Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches

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The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, or CCEO), promulgated by John Paul II on Oct. 18, 1990, is the first complete code of the Eastern Catholic Churches. After Vatican Council II had declared that the Eastern and Western Churches are of equal rank (Orientalium ecclesiarum 3), the promulgation of a separate Eastern code of equal title and dignity with the 1983 Western Code of canon law (CIC) meant to supersede the principle, praestantia ritus latini (the superiority of the Latin rite), which had been invoked in the Church especially since Benedict XIV declared it in the apostolic constitution Etsi pastoralis (May 26, 1742) and his encyclical Allatae sunt (June 26, 1755). When John Paul II chose to present the new Eastern code to a general congregation of the Synod of Bishops and, thus, to the entire Church (Oct. 25, 1990), he declared that CCEO, together with CIC and Pastor bonus (June 28, 1988) governing the Roman Curia, formed one Corpus Iuris Canonici in the universal Church (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 83:490). This gave entirely new meaning to the expression Corpus Iuris Canonici, formerly associated with Gratian's Decree together with other Latin canonical collections. As John Paul II promulgated CCEO and thereby finished the process mandated by Vatican II of revising the Latin and Eastern codes enacted earlier in the twentieth century, the pope also completed what might well be considered in the Church the century of the codes.

Origins and Background. The apostolic constitution Sacri canones (Act ApS 82:10331044), by which John Paul II promulgated CCEO, traces the historical background to the new Eastern code. The very title Sacri canones means to pinpoint the origins of CCEO in the sacred canons confirmed by Nicea II (787) as a first code for all the Eastern Churches. Those 765 canons, together with another 21 promulgated later, still constitute the fundamental code in force in the Orthodox Churches and it is essentially in the light of the sacred canons that CCEO norms are to be received and interpreted (cf. c. 2). Given this bridge with the sacred canons of the first millennium, Sacri canones in fact proposes CCEO as a vehicle for future ecumenical dialogue.

In the centuries that followed the Great Schism (1054), when the universal Church was often identified with the Latin Church and the superiority of its rite was invoked, a certain Latinization of the Eastern rites occurred. At Vatican I (186970), the call for the sake of disciplinary uniformity to adopt one code in the Catholic Church was supported by the Preparatory Commission for the Missions and the Eastern Churches, although the proposal encountered strong opposition from Eastern fathers who defended the varietas of the Eastern rites. An historical turning point for deciding this question would come with the apostolic letter Orientalium dignitas (Nov. 30, 1890), in which Leo XIII declared that the variety of Eastern liturgy and discipline was a resplendent ornament that only affirmed the unity of the entire Church.

After the promulgation of the 1917 Latin code, a project for codifying Eastern canon law was formally proposed (July 25, 1927) by the Congregation for the Eastern Church and a circular letter was sent (Jan. 5,1929) to the Eastern patriarchs asking for their suggestions and collaboration. On Nov. 23, 1929, Pius XI established the Commission of Cardinals for the Preparatory Studies of the Eastern Codification, under the presidency of Cardinal Pietro Gasparri. As a proposed point of departure for the Commission's work, Cardinal Gasparri conceived of one Codex Ecclesiae Universalis, in which the characteristic discipline of the Eastern Churches would be duly considered. However, in an audience (March 1, 1930) that ultimately determined the route the Eastern codification would take, Pius XI replied that the Eastern Churches were to have a separate code. This was to remove any suspicion of Latinization and avoid the impression of imposing Latin discipline on the Easterners, who were to make their own norms even though they could draw upon the 1917 Latin code as a kind of exemplar. The Commission worked six years to produce eight schemata that were submitted to Eastern hierarchs as well as other consultative bodies for their observations.

