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Edward Peters


Canon Law Translations


Every scholar owes his field some translations. 

     Major canonical studies are being produced in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish. Few have competence in all of these languages, so those who know some of them should try to make their discoveries more widely known by translation work. The decision to translate a given work does not necessarily imply agreement by the translator with all assertions made in the original, but rather, represents a judgment that what the author is saying has value to the wider scholarly community. Following are some materials that seemed to me worthy of this wider attention.


Duccio, Christ and the Doctors, c. 1310


   1. Jerome Hamer, op, The 1983 Code and the Second Vatican Council. ("Le Code et le Concile") 


   2. Ryszard Sztychmiler, The obligation of parents to educate children for Eucharistic life ("L’Obbligo dei genitori di educare i figli alla vita eucharistica").  


   3. Historical Notes on the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, "Note Storiche: Tribunale della Rota Romamano," adding citations and rearranging some sentences.




Translation 1

The 1983 Code and the Second Vatican Council

(Le Code et le Concile)


by Most Rev. Jerome Hamer, op

from: L’Osservatore Romano, 15 February 1983



1. In the eyes of Pope John XXIII, the revision of the Code of canon law was inseparable from the work of the Ecumenical Council. The pair constituted two points of the same program announced on the same day at St. Paul’s outside the Walls on January 25th 1959. Naturally this revision could not commence until after the Council, for it was concerned basically with translating into legislation the principles, decisions, and orientations adopted in the course of the four Conciliar sessions, that is to say, giving juridic form to the content of the Council.

For the first time in history a reform of ecclesiastical legislation would be directly developed from Church teaching long maturing. Practically speaking, the principle text of Vatican II is the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium. It crowns a whole series of documents on internal renewal and on various lines of conduct for post-Conciliar dialogue, and constitutes an ecclesiological given that has no comparison with what we have encountered in the past. Certainly the whole heritage of the Church is present therein, but one finds within this work an organic synthesis of enhanced value that augments this teaching and enables it to address new situations.

Open the new Code, and you will find the teaching of Lumen gentium and the other Conciliar texts. The Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code has faithfully carried out the work that John XXIII entrusted to it and that has been confirmed by his successors.

2. Obviously one does not find the entire Council in the Code. The doctrinal and pastoral teaching of Vatican II gives specific directions that law must take into account and issues therefrom a complex of norms already well formulated; but Church teaching does not stop with considerations that are directly or indirectly juridic. The doctrine of the Church will always be richer than canon law because one cannot express everything in law.

On the other hand, the Code contains norms that are not found in the Council. One notes that after the first session [of the Council] it was necessary to reduce considerably the proposed schemata, and to see that a large part of the preliminary questions would be entrusted to the Code Commission instituted for this purpose at precisely that moment (29 March 1963), between the first and second session. Still, the Code must legislate on subjects that are indispensable for the life of the Church but were not treated by the Council in depth or weren’t treated at all. Finally, one will not find at all times the language of the Council in the Code. Juridic style has its own requirements and vocabulary. What is essential is that the Code conform to the Council’s ideas.

3. Vatican II presents an ecclesiology of communion that one easily finds in the Code. In this vein, Canon 204 § 1 of Book II (De Populo Dei) is typical. It defines the faithful (members of the Church) in relation to the vocation that they have to exercise, each one in the situation where he finds himself, within the mission that God has entrusted to his Church on earth. This vocation is founded on their incorporation in Christ by baptism, on the fact that they constitute the People of God, and on their participation in the priestly, prophetic, and royal missions of Christ. The definition of the faithful precedes the canon that distinguishes clergy from laity in so far as they have been constituted, or not, sacred ministers by the sacrament of orders (1983 CIC 207 § 1). All are called to take part in the mission of the Church because all are baptized and form part of the unique People of God. This universal call, that excludes no one, establishes among the faithful a true equality that the Code underscores in Canon 208. Of course, baptism does not confer by itself a sort of generic qualification to assume just any role in the Christian community. In the realization of the mission of the Church, each person works according to his own condition and his own function (secundum propriam cujusque conditionem et munus, Canon 208). One might also consider the action of sacraments received (confirmation, marriage, and above all orders), other spiritual gifts, duties assigned by the hierarchy, the religious state, talents placed at the service of the Church, and so on. The Church is thus a differentiated community in which pastors are constituted as such by the sacrament of orders.

