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Lex (Canon law)

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'Lex' is Latin for one sense of the English term, law. In the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, lex refers to law which has been formulated in written form and promulgated by competent authority. While this is the usual sense of "law" in modern legal systems, the legal system of the Catholic Church includes another form of law, ius, which refers to the oral teachings, practices, customs, theological understandings of liturgy and liturgical practices generally prior to the Council of Nicea in 325 a.d., when written legislation became the normative means of communicating Church law.

"Lex" takes several forms:

  • Decrees or canons of ecumenical councils.
  • Decrees or canons of regional Church councils or synods (regionally binding)
  • Decrees (or decretals) of the Pope.
  • Canon Law (binding either universally or by rite)

It is important to understand that much of Church legislation (unless otherwise stated) is either a development of earlier law or a restatement of earlier law, particularly law contained in the oral tradition from apostolic teaching, or ius.

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