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Transcript
CANON LAW is the body of rules and regulations
governing a church. Canon law is not the same as
doctrine; rather, the laws are attempts to apply
doctrine to the organization and life of a church.
Canon law is made by the church and does not involve
civil laws that may apply to a church.
ROMAN CATHOLIC CANON LAW
The body of laws and constitutional principles of
the Roman Catholic Church constitutes the canon law
of that church. While the term “canon law” can
encompass the laws of the many regional jurisdictions
within the church, it is commonly applied to the
universal laws of the church, especially those
contained in its official juridical compilation, the
Code of Canon Law.
Etymologically considered, “canon” derives from a
Greek word meaning “rule” or “norm.” It long has been
used in the church to signify the “rule of faith” and
the “norm of Christian life”, and it was adopted by
the early councils of the church for the laws
(“canons”) they issued. From that time canon law has
come to mean sacred or ecclesiastical law as
differentiated from the imperial law or “nomos”—the
civil law of the Roman Empire and other states.
Church law appears to be like the law of civil
society, sharing the forms and borrowing the legal
techniques of the latter; in reality, however, the
two are essentially different. Civil law is a code
for the regulation of external social behavior and
the maintenance of personal rights; church law is a
complex of regulations governing not only the
external but also the internal religious behavior of
the church's members. More basically, whereas the
force and authority of civil law come from within the
community—from the members themselves or from a
ruler—the force and authority of church law comes not
from its membership or leaders but from Christ, who
is at once within and above the community. Like civil
society, the church is an institution composed of
men; it has human leaders and manmade laws.
But these leaders must be submissive to the
guidance of Christ and his Holy Spirit if the laws
they proclaim are to be authentically Christian. To
be authentic, church law must conform to the will of
Christ as it is expressed in Holy Scripture and as it
is experienced in the inspirations of the Holy
Spirit. It must have as its objective not mere social
order but the education of the members of the church
to a life more nearly like that of their Master.
In the Catholic Church the study of canon law has
the status of an academic discipline for which a
comprehensive curriculum is prescribed and degrees
are granted. Canon law is both a historical and a
practical science, looking to the legal traditions of
past centuries, the present governing of the church,
and
the
continuing
development
of
its
legal
structure. An understanding of canon law, then,
should include not only a knowledge of the current
structure of the Code of Canon Law but an awareness
of its history and a concern for its future.
The Past: The History of Canon Law.
The New Testament gives evidence, especially in the
Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul,
that even in the earliest years of the Christian era
laws and internal organization, at least of a
rudimentary sort, were part of the life of the
church. It was, though, several centuries before
anything resembling what today we call canon law
could be recognized. The development of the church's
law
depended
on
the
prior
development
of
ecclesiastical institutions; it was only after the
flowering of the monarchical episcopate (in which
each local church was governed by its own bishop),
after the growth of interdependence of the individual
churches one upon the other, and after the ascendancy
of the major patriarchal sees (those claiming
foundation by one of the Apostles) that the
beginnings of a universal canon law can be discerned.
Early Canonical Collections.
As the centers of the Christian church began to be
more closely tied, councils—at first regional but
becoming general or ecumenical after the accession of
Emperor Constantine—were held by the bishops. From
these councils, canons, or rules of worship and
principles for the organization of Christian life,
emanated and spread throughout the Christian world.
Side by side with the authentic canons of the
councils were circulated collections of apocryphal
canons, often claiming authorship by the Apostles
themselves. Popularly accepted as genuine, these
pseudo-apostolic collections (Didache, Didascalia
apostolorum,
Canones
apostolorum,
Constitutiones
apostolorum,
and
Traditio
apostolica
sancti
Hippolyti)
helped
to
establish
a
degree
of
organizational and juridical uniformity in the early
church.
