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The Corpus juris canonici (lit. 'Body of Canon Law') is the collection of significant sources of canon law of the Catholic Church that was applicable to the universal Church or specifically to Churches of the Latin Rite or Eastern Rites. It was replaced by the Codex juris canonici ("Code of Canon Law"), which was promulgated in 1917 and went into effect in 1918. The Codex juris canonici was revised in 1983 for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church and in 1990 for the Eastern rites.

The Corpus juris canonici was used in canonical courts of the Catholic Church such as those in each diocese and in the courts of appeal at the Vatican such as the Sacra Rota Romana.


The term corpus (Latin for 'body') here denotes a collection of documents; corpus juris, a collection of laws, especially if they are placed in systematic order. It may signify also an official and complete collection of a legislation made by the legislative power, comprising all the laws which are in force in a country or society. The term, although it never received legal sanction in either Roman or canon law, being merely academic phraseology, is used in the above sense when the "Corpus juris civilis" of the Christian Roman Emperors is meant.

The expression corpus juris may also mean, not the collection of laws itself, but the legislation of a society considered as a whole. Hence Benedict XIV could rightly say that the collection of his Bulls formed part of the corpus juris (Jam fere sextus, 1746). One best explains the signification of the term corpus juris canonici by showing the successive meanings which were usually assigned to it in the past and at the present day.

Under the name of "corpus canonum" ('body of canons') were designated the collection of Dionysius Exiguus and the Collectio Anselmo dedicata (see below). The Decretum of Gratian is already called Corpus juris canonici by a glossator of the twelfth century, and Innocent IV calls by this name the Decretales or Decretals of Gregory IX (Ad expediendos, 9 September 1253).

Since the second half of the thirteenth century, Corpus juris canonici in contradistinction to Corpus juris civilis, or Roman law, generally denoted the following collections: the "Decretals" of Gregory IX; those of Boniface VIII (Sixth Book of the Decretals); those of Clement V (Clementinæ) i. e. the collections which at that time, with the Decretum of Gratian, were taught and explained at the universities. At the present day, under the above title are commonly understood these three collections with the addition of the Decretum of Gratian, the Extravagantes (laws 'circulating outside' the standard sources) of John XXII, and the Extravagantes Communes.

Thus understood, the term dates back to the sixteenth century and was officially sanctioned by Gregory XIII (Cum pro munere, 1 July, 1580). The earliest editions of these texts printed under the now usual title of Corpus juris canonici, date from the end of the sixteenth century (Frankfort, 8vo, 1586; Paris, fol., 1587).

In the strict sense of the word the Church does not possess a corpus juris clausum ('closed body of law'), i. e. a collection of laws to which new ones cannot be added. The Council of Basle (Sess. XXIII, ch. vi) and the decree of the Congregation "Super statu regularium" (25 January 1848) do not speak of a corpus clausum; the first refers to "reservationibus in corpore juris expresse clausis": reservations of ecclesiastical benefices contained in the Corpus juris, especially in the ''Liber sextus'' of Boniface VIII, to the exclusion of those held in the Extravagantes described below, and at that time not comprised in the Corpus juris canonici; the second speaks of "cuilibet privilegio, licet in corpore juris clauso et confirmato", i. e. of privileges not only granted by the Holy See but also inserted in the official collections of canon law.

The history of canon law is generally divided into three periods. The first extends to the Decretum of Gratian, i. e. to the middle of the twelfth century (jus antiquum 'oldest [canon] law'); the second reaches to the Council of Trent (jus novum 'new law'); the third includes the latest enactments since the Council of Trent inclusively (jus novissimum 'newest law').

