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Edward Peters


Canon Law Other

Ready Reference Charts in Canon Law


Notes: When these viewing charts, screen resolution of 1152 x 864 is very important. Charts appear here with the most recently posted at the top.



3. Two Branches of Codified Law in the Catholic Church



Both Codes of Canon Law emanate from the Supreme Pontiff, Pope John Paul II,

or, as canonists frequently refer to him, the Legislator.




Code of Canon Law

Western Patriarchate


Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches

Great Eastern Patriarchates


















Maronite, Syrian.



















Ruthenian, Italo-Albania


References: 2003 Catholic Almanac


Following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), considerable effort was directed toward the possibility of devising a “Fundamental Law of the Church” to be applicable throughout the Catholic world. Multiple drafts of the “Lex Ecclesiae Fundamentalis” were developed from 1969 to 1980. Only late in the post-conciliar process of reforming canon law was it decided not to proceed with specific promulgation of the LEF at that time. Instead, some of its provisions were incorporated into the 1983 and 1990 Codes. See O. Boelens, Synopsis Lex Ecclesiae Fundamentalis (Peeters: 2001)




 2. Ecclesiastical Law in the Western or Roman Catholic Church


Codified Law

Non-Codified Law

All General Matters

Special Topics

are those treated entirely, primarily, or substantially outside the 1983 Code, though these should not be confused with extra-codical decrees, instructions, or other legislation designed primarily to support provisions contained in the Code (admittedly a distinction not always easy to make).  

Code of Canon Law

Promulgated in 1983, it generally controls all ecclesiastical issues not covered under a specialized set of norms. Currently consists of 1,752 numbered “canons”, comprising thousands of specific provisions.


The 1983 Code replaces the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Note that it was not until early in the twentieth century that the Catholic Church (specifically, the Roman or Western Catholic Church) had a single general code.


The Eastern Catholic Churches did not receive a single general code until 1990. It is still in force.



Liturgical Law (1983 CIC 2)

   Only in the relatively few places that it treats of liturgical law does the 1983 Code control such issues. Although not yet codified, much (but emphatically, not nearly all) liturgical (including sacramental, per CCC 1113) law can be found in the following universal materials:

 Roman Missal, its General Instruction, and the Lectionary;

 Roman Ritual;

 Roman Pontifical and Ceremonial for Bishops;

 Liturgy of the Hours;

 Book of Blessings; and

 The Roman Calendar.

Note: Scholarly resources on liturgy and liturgical law differ enormously in scope and quality. Consult approved authors.  


Diplomatic Law (1983 CIC 3)

   Also called “Public Ecclesiastical Law”, this controls (or perhaps better, is controlled by) various diplomatic activities that the Holy See conducts throughout the world. This is the stuff of international law, Church-State concordats and treaties, and so on. A somewhat dated but highly regarded study in this field is A. Ottaviani, Compendium/Institutiones iuris publici ecclesiastici (Typis polyglottis Vaticanis, 1936, et seq.).  


Acquired Rights, Privileges, and Customs (1983 CIC 4-5, 23-28)

   A complex field in which no single, integrated scholarly treatment stands out. Consult approved authors.


Papal Elections (1983 CIC 332, 349)

   The most recent norms are contained in John Paul II, ap. con. "Universi Dominic gregis" (22 February 1996). Click here for Dr. Peters' overview of Universi. Click here for a list current eligible papal electors.


Administration of the Roman Curia (1983 CIC 360-361)

   The most recent norms are in John Paul II, ap. con. “Pastor Bonus” (28 June 1988).  


Military Chaplains (1983 CIC 569)

   The most recent norms are in John Paul II, ap. con. “Spirituali militum curae” (21 Apr 1986) and special norms in force in various countries.  


Particular Law (1983 CIC 8 et multa cetera)

   A very broad field encompassing, among other things:

 • Particular Councils (cc. 439-446);

 • Episcopal Conferences (cc. 447-459);

 • Arch/diocesan Regulations (including synods, cc. 460-468).

No single, integrated scholarly treatment stands out. Consult approved authors.  


Consecrated Life (1983 CIC 207, 573-746)

   Notwithstanding extensive canonical treatment, much (maybe most) regulation of institutes of consecrated life (popularly called “religious life”) is contained in the legislation of each institute. No single, integrated scholarly treatment stands out. Consult approved authors.  


Indulgences (1983 CIC 992-997)

   The most recent norms are in Paul VI, ap. con. “Indulgentiarum doctrina” (1 Jan 1967) and Sacred Penitentiary, “Enchiridion of Indulgences” (18 May 1986). A somewhat dated but highly regarded study of this field is S. de Angelis, De Indulgentiis, (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1947 et seq.).


Beatification and Canonization (1983 CIC 1403)  

   The most recent norms are in John Paul II, ap. con. “Divinus perfectionis Magister” (25 Jan 1983) and Cong. for Causes of Saints, “Norms to be observed by bishops” (7 Feb 1983).




1. Quick Table of Comparative Legal Terms


American Law

Canon Law

Appeal (Adminis.) Recourse
Appeal (Judicial) Appeal
Agent Procurator
Case Case
Court Tribunal
   -, Supreme Roman Rota (Judicial) or
Apostolic Signatura (Admin.)
   -, Trial First Instance
   -, Appellate Second Instance
Defendant Respondent
Evidence Proofs
Filing Libellus
Judge Judge
Law Canon
Lawyer Advocate
Law School Pontifical Faculty
Plaintiff Petitioner
Prosecutor Promoter of Justice
Rights Rights
Trial Trial or Process
Testimony Testimony
Witness Witness





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