4. It is thus a matter of an application of communion in the Church that is founded on the fact that each faithful takes part in a unique living reality, one in which each carries out his part and to which each brings a share of all he is and all that he has received. At the heart of this special unity, the bonds of reciprocity and interdependence are formed between each member of the Church and all the others. In the Code as in the Council, one sees a concern to appreciate the place that each person occupies in the Church, the role assigned to each, and the means by which one is enabled to contribute to the growth of the Body of Christ. As the faithful are called to collaborate with others, so the Code points out those instruments of communion by which one’s vocation can be concretely realized.

5. It follows that one cannot oppose an ecclesiology of communion to a juridic ecclesiology. This would lead to doing an injustice to the notion of communion that, far from being a recent creation of theology, is to the contrary a living reality expressed all through the history of the church, sending its roots deep into biblical witness. This reality reclaims a juridic form that demands that one be animated by charity. For my part I would define the Church just as understood by the Council and the Code, that is to say, as a communion at once interior and exterior, with the interior communion of the spiritual life (of faith, hope, and charity) being signified and produced by an exterior communion of faith, discipline, and sacramental life. As a consequence, the hierarchic constitution of the Church must be considered as a form of service proper to certain of its members and making up an essential part of ecclesial communion.

6. After having studied and reviewed the work of the commission, John Paul II has approved and promulgated the new Code that henceforth will be the law of the Church. This promulgation solemnly expresses before the eyes of the whole world the will of the Church to conform her institutions to the model set forth by Vatican II. Certainly this will does not date from today, for since the day after the Council various partial legislations, provisory and sometimes ad experimentum, have given a concrete form to Conciliar directives. But today, the Church takes a new step forward in promulgating a universal and definitive legislation that engages the future with a view toward considerable duration.

            The realization of the Council has certainly been the principle objective pursued by the revision of the Code. This has also been the formal commitment taken up by John Paul II on the day after his election (Message to the World, 17 October 1978) it treats without any doubt a work of wide scope and common commitment; and that is why the legislator must be able to count on the goodwill and perseverance of all. As with the 1917 Code, the new Code will have its imperfections. This is inevitable. But this is why the Code itself (1983 CIC 16) has foreseen the possibility of the authentic interpretation of norms which might be in need of such. There will, to be sure, be other difficulties to face, but they will be easily overcome by those who strive to recognize in the 1983 Code the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council. +++

from French, enp, II.04.



Translation 2

The obligation of parents to educate children for Eucharistic life

(L’Obbligo dei genitori di educare i figli alla vita eucharistica)


by Ryszard Sztychmiler

Adjunct in Canon Law, Catholic University of Lublin [Poland]

from: Ius Ecclesiae 2/1 (1990), pp. 127-135. Footnotes reordered.


1. The obligation of religious education in the family circle. – 2. The object of education toward the Eucharistic life in the family circle. – 3. Conclusions.


            The great majority of lay faithful live united in marriage, and in this state they fulfill important tasks entrusted to them by the Creator. Without a doubt, the greatest of these responsibilities is the education of their children. The importance of this function is stressed in the new Code of Canon Law wherein its scope is specified.

During his homily at the Mass for Polish families held at Stettino on July 11th, 1987, Pope John Paul II affirmed: “The sacrament of matrimony takes root in the Eucharist. It grows with the Eucharist and leads to it.” AAS 80 (1988) 425; cf. Familiaris consortio n. 57. The sacrament of matrimony requires that spouses have constant recourse to the Eucharist. Christian parents not only live in the Eucharist themselves, but they also bring their children to this sacrament. This comprises for them not merely a desire, but a true obligation.

