Tuesday, January 22, 2008

25 years of the 1983 Code

Today's VIS feed included the article posted below about hte 25th anniversary of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. I don't think Canon Law is something everyday Catholics think about very often, unless they're trying to fix an irregular marriage. But really, the Code is more than a set of arbitrary rules -- as my Canon Law professor put it when I was studying in Rome, the Church is a very real entity in the world, and it needs laws to function as such. Something I really came to appreciate about the 1983 Code was its focus -- as this article points out -- on the lay faithful. The Church isn't all about the hierarchy; rather, the hierarchy exists to proclaim the Gospel and give grace to the laity. Hearing the Gospel and receiving the sacraments are among the most fundamental rights we lay Catholics have. The Code gives us these rights. But we mustn't forget about the duties that come with these rights! While I don't envy my friends who are studying Canon Law, I do appreciate what the Code gives to our beautiful Church.


VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2008 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office at midday today, a press conference was held to present a forthcoming congress on the theme: "Canon Law in the Life of the Church, research and perspectives in the context of recent Pontifical Magisterium". The event has been organised to mark the 25th anniversary of the Code of Canon Law which was promulgated on 25 January 1983.

Participating in the press conference were Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio and Msgr. Juan Ignacio Arrieta, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

"Twenty-five years ago, the long process of revising the 1917 Code of Canon Law came to an end", said Archbishop Coccopalmerio, explaining how the revision "had been announced by Pope John XXIII on the same day he proclaimed the celebration of Vatican Council II" and how it aimed "to re-examine the central corpus of the Church's legislative code in accordance with doctrinal aspects contained in the conciliar documents".

The archbishop then went on to consider differences between the Code of Canon Law and the legal codes of nations. The former, he said, "contains the law of the Church, just as a State code contains the laws of a particular nation. And it is called 'Canon Law' because it is made up of 'canons', which are equivalent to the 'articles' of a State code".

However the Code of Canon Law "is not just a collection of norms created by the will of ecclesiastical legislators", it "indicates the duties and rights inherent to the faithful and to the structure of the Church as instituted by Christ".

And the legislator, having identified fundamental duties and rights "also establishes a series of norms that have the aim of defining, applying and defending [those] duties and rights".

"For this reason", the archbishop went on, "the Code of Canon Law is like a large and complex painting depicting the faithful and the communities within the Church, and defining the identity and 'mission' of each. And the painter of this work of art is the ecclesiastical legislator" whose model comes "from the doctrine of the Church and from ... Vatican Council II, as Pope John Paul II taught us when he promulgated the current Code".

Turning his attention to some of the "novelties" of the 1983 Code with respect to that of 1917, Archbishop Coccopalmerio mentioned Canon 208 whence, he said, "arise many tangible consequences that concern all the faithful and especially the lay faithful: all are called to play an active role in the Church". Other novelties include "the definition of matters concerning the Roman Pontiff, the College of Bishops , the Synod of Bishops and the episcopal conferences".

The 1983 Code of Canon Law, said the archbishop, was, "like all human works, ... perfectible". Hence one of the aims of the current congress is "to identify certain points in need of a little restoration".

In closing, the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts enumerated the functions of his dicastery: "helping the supreme legislator (the Pope) to keep Church legislation as complete and up to date as possible, ... overseeing the correct application of current laws" and "helping the Pope in the delicate process of interpreting norms".

For his part, Msgr. Arrieta affirmed that the aim of the congress is "to undertake a purposeful study ... into the progress of the application of the Code, and of all the other norms that the various offices of the Roman Curia and individual legislators have produced over the last 25 years".

The congress will begin with an "overall assessment of the development of these norms" presented by Cardinal Julian Herranz, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, who is, said Msgr. Arrieta, "the historical memory on this subject, having followed the entire process personally since Vatican Council II".

The secretary of the pontifical council highlighted how, due to the time limits of the congress, only some offices of the Roman Curia had been chosen to study the process of the Code's application over the last quarter of a century. Thus, for example, Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, will speak on the theme: "Acceptance and operation of Canon Law in the mission lands. Cultural encounters and technical limitations".

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops will deliver an address on: "Universal law and the production of norms at the level of particular Churches, episcopal conferences and particular councils", while for his part Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, will turn his attention to: "The formation of ministers of God: the teaching of Canon Law".

Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" will give a talk entitled: "Spontaneity of charity. The needs and limits of normative structures".

On Friday, 25 January, before their scheduled audience with the Pope, Cardinal Franc Rode C.M., prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, will address the gathering on: "Consecrated life and normative structures. Experience and perspectives of the relationship between general norms and particular statutes". For his part, Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Budapest , Hungary , and president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, will speak on: "Rigidity and elasticity of normative structures in ecumenical dialogue". Following a brief debate , the congress will conclude with a contribution from Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. on the theme: "Canon Law and the pastoral government of the Church. The role of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts".

The congress, which is due to be held in the Vatican's Synod Hall on 24 and 25 January, will be attended by members of episcopal conferences, and by professors and students of Canon Law from Italy and the rest of the world.
OP/CODE CANON LAW/... VIS 080122 (980)


Bert D'Orazio said...

Hi I saw your blog on InForum and i guess you could call me a Catholic who right now is sitting on the side lines after years of involvement in the Catholic Church..... As a Catholic who no longer belongs to a Church community with a Augustinian education at both high school and college ... I was struck by your comments on Canon law . The hierachy exists to proclaim the Gospel and give grace ... My experience at the parish level is the opposite .... most of my experience is laity shopping around to find priests that look the other way in the sacrament of marriage and religious who are teaching yoga ,dream therapy,and one Jesuit priest quoted in a Buddhist magazine who said if they want Mass i give them Mass and if they want zaizen i give them zaizen and still actively gives retreats at wernersville a jesuit retreat house in Pa..... I respect other peoples rights of belief but when you speak up about Church dogma and canon law
you are judged as being well judgemental and all right to dialogue stops.... Regards bert D'Orazio

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