Following the death of Cardinal Gasparri, Pius XI established (July 17, 1935) the Pontifical Commission for the Redaction of the "Code of Eastern Canon Law," under the presidency of Cardinal Aloysius Sincero. By placing the title "Code of Eastern Canon Law" (CICO) in quotes, the pope meant to indicate it as the best choice until a better title could be found. The Redaction Commission was to determine, on the basis of the schemata and the observations made regarding them, the actual text of the Eastern canons. More than twelve years later, in January of 1948, the Redaction Commission presented to Pius XII, himself a former member of the same Commission, the draft of CICO. Composed of 2,666 canons and divided into 24 titles, like other collections of a genuine Eastern tradition, CICO nevertheless was modeled to a great extent upon the 1917 Latin code. From 194957, three-fifths of these canons (ten titles) were promulgated in the form of motu proprios: Crebrae allatae (Act ApS 41:89119) dealt with marriage law; Sollicitudinem nostram (Act ApS 42:5120) outlined procedural law; Postquam apostolicis litteris (Act ApS 44:65150) concerned religious life, temporal goods and the definition of terms; and Cleri sanctitati (Act ApS 49:433603) treated interritual questions and set norms governing physical and moral persons. With the death of Pius XII and the subsequent convocation of Vatican II by John XXIII, the other 1095 canons (14 titles), though ready for promulgation, remained in the archives of the Redaction Commission.

On Jan. 25, 1959, John XXIII not only convoked Vatican II but also called for the canonical discipline of the Church to be updated. It soon became clear that this revision was necessary in the Latin as well as the Eastern Catholic Churches. Before a project was undertaken to revise the Eastern legislation, Vatican II promulgated (Nov. 21, 1964) Orientalium ecclesiarum, which already introduced changes in the relatively new, but incomplete, CICO.

Preparation. On June 10, 1972, Paul VI established the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Eastern Canon Law (PCCICOR), composed of members and consultors appointed from both the Eastern and Latin Churches. Eastern non-Catholics were also invited to collaborate in the revision as observers. The task of PCCICOR was to prepare, especially in the light of the decrees of Vatican II, a reform of CICO, with respect to those parts already promulgated in four motu proprios as well as the parts that remained unpublished. The proceedings of PCCICOR (197290) are reported in its official organ Nuntia, which, though indispensable for tracing the legislative history of CCEO canons, does not presume to be exhaustive. The more detailed minutes of PCCICOR and other unpublished material are now with the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.

For the work of reform, the consultors were divided into ten study groups (coetus ) that were to follow a series of Guidelines for the Revision of the Code of Eastern Canon Law (Nuntia 3:1824), approved by PCCICOR at its First Plenary Assembly (March 1823, 1974). Apart from the Coetus Centralis, which oversaw the work and harmonized the overall formulation of the canons, each of the study groups drafted a schema of canons with respect to a particular subject matter that would be treated by the new Eastern code. Eight schemas were subsequently produced and sent to consultative bodies for their observations. Special study groups then considered and responded to these observations by way of a denua recognitio (further review). By the beginning of 1984, PCCICOR set up the Coetus de coordinatione to carry out "a systematic co-ordination of all the schemas of the future Code of Eastern Canon Law" (Nuntia 21:66). The 1986 Schema of the Code of Eastern Canon Law (SCICO) that followed was also sent to PCCICOR members for their suggestions and proposals. These proposals were considered and answered by the Coetus de expensione observationum, constituted by PCCICOR specifically for that purpose (Nuntia 28). At working sessions of the Second Plenary Assembly of PCCICOR (Nov. 314, 1988), members again examined the entire SCICO before voting favorably on each of its thirty titles. Once the changes approved by PCCICOR were made to SCICO and its text further improved, the Schema novissimum was presented to John Paul II on Jan. 28, 1989. After the Holy Father reviewed the Schema novissimum, some final changes were made to the canons before promulgation (Nuntia 31:3745).

Title and Scope. Although Pius XI had intended the title "Code of Eastern Canon Law" to be temporary, more than fifty years passed before the title "Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches" was chosen (Nov. 9,1988) for the Eastern codification. When the Second Plenary Assembly of PCCICOR debated the choice, it was pointed out that Cardinal Sincero, President of the Redaction Commission, had proposed substantially the same title since it conformed more with Eastern canonical collections and reflected the esteem in which the sacred canons were held. PCCICOR also chose CCEO over CICO to avoid giving the impression that the Eastern code was of lower rank or simply an appendix to the Latin CIC (cf. Nuntia 29:3034).

CCEO canon 1 indicates that the Eastern code generally affects all and only the Eastern Catholic Churches. This explains why John Paul II promulgated CCEO alone, since he is the only hierarch who could promulgate laws common to all twenty-one Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris. Besides CCEO, the "common law" (cf. c.1493) of these Churches is found in the laws common to the entire Church (e.g. Pastor bonus ). CCEO does not legislate regarding the Roman curia nor are its dicasteries ever mentioned. In a broad application of the guideline of subsidiarity approved by PCCICOR, CCEO has left the making of particular law to the Churches sui iuris. This explains in part why CCEO (1546 canons) has fewer canons than CIC (1752 canons), which contains more detailed, particular law regarding the Latin Church.