This article seeks to define precisely the requirements that apply to parents relative to the education of their children for the Eucharistic life. In a single study, one cannot treat all of the possible relations that bind spouses to the Eucharist but simply attempt an exposition of their responsibilities in the education of their children toward the Eucharistic life. We will offer first of all an exposition of the norms that establish the obligation for the Christian education of children and, following that, look at those norms that relate specifically to the introduction to Eucharistic life. The fundamental source for these norms is the Code of Canon Law as well as their interpretation, and what is found in other [p. 128] pontifical documents or in those emanating from local Churches. Moreover, there will be useful references to theological and canonical literature.


1.     The obligation of religious education in the family circle.


All the faithful must contribute to the growth of the Church and to her holiness. 1983 CIC 208 & 210.  In virtue of baptism and confirmation we are morally obligated to undertake the apostolate and to transmit the good news of divine salvation to every man.[1] Those who still do not know Christian teaching have the right to know it. In particular, children are called by baptism to live according to the evangelical message, and from that they enjoy the inalienable right to a Christian education that will lead them to personal maturity to know the mysteries of salvation and to a life compatible with these mysteries.[2] The obligation of religious education rests in the first place on Christian parents: “Since they have given life to their children, parents have a most grave obligation and possess the right to educate them. Therefore, it is for Christian parents particularly to take care of the Christian education of their children according to the doctrine handed on by the Church.”[3] Hence Christian education of children is a primary right and a most grave obligation of Christian parents.[4] It must be underlined that the legislator in both cited canons uses words that testify to the extreme importance of the obligation of parents to impart a Christian education; the Latin text uses terms such as gravissima obligatione, and officium gravissimum.

            The obligation for this religious education sometimes falls on only one of the parents. This is the case following the death of one of the spouses, or with the absence of one spouse for various reasons from the family community, or in a mixed marriage [p. 129] where only one party is Catholic and the other is baptized in a different Christian confession; or again in a marriage celebrated with dispensation from the impediment of disparity of cult in which one party is completely of a non-Christian faith or an atheist. In both these latter cases, the Catholic party is obliged to baptize all the children and to educate them in the Catholic faith (1983 CIC 1086, 1125 § 1, & 1129).

The Catholic education of children is of such importance that the canonical legislator has more than once presented the obligation. Catholic parents who entrust their children to be educated by those who profess principles contrary to the Catholic faith must be punished with a censure—for example, excommunication—or with another just penalty established by the competent legislator.[5] And if this is not able to dissuade such parents from imparting such an erroneous education, offenders can be compelled with a similar penalty in virtue of Canon 1399.

            In light of these referenced norms one can therefore affirm that the obligation to provide a Christian education to children is not only a moral one, but a juridic one, grave enough to be enforced by penalty.


2. The object of education toward the Eucharistic life in the family circle.


Christian education must have regard for the personality of the children globally considered, and an essential constitutive part of this is education that is properly religious, and for which nowadays parents are particularly responsible. Preparation for Eucharistic life is a key part of this educational area. The Congregation for Divine Worship has underscored the irreplaceable role of the Christian family in preparing children to approach maturely and with understanding the cause of Eucharistic life. The whole Church, and especially Catholic parents, must “be vigilant that their baptized children are introduced into the fullness of Christian initiation through the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confirmation, and moreover that they not long after are brought for the first time to Communion. The conditions of contemporary life in which youth find themselves living do not in fact exercise a positive influence for spiritual growth. Often  it happens that parents are not sufficiently occupied in fulfilling the obligation assumed from the moment of the baptism of their children to provide a Christian education.”[6] 

            [p. 130] The preparation for Eucharistic life that takes place within the nuclear family must cover at least three principal topics: instruction in the significance and manner of participating at Mass; preparation for first Communion; and finally, that which equips children to have a mature and fruitful rapport with Jesus present under the sacramental species.

The Directory for Masses at which Children Participate (nos. 10 and 16) recommends that children, by the end of their first years, be attending Mass along with their parents.[7] The Directory speaks of Mass at which children participate, and not Mass for children.

