Canon law (from Greek kanon, a 'straight measuring rod, ruler') is a set of ordinances and regulations made by ecclesiastical authority (Church leadership), for the government of a Christian organization or church and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law, or operational policy, governing the Catholic Church (both the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches), the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the individual national churches within the Anglican Communion. The way that such church law is legislated, interpreted and at times adjudicated varies widely among these three bodies of churches. In all three traditions, a canon was originally a rule adopted by a church council; these canons formed the foundation of canon law.
Greek kanon / Ancient Greek: κανών, Arabic Qaanoon / قانون, Hebrew kaneh / קנה, "straight"; a rule, code, standard, or measure; the root meaning in all these languages is "reed" (cf. the Romance-language ancestors of the English word cane).
The Apostolic Canons or Ecclesiastical Canons of the Same Holy Apostles is a collection of ancient ecclesiastical decrees (eighty-five in the Eastern, fifty in the Western Church) concerning the government and discipline of the Early Christian Church, incorporated with the Apostolic Constitutions which are part of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. In the Fourth century the First Council of Nicaea (325) calls canons the disciplinary measures of the Church: the term canon, κανὠν, means in Greek, a rule. There is a very early distinction between the rules enacted by the Church and the legislative measures taken by the State called leges, Latin for laws.
In the Catholic Church, canon law is the system of laws and legal principles made and enforced by the Church's hierarchical authorities to regulate its external organization and government and to order and direct the activities of Catholics toward the mission of the Church.
In the Latin Church, positive ecclesiastical laws, based directly or indirectly upon immutable divine law or natural law, derive formal authority in the case of universal laws from the supreme legislator (i.e., the Supreme Pontiff), who possesses the totality of legislative, executive, and judicial power in his person, while particular laws derive formal authority from a legislator inferior to the supreme legislator. The actual subject material of the canons is not just doctrinal or moral in nature, but all-encompassing of the human condition.
The Catholic Church has what is claimed to be the oldest continuously functioning internal legal system in Western Europe, much later than Roman law but predating the evolution of modern European civil law traditions. What began with rules ("canons") adopted by the Apostles at the Council of Jerusalem in the first century has developed into a highly complex legal system encapsulating not just norms of the New Testament, but some elements of the Hebrew (Old Testament), Roman, Visigothic, Saxon, and Celtic legal traditions.
The history of Latin 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).
The canon law of the Eastern Catholic Churches, which had developed some different disciplines and practices, underwent its own process of codification, resulting in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches promulgated in 1990 by Pope John Paul II.
Roman canon law is a fully developed legal system, with all the necessary elements: courts, lawyers, judges, a fully articulated legal code principles of legal interpretation, and coercive penalties, though it lacks civilly-binding force in most secular jurisdictions. One example where it did not previously apply was in the English legal system, as well as systems, such as the U.S., that derived from it. Here criminals could apply for the Benefit of clergy. Being in holy orders, or fraudulently claiming to be, meant that criminals could opt to be tried by ecclesiastical rather than secular courts. The ecclesiastical courts were generally more lenient. Under the Tudors, the scope of clerical benefit was steadily reduced by Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I. The Vatican disputed secular authority over priests' criminal offences, and this in turn contributed to the English Reformation. The benefit of clergy was systematically removed from English legal systems over the next 200 years, although it still occurred in South Carolina in 1827.
The structure that the fully developed Roman Law provides is a contribution to the Canon Law. 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.
Much of the legislative 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.
The institutions and practices of canon law paralleled the legal development of much of Europe, and consequently both modern civil law and common law bear the influences of canon law. Edson Luiz Sampel, a Brazilian expert in canon law, says that canon law is contained in the genesis of various institutes of civil law, such as the law in continental Europe and Latin American countries. Sampel explains that canon law has significant influence in contemporary society.
Canonical jurisprudential theory generally follows the principles of Aristotelian-Thomistic legal philosophy. While the term "law" is never explicitly defined in the Code, the Catechism of the Catholic Church cites Aquinas in defining law as "...an ordinance of reason for the common good, promulgated by the one who is in charge of the community" and reformulates it as "...a rule of conduct enacted by competent authority for the sake of the common good."
