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Issue 10 – Easter 2022


Why Canon Law Matters

On the Church's governing authority.


I work a lot with law. Sometimes with real law, as people like to say, but more often with canon law. It’s a good job, but a hard one. Not because canon law is necessarily a difficult sort of law, though it can be, but because it’s law that almost nobody really cares about. I don’t mean this in a self-deprecating or flippant kind of way. Canon law actually matters. It is the legal system—the theology made real—of the one, true, apostolic Church of God.  

But I don’t think I put it too strongly when I say that many Catholics, regardless of their background or political views, including many clerics, view canon law mostly as a kind of prudential fiction, if they know about it at all. It exists in some form, out there, but it’s secondary or tertiary to what people believe really matters in the Church: spreading the gospel, helping others, the liturgy, morality, leadership, etc. Law is a tool, maybe, but it is always in service of something else, and quite often it’s seen as being in conflict with that something else. It should be ignored or moved around with exception upon exception until we can get a result that attains some goal. It’s binding, sure, but only in an untied shoelace kind of way. 

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About the author

Gregory Caridi

Gregory Caridi is Chancellor for the Diocese of Dallas. This article originally appeared in The Lamp's Easter 2022 issue.