NEW COMMENTARY ON THE CODE OF CANON LAW.
In 1985, only two years after the promulgation of the revised Latin Code of Canon Law, The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary was published under the auspices of the Canon Law Society of America. The work was recognized immediately as a scholarly and reliable guide to the revised law, firmly rooted in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. Now, 15 years later, following the recently published revised English translation of the Code, the Canon Law Society of America has commissioned an entirely new and comprehensive commentary by canonists from North America and Europe. It is a timely publication. The Code is now almost 20 years old, and there have been numerous authentic interpretations of the canons as well as many new legislative documents that call for comment and application.
It is important to remember that this is a new commentary, not simply a revised edition of the 1985 volume: there are 36 contributors, most of whom did not contribute to the earlier commentary. Familiar names, of course, reappear and there are magisterial commentaries by L. Wrenn (on processes), J. Provost (on ecclesiastical offices), J. Coriden (on the ministry of the Word), F. McManus and J. Huels (on the sanctifying function of the Church). T. Green provides an updated commentary on penalties, but he also has a commentary on the reorganization of the Roman Curia (canons 360-361) and a detailed and well-documented commentary on the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus (1988). Many new contributors, however, including seven women, have brought fresh insights to the commentary.
Another difference between the new commentary and the earlier volume lies in its purpose. The 1985 commentary was concerned with comparing and contrasting the 1983 Code and the 1917 Code, which it replaced. The new commentary "focuses on the lived experience of the canons in use since 1983. It emphasises the contemporary understanding and application of the canons based on that experience" (xix). It would be a mistake, however, to think of the new commentary as a replacement of the 1985 volume. It is complementary to the earlier volume, which still retains its usefulness.
After a short preface by the editors, the New Commentary opens with a clear and well argued discussion on theology and canon law by L. Orsy, presented with all the clarity, theological acumen, and common sense to which we are long accustomed in his writings. Then comes a detailed presentation by F. McManus of legislation promulgated since 1983. He gives an account and critical appraisal of a number of key documents: Pastor Bonus (1988), on the reform of the Roman Curia; Ex corde ecclesiae (11990) on Catholic higher education; the revised Ecumenical Directory (1993); the interdicasterial instruction on "Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests" (1997); Ad tuendam fidem (1998), on the profession of faith; and the motu proprio Apostolos suos (1998) on the theological and juridical nature of episcopal conferences. McManus also draws attention to the significance of the encyclicals of Paul VI and John Paul II in interpreting and applying canon law, rightly highlighting the encyclical Ut unum sint (1995) "as opening the way to all kinds of disciplinary development and institutional change" (25). The two essays by Orsy and McManus form a distinguished contribution to the current discussions concerning the role of law in the Church.
Another welcome feature of the new commentary is the attention given throughout to the canonical legislation of the Eastern Catholic churches. There are frequent references to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (1990), but there is also a well-documented "overview" by John Faris of Eastern Church legislation along with quite a comprehensive bibliography. Unfortunately the table of corresponding canons between the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches has been omitted. It can be found in the 1999 Code of Canon Law: Latin-English Edition (637-57).
The New Commentary provides the text of each of the 1752 canons of the Code with a commentary on each canon. Space does not permit a detailed description of this feature, but some outstanding characteristics of this work can be noted: the attention paid to the history and development of the laws, the care taken to link the commentary to the teaching of Vatican II, and the provision of sound documentation within the commentary and of well-selected bibliographies. A particularly good example is the commentary by J. Beal and L. Robitaille on marriage canons 1055-1165. The discussion of the nature of the marriage covenant and matrimonial consent is firmly grounded in the teaching of Gaudium et spes and the jurisprudence of the Church's tribunals. The canons on the Pauline Privilege and the dissolution of valid non-sacramental marriages are explained with admirable precision and clarity. This is canonical commentary at its best: clear, balanced, and informed. Similar comments could be made of the other parts of the commentary. A high standard has been maintained throughout.
The commentary has a comprehensive index of more than 90 pages. It is well-bound, beautifully produced, and easy to consult. The Canon Law Society of America is to be congratulated. The Code of Canon Law: Latin-English Edition (1999) and this New Commentary together constitute an invaluable instrument for all teachers and students of canon law and all who are interested in the Church's life and discipline.
CLARENCE GALLAGHER, S.J. Campion Hall, Oxford
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2001|
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