The law of the Eastern-rite Churches in full communion with the Roman papacy was in much the same state as that of the Latin or Western Church before 1917; much more diversity in legislation existed in the various Eastern Catholic Churches. Each had its own special law, in which custom still played an important part. One major difference in Eastern Europe however, specifically in the Orthodox Christian churches was in regards to divorce. Divorce started to slowly be allowed in specific instances such as adultery being committed, abuse, abandonment, impotence and barrenness being the primary justifications for divorce. Eventually, the church began to allow remarriage to occur (for both spouses) post-divorce. In 1929 Pius XI informed the Eastern Churches of his intention to work out a Code for the whole of the Eastern Church. The publication of these Codes for the Eastern Churches regarding the law of persons was made between 1949 through 1958 but finalized nearly 30 years later.
The first Code of Canon Law (1917) was almost exclusively for the Latin Church, with extremely limited application to the Eastern Churches. After the Second Vatican Council, (1962 - 1965), another edition was published specifically for the Roman Rite in 1983. Most recently, 1990, the Vatican produced the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches which became the 1st code of Eastern Catholic Canon Law.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, principally through the work of 18th-century Athonite monastic scholar Nicodemus the Hagiorite, has compiled canons and commentaries upon them in a work known as the Pēdálion (Greek: Πηδάλιον, "Rudder"), so named because it is meant to "steer" the Church in her discipline. The dogmatic determinations of the Councils are to be applied rigorously, since they are considered to be essential for the Church's unity and the faithful preservation of the Gospel.
In the Church of England, the ecclesiastical courts that formerly decided many matters such as disputes relating to marriage, divorce, wills, and defamation, still have jurisdiction of certain church-related matters (e.g. discipline of clergy, alteration of church property, and issues related to churchyards). Their separate status dates back to the 12th century when the Normans split them off from the mixed secular/religious county and local courts used by the Saxons. In contrast to the other courts of England the law used in ecclesiastical matters is at least partially a civil law system, not common law, although heavily governed by parliamentary statutes. Since the Reformation, ecclesiastical courts in England have been royal courts. The teaching of canon law at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge was abrogated by Henry VIII; thereafter practitioners in the ecclesiastical courts were trained in civil law, receiving a Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.) degree from Oxford, or a Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree from Cambridge. Such lawyers (called "doctors" and "civilians") were centered at "Doctors Commons", a few streets south of St Paul's Cathedral in London, where they monopolized probate, matrimonial, and admiralty cases until their jurisdiction was removed to the common law courts in the mid-19th century.
Other churches in the Anglican Communion around the world (e.g., the Episcopal Church in the United States, and the Anglican Church of Canada) still function under their own private systems of canon law.
Currently, (2004), there are principles of canon law common to the churches within the Anglican Communion; their existence can be factually established; each province or church contributes through its own legal system to the principles of canon law common within the Communion; these principles have a strong persuasive authority and are fundamental to the self-understanding of each of the churches of the Communion; these principles have a living force, and contain in themselves the possibility of further development; and the existence of these principles both demonstrates unity and promotes unity within the Anglican Communion. 
In Presbyterian and Reformed churches, canon law is known as "practice and procedure" or "church order", and includes the church's laws respecting its government, discipline, legal practice and worship.
Roman canon law had been criticized by the Presbyterians as early as 1572 in the Admonition to Parliament. The protest centered on the standard defense that canon law could be retained so long as it did not contradict the civil law. According to Polly Ha, the Reformed Church Government refuted this claiming that the bishops had been enforcing canon law for 1500 years.
The Book of Concord is the historic doctrinal statement of the Lutheran Church, consisting of ten credal documents recognized as authoritative in Lutheranism since the 16th century. However, the Book of Concord is a confessional document (stating orthodox belief) rather than a book of ecclesiastical rules or discipline, like canon law. Each Lutheran national church establishes its own system of church order and discipline, though these are referred to as "canons."
The Book of Discipline contains the laws, rules, policies and guidelines for The United Methodist Church. Its last edition was published in 2016.
