Person (canon law)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Age of reason (canon law))
Jump to: navigation, search
Scale of justice, canon law.svg
This article is part of the series:
Legislation and Legal System of the Catholic Church
Canon Law Task Force

In the canon law of the Catholic Church, a person is a subject of certain legal rights and obligations.[1][2]

Physical Persons[edit]

Age of Reason[edit]

The age of reason is the age at which children attain the use of reason and begin to have moral responsibility. On completion of the seventh year a minor is presumed to have the use of reason,[3] but mental retardation or insanity prevent some individuals from ever attaining the use of reason. The term "use of reason" appears in the Code of Canon Law 17 times, but "age of reason" does not appear.[4] However, the term "age of reason" is used in canon law commentaries such as the New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law published by Paulist Press in 2002.

Children who do not have the use of reason and the mentally handicapped are sometimes called "innocents" because of their inability to commit sins: even if their actions are objectively sinful, they sometimes lack capacity for subjective guilt.

In the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Eucharist and Confirmation are given immediately after baptism, even to infants who do not yet have the use of reason. In Latin Rite Catholicism, Confirmation is conferred, except in danger of death, only on persons who have the use of reason;[5] and Holy Communion may be administered to children only if "they have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity and are able to receive the Body of Christ with faith and devotion."[6] In danger of death, the Eucharist may be administered also to children who lack the use of reason, if the child can distinguish the sacrament from ordinary food and receive it reverently.[6] This is likewise true for those who are not so mentally retarded that they are not assumed to ever gain use of reason.

Age of Majority[edit]

The age of majority in the Catholic Church is 18[7] following the general consensus of Civil law, though, until Advent 1983,[8] the Age of Majority was 21,[9] based on the age of majority according to Roman Law.

Juridic Persons[edit]

In simple terms, a juridic person is an artificial construct under canon law that allows a group of person or things to function and be treated under canon law as a single unit.

A more thorough definition is given by Kennedy: "A juridic person... is an artificial person, distinct from all natural persons or material goods, constituted by competent ecclesiastical authority for an apostolic purpose, with a capacity for continuous existence and with canonical rights and duties like those of a natural person... conferred upon it by law or by the authority which constitutes it and to which it is also accountable under canon law."[10][11]

The doctrine of juridic personality is thought to have its origins in canon law. It has been attributed to Pope Innocent IV, who seems at least to have helped spread the idea of persona ficta as it is called in Latin. In the early church, the doctrine of persona ficta allowed monasteries to have a legal existence that was apart from the monks, simplifying the difficulty in balancing the need for such groups to have infrastructure though the monks took vows of personal poverty. Another effect of this was that as a fictional person, a monastery could not be held guilty of delict due to not having a soul, helping to protect the organization from non-contractual obligations to surrounding communities. This effectively moved such liability to individuals acting within the organization while protecting the structure itself, since individuals were considered to have a soul and therefore capable of being guilty of negligence and excommunicated.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Canon 96, 1983 Code of Canon Law
  2. ^ Canon 113 §2, 1983 Code of Canon Law
  3. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 97 §2
  4. ^ Code of Canon Law, concordance of the word "reason"
  5. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 889 §2
  6. ^ a b Code of Canon Law, canon 913
  7. ^ 1983 Code of Canon Law, can. 97
  8. ^ Ap. Const. Sacrae Disciplinae Leges
  9. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law, can. 88
  10. ^ [From Robert T. Kennedy, "Juridic Persons" in New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, ed. John P. Beal et al. (New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2000) 155. Italic text added.]
  11. ^ Gray, Jason A., References to Statutes in the Code of Canon Law; available from; Internet; accessed 1 January 2006.
  12. ^ (John Dewey, “The Historic Background of Corporate Legal Personality,” Yale Law Journal, Vol. XXXV, April 1926, pages 655-673)