, the tribunal was reserved for dealing with crimes that were viewed by the Church as more serious.
The serious offences included attempt to assassinate the Pope, a priest revealing the confessions of a person along with the person's name, or a priest who has sex with someone and then offers forgiveness for the act.
The tribunal also dealt with cases where a man who directly participates in an abortion, even by paying for it, then seeks to become a priest or deacon.
"That is an irregularity and it means he should not receive the ordination without a dispensation from the Pope," Cardinal James Francis Stafford, the American who heads the Apostolic Penitentiary, said.
Another grave sin was the defiling the Eucharist, which Catholics believe is the body and blood of Christ, and which high-ranking members of the tribunal said was on the increase.
Such sins, which can only be dealt with by the Pope, acting through the tribunal, bring automatic excommunication from the Church.
If the Pope decides to grant absolution, the excommunication is lifted. (ANI)