Jus antiquum

The most ancient collections of canonical legislation are certain very early Apostolic documents: for instance, the Didache ton dodeka apostolon or "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles", which dates from the end of the first or the beginning of the second century; the Apostolic Church Ordinance; the Didascalia, or "Teaching of the Apostles"; the Apostolic Canons and Apostolic Constitutions. These collections have never had any official value, no more than any other collection of this first period. However, the Apostolic Canons and, through it, the Apostolic Constitutions, were influential for a time in that later collections would draw upon these earliest sources of church law.[1]

It was in the East, after Constantine I's Edict of Milan of toleration (313), that arose the first systematic collections. We cannot so designate the chronological collections of the canons of the councils of the fourth and fifth centuries (314-451); the oldest systematic collection, made by an unknown author in 535, has not come down. The most important collections of this epoch are the Synagoge kanonon, or the collection of John the Scholastic (Joannes Scholasticus), compiled at Antioch about 550, and the Nomocanons, or compilations of civil laws affecting religious matters (nomos) and ecclesiastical laws (kanon). One such mixed collection is dated in the sixth century and has been erroneously attributed to John the Scholastic; another of the seventh century was rewritten and much enlarged by the schismatical ecumenical patriarch Photius (883).

In the Western Church three collections of canons have exercised an influence far beyond the limits of the country in which they were composed; they are the Collectio Dionysiana, the lengthy Collectio canonum Hibernensis ('Irish Collection of Canons'), and the Decretals of Pseudo-Isidore. The Dionysiana, also called Corpus canonum, Corpus codicis canonum, was the work of Dionysius Exiguus who died between the years 540 and 555; it contains his Latin translation of the canons of the councils of the Eastern Church and a collection of (38) papal letters (Epistolæ decretales) dating from the reign of Pope Siricius (384-398) to that of Anastasius II (died 498). The authority of this Italian collection, at once quite considerable at Rome and in Italy, was greatly increased after Pope Adrian I sent to Charlemagne in 774 a modified and enlarged copy of the collection, thenceforth known as the "Collectio Dionysio-Hadriana", and the Synod of Aachen (802) accepted it as the Codex canonum ('Book of Canons') of the immense Empire of the Franks.

The lengthy Irish collection of canons, compiled in the eighth century, influenced both England, Gaul and Italy.[2] The latter country also possessed two fifth-century Latin translations of the Greek synods (the collection erroneously called Isidoriana or Hispana, and the Collectio Prisca); also an important collection of pontifical and imperial documents (the Avellana, compiled during the pontificate of Gregory the Great, 590-604). Africa possessed a collection of 105, or more exactly 94, canons, compiled about 419; also the Breviatio canonum, or digest of the canons of the councils by Fulgentius Ferrandus (died c. 546), and the Concordia canonum of Cresconius Africanus, an adaptation of the Dionysiana (about 690). In Gaul are found, at the beginning of the sixth century, the Statuta Ecclesiæ antiqua, erroneously attributed to Africa, and among many other collections the Quesnelliana (end of the fifth or beginning of the sixth century) and the Dacheriana (about 800), both so called from the names of their editors, Paschase Quesnel and d'Achéry. In England there developed a collection of canons which are attributed to Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury (died 690). Also, during the early Middle Ages, throughout Europe but especially in the North, numerous local Penitentiales or handbooks of private penance were made, each a typically haphazard collection of types of punishment suggested for various sins; in various ways these penitentials, ultimately Irish in origin, came to affect the canon law collections which were developed on the continent.[3]

Iberia (i.e. Spain) possessed the Capitula Martini, compiled about 572 by Martin, Bishop of Braga (in Portugal), and a Codex canonum or Collectio Hispana dating from about 633, attributed in the ninth century to St. Isidore of Seville. In the ninth century arose several apocryphal collections, viz. those of Benedictus Levita, of Pseudo-Isidore (also Isidorus Mercator, Peccator, Mercatus), and the Capitula Angilramni. An examination of the controversies which these three collections give rise to will be found elsewhere (see False Decretals). The Pseudo-Isidorian collection, the authenticity of which was for a long time admitted, has exercised considerable influence on ecclesiastical discipline, without however modifying it in its essential principles. Among the numerous collections of a later date, we may mention the Collectio Anselmo dedicata, compiled in Italy at the end of the ninth century, the Libellus de ecclesiasticis disciplinis of Regino of Prum (died 915); the Collectarium canonum of Burchard of Worms (died 1025); the collection of the younger St. Anselm of Lucca, compiled towards the end of the eleventh century; the Collectio trium partium, the Decretum and the Panormia of Yves of Chartres (died 1115 or 1117); the Liber de misericordia et justitia of Algerus of Liège, who died in 1132; the Collection in 74 Titles — all collections which Gratian made use of in the compilation of his Decretum

See Collections of ancient canons

Jus novum and Corpus juris canonici

It was about 1150 that Gratian, professor of theology at the University of Bologna and sometimes believed to have been a Camaldolese monk, to obviate the difficulties which beset the study of practical, external theology (theologia practica externa), i. e. canon law, composed the work entitled by himself Concordia discordantium canonum, but called by others Nova collectio, Decreta, Corpus juris canonici, also Decretum Gratiani, the latter being now the commonly accepted name. In spite of its great reputation and wide diffusion, the Decretum has never been recognized by the Church as an official collection.