Contents. Unlike CIC, which is divided into five books, CCEO is composed of thirty titles in accord with Eastern canonical tradition. Although certain CCEO titles are substantially similar to parallel areas in CIC, they are not always identical. For example, among the corresponding norms regarding lay persons, CCEO recognizes three categories of the Christian faithful by defining the secular state of lay persons as distinct from those in holy order or those who are religious (cf. 399). When compared to CIC, other CCEO titles are significantly different or even unique. While CIC texts served as references for the formulation of some CCEO norms, it cannot be said that CCEO is merely a copy of CIC with some terminological or other minor adjustments made to reflect the different structure of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Substantially similar to CIC are the following CCEO titles: Preliminary canons (cc. 16); I The Rights and Obligations of all the Christian Faithful (cc. 726); III The Supreme Authority of the Church (cc. 4254); XI Lay Persons (cc. 399409); XIX Persons and Juridic Acts (cc. 909935); XX Offices (cc. 936978); XXI The Power of Governance (cc. 979995); XXIII The Temporal Goods of the Church (cc. 10071054); XXIV Trials in General (cc. 10551184); XXV The Contentious Trial (cc. 11851356); XXVI Certain Special Processes (cc. 13571400); XXIX Law, Custom and Administrative Acts (cc. 14881539); XXX Prescription and the Computation of Time (cc. 15401546).

Significantly different or even unique CCEO titles are: II Churches sui iuris and Rites (cc. 2741), containing definitions for both "Church sui iuris " and "rite" (cc. 2728) and more developed and detailed norms regarding ascription to these Churches (cc. 2938); IV Patriarchal Churches (cc. 55150): CCEO recognizes in the patriarchal, major archiepiscopal and metropolitan Churches sui iuris an intermediate level (between the local bishop and the bishop of Rome) of Church hierarchy and attributes to the patriarchal Churches, within their territories, the highest degree of autonomy in self-government (cf. cc. 78 and 110); V Major Archiepiscopal Churches (cc. 151154), to which the norms on patriarchal Churches generally apply (cf. c. 152); VI Metropolitan Churches and Other Churches Sui Iuris (cc. 155176), which have relatively less autonomy; VII Eparchies and Bishops (cc. 177310), in which norms are established for the election of bishops in the patriarchal Churches (cc. 181187 §1); VIII Exarchies and Exarchs (cc. 311321); IX Assemblies of Hierarchs of Several Churches Sui Iuris (c. 322), constituting a separate title, are comparable to Latin episcopal conferences; X Clerics (cc. 323398), where it is affirmed that the state of married clerics, sanctioned by the early Church and the Eastern Churches, "is to be held in honor" (cf. c. 373); XII Monks and Other Religious and Members of Other Institutes of Consecrated Life (cc. 410572), in which CCEO highlights the monastic life and intends to foster consecrated life in general by recognizing it in six institutional (monasteries, orders, congregations, societies of common life, secular institutes, and ascetic institutes) and three individual (virgins, widows and ascetics) forms; XIII Associations of the Christian Faithful (cc. 573583); XIV Evangelization of Peoples (cc. 584594); XV The Ecclesiastical Magisterium (cc. 595666); XVI Divine Worship and Especially the Sacraments (cc. 667895), containing characteristic CCEO norms on marriage that will affect its validity: canonical form, which requires the intervention of a priest assisting and blessing (c. 828 §2), can only be dispensed by the Roman Apostolic See or the patriarch in his territory (c. 835); marriages based on a condition cannot be celebrated (c. 826); and, regarding impediments, abduction refers to women or men (c. 806), affinity also applies in the collateral line to the second degree (c. 809 §1), public propriety arises from attempted civil marriages (c. 810, 3°), and the impediment of spiritual relationship has been retained in CCEO (c. 811); XVII Baptized Non-Catholics Coming into Full Communion with the Catholic Church (cc. 896901), unique to CCEO; XVIII Ecumenism or Fostering the Unity of Christians (cc. 902908), which, unlike the one CIC canon 755, represents a distinct title and theme that belong by nature to CCEO; XXII Recourses against Administrative Decrees (cc. 9961006); XXVII Penal Sanctions in the Church (cc. 14011467), where CCEO, applying an approved PCCICOR guideline, has abolished latae sententiae penalties because they do not correspond to genuine Eastern traditions and constitute no real deterrent; XXVIII Procedure for Imposing Penalties (cc. 14681487), in which CCEO, having abolished latae sententiae penalties, establishes as a general rule (c.1402) that a canonical penalty must be imposed by a penal trial (ferendae sententiae penalties).