It is important that children’s education for the Eucharistic life be consistent and continuous. Pastors of souls must support parents and the internal family as it educates the young to participate appropriately in the Mass. Parents must teach children how to follow the Mass in a worthy and adequate manner. Family catechesis can greatly assist children to participate with fruit in the Mass.[8] The Directory for Masses at which children participate (n. 24) directs pastors and rectors of churches to present the laity with a  special homily after the gospel in case of urgent necessity and thus all the more the celebrating priest will not fail to adapt it to the mentality of children. … In virtue of canon 67 § 1 and of Canon 2 the laity cannot present the homily and, in light of the response from the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law given on June 20th, 1987, neither the pastor nor the diocesan bishop can dispense from the above mentioned prescription. According to the norm of Canon 766, the lay faithful can (in determined circumstances and according to the directives [p. 131] of the episcopal conference) be allowed to preach ( but not to offer the homily) in a church.[9]

            The education of children toward conscious, active, and direct participation in the Mass must take place before anything else in the period of preparation for first Communion. In this period there is also a need to instruct parents and help them to educate the young with greater fruit toward a Eucharistic life.

The principal purpose of this period is to prepare children for First Confession and First Communion.[10] The ecclesiastical legislator recalls that before all others parents are obligated to see that “children who have reached the use of reason are duly prepared as soon as possible, having been sent to sacramental Confession, for this divine food.” (1983 CIC 914). Parents are obligated to prepare adequately children for first Communion and pastors of souls must verify the sufficiency of this preparation.[11]

Canon 913 §1 gives the criteria by which children are qualified for admission to first Communion: “The administration of the Most Holy Eucharist to children requires that they have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity and are able to receive the body of Christ with faith and devotion.” The legislator enumerates then three criterion by which one might have an adequate preparation for first Communion. First of all, the child must, in a way adequate to his age, understand the mystery of Christ present in the Eucharist. He must [p. 132] also have faith, that is, believe in Christ, and finally, he must be ready to receive communion with piety. In order for a child to possess faith and piety it is necessary that the parents be examples of this and more widely the family environment.

First Communion must be preceded by an adequate preparation for Confession, and children must receive this sacrament first.[12] A child thus prepared must be admitted by the pastor to first communion (1983 CIC 912). Some German theologians have argued that that decision belongs solely to the parents. But this position conflicts with Canon 914 of the new Code.[13] The Legislator requires that the pastor be vigilant that there not be admitted to first communion children who, in his judgment, [emphasis added by author] do not have the use of reason or who are insufficiently disposed. Two questions arise from this legislative formula: anticipated admission to the first Communion, and admission to the sacrament for children disabled mentally or who find themselves in danger of death.

Reading the dispositions of Canons 914 and 97 § 2 together, it is possible to admit to Communion those children who have completed seven years of age, on condition that they are adequately prepared and have satisfied the required conditions (Canon 913 § 1.) Therefore, Catholic parents who lead a sufficiently religious life can request of pastors of souls that their children be permitted to receive the Eucharist earlier than is perhaps customary, that is, about ages 7-9.[14]

            [p. 133] As for children in danger of death, the Legislator has imposed less onerous conditions. To such children, “the Eucharist can be administered if they are able to distinguish the Body of Christ from common food and can receive Communion with reverence.” (1983 CIC 913 § 2).  It is therefore necessary that children know how to distinguish the Eucharist from other forms of bread, and even from a simple, non-consecrated host.

            Even though the Code does not mention in this context children suffering mental impairments,  we can observe that only in part can there be applied those norms relating to children who are in danger of death. Parents must impart to them, within the possible limits, a richer and more profound formation.

            It is obvious that the obligation to introduce children to the Eucharistic life can not be considered fulfilled until they are in a state ready to receive first Communion. Parents must educate them to frequent the Eucharist with maturity, not only by words, but by example.[15] Polish bishops have recommended that on feast days the entire family receive Communion.[16] Parents must teach their children to return frequently to Communion. The obligation to approach this sacrament at least once a year constitutes a minimum (1983 CIC 919-920). Actually, the practice of receiving the Eucharist frequently should always be promoted. Parents must teach their children to form an adequate disposition—interior and exterior—so as to approach this sacrament suitably, and help them to form a right conscience, so that, if necessary, they will be able to have previous recourse to the sacrament of Penance (1983 CIC 916 and 989), teaching them also the practice of Eucharistic fasting (1983 CIC 919). The fast does not apply, as is known, to water and medicine,  nor to sick persons. Parents must  teach their children to observe modesty of body and dress, and to follow the Mass worthily.