It is divided into three parts (ministeria, negotia, sacramenta). The first part is divided into 101 distinctions (distinctiones), the first 20 of which form an introduction to the general principles of canon Law (tractatus decretalium); the remainder constitutes a tractatus ordinandorum, relative to ecclesiastical persons and function. The second part contains 36 causes (causœ), divided into questions (quœstiones), and treat of ecclesiastical administration and marriage; the third question of the 33rd causa treats of the Sacrament of Penance and is divided into 7 distinctions. The third part, entitled "De consecratione", treats of the sacraments and other sacred things and contains 5 distinctions. Each distinction or question contains dicta Gratiani, or maxims of Gratian, and canones. Gratian himself raises questions and brings forward difficulties, which he answers by quoting auctoritates, i. e. canons of councils, decretals of the popes, texts of the Scripture or of the Fathers. These are the canones; the entire remaining portion, even the summaries of the canons and the chronological indications, are called the maxims or dicta Gratiani. It is to be noted that many auctoritates have been inserted in the "Decretum" by authors of a later date. These are the Paleœ, so called from Paucapalea, the name of the principal commentator on the "Decretum". The Roman revisers of the sixteenth century (1566-82) corrected the text of the "Decree" and added many critical notes designated by the words Correctores Romani. the death penalty was created in 1969

The Decretum is quoted by indicating the number of the canon and that of the distinction or of the cause and the question. To differentiate the distinctions of the first part from those of the third, question of the 33rd cause of the second part and those of the third part, the words de Pœn., i. e. de Pœnitentiâ, and de Cons., i. e. de Consecratione are added to the latter. For instance, "c. 1. d. XI" indicates the first part of the "Decree". distinction XI, canon 1; "c. 1., de Pœn., d. VI," refers to the second part, 33rd cause, question 3, distinction VI, canon 1; "c. 8, de Cons., d. II" refers to the third part, distinction II, canon 8; "c. 8, C. XII, q. 3" refers to the second part, cause XII, question 3, canon 8. Sometimes, especially in the case of well-known and much-quoted canons, the first words are also indicated, e. g., c. Si quis suadente diabolo, C. XVII, q. 4, i. e. the 29th canon of the second part, cause XVII, question 4. Occasionally the first words alone are quoted. In both cases, to find the canon it is necessary to consult the alphabetical tables (printed in all editions of Gratian) that contain the first words of every canon.

The general laws of a later date than the "Decree" of Gratian have been called "Extravagantes", i. e. laws not contained in Gratian's Decretum (Vagantes extra Decretum). These were soon brought together in new collections, five of which (Quinque compilationes antiquæ) possessed a special authority. Two of them, namely the third and the fifth, are the most ancient official compilations of the Roman Church (see Papal Decretals). Among other compilations at the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century the following deserve special attention: "Appendix concilii Lateranensis III"; the collections known as "Bambergensis" (Bamberg), "Lipsiensis" (Leipzig), "Casselana" (Cassel) "Halensis" (Halle), and "Lucensis" (Lucca), so named from the libraries it which the manuscripts of these collections were found; the collection of the Italian Benedictine Rainerus Pomposianus, that of the English canonist Gilbert (Collectio Gilberti), that of his countryman Alanus, professor at Bologna (Collectio Alani) and that of the Spaniard Bernard of Compostella. But soon the new era of official collections began to dawn.

