Canon law (Catholic Church)
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The canon law of the Catholic Church is the system of laws and legal principles made and enforced by the hierarchical authorities of the Church to regulate its external organization and government and to order and direct the activities of Catholics toward the mission of the Church.
It is a fully developed legal system, with all the necessary elements: courts, lawyers, judges, a fully articulated legal code and principles of legal interpretation. It lacks the coercive force present in most legal systems, and lacks civilly-binding force in most secular jurisdictions. The academic degrees in canon law are the J.C.B. (Juris Canonici Baccalaureatus, Bachelor of Canon Law, normally taken as a graduate degree), J.C.L. (Juris Canonici Licentiatus, Licentiate of Canon Law) and the J.C.D. (Juris Canonici Doctor, Doctor of Canon Law). Because of its specialized nature, advanced degrees in civil law or theology are normal prerequisites for the study of canon law.
The history of Catholic canon law can be divided into four periods: the jus antiquum, the jus novum, the jus novissimum and the Code of Canon Law. In relation to the Code, history can be divided into the jus vetus (all law before the Code) and the jus novum (the law of the Code, or jus codicis).
Jus Antiquum 
The period of canonical history known as the Jus Antiquum ("ancient law") extends from the foundation of the Church to the time of Gratian (mid-1100s). This period can be further divided into three periods: the time of the apostles to the death of Pope Gelasius I (A.D. 496), the end of the 400s to the spurious collection of the 800s, and the last up to the time of Gratian (mid-1100s).
Jus Novum 
Johannes Gratian was a monk who taught theology at a monastery in Bologna. He produced a comprehensive and comprehensible collection of canon law. He resolved contradictions and discrepancies in the existing law. In the 1140s his work became the dominant legal text. The papacy appreciated and approved the Decretum of Gratian. The Decretum formed the core of the body of canon law upon which a greater legal structure was built.[clarification needed]
In the thirteenth century, the Roman Church began to collect and organize its canon law, which after a millennium of development had become a complex and difficult system of interpretation and cross-referencing. The official collections were the Liber Extra (1234) of Pope Gregory IX, the Liber Sextus (1298) of Boniface VIII and the Clementines (1317), prepared for Clement V but published by John XXII. These were addressed to the universities by papal letters at the beginning of each collection, and these texts became textbooks for aspiring canon lawyers. In 1582 a compilation was made of the Decretum, Extra, the Sext, the Clementines and the Extravagantes (that is, the decretals of the popes from Pope John XXII to Pope Sixtus IV). See Corpus Juris Canonici.
Jus Novissimum 
The third period canonical period, known as the jus novissimum ("newest law"), stretches from the Council of Trent to the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law which took legal effect in 1918. The start of the jus novissimum is not universally agreed upon. Notable canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters argues that the jus novissimum actually started with the Liber Extra of Gregory IX in 1234.
Jus Codicis 
The fourth period of canonical history is that of the present day, initiated by the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law on 27 May 1917. It is sometimes referred to as the jus codicis ("law of the code") or, in comparison with all law before it, the jus novum ("new law").
In response to the request of the bishops at the First Vatican Council, on 14 May 1904, with the motu proprio "Arduum sane munus", Pope Pius X set up a commission begin work on reducing these diverse documents into a single code, presenting the normative portion in the form of systematic short canons shorn of the preliminary considerations ("Whereas...") and omitting those parts that had been superseded by later developments.
The code was promulgated on 27 May 1917 as the Code of Canon Law (Latin: Codex Iuris Canonici) by his successor, Pope Benedict XV, who set 19 May 1918 as the date on which it came into force. For the most part, it applied only to the Latin Church except when "it treats of things that, by their nature, apply to the Oriental", such as the effects of baptism (canon 87).
In the succeeding decades, some parts of the 1917 Code were retouched, especially under Pope Pius XII. In 1959, Pope John XXIII announced, together with his intention to call the Second Vatican Council, that the Code would be completely revised. In 1963, the commission appointed to undertake the task decided to delay the project until the Council had been concluded. When work finally began, almost two decades of study and discussion on drafts of the various sections were needed before Pope John Paul II could promulgate the revised edition, which came into force on 27 November 1983, having been promulgated via the apostolic constitution Sacrae Disciplinae Leges of 25 January 1983.
