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193
CANON LAW

titles to public cultus. Their procedure is less rigorous than that of the Roman Church, and as yet has been but imperfectly studied.

See J. Fontanini, Codex Constitutionum quas summi pontifices ediderunt in solemni canonizatione sanctorum (Rome, 1729, a collection of original documents); Pr. Lambertini (Pope Benedict XIV.), De servorum Dei beatificatione et beatorum canonizatione (Bologna, 1734–1738), several times reprinted, and more remarkable for erudition and knowledge of canon law than for historical criticism; Al. Lauri, Codex pro postulatoribus causarum beatificationis et canonizationis, recognovit Joseph Fornari (Romae, 1899); F. W. Faber, Essay on Beatification, Canonization, &c. (London, 1848); A. Boudinhon, Les Procès de béatification et de canonisation (Paris, 1905); E. Golubinskij, Istorija Kanonizaçii sviatich v russko j çerkvi (Moscow, 1903).  (H. De.) 


CANON LAW. Canon law, jus canonicum, is the sum of the laws which regulate the ecclesiastical body; for this reason it is also called ecclesiastical law, jus ecclesiasticum. It is also referred to under the name of canones, sacri canones, a title of great antiquity, for the κανόνες, regulae, were very early distinguished from the secular laws, the νόμοι, leges.

The word κανών, canon, has been employed in ecclesiastical literature in several different senses (see Canon above). The disciplinary decisions of the council of Nicaea, for example (can. 1, 2, &c.), employ it in the sense of an Word “canon.” Different meanings. established rule, ecclesiastical in its origin and in its object. But the expression is most frequently used to designate disciplinary laws, in which case canons are distinguished from dogmatic definitions. With regard to form, the decisions of councils, even when dogmatic, are called canons; thus the definitions of the council of Trent or of the Vatican, which generally begin with the words “Si quis dixerit,” and end with the anathema, are canons; while the long chapters, even when dealing with matters of discipline, retain the name of chapters or decrees. Similarly, it has become customary to give the name of canons to the texts inserted in certain canonical compilations such as the Decretum of Gratian, while the name of chapters is given to the analogous quotations from the Books of the Decretals. It is merely a question of words and of usage. As to the expression jus canonicum, it implies the systematic codification of ecclesiastical legislation, and had no existence previous to the labours which resulted in the Corpus juris canonici.

Canon law is divided into public law and private law; the former is concerned with the constitution of the Church, and, consequently, with the relations between her and other bodies, religious and civil; the latter has as its object Divisions. the internal discipline of the ecclesiastical body and its members. This division, which has been found convenient for the study of canon law, has no precedent in the collections of texts. With regard to the texts now in force, the name of jus antiquum, ancient law, has been given to the laws previous to the Corpus juris canonici; the legislation of this Corpus has been called jus novum, new law; and finally, the name of recent law, jus novissimum, has been given to the law established by the council of Trent and subsequent papal constitutions. There is a further distinction between the written law, jus scriptum, laws made by the councils or popes, which are to be found in the collections, and the unwritten law, jus non scriptum, a body of practical rules arising rather from natural equity and from custom than from formal laws; with this is connected the customary law. In the Church, as in other societies, it has happened that the unwritten customary law has undergone a gradual diminution in importance, as a consequence of centralization and the accumulation of written laws; nowadays it need not be reckoned with, save in cases where local customs are involved. The common law is that which is intended to regulate the whole body; special or local law is that which is concerned with certain districts or certain categories of persons, by derogation from or addition to the common law.

By the sources or authors of the canon law are meant the authorities from which it is derived; they must obviously be of such a nature as to be binding upon the whole religious body, or at least upon a specified portion of it. In the Sources. highest rank must be placed Christ and the Apostles, whose dispositions for the constitution and government of the Church are contained in the New Testament, completed by tradition; for the Church did not accept the disciplinary and ritual provisions of the Old Testament as binding upon her (see Acts xi., xv.). To the apostles succeeded the episcopal body, with its chief the bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, whose legislative and disciplinary power, by a process of centralization, underwent a slow but uninterrupted development. It is then to the episcopate, assembled in ecumenical council, and to its chief, that the function of legislating for the whole Church belongs; the inferior authorities, local councils or isolated bishops and prelates, can only make special laws or statutes, valid only for that part of the Church under their jurisdiction. Most of the canons, however, which constitute the ancient law, and notably those which appear in the Decretum of Gratian, emanate from local councils, or even from individual bishops; they have found a place in the common law because the collections of canons, of which they formed the most, notable part, have been everywhere adopted.

Having made these general observations, we must now consider the history of those texts and collections of canons which to-day form the ecclesiastical law of the Western Church: (1) up to the Decretum of Gratian, (2) up to the council of Trent, (3 and 4) up to the present day, including the codification ordered by Pius X.

1. From the Beginning to the Decretum of Gratian.—At no time, and least of all during the earliest centuries, was there any attempt to draw up a uniform system of legislation for the whole of the Christian Church. The various communities ruled themselves principally according to their customs and traditions, which, however, possessed a certain uniformity resulting from their close connexion with natural and divine law. Strangely enough, those documents which bear the greatest resemblance to a small collection of canonical regulations, such as the Didache, the Didascalia and the Canons of Hippolytus, have not been retained, and find no place in the collections of canons, doubtless for the reason that they were not official documents. Even the Apostolical Constitutions (q.v.), an expansion of the Didache and the Didascalia, after exercising a certain amount of influence, were rejected by the council in Trullo (692). Thus the only pseudo-epigraphic document preserved in the law of the Greek Church is the small collection of the eighty-five so-called “Apostolic Canons” (q.v.). The compilers, in their several collections, gathered only occasional decisions, the outcome of no pre-determined plan, given by councils or by certain great bishops.

These compilations began in the East. It appears that in several different districts canons made by the local assemblies[1] were added to those of the council of Nicaea which were everywhere accepted and observed. The first example seems Greek collection. to be that of the province of Pontus, where after the twenty canons of Nicaea were placed the twenty-five canons of the council of Ancyra (314), and the fifteen of that of Neocaesarea (315–320). These texts were adopted at Antioch, where there were further added the twenty-five canons of the so-called council in encaeniis of that city (341). Soon afterwards, Paphlagonia contributed twenty canons passed at the council of Gangra (held, according to the Synodicon orientale, in 343),[2] and Phrygia fifty-nine canons of the assembly of Laodicea (345–381?), or rather of the compilation known as the work of this council.[3] The collection was so well and so widely known that all these canons were numbered in sequence, and thus at the council of Chalcedon (451) several of the canons of Antioch were read out under the number assigned to them in the collection of the whole. It was further increased by the

  1. The councils which we are about to mention, up to the 9th century, have been published several times, notably in the great collections of Hardouin, Mansi, &c.; they will be found brought together in one small volume in Bruns, Canones apostolorum et conciliorum (Berlin, 1839).
  2. The date of this council was formerly unknown; it is ascribed to 343 by the Syriac Nestorian collection recently published by M. Chabot, Synodicon Orientale, p. 278, note 4.
  3. See Boudinhon, “Note sur le concile de Laodicée,” in the Compte rendu du premier congrès des savants catholiques à Paris, 1888 (Paris, 1889), vol. ii. p. 420.