In the late 5th century Pope Gelasius I (reigned
492–496) set about gathering the early canons and
collections into an official compilation of laws, and
assigned the work to Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian
monk living at Rome. Dionysius gathered the canons of
local synods and the general councils, and added
certain of the “apostolic” canons; thus, he produced
the first noteworthy collection of canon law in the
western church. Editions of this Dionysiana, as the
collection was called, were later sent from Rome to
other parts of the church and so served as the
foundation for a uniform canonical development in the
West.
Frankish Influence.
Uniform development was temporarily thwarted during
the 6th and 7th centuries. The barbarian invasions
and the disintegration of the western Roman Empire
were followed by a period of anarchy and decadence.
Out of these conditions arose national kingdoms
governed by their own legal codes, which were based
on tribal customs. The church, accustomed to the
structure and unity of the Roman legal system, was
then faced with the need of adapting itself to the
legal
codes
of
these
peoples
and
the
local
pecularities of the young nations they had founded.
Centralization of government and uniformity of laws
was, therefore, postponed, and local questions were
settled by the decrees of regional synods.
A
further
complication
was
introduced
into
ecclesiastical law when the Irish missionary monks
appeared
on
the
continent
with
their
Libri
paenitentiales. This detailed listing of crimes,
sins, and penances, which was based on the tribal
laws of their homeland, was imposed on their
converts.
These
“penitentials”
were
rapidly
integrated into local laws.
Out of this confusion, however, emerged a renewed,
though temporary, supremacy of the pope and a
strengthened centralization of church authority. The
papal cause was championed by Pepin the Short, king
of the Franks (reigned 741–768). Requesting a
rescript on canon law from Pope Zacharias in 747,
Pepin engaged in strengthening the organization of
the church. Some time between 754 and 756 he gave the
pope the lands which became the Papal States, thereby
establishing the temporal power of the papacy and
setting the stage for its later claims of wide
temporal jurisdiction. About this time, also, a
document called the Donation of Constantine appeared.
It purported to show that on his departure from Rome
for the East, Constantine had conferred on Pope
Sylvester I (reigned 314–335) far-reaching temporal
rights over the western part of the Roman Empire.
Though a forgery, this document was used for many
years
to
bolster
papal
claims
to
temporal
jurisdiction.
After
Pepin,
Charlemagne
(reigned
768–814)
continued
the
work
of
reform;
he
restored
ecclesiastical organization as a whole throughout his
kingdom,
reduced
the
divergent
tendencies
and
institutions of canon law, and again brought into a
place of prominence the general collections of law.
In 774, Pope Adrian I gave him a code of law—a
version of the Dionysian collection supplemented by
later papal legislation—to serve as a basis for his
reform of the Frankish church.
Although the work of Charlemagne and the canonists
of his time enhanced the prestige of canonical
tradition and prevented the dissolution of the Latin
Church into a multitude of autonomous local churches,
the years following his death did not fulfill the
promise of his reign. Under his successors his
kingdom was split, and the church, though better
organized than before, fell prey to secular rulers
who abused the privileges of the clergy, interfered
with the power of the bishops, and confiscated
ecclesiastical
property.
A
new
collection
of
decretals
conveniently
appeared
containing
legislation against just such abuses. The collection
was
attributed
to
Isidorus
Mercator,
and
its
decretals were said to date from Pope St. Clement and
other early bishops of Rome. Now known as the “false”
or “pseudo-Isidorian” Decretals, the collection was
compiled by well-intentioned churchmen of the day
partly from authentic decretals of an earlier day and
partly from decretals of their own fabrication.
Gaining acceptance as authentic, the false decretals
were used to reinforce episcopal power and to deter
the seizure of church property. Since they advocated
appeal to Rome for the settlement of controversies,
they served to strengthen papal jurisdictional
claims.
That jurisdiction, however, was once again being
weakened by the Roman aristocracy's control over the
papacy during the 9th century and by the Germanic
emperors' interference with church affairs during the
10th and 11th centuries. More than this, the feudal
culture of the day, with its multiplicity of
political
subdivisions,
its
predilection
for
“private” churches, and its attempts at lay dominance
of the clergy, minimized the central authority of
Rome. This decline of papal authority was accompanied
by a decline in canon law as well. Thus any
contribution to canonical progress during those times
was made by individual compilers of new collections.
