Does Canon Law Count as Law? An Analysis Based Upon Anglo-American Legal Theory
John J. Coughlin
Notre Dame Law School
Fr. John J. Coughlin, CANON LAW: A COMPARATIVE STUDY WITH ANGLO-AMERICAN LEGAL THEORY, Oxford University Press, 2011
Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 12-62
A comparison of canon law with Anglo-American legal theory raises three basic and interrelated questions. Does canon law count as law? Is canon law a system of law? Does canon law represent the rule of law? This article, which is derived from CANON LAW: A COMPARATIVE STUDY WITH ANGLO-AMERICAN LEGAL THEORY (Oxford University Press 2011), suggests that canon law exhibits the essential characteristics of law, a developed legal system, and the rule of law. However, the article about canon law also indicates that several fundamental challenges present themselves from the perspective of Anglo-American legal theory. The first of these challenges concerns the requirements of procedural justice. The problem of procedural justice in canon law may be both structural (inadequate and ineffective legal structures) and attitudinal (a diminished respect for procedural justice by ecclesiastical authorities). A second challenge derives from the fact that theorists of law of modern democracy often attribute a substantive justice to the rule of law. Although the Catholic Church is not a democracy, the article discusses how the inner meaning of canon law may, nonetheless, communicate insight that endows canon law with legitimacy and binding force.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26
Keywords: canon law, anglo-american law, system of law, legal systems, Catholic authorityAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: April 21, 2012
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