In 1230 Gregory IX ordered St. Raymund of Pennafort to make a new collection, which is called the "Decretals of Gregory IX" (Decretales Gregorii IX). To this collection he gave force of law by the Bull "Rex pacificus", 5 September 1234. This collection is also known to canonists as the "Liber extra", i. e. extra Decretum Gratiani. Boniface VIII published a similar code on 3 March, 1298, called the "Sixth Book of the Decretals" (Liber Sextus). John XXII added to it the last official collection of Canon law, the "Liber septimus Decretalium", better known under the title of "Constitutiones Clementis V", or simply "Clementinæ" (Quoniam nulla, 25 October 1317). Later on the canonists added to the manuscripts of the "Decretals" the most important constitutions of succeeding popes. These were soon known and quoted as "Extravagantes", i. e. twenty constitutions of John XXII himself, and those of other popes to 1484. In the Paris edition of the canonical collections (1499-1505) Jean Chappuis drew them up in the form since then universally accepted, and kept for the first the name "Extravagantes Joannis XXII", and called the others, "Extravagantes communes", i. e. commonly met with in the manuscripts of the "Decretals" (see Papal Decretals).

The "Corpus Juris Canonici" was now complete, but it contained collections of widely different juridical value. Considered as collections, the "Decree" of Gratian, the "Extravagantes Joannis XXII" and the "Extravagantes communes" never had a legal value, but the documents which they contain often do possess very great authority. Moreover, custom has even given to several apocryphal canons of the "Decree" of Gratian the force of law. The other collections are official, and consist of legislative decisions still binding, unless abrogated by subsequent legislation.

The collections of Gregory IX (Libri quinque Decretalium) and of Boniface VIII (Liber Sextus) are moreover exclusive. The former, indeed, abrogated all the laws contained in the aforesaid compilations subsequent to the "Decree" of Gratian. Several authors however maintained, but wrongly, that it abrogated also all the ancient laws which had not been incorporated in Gratian. The second abrogated all the laws passed at a later date than the "Decretals" of Gregory IX and not included in itself. Each of these three collections is considered as one collection (collectio una), i. e. one of which all the decisions have the same value, even if they appear to contain antinomies. It is to be noted, however, that, in cases of contradiction, the decisions of the collections of later date invalidate those found in a collection of an earlier date.

The "Decretals" of Gregory IX, those of Boniface VIII and the "Clementinæ' are divided uniformly into five books (liber), the books into titles (titulus), the titles into chapters (caput), and treat successively of jurisdiction (judex), procedure (judicium), the clergy (clerus), marriage (connubium), and delinquencies (crimen). The rubrics, i. e. the summaries of the various titles, have the force of law, if they contain a complete meaning; on the other hand, the summaries of the chapters have not this juridical value.

It is customary to quote these collections by indicating the number of the chapter, the title of the collection, the heading of the title, the number of the book and the title. The "Decretals" of Gregory IX are indicated by the letter "X", i. e. extra Decretum Gratiani; the "Sixth Book" or "Decretals" of Boniface VIII by "in VIº" i. e. "in Sexto"; the "Clementines" by "in Clem.", i. e. "in Clementinis". For instance: "c. 2, X, De pactis, I, 35", refers to the second chapter of the "Decretals" of Gregory IX, first book, title 35; "c. 2, in VIº, De hæreticis, V, 2", refers to the second chapter of the "Decretals" of Boniface VIII, fifth book, title. 2; "c. 2, in Clem., De testibus, II, 8", refers to the second chapter of the "Clementines", second book, title 8. If there is only one chapter in a title, or if the last chapter is quoted, these passages are indicated by "c. unic.", and "c. ult.", i. e. "caput. unicum" and "caput ultimum". Sometimes also the indication of the number of the chapters is replaced by the first words of the chapter, as for instance: c. Odoardus. In such cases the number of the chapter may be found in the index-tables printed in all the editions.

The "Extravagantes Communes" are divided and quoted in the same manner as the "Decretals", and the collection is indicated by the abbreviation: "Extrav. Commun." For instance: "c. 1 (or unicum, or Ambitiosæ), Extrav. Commun., De rebus Ecclesiæ non alienandis, III, 4", refers to the first chapter (the only chapter) in book III, title 4 of the "Extravagantes Communes". This collection omits the usual "Liber IV" which treats of marriage. The "Extravagantes of John XXII" are divided only into titles and chapters. They are indicated by the abbreviation, "Extrav. Joan. XXII". For instance: "c. 2, Extrav. Joan. XXII, De verborum significatione XIV" refers to the second chapter of the fourteenth title of this collection.

