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Template:Christianity Canon law is the term used for the internal ecclesiastical law which governs various churches, most notably the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion of churches. 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 initially a rule adopted by a council (From Greek kanon / κανών, for rule, standard, or measure); these canons formed the foundation of canon law.
 Catholic Church
The Catholic Church has one of the oldest legal systems in the world, predating the common and European civil law traditions.
In the Catholic Church, positive ecclesiastical laws are ultimately based upon divine positive and natural law.
In the early Church, canons were incorporated in the decrees of ecumenical and particular councils. Eventually, these canons were gradually supplemented with decretals of the Bishops of Rome. Later, they were gathered together into collections such as the Liber Extra (1234), the Liber Sextus (1298) and the Clementines (1317).
In 1917, Pope Benedict XV promulgated the first universally binding Code of Canon Law (thought it was not binding until 1918). The work had been begun by Pius X, and hence called the Pio-Benedictine Code. In its preparation, centuries of material was included as were opinions from bishops and canonists from around the world.
In 1983, almost twenty years after the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pope John Paul II promulgated the revised and presently binding Code of Canon Law, which is considered the concluding work of that Council. The Eastern Catholic Churches have a separate Code of Canon Law, but incorporate certain differences in the hierarchy, administration and other areas.
In the Catholic Church, the Holy See grants to pontifical universities and ecclesiastical faculties the right to confer the degrees of licentiate (J.C.L.) and doctorate (J.C.D.) in canon law.
Raymond of Penyafort (1175-1275), a Spanish Dominican priest, is considered the patron saint of canonists, due to his important contribution to the science of canon law.
 Orthodox Churches
The Orthodox Christian tradition is generally much less legalistic, and treats many of the canons more as guidelines than as absolute laws, adjusting them to cultural and other local circumstances. Some Orthodox canon scholars point out that, had the Ecumenical Councils (which deliberated in Greek) meant for the canons to be used as laws, they would have called them nomoi/νομοι (laws) rather than kanones/κανονες (standards).
Greek-speaking Orthodox have collected canons and commentary upon them in a work known as the Pedalion/Πεδαλιον (rudder--so called because it is meant to "steer" the Church). However, this is not a codification, but simply a compilation of one tradition of interpretation of the canons.
 Anglican Churches
In the Church of England, the ecclesiastical courts that formerly decided many matters such as disputes relating to marriage, divorce, wills, and defamation, still have jurisdiction of certain church-related matters (e.g., discipline of clergy, alteration of church property, and issues related to churchyards). Their separate status dates back to the 12th century when the Normans split them off from the mixed secular/religious county and local courts used by the Saxons. In contrast to the other courts of England the law used in ecclesiastical matters is at least partially a civil law system, not common law, although heavily governed by parliamentary statutes. Since the Reformation, ecclesiastical courts in England have been royal courts. The teaching of canon law at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge was abrogated by Henry VIII; thereafter practitioners in the ecclesiastical courts were trained in civil law, receiving a Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.) degree from Oxford, or an LL.D. from Cambridge. Such lawyers (called "doctors" and "civilians") were centered at "Doctors Commons," a few streets south of St Paul's Cathedral in London, where they monopolized probate, matrimonial, and admiralty cases until their jurisdiction was removed to the common law courts in the mid-19th century. (Admiralty law was also based on civil law instead of common law, thus was handled by the civilians too.)
Other churches in the Anglican Communion around the world (e.g., the Episcopal Church in the United States, and the Anglican Church of Canada) still function under their own private systems of canon law.
 See also
 Further reading
- Robinson, Fergus and Gordon, European Legal History, 3rd ed. London: Butterworths, 2000.
 External links
- Code of Canon Law (1983), IntraText edition with referenced concordance, hosted by the Vatican
- Code of Canons of Oriental Churchs, IntraText Digital Library
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Canon Law
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