Children who have completed the seventh year are obligated to participate in Sunday Mass and days of [p. 134] precept.[17] Children so small can hardly fulfill this requirement without the help of parents. Therefore, these are responsible for the participation of their children at Sunday Mass as well as those of precept.

In the case of sick children recovering in a hospital, or for those who find themselves at home, they can receive the Eucharist on condition of having already made first Communion. Parents should know that for their own child falling into danger of death—following an accident or sickness or something like that—there is a need to receive the comfort of the Eucharist as viaticum (1983 CIC 921 §§ 1 and 3).


3. Conclusions.


            Like all believers, parents too have the obligation to contribute to the up-building of the people of God. Their vocation is realized in the first place through the religious education of children within the nuclear family. This constitutes the most important task of Christian parents and its importance is even greater in those situations where children can be prepared to receive the Eucharist only by parents, or in those situations where the young do not receive an adequate example in regard to Eucharistic life.

Eucharistic education must be considered as the center of all religious education. Pastors of souls must instruct parents on the significance, the form, and the scope of such education for their children.

In the first place, parents must instruct children, in a way that they can understand, to participate in Mass, to live it, and to desire it. In this area, domestic catechesis within the family circle is of great importance. The second important task consists in sufficiently preparing youth for the sacrament of Penance and of approaching it with first Communion. For these tasks, parents are primarily responsible; it is for them to propose the most opportune time for the administration of first Communion to their children and they can ask for their child’s admission earlier than might be typical to the Eucharist. The responsibility of parents is especially grave in case of a child in sickness, suffering from mental deficiency, or being in danger of death. Parents must educate children so that they approach frequently, with maturity and benefit, the fruits of the Eucharist.

            [p. 135] It is the obligation of parents to prepare children to make good use of the Mass and to assist them to approach worthily the table of the Lord. There is need in particular to have regard for difficult situations of those who conduct the education of their child alone or who cannot rely on the assistance of the other parent for the religious education of the child. In such cases ecclesiastical help must be offered, which must be arranged by pastors of souls and Christian families so that internal problems do not appear. There is great value in the education for Eucharistic life to be had in the example of parents and their collaboration with pastors.

from Italian, enp, II.04

Footnotes for Sztychmiler, The Obligation of parents

[1] 1983 CIC 225 § 1. The obligation is more binding on those Christian faithful who, in concrete circumstances, are the only way others with whom they live can come to know the Gospel. See Il nuovo Codice di Diritto Canonico. Novità, motivazione e significato, Roma, 1983 pp. 108-112.


[2] 1983 CIC 217. See E. Corecco, Sussidi per il corso di diritto canonico, Milano, 1984, pp. 237-238; M. Kaiser, “Die rechtliche Grundstellung der Christgläubigen”, in Handbuch des katholischen Kirchenrechts, Regensburg, 1983, p. 177.


[3] 1983 CIC 226 § 2. O. Stoffel, “Das Recht der Laien in der Kirche nach dem neuen Codex”, in Das neue Kirchenrecht, Zürich, 1984, pp. 68-69; M.Kaiser, “Die Laien”, in Handbuch des katholischen Kirchenrechts, Regensburg, 1983, p. 188.


[4] 1983 CIC 1136 & 793 § 1. See Il diritto nel mistero della Chiesa, Roma, 1980, III, p. 27; J. Syryjczyk, “Troska Kosciola o katolickie wychowanie dzieci w kanonicznym prawie karnym”, Prawo Kanoniczne 30/3-4 (1987) pp. 204-296, [hereafter, Syryjczyk, “Troska”].


[5] 1983 CIC 1366. Syryjczyk, “Troska”, pp. 206-208 & 219-229.


[6] Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for Masses with Children, Rome, 1973, nos. 1 & 9-10.


