Canon law is the body of laws that guides and protects Catholic Church. It was forged over centuries through discussions between clergymen and canonists, as well as decisions made by bishops.
It is essential to recognize that canon law stems from a sacramental view of the Church, which was transmitted from the Apostles through their bishops and forms the basis for Roman Catholic belief as well as that of most other Catholic churches.
Canon law’s primary function is to maintain and clarify current laws, so that Church activities are guided by them at any given moment. These codes must be derived from written sources or individual decisions found in early collections of decretals; this task has been carried out by canonists since the Middle Ages.
Once the law is in place, its purpose becomes to explain its history of origin and evolution. To do this, one can employ three approaches: historical, philosophical and practical. The first seeks to uncover its true essence; its rationale; its extension; while the second clarifies what rules mean, why they are necessary and how they are currently applied.
This explanation may involve a discussion of theology and sacramental theology, as well as any relevant legal terminology. This can be an effective way to clarify issues and provide answers to questions that lay people may have about the Church’s teachings or practices.
By doing so, canon law can help to clarify matters and encourage laity involvement in church life. However, it is always wise to consult a canonist before making any decisions or taking actions which might involve canonical matters.
Canonists can be an invaluable ally in cases when the Church’s policies and practices are being challenged. This is most frequently the case with marriage annulments, but can occur across many areas of Church activity.
When seeking advice or representation from a canonist, it’s essential to remember that their opinion is an expert one based on years of education and deep reflection. While a canonist’s approval does not guarantee approval, their assessment ensures the proposed action will be seen in its proper perspective.
Canonists are often sought-out for assistance with questions pertaining to church life, such as educational policies and procedures, admission to sacraments, the use of church property, liturgical discipline, etc. Since these topics can be complex and intricate, having a qualified canonist on board can be immensely beneficial in such circumstances.