Canon Law

Additional Information

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. 

Canons of the Apostles. 

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.
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[citation needed] 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. 

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. 


Professor of Canon Law Pontifical Institute of Canon Law.


St. Thomas Aquinas states;

  “ laws are ordinances of right reason made for the common good promulgated by one who has authority in society”.   

A fundamental principle of law is that Law ceases automatically:  

 if through changed conditions,

it has become harmful, impossible or irrational; 

If its very purpose has ceased to be verified for the whole community” 

(Moral Theology, Ff. Henry Davis, 1958).    

These same facts above were always taught between 1883 - 1973 by:    

His Eminence, Most Reverend Amleto Giovanni CARDINAL Cicognani,   Titular Archbishop of Laodicea in Phrygia.   Secretary Emeritus of the Secretariat of State.   Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati. Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia.   Dean of the College of Cardinals.   Professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical Institute of Canon and Civil Law in Rome.   

Illicitness & Validity defined:

 Illicitness is fully within the power of Canon Law to determine....but in(validity) is in the power of God the Holy Spirit, and so validity occurs purely in the Order of Grace, and Canon Law can not touch, change , affect, or determine that in any way.