Very soon after the invention of printing editions of the "Corpus Juris", with or without the gloss (comments of canonists) were published. We already mentioned the importance of the Paris edition (1499-1505) for the two collections of "Extravagantes"; it includes the gloss. The last edition with the gloss is that of Lyons (1671).

Though the Council of Trent (1545-63) did not order a revision of the text of the canonical collections, St. Pius V appointed in 1566 a commission to prepare a new edition of the "Corpus Juris Canonici". This commission devoted itself especially to the correction of the text of the "Decree" of Gratian and of its gloss. Gregory XIII ("Cum pro munere", 1 July, 1580; "Emendationem", 2 June, 1582) decreed that no change was to be made in the revised text. This edition of the "Corpus" appeared at Rome in 1582, in œdibus populi Romani, and serves as exemplar for all subsequent editions. The best-known, previous to the nineteenth century, are those of the brothers Pithou (Paris, 1687), Freiesleben (Prague, 1728) and the Protestant canonist Böhmer (Halle-Magdeburg, 1747). The text of the latter edition differs from that of the Roman edition of 1582, and does not therefore possess practical utility. The edition of Richter (Leipzig, 1833-39) avoids this defect and is valuable for its critical notes. The edition of Friedberg (Leipzig, 1879-81) does not reproduce the text of the Roman edition for the "Decree" of Gratian, but gives the Roman text of the other collections. it is the best and most critical edition.

Developments since the Council of Trent

After the Council of Trent, an attempt to secure a new official collection of church laws was made about 1580, when Gregory XIII charged three cardinals with the task. The work continued during the pontificate of Sixtus V, was accomplished under Clement VIII and was printed (Rome, 1598) as: "Sanctissimi Domini nostri Clementis papæ VIII Decretales", sometimes also "Septimus liber Decretalium". This collection, never approved either by Clement VIII or by Paul V, was edited (Freiburg, 1870) by Sentis. In 1557 the Italian canonist Paul Lancelottus attempted unsuccessfully to secure from Paul IV, for the four books of his "Institutiones juris canonici" (Rome, 1563), an authority equal to that which its model, the "Institutiones" of Emperor Justinian, once enjoyed in the Roman Empire. A private individual, Pierre Mathieu of Lyons, also wrote a "Liber septimus Decretalium", inserted in the appendix to the Frankfort (1590) edition of the "Corpus Juris Canonici". This work was put on the Index. The sources of modern Canon law must be looked for in the disciplinary canons of the Council of Trent, in the collections of papal Bulls (see Bullarium), of general and local councils, and in the collections of the decisions and answers of the Roman Congregations. However, the ancient "Corpus Juris Canonici" forms further the basis of the canonical legislation. The present position is not without grave inconveniences.

At the First Vatican Council several bishops asked for a new codification of the canon law, and since then several canonists have attempted to compile treatises in the form of a full code of canonical legislation, e.g. de Luise (1873), Pillet (1890), Pezzani (1894), Deshayes (1894), Collomiati (1898-1901).

Pius X determined to undertake this work by his decree "Arduum sane munus" (19 March, 1904), and named a commission of cardinals to compile a new "Corpus Juris Canonici" on the model of the codes of civil law.

The 1917 Code of Canon Law (Codex Iuris Canonici or CIC) was actually the first instance of a new code completely re-written in a systematic fashion, reduced to a single book or "codex" for ease of use. It took effect in November 1918.

After the sweeping reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1961-1975) so much had changed in the Church that the council fathers wrote into the documents that the code be completely revised. After decades of discussion and numerous drafts, the project was nearly complete upon the death of Paul VI in 1978.

The work was completed in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. The revision was promulgated by the apostolic constitution "Sacrae Disciplinae Leges" on 1983-01-25, taking effect on 1983-11-27.[4]

The subjects of the Code of Canon Law are the world's 1.2 billion Catholics of what the code itself calls the Latin Church. Distinct from this are the Eastern Catholic Churches. These Eastern Rites within the Catholic Church have a separate Code of Canon Law, called the CCEO (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches) which incorporates certain differences in the hierarchical, administrative and judicial fora.


