Constitutional Law and Canon Law: The Impact of Neutral Rules on Hierarchical Churches
John J. Coughlin
Notre Dame Law School
March 29, 2011
CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN CANON LAW, Patricia M. Dugan, ed., Gratianus Series, Wilson & Lafleur, 2011
Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 11-16
In this paper, I discuss on the relation between United States constitutional law and the Roman Catholic Church’s canon law. Specifically, I explore the impact of neutral rules on hierarchical churches. The Catholic Church is clearly a hierarchical church. For those of who accept the Catholic faith, the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church is no mere human invention but a necessary part of God’s plan for the salvation of souls. In this paper, I ask how United States constitutional law interacts with this central facet of Catholic faith. The paper consists of four major parts. First, I describe several traditional assumptions about the relation between church and state and the modern shift from these traditional assumptions. Second, I uncover the anthropologies that underpin the original intent of the framers of the religion clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Third, I examine the United States Supreme Court’s so-called "neutral rules" approach to inter-church property disputes. Finally, I pose two fundamental questions about neutral rules and their impact on the government of hierarchical churches. This paper was the second of two talks give at the Conference for Civil and Canon Lawyers held at La Crosse, WI, in August 2010.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37
Keywords: neutral rules, constitutional law, canon law, Catholic, hierarchical churches, property, first amendment
JEL Classification: In processAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 31, 2011
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