The most significant of these collections, and one
prophetic of the coming of a better age of canonical
activity, was the Decretum of Burchard, the reformminded bishop of Worms (died 1025). His was the most
complete and systematic collection yet produced and
served as the groundwork for the later great
collections of Ivo of Chartres and Gratian.
Gregorian Reform.
The reform of the abuses of this period (lay
investiture and simony, for example) and the return
to a strong central authority began in the middle of
the 11th century and reached its peak in the reign of
Pope
Gregory
VII
(1073–1085).
To
restore
the
authentic sources of law and strengthen the measures
of Gregory's reform, canonists searched out documents
and compiled collections of texts (the most notable
collection
being
the
Dictatus
papae).
These
collections strengthened the authority of the Roman
See by recognizing the pope as the primary and
supreme source of ecclesiastical laws with power over
all members of the church. Furthermore, by virtue of
a kind of papal theocracy, secular rulers were held
to be subject to the pope, even in temporal matters.
Although these claims, backed by the arguments of
the papal canonists, continued for several centuries
and reached their highwater mark in Unam sanctam
(1302), the bull promulgated by the canonist-pope
Boniface
VIII,
a
moderating
influence
entered
canonical literature even at this time. Ivo, bishop
of Chartres (Yves de Chartres; 1040?–1116), who
accepted the principle of papal primacy in the church
but nonetheless respected the rights of secular
rulers, sought to restore peace between church and
state. Zealous for reform, he was careful to temper
the rigor of the law with mercy and charity.
Moreover, he tried to update the study of canon law
by providing rules for the historical and rational
interpretation of its sources. Like the Decretum of
Burchard (from which he borrowed extensively), the
work of Ivo signaled the coming of a new era in the
history of canon law.
Gratian and the Classical Period of Canon Law.
The new era began in the mid-12th century with the
work of Gratian. A monk, he was educated in Bologna,
which at that time was the greatest center of legal
learning in Europe. It boasted a school of law where,
under its founder Irnerius, the newly revived
legislation of Justinian—the Corpus Juris Civilis—was
studied and commented upon. In this setting Gratian
applied to the complex and disorganized canon law of
his time the form and order of Justinian's Roman law.
He adopted a rational method for the selection and
interpretation
of
legal
texts
similar
to
the
dialectical method Peter Abelard had earlier used in
his landmark theological treatise Sic et non. Setting
out to compile a summa of canon law, Gratian gathered
all the available legislation of the past from the
Sacred Scripture, the writings of the Fathers, and
the
decrees
of
councils.
First,
he
discarded
apocryphal texts and laws narrowly regional or
superseded by later legislation and then added to
what remained the most recent papal and conciliar
decrees. Finally, he tried to reconcile the often
divergent texts into a coherent unity.
Gratian's work was published about the year 1140
and was titled Concordantia discordantium canonum
(Concordance of Discordant Canons), but it soon came
to be called by the shorter and more familiar name
Decretum Gratiani (Decree of Gratian). Though the
Decretum was never made an official or authentic
source book of ecclesistical law by the church, it
did become the handbook of the Roman Curia and the
textbook of canon law in the great university centers
of Europe.
Understandably,
the
scope
of
such
a
work,
undertaken
by
one
man
alone,
made
textual
discrepancies and verbal obscurities inevitable. Very
soon, commentators on the Decretum appeared who were
called “decretists.” Some of these were Gratian's own
pupils—Paucapalea and Rolando Bandinelli (later Pope
Alexander III; reigned 1159–1181). Others—Huguccio
(died 1210) and Juan de Torquemada (1388–1468)—came
years and centuries after him. The decretists wrote
extensively on Gratian's work, trying to resolve its
difficult passages and to answer the numerous
questions its publication had raised. Their efforts
clarified many controverted points, but some of the
issues were so involved as to require authoritative
answers from the papacy itself. Papal decretals
multiplied, accordingly, in the years following
Gratian, and these, like his Decretum, were in their
turn commented on by another group of canonists—the
“decretalists.” Among these were Raymond of Peñafort
(c. 1180–1276), Sinibaldus Fieschi (Pope Innocent
IV), and Nicolas de Tudeschis (1389–1446).
