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The Evangelical Catholic Church
Code of Canon Law

Prelude

 

Canon law is the internal legal system of the Evangelical Catholic Church. Canon Law has everything one would expect to find in a mature legal system: laws, courts, cases, judges, lawyers, and so on. Canon law affects, to one degree or another, virtually every aspect of our shared, common life, sometimes much more intimately than many people realize; other times, though, much less directly than one might have otherwise thought.

Historically, canon law is the oldest continuously functioning legal system in the western world.

Today, canon law for the Evangelical Catholic Church is found primarily in a single volume called the 2009 Code of Canon Law. The date indicated, 2009, while not technically part of the official title, simply refers to the year in which the current canon law took effect, replacing when it did so our Church's first Code of Canon Law which was published in 1997.

The 2009 Code consists of 32 canons or rules.  The text of the 2009 Code itself will always be the first place one turns for answers to canonical questions. But it will not be surprising to learn that canon law, like every other advanced legal system, has developed over the centuries a technical vocabulary and certain methods of expression which at times go beyond the words of the written text. These nuances and implications are not always apparent upon an untrained reading of the canons, and yet they can greatly affect the meaning and application of canon law in Church life. Therefore, commentaries are currently being prepared to aid and assist those working with the Canons.

A few words should now be said about the source to which, as a practical matter, most people will turn first for answers to questions on Church law: canon lawyers. In times past, it could pretty well be assumed that anyone ordained would have studied a fair amount of canon law in the seminary. That is less true these days. Now, when one speaks of a canon lawyer, one means a degreed specialist in canon law, whether ordained or lay.

In answer to a very common question, most canon lawyers are not civil lawyers, and the differences between, not just the two legal systems, but the very ways each has of approaching legal issues, are significant. On the other hand, nearly all canon lawyers are expected to have a solid grounding in theology since, as we have seen, canon law must be based on Church teaching in order to serve any useful purpose.

The quality of the canonical opinion one gets from a canon lawyer will depend on all the usual things: the educational background of the canonist, their experience in the precise subject matter, and so on.

The role of law in the life of the Church.

The Code of Canon Law is in no way intended as a substitute for faith, grace, charisms or charity in the life of the Church.  On the contrary, the purpose of the Code of Canon Law is to create such an order in the Church that, while giving primacy to love, grace and charisms, it at the same time renders their entire development easier for the ecclesial society and for the individual persons who belong to it.

Since it is the purpose of any legal system to serve the community it governs, it stands to reason that the values of the Evangelical Catholic Church must be the foundation of her canon law.

Ironically, precisely because canon law is so clear in so many places about the expectations placed on the faithful of every station in Church life, there can be the temptation to assume that the mere satisfaction of canonical requirements is sufficient for the Christian life.

For example, moral law and natural law apply to us as Catholics, even though not every component of these laws is articulated in the Code. On a more mundane level, it should also be noted that not all of the written rules of Church law are found in the Code, liturgical law being a prime example of an important area of Church life regulated mostly outside of the Code

Of course, being the product of imperfect beings, the Code of Canon Law itself is neither perfect in its formulations nor complete in its anticipation of ecclesiastical and pastoral issues. It will often be necessary and proper, therefore, to have resort to competent Church authority to determine what kind of action is best under specific circumstances.

I hope that this brief overview and introduction to the Code of Canon Law for the Evangelical Catholic Church has been helpful for you.  If you have questions about our Code, we will be happy to discuss them with you.

Respectfully Yours in Christ,

Presiding Bishop for the Evangelical Catholic Church

 

National Church Office
Post Office Box 170336    Chicago Illinois  60617-0366
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2014

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