Rules of Law (Regulae Iuris)
RULES OF LAW (REGULAE IURIS)
The rules of law are collections of general legal principles which, when properly used, assist in the interpretation and application of canon law. Canonical collections of regulae do not have the force of law in themselves, but rather offer succinct statements, each of which is a summary principle derived from a number of legal situations or cases. As tools for interpretation, these rules require proper application so as not to be misused. Thus, for example, a specific rule is applied within the context of similar laws, general principles of law, canonical equity and praxis, and learned opinions by experts in the law. For texts of the Regulae Iuris in the Liber Sextus and the Regulae Iuris in the Decretals of Gregory IX, see Gauthier.
History. Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303), to complement previous collections of legislation, ordered a new compilation that became known as the Liber Sextus and concluded with a collection of rules. He thus followed the example of Justinian who, in Corpus iuris civilis, Digesta 17 "de diversis regulis juris antiqui," collected no less than 2,025 rules.
Current scholarship holds that the famous jurist Dino Rosoni of Mugello (born in 1253, taught in Bologna and Rome and authored many works of law), while the author of the major commentary on the regulae, at the most only collaborated in their compilation (Stein). There are 88 rules, the number probably being symbolic; they cannot be classified into a systematic order, but rather give the impression of being mixed together. Many of them contain evident or almost evident principles and norms; some are of limited importance; quite a few, unless well interpreted, may lead to erroneous conclusions. Their main and most common source is Roman law, but some are exclusively from canon law and often of Scriptural origin. The following rules repeat the rules of the Corpus iuris civilis, Digesta almost to the letter: 17, 19, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30, 35, 36, 42, 45, 46, 48, 53, 59, 66, 74, 78, 80, 86.
Content. By dividing the rules according to subject, they may be classified into the following groups:
- 1. Rules with very general norms existing in some degree in any section of law
- a. On the total and the part: 35, 53, 80
- b. On possible and impossible things: 6, 41, 60, 66
- c. On accessory and principal matters: 39, 42, 81, 84
- d. On penalties and favors: the former to be mitigated—15, 22, 40; the latter to be restricted—28, 45, 74, 78
- e. On time and possession: 2, 18, 54
- f. On responsibility: 19, 27, 29, 48, 62, 76, 86
- g. On various subjects: 20, 31, 34, 37, 40, 55
- 2. Rules in which the personal element prevails
- a. On privileges: 6, 7, 16, 17, 28, 78
- b. On the qualities of persons, representation, succession: 9, 10, 14, 46, 67, 68, 72, 77, 79, 84
- 3. Rules regarding mostly things
- a. Possession: 1, 31, 36, 65
- b. Prescription: 2, 3
- c. Juridical acts in general: 21, 30, 33, 50, 57, 58, 59, 70, 73, 82, 83
- 4. Rules pertaining to trials and processes
- a. General duties of the judge: 12, 26, 31, 88
- b. Penal cases: 4, 5, 23, 24, 49
- c. Treatment of the plaintiff and defendant: 11, 20, 32, 38, 63, 71
Many of the rules are criticized as useless because they appear obvious, as numbers 35, 53, and 80; or because they are too elastic as 43, 44, 47, and 50 (the first two, 43 and 44, are a sort of guessing game). Others are dangerous because they allow too many exceptions, e.g., 8, 13, 18, 21, 29, 54, and 64.
Given the nature of the rules as abstract principles and, in addition, the particular character of a rule (for example reiterating the obvious or capable of leading to diverse conclusions), they require careful application to avoid misunderstanding.
Bibliography: e. roelker, "An Important Rule of Law," Jurist 17 (1957) 9–28; "Succession and Delegation in the Rules of Law," ibid. 403–428; "A Comparative Study of Ignorance in the Rules of Law and in the Code of Canon Law," Jurist 18 (1958) 128–148. a. reiffenstuel, Jus canonicum universium, 7 v. (Paris 1864–70) v.7. v. bartoccetti, De regulis juris canonici (Rome 1955). p. stein, Regulae Iuris: From Juristic Rules to Legal Maxims (Edinburgh 1966). a. gauthier, Roman Law and Its Contribution to the Development of Canon Law (Ottawa 1996).
r. j. kaslyn]