  • From the apostolic period, the Church used different collections of law but development of a single collection which could be used in all courts did not develop until the Middle Ages.
  • Pope Pius V in 1566 began a project to unify the collection of law. He wanted to ensure the use of authentic and reliable versions of the libri legales so that the administration of justice did not depend on the version of Gratian that particular canonical court used. He assembled a committee of great canon law scholars who became known as the Correctores Romani. The Correctores were guided by Antonio Agustín of Spain. Pope Pius V did not live to see this project to completion. Pope Gregory XIII promulgated the finished version in 1580 which was enforced until 1917.

Content of the Codex juris canonici

Effective in 1918, the Corpus Juris Canonici was replaced by the Codex Juris Canonici. The Codex Juris Canonici was updated in 1983. The 1983 Codex Juris Canonici is composed of seven books.

Book One

This part of the Codex contains the general norms. It contains the general rules concerning

  • legal sources
  • persons
  • juridic acts
  • governance and offices
  • time

Legal sources are laws (including custom as a special way of legislation because of the need of the approval of the legislator), which contain universal regulations, general decrees, instructions and statues, which refer to a special group and in case of statues even are legislated by this group itself and administrative acts, which only decide single cases.

Persons are the physical and juridic person. In opposition to traditional secular legislation, not every person is a physical person according to the Corpus Juris Canonici. One is constituted a person duties and rights only by christening.

The Codex the premises for the validity of a juridic act especially in relation to form, coercion, misapprehension and lack of participation.

The power of law is divided in the three authorities of legislative, executive and judiciary. The ability to conduct juridic acts can be joined to an office or it can be delegated to a person. Relating to office, the provision and loss of the ecclesiastical office is regulated.

Time regulates prescription, which goes along with the national regulations, but can only be achieved in good faith, and definitions of time.

Book Two

Book two describes the "People of God". It shows the body of the Holy Roman Catholic Church This book is divided into three parts

  • The Christian faithful
  • The hierarchical constitution of the church
  • Institutions of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life.

The Christian faithful shows the obligations of the faithful in common, those of the lay and those of the sacred ministers or clerics with special consideration of the formation and enrolment of clerics and personal prelatures. Furthermore the associations of the Christian faithful especially their recognition as a juridic person are constituted, divided in public, private associations and those of the lay.

The hierarchical constitution of the church describes the composition, rights and obligations of the supreme authority of the church, generated of the Roman Pontiff, the college of bishops, the synod of bishops, the cardinal priests, the Roman curia and the legates. Furthermore the dioceses, their organisation with bishop curia and synod and their involvement in ecclesiastical provinces, particular councils and conferences of bishops are described

Adequate to the regulations of part two the hierarchical constitution of religious and secular institutes and societies of apostolic life is shown. A religious institute is a society in which members, according to proper law, pronounce public vows and lead a life of brothers or sisters in common. A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful, living in the world, strive for the perfection of charity and seek to contribute to the sanctification of the world, especially from within. Societies of apostolic life do not use a vow.

Book Three

Book three describes the teaching function of the church. The forms of teaching are the ministry of the divine word in the forms of the preaching of the word of god and the catechetical instruction, the missionary action of the church, the catholic education in schools, catholic universities and other institutes of higher studies and the ecclesiastical universities and faculties, the instruments of communication and books in particular and finally the profession of faith.

Book Four

In book four the function of the church and its religious acts are explained. This book is composed of three parts

  • the sacraments
  • the other acts of divine worship
  • sacred places and times

The sacraments are baptism, confirmation, the most holy eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, orders and marriage. These sacraments are described with conditions, ceremony and participants.

Other acts of divine worship are sacramentals, the liturgy of the hours, ecclesiastical funerals, the veneration of the saints, sacred images and relics and the vow and oath.

Sacred places are those which are dedicated for divine worship or for the burial of the faithful. The Corpus Juris knows five kinds of sacred places, churches, oratories and private chapels, shrines, altars and cemeteries. Sacred times are feast days and days of penance.