The plethora of papal decretals required collection
and order. During the 13th and early 14th centuries
three major collections were made by the popes: the
Decretals of Gregory IX in 1234; the Liber sextus of
Boniface VIII in 1298; and the Constitutions of
Clement V, promulgated by John XXII in 1317. These
official collections, together with two unofficial
collections published in 1500 by Jean Chappuis (the
Extravagantes of John XXII and the Extravagantes
communes;“extravagantes” means decretals circulating
outside official collections), were added to the
Decretum of Gratian to form the Corpus Iuris
Canonici.
Conciliarism.
During the 13th and 14th centuries canonists were
called on to choose sides in a conflict whose
repercussions would be felt for centuries in the
church—the seemingly perennial question of papal
jurisdiction. As might be expected, papal claims of
temporal authority created tension between the church
and secular rulers. These claims also engendered
opposition within the church itself; men like
Marsilius of Padua, William of Ockham, and John
Wycliffe opposed them. Likewise, papal claims to
total authority within the church led to an everincreasing centralization of power and consequent
strained relations with local churches. The practice
of reservation of local ecclesiastical judicial and
administrative matters to the pope—a practice often
enough made necessary by the less than ideal conduct
of some local clergy—similarly created conflicts
between the universal papal laws and local rules and
customs.
Those who wished to mitigate the exercise of papal
power found gratification in the Western schism that
divided the church from 1378 to 1417. During this
disastrous period, when two and sometimes three
claimants to the papal throne split the church into
factions and no resolution of the division appeared
likely, the theory known as conciliarism gained
fairly wide acceptance in some areas of the church.
Many theologians and canonists (notably Jean Gerson
and Pierre D'Ailly) as well as bishops and cardinals
were prepared to accept the thesis that only a
general council could end the disunity, and that
indeed such a council would be legislative authority
superior to the pope. Other canonists, equally
renowned—Baldus de Ubaldis and Juan de Torquemada, to
name two—argued against the conciliar theory and
supported papal authority.
For a time it appeared that the views of the
conciliarists were destined to prevail. But the
general council of Constance (1414–1417) ended the
schism by deposing two of the papal contenders,
accepting the resignation of the third, and electing
one of its own members to reign as Pope Martin V
(1417–1431). Though Martin's actions after the
Council of Constance are the subject of some dispute,
it appears that, once elected, he repudiated the
conciliarist views of his electors and reaffirmed the
supremacy of pope over council.
The Reformation and the Council of Trent.
One century to the year after the election of
Martin V ended the schism, a greater rupture of the
unity of western Christianity occurred when Martin
Luther and the reformers rejected, among other
things, the hierarchical-papal structure of the
church. Along with that structure, Luther rejected
the canon law that served as its legal justification.
The effect of Luther's attack on canon law, though
not what he might have hoped for, was considerable in
that it occasioned the calling of the Council of
Trent. For the next four centuries this great
council's
decision
would
regulate
the
life,
structure, and law of the Catholic Church. From the
Roman Curia to the smallest parish community,
Catholic life was restructured and renewed according
to the spirit and laws of Trent, and as the church's
life was renewed, so too was its law. The Canons and
Decrees of the Council of Trent became, with the
Corpus Iuris Canonici, the law of the church. Its
laws on marriage, priestly and religious life, and
the government of diocess supplemented and in many
cases supplanted the old law.
The old law was not neglected (though persistent
requests for its complete restructuring were not
answered). Pope Pius IV (reigned 1559–1565) appointed
a commission to correct and revise the Corpus Iuris
Canonici, and a new edition was published by the
authority of Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. For a time
following the council there was a lessening of
canonical activity when Pius IV forbade the writing
of
commentaries
on
Trent's
decrees.
