Canon Law Issues

Code of Eastern Churches

This is the main page of the Canon Law series.

The sub-pages in this series address specific topics or canons of the Codes of Canon law, both the Roman code and that of the Eastern Churches.

The canon law of the Eastern Churches does not differ substantially from that of Roman Catholic Church, except for the fact that the Roman corpus of canon law has more canons than the Eastern code. Because the numbering of the canons between the codes differs, there are tables available that match up or cross-reference the codes.

Codex Iuris Canonici

If you need to cross reference a canon, leave a comment or e-mail us and we’ll be happy to provide you with the canon number in the corresponding code. We will make every effort to get the right answer from the experts, and will publish it here.

Whereas we call these canons “law” they have more the character of rules or guidelines; they are taken very seriously in terms of their application to how the Church is run, however. Make no mistake about that important fact.

Peace and joy!


2 responses to “Canon Law Issues

  • Mary Ann

    I would like an interpretation of Canon Law 915. Thank you.

    • RCS Confidential

      Hello. Mary Ann. In the specific case, I would urge you to contact your diocesan tribunal but I’ll be happy to give an opinion here.

      Canon 915 is directed at “public sinners” as opposed to “occult sinners” who, because of their public sin or their obstinacy, have been excommunicated. One of the principal intended effects of excommuncation is the prohibition of the sacraments, including the Eucharist. If the ban of excommunication or interdict is proclaimed or declared, and it is known to the minister or it is public knowledge and a matter of the external forum for the minister of sacraments and the minister is bound to refuse the sacraments. The key here is that the sin must be manifest, i.e. known in the community, and not just suspect. A sin can be manifest if the minister knows for a fact that the potential recipient has committed an objectively grave sin, is living in a state of sin, or that the sin is known in the community. It must be noted that the grave sin must be habitual sin, not just a single rare occurrence of grave sin. For example, a professional hit man or a professional sex worker would be an example manifest sin. Obstinacy occurs when the sinner has been warned by competent autority of the sin, but the sinner ignores the warning and refuses to confess it or confesses it but is not contrite and continues in his/her sin. Note: If the sin is confessed the minister may admonish the sinner but unless the minister is aware of the sin outside the confessional,that is, in the public forum, he may not refuse the sacraments. I know it’s confusing but that’s why it requires serious study.

      Regrettably, the Church is very image conscious and, in cases where grave scandal could occur if the sacraments were publicly denied the sinner, the Church cuts them slack. The catchall for that maneuver is usually that such rigid legalism would be contrary to Christian charity and the teachine of mercy and forgiveness.

      Another interesting point is that the prohibition is not universal, that is, it does not automatically extend to other communities. It is enforceable only in the community in which the sin is known; it is up to the minister to interpret the situation in his community.

      As I mentioned, for the particular case I would recomment requesting an advisory opinion from your diocesan tribunal. But be aware that they may be hesitant or reticent if the question involves a highly charged political issue or something socially sensitive and an honest opinion might conflict with public forum policy of the diocese. Regrettably, the instituional Church does shelter a good dose of hypocrisy.


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