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Is there any kind of (Christian) church law which is not canon law? Or does "canon law" cover all ecclesiastical law?


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 26th, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)
If you are talking legal systems, then I don't know what else there could be.

As long as we're talking laws rather than doctrine.


Because the thing that popped into my head immediately was not the issue of law/kinds of law (it's either canon or secular, AFAIK), but rather where and over whom canon law has jurisdiction or worse, jurisdictional precedence.
Feb. 26th, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC)
In something I was reading (I can let you know privately what it was if you really care), the author specified church (canon) law, which made me wonder if there could be any other kind.
Feb. 26th, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC)
Maybe they meant as opposed to secular law? After all, a church is technically supposed to obey both canon law and secular law (and in Christianity, its founder was quite explicit about that as my uncle the priest points out with some vehemence).
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
Could be. I knew it might be just synonym, but I had a sudden fit of worry that there might be more than one version. After all, there's more than one kind of secular law too. (Specifically thinking of written vs. tradition in England.)
Feb. 26th, 2009 01:28 pm (UTC)
I believe 'church law' and 'canon law' are synonymous. And considering the canons (in the Episcopal church) cover everything from the role of the bishop to hiring practices, I don't know if there would be room for another system. :)
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC)
There could be a distinction between written law and traditional practice, as there is with English law, it occurred to me. Just because I hadn't consciously heard of any other kind of church law, didn't mean that it didn't exist. (But neither does it mean that it does.)
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:25 pm (UTC)
I think Canon Law implies C of E, Roman Catholic or Orthodox, so if any other churches have laws, those wouldn't be Canon Law.
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
Surely other forms of Protestantism too?
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
Not according to Wikipedia (except for churches in communion with the C of E, such as the Episcopalian Church).
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
Reading further, this does make sense. I'm struck by the absence of reference to tradition or previous practice (even on the part of an individual congregation) in the "Presbyterian polity" entry though. (Not that canon law = tradition)
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
The OED defines canon law as "ecclesiastical law, as laid down in decrees of the pope and statutes of councils."

It defines ecclesiastical law as "the law, derived from Canon and Civil law, administered by such courts [those of the Established Church]."
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
Interesting - the OED leaves a little room for ambiguity in its definitions when put together.
Feb. 26th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)
I'd assume "canon law" applies in any church which claims an apostolic succession - Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, possibly Coptic etc. Nonconformist churches which do not recognise said apostolic succession would presumably have regulations within the church - not sure they'd call it "Law", though. Where members tacitly or formally acknowledge the right of the church community to discipline its members, but do not accept canonical apostolic succession you might call it Church Law - I'm thinking of the presbyterian or methodist group which expels Silas Marner at teh start of the book, for instance.
Feb. 26th, 2009 08:16 pm (UTC)
Beat me to it. That was my interpretation of the information as well. Its gotta be worth something for all the hoops the episcopal church jumped through in order to maintain it after the revolution.
Feb. 26th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
Is the context the Middle Ages? In that case the source could be trying to distinguish between overarching canon law and individual monastic custumals.

There's also Roman law, which was studied by clerks in medieval universities and influenced canon law.
Feb. 26th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
Ooh, on this point, were people strict on jurisdiction, or did they dip into the other sets of laws when they saw a lack in their own tradition/didn't like what their tradition said?

I ask, since there's a case in Japan in the 13th century (or early 14th?) where the court does not like the result of one interpretation of their penal codes, and so not only do they go back to the legal experts and demand further analysis, they start calling up the Tang penal code to back up their desired result (to throw the book at a shrine officiant who hit another on the head during an offering).

Since the Tang had been fallen for over 300 years by then, I find this rather ridiculous in terms of adjusting things until you get the result you want. (In their defense, the Japanese law was based on the Tang. Against their defense, they knew it was different, and weren't above playing up the difference when it suited them to.)
Feb. 27th, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
In the secular French sources I study, jurisdictions were often intermingled and enclaved. When courts came across a case that their local customary law didn't cover, they often looked to neighbouring jurisdictions for a precedent. Failing that, they fell back on the Roman law that many of them had studied in university. As the customary laws began to be written down, jurists often filled in the hazy areas with Roman law from Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis, which was about seven centuries old by that point. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a situation where Roman law was used to directly contradict local precedents, but I'm pretty sure it happened now and again.

Are there sources in European languages on medieval Japanese law? I'd love to read more about legal systems in other parts of the world in the thirteenth century.
Feb. 27th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
Herail's written on the administrative codes of the classical period in French, and there might be some stuff in German... I'll have to get back to you on it. That's for court law.

For estate suits, you have some translations in the collections by Jeffrey Mass for the Kamakura Bakufu (1185-1331), which operated in parallel with the court's decisions (although the customary law involving estates did have a certain amount of stability between court and bakufu). The Goseibai shikimoku has been translated, but that translation's a little dodgy in parts (journal article somewhere, I think)--that's a list of rules put out by the Kamakura Bakufu, and the succeeding Muromachi Bakufu's codes are translated in Laws of the Muromachi Bakufu (1981). The introduction of that, and the commentaries in Mass, are the most legally legal history I've seen.

The court codes (the ones based on the Tang ones) were penal and administrative--and I can't think of a particularly good source that covers them as a whole in English. Until fairly recently, in fact, the assumption had been that they were unimportant for medieval Japanese society. The scholar who's done the most to argue against that is the one who wrote up the shrine case I mentioned before. I think if there was a French or German translation of the ritsuryo ("penal/administrative"), I think I would have run across it, instead of seeing different translations in excerpts of books I read. But that's not the case.

There's some things here and there about criminal cases, but not that much that I can think of put together. Going from what Karl Friday says about the 10th century and also things later, it may be because aside from those that the court had direct control over--that is to say, its own members--all you could do is destroy/confiscate property or kill the suspect. When you could catch them. That probably needs further study--I have read an article on jurisdiction rights in criminal pursuits (estates were generally immune to official entry) for Kamakura's agents, but that was in Japanese again.

For the later medieval period--1450 until 1600 or so, David Eason's dissertation (UCLA, either 2006 or 2007 I think) would cover things, but that's all I'm aware of offhand. (1450-1800 is a gap in my advisors' expertise. Which means I'm better on Meiji [late 19th cen] law than Tokugawa [1600-1867] or Warring States).
Feb. 27th, 2009 10:41 am (UTC)
I found a link that might be helpful. I just skimmed it (it's 5:30am, after all). http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09056a.htm#III

I know when I was growing up Catholic, I was under the impression from my religion classes, that Canon Law referred to articles of faith (the Trinity, Immaculate Conception, etc.), but that there were also laws that dictated when you go to church and how to eat (or not eat) during Lent, etc. I'm not sure that they had a separate name, though.
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