Official
interpretations only were to be allowed, and a
committee of cardinals was given the task. By the end
of the 17th century, however, this ruling had been
allowed to lapse; from that time to the present,
hundreds of commentaries have enriched the literature
of canon law.
Even though Trent, by way of answer to the
reformers, anchored the church more securely than
ever in the papacy, theories aimed at limiting papal
power still continued to circulate. In 17th century
France the movement held that the pope is limited by
the
general
council
in
matters
of
spiritual
government, by the episcopate in matters of faith,
and by special “Gallican privileges” on matters
relating to the French church. Predictably, this
movement was condemned by Pope Alexander VIII in
1690, and its theories lived on in Febronianism in
Germany and Josephinism in Austria during the last
half of the 18th and first half of the 19th centuries
until the First Vatican Council (1869–1870). The more
publicized definition of papal infallibility in
matters of faith and morals overshadowed a Vatican I
definition of at least equal importance. The council
defined that the Roman pontiff has full, supreme,
ordinary, and universal power throughout the entire
church, in all its parts, and over all its members,
bishops as well as laymen. The papal primacy was once
again vindicated.
To balance such a strong affirmation of Roman
authority the council had intended to make statements
on the role of bishops in the church and on their
relationship with the pope. The premature closing of
the council occasioned by the fall of Rome to
Garibaldi's army precluded the discussion of this
relationship, and a balanced answer to the perennial
question of papal power would have to await the
Second Vatican Council nearly a century later.
Thirty-four years after the close of the First
Vatican Council, Pope Pius X (reigned 1903–1914)
announced that it was his intention to revise canon
law in structure as well as content. His revision was
the first official collection since the promulgation
of the Constitutions of Clement V nearly 600 years
before. It was also the answer to centuries of
requests for a general revision and modernization of
the law. Piux X decreed that the Corpus Iuris
Canonici should be replaced by a modern code of law
patterned after the civil codes adopted in many
European countries following the publication of the
Napoleonic Code in the early years of the 19th
century. A commission of cardinals and experts was
set up under the presidency of Pietro Cardinal
Gasparri
to
carry
out
the
actual
labor
of
codification. Pius X died before the completion of
the new Codex Iuris Canonici, and his successor Pope
Benedict XV promulgated it on May 27, 1917. It became
effective on May 19, 1918.
The Code of Canon Law (1918).
The Code of Canon Law was composed of 2,414 concise
formulations of law called canons. These were
arranged in “books” under five general headings: (1)
General Norms (canons 1–86); (2) Persons in the
Church (canons 87–725); (3) Sacred Matters (canons
726–1551); (4) Legal Procedures (canons 1552–2194);
and (5) Crimes and Penalties (canons 2195–2414).
After its promulgation in 1918, the Code of Canon
Law served a useful purpose in the organization of
local churches throughout the world with a high
degree of uniformity. Lay people, clergy, and
hierarchy were organized into pyramidlike structures
presided over by local bishops. The religious could
be either clerical or lay persons. The many resulting
worldwide diocesan structures were subordinate in
various ways to the Roman Curia, which was made up of
huge administrative offices accountable to the pope.
As
the
years
passed,
there
was
growing
consciousness of the need for greater participation
of the laity in church matters as well as for more
autonomy in the local churches. These notions grew
from new concepts of the purposes of a church. The
issues were restudied in the Second Vatican Council
(1962–1965), and at its close it became apparent that
a revision of canon law had become necessary.
Vatican Council II and Revision of the Code.
Following Vatican Council II, the final phase of
work on the new canon law code began when the first
synod of bishops met in 1967. A commission of
cardinals and experts had been named by Pope John
XXIII in 1963 to revise the code in the light of
Vatican Council II, then in progress. After John's
death, Pope Paul VI reorganized the commission
somewhat and instructed it to consciously direct the
code to the theological mission and life of the
church. The commission must illustrate how authority
is to serve in leading the people of God to
salvation. Rigorism and legalism must be avoided, and
the rights of all people must be protected.