Summa Theologica I-II, 90, 4
The 1983 Code of Canon Law (abbreviated 1983 CIC from its Latin title Codex Iuris Canonici), also called the Johanno-Pauline Code, is the "fundamental body of ecclesiastical laws for the Latin Church". It is the second and current comprehensive codification of canonical legislation for the Latin Church sui iuris of the Catholic Church. It was promulgated on 25 January 1983 by John Paul II and took legal effect on the First Sunday of Advent (27 November) 1983. It replaced the 1917 Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Benedict XV on 27 May 1917.Canon law of the Catholic Church
The canon law of the Catholic Church (Latin: jus canonicum) is the system of laws and legal principles made and enforced by the hierarchical authorities of the Catholic Church to regulate its external organization and government and to order and direct the activities of Catholics toward the mission of the Church. It was the first modern Western legal system and is the oldest continuously functioning legal system in the West, while the unique traditions of Oriental canon law govern the 23 Eastern Catholic particular churches sui iuris.
Positive ecclesiastical laws, based directly or indirectly upon immutable divine law or natural law, derive formal authority in the case of universal laws from promulgation by the supreme legislator—the Supreme Pontiff—who possesses the totality of legislative, executive, and judicial power in his person, while particular laws derive formal authority from promulgation by a legislator inferior to the supreme legislator, whether an ordinary or a delegated legislator. The actual subject material of the canons is not just doctrinal or moral in nature, but all-encompassing of the human condition. It has all the ordinary elements of a mature legal system: laws, courts, lawyers, judges, a fully articulated legal code for the Latin Church as well as a code for the Eastern Catholic Churches, principles of legal interpretation, and coercive penalties. It lacks civilly-binding force in most secular jurisdictions. Those who are versed and skilled in canon law, and professors of canon law, are called canonists (or colloquially, canon lawyers). Canon law as a sacred science is called canonistics.
The jurisprudence of canon law is the complex of legal principles and traditions within which canon law operates, while the philosophy, theology, and fundamental theory of canon law are the areas of philosophical, theological, and legal scholarship dedicated to providing a theoretical basis for canon law as legal system and as true law.Consanguinity
Consanguinity ("blood relation", from the Latin consanguinitas) is the property of being from the same kinship as another person. In that aspect, consanguinity is the quality of being descended from the same ancestor as another person.
The laws of many jurisdictions set out the degree of consanguinity in relation to prohibited sexual relations and marriage parties. Such rules are also used to determine heirs of an estate according to statutes that govern intestate succession, which vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some places and times, cousin marriage is approved and expected; in others, it is as taboo as incest.
The degree of relative consanguinity can be illustrated with a consanguinity table in which each level of lineal consanguinity (generation or meiosis) appears as a row, and individuals with a collaterally consanguineous relationship share the same row. The Knot System is a numerical notation that defines consanguinity.Deanery
A deanery (or decanate) is an ecclesiastical entity in the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Evangelical Church in Germany, and the Church of Norway. A deanery is either the jurisdiction or residence of a dean.Doctor of Canon Law
Doctor of Canon Law (Latin: Juris Canonici Doctor; J.C.D.) is the doctoral-level terminal degree in the studies of canon law of the Roman Catholic Church. It can also be an honorary degree awarded by Anglican colleges.
It may also be abbreviated I.C.D. or dr.iur.can. (Iuris Canonici Doctor), ICDr., D.C.L., D.Cnl., D.D.C., or D.Can.L. (Doctor of Canon Law). A Doctor of both laws (i.e. canon and civil) is a J.U.D. (Juris Utriusque Doctor), or U.J.D. (Utriusque Juris Doctor).
A doctorate in canon law normally requires earning the degree Licentiate of Canon Law, then at least two years of additional study and the development and defense of an original dissertation that contributes to the development of canon law. Only a pontifical university or ecclesiastical faculties of canon law may grant the doctorate or licentiate in canon law.
The Licentiate of Canon Law is a three-year degree. The prerequisite for it is normally the graduate level Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.), a master of divinity (M.Div.), a Master of Arts in Roman Catholic theology (M.A.).
