Time (in Canon Law)

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Time plays a prominent part in the legislation of the Church, not only in liturgical matters, such as the determination of Easter, but also in the disciplinary laws. Time is nowhere the efficient cause of rights, but it is often the medium through which rights are acquired or lost. In certain cases time affects the validity of an act. If, for instance, the age prescribed for admission to the novitiate (CIC c. 643 §1, 1°; CCEO cc. 450, 4° and 517 §1), for religious profession (CIC c. 656, 1°; cf. CCEO cc. 464, 1° and 527, 1°) or for matrimony (CIC c. 1083 §1; CCEOc. 800 §1), has not been reached, these acts are ipso facto null and void.

Before the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law there were no general norms for the reckoning of time; the matter was never treated under one heading by the authors. Commentators were not agreed upon the course to follow even when a single question was considered. One principle, however, seems to have guided the authors in the reckoning of time; to restrict odious things and amplify favorable things. This followed the rule of law, "Odia restringi, et favores convenit ampliari."

Available time (tempus utile ) could be considered exceptional. Time is of its nature continuous, but available time does not run if one was ignorant of his rights or was unable to act within the determined time period (CIC c. 201 §2; CCEO c. 1544 §2).

The law defines the length of the various time units in common use. In the course of time these units have varied in length. Thus, day was once opposed to night and lasted about 12 hours. Now the day is made up of 24 hours reckoned continuously from midnight to midnight. The week is made up of seven days. The month and the year are made up respectively of 30 and 365 days unless these units are taken as they are in a specific calendar (CIC c. 202 §1; CCEO c. 1545 §1).

Bibliography: c. calÀ, Tractatus absolutissimus de feriis, solennibus, repentinis, et indictis (Naples 1675). a. j. dubÉ, The General Principles for the Reckoning of Time in Canon Law (Washington 1941). j. lacau, De tempore, dissertatio philosophico-scientificio-iuridica (Turin 1921). g. michiels, Normae generales juris canonici. Commentarius libri I. Codex iuris canonici, 2v. (2d ed. Paris-Tournai-Rome 1955) 2:221278. a. van hove, Commentarium Lovaniense in Codicem iuris canonici 1, v.15 (Mechlin 1928); v.1, Prolegomena (2d ed. 1945) 1.3. p. w. wilson, The Romance of the Calendar (New York 1937).

[a. j. dube]