In 1967 the bishops approved guiding principles for
revising the code and established its character. The
laws should be more than a broad set of moral
principles. They should be juridical in nature and
directed to the external government of individuals
and society. They should be pastoral in spirit and
reflect local conditions in their directives. They
should demonstrate the authority necessary for the
local bishop in his work, while respect for human
rights should remain intact.
In keeping with the teachings of Vatican Council II
concerning the local church, laws should be pertinent
to specific territories when indicated. Penalties
should be fewer; and in line with this principle, the
laws should reflect the church's newer understanding
of itself as a communion of faithful called to
membership in a spiritual organism.
The New Code of Canon Law (1983).
After 14 years the commission decided that its work
was completed and presented the revised code to Pope
John Paul II for approval. The new Code of Canon Law
was promulgated on Jan. 25, 1983, and became
effective on Nov. 27, 1983.
The new code differs noticeably from that of 1918.
It is considerably briefer—1,752 canons, compared
with 2,414 in the old law. Greater leeway is allowed
for observing conditions in the individual dioceses
and institutes. Many laws in the code are concerned
with new entities and structures, and some canons
contain theological statements rather than strict
laws. The structure of the new code is different from
that of the old one. Seven new sections replace the
five “books” of the 1918 code: General Norms, People
of God, Teaching Office, Sanctifying Office, Temporal
Goods of the Church, Ecclesiastical Sanctions, and
Canonical
Procedures.
Canonical
penalties
are
noticeably fewer.
The new Code of Canon Law reflects contemporary
theological thinking in the church. It represents the
thought pattern requested by Pope Paul VI when he
directed the commission to undertake its task.
Instead of likening church structure to that of a
monarchy, the commission was to articulate the
conciliar concept of the church as a communion of
people bound together in the Lord and joined by a
communion of faith and loyalty to the church. Gone
are many of the monarchical concepts of church
structure that were governed largely by direction of
the people involved.
Ministry in the priesthood is still restricted to
properly trained men, but many of the clerical
functions have been opened to the laity. Lay people
now may staff parishes and become closely involved in
Christian formation, together with parents and other
qualified personnel. These changes do not flow from
the breakup of former law but from the new church
theology, which views the church as a communion of
the faithful. In this communion all may share in
varying degrees in the newly recognized entity that
is the church of Vatican Council II.
Notable changes of emphasis have been introduced in
the preparation of the faithful for the reception of
the sacraments. Baptism, Confirmation, and the
Eucharist are seen as integral elements in the
ceremonies for initiation of adults. Infant baptism
has been retained, but greater preparation of the
parents and godparents is required.
Confession
is
seen
as
the
Sacrament
of
Reconciliation in which the repentant soul is
welcomed by a forgiving God. Penance services are
encouraged, but individual confession and absolution
remain
the
practice
unless
necessity
dictates
otherwise.
The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick points
to God, the loving Father, giving assistance,
sometimes physical as well as spiritual, to one in
serious physical distress. This sacrament, as well as
that of Reconciliation, is administered by the priest
to members of the Christian community in physical and
spiritual need. A communal participation in these
sacraments is praiseworthy when circumstances warrant
or permit.
Women have been afforded an enhanced status in the
church by recent changes and by the code, but they
remain ineligible for ordination. Through Baptism,
the people of God share a certain equality. As such,
all are called to assist in spreading the Gospel and
to engage in pastoral activities.
The new code is a praiseworthy monument to the
bishops and scholars who produced it. It incorporates
the old law in a presentation impregnated with the
spirit and insights of Vatican Council II, as well as
the theological and juridical insights of the late
20th century. It has strengthened the diocesan
structure of the church, with the local bishop as
pastor and shepherd in close unity with the pope.
The
ecclesiastical
atmosphere
in
1983
was
auspicious for the new code and its acceptance by all
ranks in the church. Moreover, experience with the
old law during the previous 65 years emphasized that
no code of law is perfect. In due course another
revision will be necessary. The new Code of Canon Law
has taught that progress is achieved through periodic
revisions.