While not a civil law degree, the doctor of canon law is in some ways comparable to the Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.) or doctor of laws (L.L.D.) in terms of the nature of study, as they are terminal academic research degrees as opposed to professional degrees.
Members of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, judicial vicars, ecclesiastical judges, defenders of the bond, and promoters of justice, must possess either a doctorate or license in canon law. Either of the degrees is recommended for those who serve as vicar general or episcopal vicar in a diocese. Candidates for bishop must either possess the doctorate in canon law or the doctorate in sacred theology or be truly expert in one of those fields. Canonical advocates must possess the doctorate or be truly expert.
The Roman Church has the oldest continuously used homogenous legal system in the world. Following the Gregorian Reform's emphasis on canon law, bishops formed cathedral schools to train the clergy in canon law. Consequently, many of the medieval universities of Europe founded faculties of canon law (e.g., Cambridge and Oxford). Since the Protestant Reformation, however, they became limited to those universities which retained Catholic faculties (e.g., Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Gregorian University, Catholic University of Louvain, Faculty of Canon Law "S. Pio X" in Venice). Other Catholic universities with ecclesiastical faculties in canon law were subsequently given the ability to grant the degree (e.g., The Catholic University of America, University of Saint Paul). The University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines, has been awarding the degree since 1734.Doctor of both laws
A Doctor of both laws, from the Latin doctor utriusque juris, or juris utriusque doctor, or doctor juris utriusque ("doctor of both laws") (abbreviations include: JUD, IUD, DUJ, JUDr., DUI, DJU, Dr.iur.utr., Dr.jur.utr., DIU, UJD and UID) is a scholar who has acquired a doctorate in both civil and church law. The degree was common among Roman Catholic and German scholars of the Middle Ages and early modern times. Today the degree is awarded by the Pontifical Lateran University after a period of six years of study, by the University of Würzburg, and by the University of Fribourg.
Between approximately the twelfth through the eighteenth centuries European students of law mastered the Ius commune, a pan-European legal system that held sway during that span. It was composed of canon (church) law and Roman and feudal (civil) law, resulting in the degree of "Doctor of both laws".Eastern canonical reforms of Pius XII
The Eastern canonical reforms of Pope Pius XII were the several reforms of Oriental canon law and the Codex Iuris Canonici Orientalis, applying mainly to the Oriental Churches united with the Latin Church in communion with the Roman Pontiff. The Holy See's policy in this area had always two objectives, the pastoral care of approximately ten million Christians united with Rome and the creation of positive ecumenical signals to the two-hundred and fifty million Orthodox Christians outside the Church of Rome.Hierarchy of the Catholic Church
The hierarchy of the Catholic Church consists of its bishops, priests, and deacons. In the ecclesiological sense of the term, "hierarchy" strictly means the "holy ordering" of the Church, the Body of Christ, so to respect the diversity of gifts and ministries necessary for genuine unity. (1 Cor 12)
In canonical and general usage, it refers to those who exercise authority within a Christian church. In the Catholic Church, authority rests chiefly with the bishops, while priests and deacons serve as their assistants, co-workers or helpers. Accordingly, "hierarchy of the Catholic Church" is also used to refer to the bishops alone.As of 30 December 2014, the Catholic Church consisted of 2,998 dioceses or equivalent jurisdictions, each overseen by a bishop. Dioceses are divided into individual communities called parishes, each staffed by one or more priests, deacons, or lay ecclesial ministers. Ordinarily, care of a parish is entrusted to a priest, though there are exceptions. Approximately 22% of all parishes do not have a resident pastor, and 3,485 parishes worldwide are entrusted to a deacon or lay ecclesial minister.All clergy, including deacons, priests, and bishops, may preach, teach, baptize, witness marriages, and conduct funeral liturgies. Only priests and bishops can celebrate the sacraments of the Eucharist (though others may be ministers of Holy Communion), Penance (Reconciliation, Confession), Confirmation (priests may administer this sacrament with prior ecclesiastical approval), and Anointing of the Sick. Only bishops can administer the sacrament of Holy Orders, by which men are ordained as bishops, priests or deacons.Impediment (canon law)
In the canon law of the Catholic Church, an impediment is a legal obstacle that prevents a sacrament from being performed validly and/or licitly. The term is used most frequently in relationship to the sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders. Some canonical impediments can be dispensed by the competent authority (usually the local ordinary but some impediments are reserved to the Apostolic See) as defined in Canon Law.Interdict
In Catholic canon law, an interdict is an ecclesiastical censure, or ban that prohibits persons, certain active Church individuals or groups from participating in certain rites, or that the rites and services of the church are banished from having validity in certain territories for a limited or extended time.Latae sententiae
Latae sententiae is a Latin phrase, meaning "sentence (already) passed", used in the canon law of the Catholic Church. A latae sententiae penalty is one that follows ipso facto or automatically, by force of the law itself, when a law is contravened.
