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The Code of Canon Law

The Code of Canon Law is the largest body of Christian laws compiled in 1983 and declared a constituent body in the Latin Church of the Vatican. These laws are the main guiding principles for Catholic Christianity. Contact the experts of to get the best guidance on the Code of Canon Law.

What does canon law mean?

Christian churches, since their inception, have formulated several governing laws both to conduct their proceedings and to reflect divine commandments in the followers of Christianity. It is a collection of codes and instructions in canonical collections.

Canon laws mainly include divine laws, which were incorporated positively or naturally into canonical codes. It is a legal body that combines the ecclesiastical laws approved by the high priests of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church of England and several different churches belonging to Eastern Christianity.

The canon laws can be traced back to the inception of Roman Catholicism. It was the regulatory framework for all churches and ecclesiastical bodies, particularly after 1054. But the authority of the canonical codes got interrupted as Reformation brought massive changes in Christian doctrines from the beginning of the 16th century.

The vast majority of churches rejected canonical authority except for the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. However, as days passed, several Eastern Churches started following their canonical codes, which were

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What is an example of Canon Law?

The canon law is a comprehensive text of the canonical tradition of Latin Christianity. The Latin Church is the largest, with more than 1.5 billion members worldwide. It has a global presence and is positioned in the centre of Vatican city. The canons are chronologically mentioned as 'canon 1', 'canon 2' and so on. There are subsections of each canon which are written in bullet forms. The canon laws were compiled together in a single book called the Code of the Canon laws in 1917 as Benedict XV codified it. It showed many rifts and differences within the ecclesiastical community. Here are some examples of the canon laws as codified in the '1983 Code of Canon Laws'.

  • Canon 1009

S2- “They are conferred by the impositions of hand and prayer of consecration which the liturgical books prescribe for each grade.”

  • Canon 1010

"An ordination during the Mass, on a Sunday or a holiday of obligation. For pastoral reasons, however, it may also take place in other places, even on ferial days."

What is the current Code of Canon Law?

In 1983, the ecclesiastical body decided to unite all scattered elements of the Cannon law promulgated by Benedict XV to unify the Latin Church. The new codification has been declared as the ‘sui ruis” of the canonical order. Which means "of its own right". The head of the Catholic Church, John Paul II, promulgated the code on 25th January 1983.

This code brought together the different sects and canons applied in different churches of Catholic Christianity and passed down a comprehensive guide for administration and rulings. The code is translated into many vernacular languages, with Latin as the central language in which it enacts the law.

The entire Code of Canon Law comprises seven books. Here are the topics of the books in chronological order.

  • Book I - “General norms” of the canonical orders (from canon 1 to 203).
  • Book II - "The people of the God" describes God's chosen people. (from canon 204 to 746)
  • Book III - “Teaching and functions of the church”. (from canon 747 to 833)
  • Book IV - “The sanctifying function of the church” (from canon 834 to 1253)
  • Book V - “The temporal goods of the church” (from canon 1254 to 1310)
  • Book VI - “Sanctions of the church” (from canon 1211 to 1399)
  • Book VII - Processes (from Canon 1400 to 1752).

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What is the purpose of the Code of Canon Law?

When early Christian priests started to formulate churches worldwide, they could not proceed without a centralized authority or a set of rules governing their operations. It assumes Jesus Christ to be the Lord and united under the governance of the Church. Therefore, it has to bind under some organizational structure and regulatory guidelines. The main purpose of promulgating canon laws was to give the Church the authority to rule over the general public as the subjects of a Christian faith and provide authority to the priesthood.

The apostles propagated the message of Jesus Christ, then the bishops, and finally the Pope. All must accept the validity and authority of the canon. Most other churches accept the gradation and basic canonical rulings while not accepting the centrality of the Pope. Thus there are two main purposes of the Canon Laws.

  1. To establish the validity of the sacramental view that the Church has divine authority to protect the Christians. And
  2. It is transmitted through the tradition of Apostles and Bishops resting finally with the Pope.

Does canon law supersede civil law?

The rulings and guidings of canon laws have diminished with time as the Church lost its authority as the perfect ruling authority of the society. However, in some particular areas, the canon laws persist with some exclusive features.

For instance, a church's rights and objectives will be solely internalized and enacted by the Church. It bars any secular structure, including the government, from alienating, keeping, governing, and acquiring the Church's assets. The Church reserves the right to execute divine worship as representatives of Christians.

The law includes sections where it is mentioned that each ecclesiastical body must obey and maintain the rule of the land.

Is Canon Law infallible?

The canon law does not approve infallibility of the laws by any circumstance. Apart from some authoritative commands, the law is open to interpretation and amendments. Also, the Code of Canon Law is clear in Canon 749. It can be summarised as follows -

One cannot claim a single law defined as infallible until it goes through scrutiny and is perfectly established.

The Catholic Church accepts scriptures as the only ruling authority of the land. But for centuries, many revolutionary ideas have reshaped the inner workings of the Church and found a middle ground where it can coexist with the parameters of the modern civil and criminal laws. The congregation of fathers and Bishops refer to scriptures and traditions to mandate any ruling, but not without the balance of civil statutes and judgments.

This flexibility has brought Catholic Christianity to modernity and civil verdicts.

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How did Canon Law differ from government law?

The government is an authority mandated and approved by the public to rule and administer. It operates through laws and regulations which are decided and debated in courts of judgment and parliaments. It governs the civil, criminal, law essay help, and business activities of a nation.

Churches are accepted under specific sections of government laws. But for a significant part of history, churches remained a ruling authority of the land. It passes down the divine orders and judgments bearing the traditions and convention. So, many times, the Canon Laws directly collide with government law. But, churches do not represent the same authority as they did. So, except for sacramental or religious operations, the Government laws will persist if the two entities collide.

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