This edition is referred to as the 1983 Code of Canon Law to distinguish it from the 1917 Code. Like the preceding edition, it applies to Roman Catholics of the Latin Rite. For Eastern Catholics two sections of Eastern canon law had already, under Pope Pius XII, been put in the form of short canons. These parts were revised as part of the application of Pope John XXIII's decision to carry out a general revision of the Church's canon law; as a result a distinct Code for members of the Eastern Catholic Churches came into effect for the first time on 1 October 1991 (Apostolic Constitution Sacri Canones of 18 October 1990). The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, as it is called, differs from the Latin Code of Canon Law in matters where Eastern and Latin traditions diverge, such as terminology, discipline concerning hierarchical offices and administration of the sacraments.
Canon law as legal system 
Much of the jurisprudential style was adapted from the Roman Law Code of Justinian. As a result, Roman ecclesiastical courts tend to follow the Roman Law style of continental Europe with some variation, featuring collegiate panels of judges and an investigative form of proceeding, called "inquisitorial", from the Latin "inquirere", to enquire. This is in contrast to the adversarial form of proceeding found in the common law system of English and U.S. law, which features such things as juries and single judges.
Canon law faculties and institutes 
Canon Law "Corpus" 
The present Canon law "corpus" is made up of four major documents:
- the 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin rite Catholic Church;
- the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches for all Eastern Catholic Churches;
- the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus for the organization of the Roman Curia;
- the apostolic constitution Universi Dominici gregis for the election of the Roman Pontiff, as amended.
Canon law and Church office 
Under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, all seminary students are required to take courses in canon law. Some ecclesiastical officials are required to have the doctorate (JCD) or at least the licentiate (JCL) in canon law in order to fulfill their functions: judicial vicars; judges; promoters of justice; defenders of the bond; canonical advocates. In addition, vicars general and episcopal vicars are to be doctors, or at least licensed in canon law or theology. Ordinarily, bishops are to have an advanced degree (doctorate or at least licentiate) in scripture, theology, or canon law.
Patron saint 
St. Raymond of Penyafort (1175–1275), a Spanish Dominican priest, is the Patron Saint of canonists, due to his important contributions to Canon Law. Other saintly patrons include St. Ivo of Chartres and the Jesuit St. Robert Bellarmine.
Related terms 
- Manual of Canon Law, pg. 3
- Manual of Canon Law, pg. 49
- Manual of Canon Law, pg. 13, #8
- Manual of Canon Law, pg. 14
- Catholic Encyclopedia
- Europe in the High Middle Ages, pp. 127–128
- Europe in the High Middle Ages, pg. 116
- Dr. Edward Peters, A suggestion for reordering the major divisions of canonical history, accessed 16 May 2013
- CanonLaw.info, accessed Jan-19-2013
- Pietro Cardinal Gasparri, preface to the CIC 1917
- Manual of Canon Law, pg. 47
- Ap Const. Providentissima Mater Ecclesia Benedict XV, 27 May 1917
- canon 1, 1917 Code of Canon Law
- Can. 1, 1983 CIC ("The Canons of this code regard only the Latin Church.")
- 1983 CIC, can. 252 §3
- 1983 CIC, can. 1420 §4
- 1983 CIC, can. 1421 §3
- 1983 CIC, can. 1435
- 1983 CIC, can. 1483
- 1983 CIC, can. 478 §1
- 1983 CIC, can. 378 §1 °5
Sources consulted 
- Europe in the High Middle Ages
William Chester Jordan, "The Penguin History of Europe: Europe in the High Middle Ages" (London: Penguin Books, 2002)
- Manual of Canon Law
Fernando della Rocca (translated by Rev. Anselm Thatcher, O.S.B.), "Manual of Canon Law" (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1959)
- 1917 (Pio-Benedictine) Code of Canon Law (CIC)
Translated by Edward Peters, "The 1917 or Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law: in English Translation with Extensive Scholarly Apparatus" (Ignatius Press, 2001)
- 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC)
"Code of Canon Law" at Vatican.va
Publication details: Latin-English Edition, New English Translation; Prepared under the auspices of the Canon Law Society of America, Washington, DC 20064
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Canon Law
- Sacrea Disciplinae Leges (Document establishing the 1983 Code of Canon Law)
- Canon Law Commentary, Discussion and Bibliography
Texts and translations of Codes of Canon Law 
With referenced concordances
- Codex Iuris Canonici (1983), original text in Latin
- Code of Canon Law (1983) but with the 1998 modification of canons 750 and 1371, English translation by the Canon Law Society of America, on website of The Holy See (Vatican)
- Code of Canon Law (1983), English translation by the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, assisted by the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand and the Canadian Canon Law Society
- Codex canonum ecclesiarum orientalium (1990), original text in Latin
- "Code of canons of Oriental Churchs" (1990), defective English translation
- Codex Iuris Canonici (1917), original text in Latin