[7] The Polish episcopal conference has issued particular norms on this matter, showing the responsibilities of the Christian family “in the education of children toward a fruitful and voluntary participation in Mass.” Polish bishops recommend that pastors collaborate so that children assist at Mass together with their parents. The bishops prefer Masses for families over those solely for children. See “Zalecenia duszpasterskie Episkopatu Polski w zwiazku z Dyrektorium o Mszach sw. z udzialem dzieci” in Ruch Biblijny i Liturgiczny, 30 (1977) pp. 87-88.


[8] Cf. E. Gruber, Arbeitshilfen für die Glaubensunterweisung im 1. und 2. Schuljar, Müchen, 1971, p. 5; H. König, Wie helfen wir unseren Kindern zum Glauben? Elternhilfe für die Vorbereitung auf die Feier der Eucharistie, Düsseldorf, s.d., pp. 44-45, [hereafter, König]; I. Meith, Katechese in der Küche. Kinderfragen verlangen Anwtwort, Mainz, 1917, pp. 96-108.


[9] Cf. Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, nos. 35-52; Reply of the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, AAS 79 (1987) 1249; F. J. Urrutia, “Responsa Pontificiae Commissionis CIC Authentice interpretando”, in Periodica 77 (1988) 613-624; J. A. Fuentes Alonso, “La función de enseñar”, in Manual de Derecho Canónico, Pamplona, 1988, p. 388; W. Góralski, “Pozycja prawna osób swieckich w Kosciele wedlug nowego

Kodeksu Prawa Kanonicznego”, in Prawo Kanoniczne 28 (1985) 56-57;


[10] E. Gruber, Arbeitshilfen für die Vorbereitung der Erstbeichte, München, 1970, pp. 104-105; Id, Arbeitschilfen für die Vorbereitung der Erstkommunion, München 1971, pp. 23-24; “Instrumentum laboris” zur Bischofssynode 1987, in Verlautbarungen des Apostolischen Stuhl, n. 78, Bonn, 1987, nos. 65 & 72.


[11] See: P. Hemperek, “Uswiecajace zadanie Kosciola”, in Komentarz do Kodeksu Prawa Kanonicznego, Lublin, 1986, vol. III, pp. 121-122; A. Mayer, “Die Eucharistie”, in Handbuch des katholischen Kirchenrechts, Regensburg, 1983, p. 681.


[12] Here there are different approaches proposed: H. König, 47; E. Gruber, Arbeitshilfen für die Vorbereitung der Erstbeiche, ibid. But Catholic teaching is clear: Cf. Congregation for Clergy, Directorium catechisticum generale, 11 April 1971, in AAS 64 (1972) pp. 151-170; Letter of Cardinal J. Ratzinger on first confession and first Communion of youth, in Notitiae 13 (1977) pp. 603-608; Il diritto nel mistero della Chiesa, pp. 115-116.


[13] Cf. E. Gruber, Arbeitschilfen für die Vorbereitung der Erstkommunion, cit., p. 34.


[14] Cf. P. Hemperek, op. cit., p. 121; E. Sztafrowski, Podrecznik prawa kanonicznego, III, Waszawa, 1986, p. 192 A similar possibility was provided for in the statues of Polish bishops following the Council. Parents who requested the advanced admission of their children to Communion were to meet conditions relatively easy to fulfill. They were to be distinguished by deep faith, guarantee adequate moral and religious education for the children, and take care for their Eucharistic life. Cf. Statuty II Synodu Gdanskiego, Gdansk- Oliwa, 1976, pp. 47-48; Wiara modlitiwa I zycie w Kosciele Katowickim. Uchwaly I Synodu Diecezji Katowickiej, Katowice-Rzym, 1976, p. 59.


[15] 1983 CIC 774 § 2. See also Il diritto nel ministero della Chiesa, cit, pp. 19-20.


[16] Zalecenia duszpasterskie Episkopatu polski, cit ,pp. 87-88; König, p. 64.


[17] See 1983 CIC 11, & 1247-1248; see also Il diritto nel ministero della Chiesa, cit., p. 115.



Translation 3




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