Book Five

This part of the Corpus Juris is the regulation of the civil law. There are instructions concerning the acquisition and administration of goods especially the acquisition by bestowal either through an act inter vivos or through an act mortis causa and contracts with special care of alimentation.

Book Six

In book six the punishment law is statuated. The book has two parts

  • Delicts and penalties in general
  • Panalties for individual delicts

The first book declares the necessarity of a violation of a law and shows the limits and requirements of such a penal law. It determines reasons, which eliminate the punishment as lack the use of reason, nonage (less than seventeen years), mistake in law or facts, missing causality or intent and self defence. It also describes soecial cases as complicity, wilful default and attempt. Possible penalties are censures (excommunication and suspension), expiatory penalties (prohibition or an order concerning residence in a certain place or territory, privation of a power, office, function, right, privilege, faculty, favor, title or insignia) and penal remedies and penances. Finally the right of the application and cassation of penalties is regulated

The second book shows individual delicts, fragmented to delicts against religion and unity of the church, against ecclesisastical authorities and the freedom of the church, against special obligations, against human life and freedom, usurpation of ecclesiastical functions and delicts in their exercise and the crime of falsehood. In addition to these cases (and those statued in other laws) the external violation of a divine or canonical law can be punished, when the special gravity of the violation demands punishment and there is an urgent need to prevent or repair scandals.

Book Seven

Book seven contains the legal procedure. It is divided in 5 parts.

  • Trials in general
  • The contentious trial
  • special processes
  • The penal process
  • The method of proceeding in administrative recourse and in the removal or transfer of pastors

The first part trials in general defines the court system, its two local instances and the Roman Pontiff as the supreme judge with the representation by the tribunals of the apostolic see, especially the Roman Rota. It determines the participants of the lawsuit, the judge, the auditors and relators, the promoter of justice, the defender of the bond, the notary the petitioner, the respondent and the procurators for litigation and advocates. Finally it describes the disciplie to be observed in tribunals with the duty of judges and ministers, the order of adjudication, the time limits and delays, the place of the trial, the persons to be admitted to the court, the manner of preparing and keeping the acts and the actions and exceptions in general and specific.

The contentious trial begins with the introductory libellus of litigation and the citation and notification of juridical act. The joinder of the issue occurs when the terms of the controversy are defined by the judge, through a decree of the judge. Further on, this part explains the trial of the litigation, especially the absence of a party, the intervention of a third person and the proofs. There are six kinds of proof, declarations of the parties, documents, testimonies, experts, judicial examination and inspection and presumptions. After taking evidence the acts are published, the case concluded and then discussed. The case ends with the sentence of the judge. The sentence can be challenged by complaint of nullity and by appeal. Finally the res inducta and restitutio in intergrum, the execution of the judgement, the judicial expenses and gratuitous legal assistance are regulated. As an alternative to this contentious trial there is the possibility of an oral contentious process.

Part three defines special processes and their special regulations, the marriage process, cases of separation of spouses, process for the dispensation of a marriage ratum et not, the rocess in the presumed death of spouses, cases for declaring the nullity of sacred ordination. This part also shows methods of avoiding trials.

Part four shows the proceedings of the penal process with the preliminary investigation the trial and the adhesive procedure.

The last part shows the methods of proceeding in administrative recourse, which can be made by any person who claims to have been aggrieved by a decree and the removal or transfer of pastors with display of the reasons of the removal or transfer.

See also


  1. Paul Fournier and Gabriel Le Bras, Histoire des Collections Canoniques en Occident depuis les Fausses Décrétales jusqu’au Décret de Gratien, 2 vols. (Paris, 1931), vol I, pp. 16-17
  2. David N. Dumville, "Ireland, Brittany and England: Transmission and Use of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis", in Catherine Laurent and Helen Davis (eds.), Irlande et Bretagne : vingt siècles d'histoire, Actes du colloque de Rennes, 29-31 mars 1993 (Rennes, 1994), pp. 84-85.
  3. Fournier and Le Bras, Histoire des Collections Canoniques en Occident, vol I, pp. 51-62.
  4. Pope John Paul II (1983-01-25). "Apostolic Constitution Sacrae Disciplinae Leges". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 

External links

This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public Iuris Canonicila:Corpus iuris canonici lt:Kanonų teisės sąvadas

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