Relationship to CIC. When John Paul II presented the Eastern code to the universal Church, he implied the interrelationship of CCEO and CIC by referring to them as integral parts of one Corpus Iuris Canonici. In fact, this interrelationship is codified in CCEO canon 1, which states that Eastern canons also affect the Latin Church where it is expressly (explicitly/implicitly) established. There are nine CCEO canons (37; 41; 207; 322 §1; 432; 696 §§12; 830 §1; 916 §5; and 1465) which explicitly regard the Latin Church. Implicit references to the Latin Church arise in CCEO, for example, due to the use of the expression "Church sui iuris," since the Latin Church is also one (cf. CIC c. 111 §2). Although this expression appears 243 times in CCEO, its scope must be examined in each case to determine whether or not it means to include the Latin Church, given that the legislator has made one set of laws for the Latin Church and a different one for the Eastern Churches. While the reference to Church sui iuris in CCEO undoubtedly intends only the major archi-episcopal (c. 151), metropolitan (c. 155) or other Eastern Churches (c. 174) sui iuris, the same expression includes the Latin Church where CCEO refers to the establishment of a common: clerical formation program (c. 330 §2), catechetical commission (c. 622 §1), or ecclesiastical tribunal (c. 1068 §1). CCEO norms may also implicitly concern the Latin Church because of the nature of the matter (ex natura rei ). These cases may involve the different CCEO marriage norms (mentioned above) in the context of interecclesial marriages, the Eastern canons (2938) regarding ascription and transfer to a Church sui iuris, or norms also to be considered when admitting Eastern faithful to the novitiate of a Latin religious institute (cf. CCEO cc. 40 §2; 452).

Another example of the interrelationship of CCEO and CIC is that parallel passages of one or other of the codes can serve as an interpretative resource in resolving ambiguities in the other. However, as both CCEO canon 1499 and CIC canon 17 indicate, parallel passages are only one such resource to be considered along with the purpose and circumstances of the law as well as the mind of the legislator. Nor can parallel passages of one code simply be regarded as supplementary law to the other since the legislator has promulgated two distinct codes. Moreover, when parallel passages are compared, they are also to be assessed in accord with the canonical sources from which they have come (CCEO c. 2; CIC c. 6 §2). Most importantly, such interpretative recourse can in no way condition the power of the legislator to interpret laws authentically (CCEO c. 1498; CIC c. 16).

A further interrelationship of the codes is established by CIC canon 19, but not by the parallel CCEO canon 1501. The Latin canon states that individual cases involving a lacuna in the law (except penal law) are to be decided having considered, among other things, laws made in similar circumstances. Therefore, where CCEO contains laws to govern similar matters treated in CIC, the Eastern norms can serve to fill gaps in the Latin law. Since the legislator promulgated CCEO nearly eight years after CIC, it may well be that he had certain lacunae in CIC in mind when enacting CCEO. However, the interpretative principle established by CIC canon 19 can only be invoked in individual cases since the legislator alone has the authority to intervene and remedy such legislative gaps definitively.

CCEO can also serve as supplementary law to CIC if the legislator has expressly provided for such a possibility. When Latin Catholics agree to trial by arbitration, for example, CIC canon 1714 allows them to choose the procedural norms to be followed. Since CCEO canons 11681184 provide detailed rules in this regard, the Latin faithful may opt to follow these characteristic Eastern norms to avoid a trial.

Although CCEO and CIC are not so separate and distinct as to be unrelated, giving final definition to their interrelationship as integral parts of the one Corpus Iuris Canonici of the universal Church is a future task for canonists. Subject to the authority of the legislator, canonical science will need further to articulate and define the ways in which the interrelationship of the codes in the one Corpus has been established while, at the same time, respecting the integrity of each code and, in turn, the entire body of law. Within the perspective of the varietas Ecclesiarum (variety of Churches) that make up the one Catholic Church, such investigation will be vital if CCEO and CIC are truly to form and animate the one body of canon law of the universal Church.

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[j. abbas]

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