Christianity and Procedural Law
“Christianity and Procedural Law,” in John Witte, Jr. and Rafael Domingo, eds., Oxford Handbook on Christianity and Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming) (with Mathias Schmoeckel)
14 Pages Posted: 31 May 2023
Date Written: 2023
Legal procedure helps to determine what is just in a case. This is true for both civil cases that resolve disputes between private parties and criminal cases that determine whether a party is guilty of a crime. Both civil and criminal procedural laws are of ancient vintage in the Western tradition. Early Christians were subject to both Roman and biblical procedural laws, as the trials of Jesus, Saint Paul, and other New Testament figures attest. Already in the first centuries, however, the church developed its own internal procedural laws, too, for the application of its canon law. In the second millennium, these canonical procedural laws were combined with Roman law precedents to form a sophisticated “Roman-canonical” law of procedure as well as an inquisitorial form of procedure that dominated Western law until the reforms of the Enlightenment and the modern legal codification movements. While civil and criminal procedural laws are now set out in detail in modern state procedural codes, these state laws still have vestiges of earlier Christian procedural teachings. Moreover, modern Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant church laws still maintain a good deal of traditional Roman-canonical procedure for the governance of the church and its members. This chapter sketches briefly these Christian forms of procedural law in different eras of the Western tradition and the vestiges of that influence still today.
Keywords: Law, religion, law and religion, criminal procedure, civil procedure, Roman-canonical procedure, inquisition, judge, appeals, jury trial, jurisdiction, judgment
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