A penalty that binds a guilty party only after it has been imposed on the person is known as a ferendae sententiae (meaning "sentence to be passed") penalty.The Code of Canon Law, which binds Catholics of the Latin Church, inflicts latae sententiae censures for certain forbidden actions. The canon law that binds members of the eastern Catholic Churches (see Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches) does not include latae sententiae penalties.Legal history of the Catholic Church
The legal history of the Catholic Church is the history of the oldest continuously functioning legal system in the West, much later than Roman law but predating the evolution of modern European civil law traditions. The history of Latin 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). Eastern canon law developed separately.Licentiate of Canon Law
Licentiate of Canon Law (Latin: Juris Canonici Licentiata; J.C.L.) is the title of an advanced graduate degree with canonical effects in the Roman Catholic Church offered by pontifical universities and ecclesiastical faculties of canon law. Licentiate is the title of a person who holds an academic degree called a license. The licentiate of canon law is the ordinary way for forming future canonists, according to Veritatis gaudium.Parish in the Catholic Church
In the Roman Catholic Church, a parish (Latin: parochia) is a stable community of the faithful within a particular church, whose pastoral care has been entrusted to a parish priest (Latin: parochus), under the authority of the diocesan bishop. It is the lowest ecclesiastical subdivision in the Catholic episcopal polity, and the primary constituent unit of a diocese. In the 1983 Code of Canon Law, parishes are constituted under cc. 515–552, entitled "Parishes, Pastors, and Parochial Vicars."Person (canon law)
In the canon law of the Catholic Church, a person is a subject of certain legal rights and obligations. Persons may be distinguished between physical and juridic persons. Juridic persons may be distinguished as collegial or non-collegial, and public or private juridic persons. The Holy See and the Catholic Church as such are not juridic persons, since juridic persons are created by ecclesiastical law. Rather, they are moral persons by divine law.Religious law
Religious law refers to ethical and moral codes taught by religious traditions. Examples include Christian canon law, Islamic sharia, Jewish halakha, and Hindu law.Sede vacante
Sede vacante (Latin for 'the seat being vacant') is a term for the state of an episcopal see while without a bishop. In the canon law of the Catholic Church, the term is used to refer to the vacancy of any see of a particular church, but it comes into especially wide journalistic use when the see is that of the papacy.Simony
Simony is the act of selling church offices and roles. It is named after Simon Magus, who is described in the Acts of the Apostles as having offered two disciples of Jesus payment in exchange for their empowering him to impart the power of the Holy Spirit to anyone on whom he would place his hands. The term extends to other forms of trafficking for money in "spiritual things."The appointment of ecclesiastical officials, such as bishops and abbots, by a secular authority came to be considered simoniacal and this became a key issue during the Investiture Controversy.Vicar general
A vicar general (previously, archdeacon) is the principal deputy of the bishop of a diocese for the exercise of administrative authority and possesses the title of local ordinary. As vicar of the bishop, the vicar general exercises the bishop's ordinary executive power over the entire diocese and, thus, is the highest official in a diocese or other particular church after the diocesan bishop or his equivalent in canon law. The title normally occurs only in Western Christian churches, such as the Latin Church of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. Among the Eastern churches, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Kerala uses this title and remains an exception. The title for the equivalent officer in the Eastern churches is syncellus and protosyncellus.
The term is used by many religious orders of men in a similar manner, designating the authority in the Order after its Superior General.
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