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Canon Law.

1. Rules or laws relating to faith, morals, and discipline, imposed by ecclesiastical authority.

2. The body of laws grew out of decisions of councils which originally had varying degrees of authority. The 20 canons of Nicaea were authoritative in E and W. Others were added, e.g., those of Sardica (343) in the W. Collections existed in the 5th c. The Council of Chalcedon (451) cites those of the Council of Antioch (341 or 330). Early collectors were Johannes* III Scholasticus (E), Dionysius* Exiguus (W), and the author of the Hispana Collection. Later, canonical letters of bps. (e.g., Dionysius* of Alexandria, Gregory* Thaumaturgus, Basil the Great) and decretals of popes attained canonical authority. In the 4th and 5th c. collections were ascribed to fictitious authors (e.g., apostolic canons to Hippolytus).

3. The Decretum (collection of Gratian, ca. 1140) marks the dividing line bet. ius antiquum (ancient canon law) and ius novum (contemporary canon law). Gratian's canon was supplemented by later collections: one, composed by Raymond of Peñafort, promulgated by Gregory IX bet. 1230 and 1234; the Sext, added by Boniface VIII; the Clementines, by Clement V, promulgated 1317 by John XXII; the Extravagantes of John XXII; the Extravagantes Communes (decrees of popes bet. 1261 and 1471). The canons of Trent are called ius novissimum.

4. The standard text of canon law is the Codex luris Canonici, begun 1904 by Pius X, promulgated 1917 by Benedict XV, rev. and promulgated 1983 under John Paul II (see Popes, 37) as a result of Vatican Council II (see Vatican Councils, 2). Official RC canon law is interpreted by a commission of cardinals created 1917. See also Corpus Iuris Canonici.

5. While the RC canon law was binding in England* in the Middle Ages, it was supplemented by provincial decrees of Canterbury. in 1433 the Syn. Constitutions of S. Langton* (1222) and H. Chichele (1416) were issued in the Provinciale by W. Lyndwood. Henry VIII by the Act of Submission made all canons dependent on the king's assent, 1532. The Book of Canons, a collection of 151 canons, was passed under the influence of Abp. R. Bancroft by the Convocation of Canterbury 1604 and of York 1606. In 1939 a Canon Law Commission was created to produce an “operative” body of canon law.

6. Calvin* regarded law as a gift of God and the external structure as a necessary element of the church's existence, for which rules and laws are necessary. He held that the state had the duty to uphold the commandments; it was to be concerned with the exteriora of the ch., while the interiora were the concern of preachers, elders, and deacons.

7. Luther differentiated bet. the spiritual kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the world; he justified law for the ch. in the world on the basis of ius naturale divinum and ius spirituale divinum. The function of ch. law was to support Christians in the fulfillment of the commandments. Luther held that the creation of ch. law should be in the hands of mems. of the ch.; Christian secular govt. should have a concern for religion and remove abuses.

8. The Lutheran* Confessions contain no canon law but provide basic and theol. principles for ch. law (AC V, VII, XIV, XV, XXVIII).

9. The actual formulation of Luth. ch. law devolved upon secular rulers. The ch. orders of the 16th and 17th c. are largely governmental regulations. In the 19th and 20th c. the legislative functions came more into the hands of the Prot. and Luth. churches. Lay participation in legislative ch. assemblies also increased.

10. In Am., constitutions and other official statements of Luth. and Prot. bodies perform the function of canon law.

F. Lauchert, Die Kanones der wichtigsten altkirchlichen Concilien nebst den apostolischen Kanones (Freiburg, 1896); J. F. von Schulte, Die Geschichte der Quellen und Literatur des canonischen Rechts von Gratian bis auf die Gegenwart, 3 vols. (Stuttgart, 1875–80; reprint Graz, 1956); E. Eichmann, Lehrbuch des Kirchenrechts auf Grund des Codex Iuris Canonici, ed. K. Mörsdorf, 9th ed., 3 vols. (Paderborn, 1958–59); J. A. Abbo and J. D. Hannan, The Sacred Canons, 2 vols. (St. Louis, 1952); J. Johnson, A Collection of the Laws and Canons of the Church of England, 2d ed., 2 vols. (Oxford, 1850); J. Heckel, Lex charitatis, Eine juristische Untersuchung über das Recht in der Theologie Martin Luthers (Munich, 1953). EL

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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