Notary (Canon Law)

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A notary can be defined as a person legitimately constituted by ecclesiastical authority to authenticate by his or her signature ecclesiastical documents. The function of notary has its roots in the notarius who took notes to aid the public scribes (tabelliones ) in drawing up documents, and in the tabularius, who took notes and kept the records of court proceedings in Roman law. This latter official can be found fulfilling the same function in the Church of the 5th century, and by the 12th century he had acquired the name "notary" and the right to authenticate public documents with his signature. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) prescribed that every ecclesiastical court must have a notary.

Canon Law uses "notary" as a general term [Codex iuris canonici (Graz 1955) cc. 483, 484; Codex canonum ecclesiarium orientalium, cc. 253, 254] and "chancellor" as a specific type of notary [Codex iuris canonici (Graz 1955) cc. 482, 483; Codex canonum ecclesiarium orientalium, cc. 252, 253]. [see chancellor, diocesan (eparchial).]

The general duties of a notary are as follows: to draft acts or documents regarding decrees, dispositions, obligations, or other things requiring their action; to record what has taken place, and to sign this record; to give access to records to those who legitimately request them; and to declare copies of documents to be in conformity with the originals [Codex iuris canonici (Graz 1955) c. 484; Codex canonum ecclesiarium orientalium, c. 254].

The power of the notary may be extended to include the authentication of all ecclesiastical acts, or limited to judicial or processual documents only or to specified acts or occasions. The notary's duties are further limited to the territory in which the one appointing has jurisdiction. Lay persons may be appointed, but in matters involving the reputation of a cleric, the notary should be a priest. Although it is not required by law, knowledge of canon law is obviously of great value. Notaries can be freely removed from office by the diocesan bishop [Codex iuris canonici (Graz 1955) c. 485; Codex canonum ecclesiarium orientalium, c. 255].

Bibliography: r. naz, Dictionnaire de droit canonique, ed. r. naz, 7 v. (Paris 193565) 6:101520. g. barraclough, Public Notaries and the Papal Curia (London 1934). j. c. brown, "The Origin and Early History of the Office of Notary," Juridical Review 47 (1935) 201240, 355417. c. j. duerr, The Judicial Notary [Catholic University of America Canon Law Studies ] 312; 1951.

[c. j. duerr]