Romaeus O'Brien, O. Carm.
Catholic University of America (Ret.) Canonist,
Diocese of Phoenix, Ariz.
CANON LAW IN THE EASTERN CHURCHES
The canon law of the Eastern churches is primarily
derived from pseudoapostolic writings, the writings
of Church Fathers, and the decrees of ecumenical and
local councils. From the earliest times many works
attributed to the apostles enjoyed the force of law;
only one, however, The 85 Canons of the Holy
Apostles, has been fully accepted by the Eastern
churches. In the 4th century laws began to be
properly promulgated by the ecumenical councils. In
addition to the canons issued directly by them, the
norms of local synods and councils gained universal
authority when they were cited at the ecumenical
councils; and, by approving the writings of the
Church Fathers, the ecumenical councils imparted the
status of norms to these as well.
Subsidiary sources of Eastern legislation include
the writings of Eastern patriarchs, the canons
promulgated by the standing episcopal conference in
Constantinople, and the liturgical and penitential
books, which list the exact laws for worship, fast
and abstinence, observation of holy days, and
penances. Custom, another source of law, was applied
as a norm as early as the Council of Nicaea (325).
The interpretations of unclear laws by prominent
canonists have also attained a quasi-legal status.
Because of the symbiosis of church and state in the
Byzantine Empire, many ecclesiastical laws were
formulated by the emperors who frequently organized
them into collections. The most famous imperial
collection was Justinian the Great's (483–565) Corpus
Iuris Civilis. In addition, systematized laws or
opinions arranged according to topics were issued in
collections. Among these were Collection of Fifty
Chapters,
Synopsis
of
Canons,
Nomocanon
(50
chapters),
and
Nomocanon
of
John
the
Faster.
Nomocanons list the civil and church laws dealing
with the same problem side by side. St. Sava (Rastko;
1174–1235) translated a selection of laws from the
nomocanon ascribed to Photius into Church Slavonic.
Called the Kormchaja Kniga (Book of the Rudder), this
became the most prominent collection of canon law in
use in the Slavonic Orthodox churches.
The Syntagma of Canons, arranged by Rhalli and
Potli (1852–1859), is the most thorough collection of
Byzantine church laws, but until officially accepted
by pan-Orthodox agreement, it cannot have the force
of universal law for all Orthodox churches. The canon
law in force for Eastern Catholics is largely based
on the Latin rite code. The decree on Eastern
Catholic churches promulgated by the Second Vatican
Council in Nov. 1964 has, however, prompted the
undertaking of a totally new codification.
George A. Maloney, S. J.
Fordham University
CANON LAW IN THE PROTESTANT CHURCHES
Repudiation of the traditional canon law was
characteristic
of
the
earliest
stage
of
the
Reformation. For example, Martin Luther burned the
Corpus Iuris on Dec. 10, 1520, along with the papal
bull that excommunicated him. But as soon as the
Lutheran and Calvinist churches came to rely on state
support they developed codes of canon law. Other
Protestant churches, not supported by the state—that
is, the Nonconformist or Independent churches—adopted
laws or rules for their internal regulation. Some of
these codes were known as books of discipline.
The Church of England retained many of the preReformation canons, though legislation for the church
was in the hands of the king and Parliament. At the
Convocation of Canterbury in 1604 and that of York in
1606, 141 canons were adopted. At present, new canons
may be authorized by the two convocations, with royal
assent, or by Parliament. Other churches of the
Anglican Communion, such as the Episcopal Church in
the United States, devised their own canons, apart
from those of the mother Church of England. Equally
independent is the Church of Scotland, which is
Presbyterian.
It
recognizes
none
of
the
preReformation canons but only those authorized by a
national council. Laws set up by the council require
approval by Parliament. See also GREAT BRITAIN AND
NORTHERN Ireland—Religion (The Churches in Britain);
PRESBYTERianism; and articles on other churches.
Frederick C. Grant
Union Theological Seminary