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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Canon Law and Grad School

This morning while sitting in class, I was becoming more and more excited.

Canon Law is significantly different than American Secular Law (Civil and Criminal) but it inherently makes more sense, for two reasons: it focuses on the individual (i.e. NOT the "State"), and all cases are interpreted according to the Law itself. A "strict" interpretation means that it's not interpreted broadly, for often a broad interpretation removes freedom.

I wish I could go into great depth, but I can' notes are back in the classroom as I left my notebook there for tomorrow's class, so I can't remember the exact Canons, and I'm afraid to define important terms as I don't want to make errors.


I know that some of my blog followers, and some of my real-life friends are homeschoolers, and may be interested in this:

One of the discussions that came up in class regarded Homeschooling. For example, CAN. 798 states, "Parents are to entrust their children to those schools which provide a Catholic education."

Yes, that's true. If that were given a broad interpretation, one could surmise that it means Catholics must enroll their children in Catholic school (if they have the means). However, look at the actual wording, i.e. a strict interpretation:

Nowhere is the term "Catholic School" used. A Catholic parent, therefore, who is homeschooling AND providing a Catholic education is fulfilling their duties and also fulfills CAN. 793 Section 1: "Parents and those who take their place are bound by the obligation and possess the right of educating their offspring. Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances."

There have been those who argue that homeschooling parents are acting in a manner contrary to the Magisterium. However, CAN. 18 (which is one I've been told to memorize) states, "Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are subject to strict interpretation."

Basically, what that means is this; you WANT your case to be judged according to the letter of the law. It's personal. It's about you. It means that one can't look at it as one looks at secular law and apply all kinds of things that aren't there. What do the words actually say? If a penalty, it means that it can't be broadened beyond what it says to indicate a greater penalty or make sure you receive a certain penalty. If it restricts a right, it means that it can't be interpreted broadly in order to remove your rights.

This is a good thing. It's fair. It's not relative to someone else or some other precedent (which is often detrimental in secular law).

Secular Law does interpret the laws broadly. In criminal law, the prosecutor argues for whatever is beneficial, the defender argues for whatever is beneficial, and both rely not on the law itself, but prior precedent! It's NOT fair. Not in the least! No matter what they tell you in school!

Our American system of law is based on bad philosophy (ie John Locke, among others), and it departed from its origins. The Roman system recognized people as individuals, and as such, they would be amazed at our current system; that the State is the "victim", not the Person.

Canon Law has been in effect for 2,000 years, is the longest-standing system of law in existence.(it has changed but the principles have remained the same and it's been consistent), whereas we're watching our own American legal system both explode and implode at the same time.

I know that some attorneys read my blog even on a semi-regular basis, and I'd be interested in your input, if you don't mind, or your own posts on this matter.

At this point, I've forgotten a great deal (i.e. MOST!)of what I learned while obtaining my Criminal Justice degree, and I'm only beginning in Canon Law. But I can't help but be excited...this is Law that makes sense. This kind of law doesn't deny the person, and this kind of law isn't relative to whatever happens to be popular for the moment. It hasn't imploded, and it won't....ever. Because human nature doesn't change. Culture does, and culture is relative. Humanity isn't EVER relative.

Now, don't go suggesting I become a Canon Lawyer...I'm only hoping to get through the next weekend! ALL of us in class are excited by our Professor (for his enthusiasm and engaging style), and I honestly felt like I was back in my Criminal Law class, reading the laws and answering scenarios in which to apply the law. I was at home.

In the beginning of class, the professor asked if there were any attorneys present.

No, I didn't raise my hand, because I'm not an attorney.

Yes, I've studied Law to a certain degree, I've worked with the Law in different capacities, but I don't think I'll be an asset to the Professor, who also holds a secular Law degree. I did tell him after class that I was excited, that his approach made me feel like I was back in Criminal Law, and, smiling, he told me that it's only going to get more exciting for us! Yay!

My goodness...this is even BETTER than Criminal Law, and even I thought this class would be dry!


Please don't start "arguing" with me; I'm not a Canon Lawyer, I'm only posting some basic info and how we're learning it, and as my professor said, I'm not doing this to "practice law". If you have real questions, find your local Canon Lawyer. In the coming weeks or even days, I may post info about common questions as we've covered them in class, but do NOT look at me as a resource...only a bottom-level student.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Your parish Priest is probably not a Canon Lawyer, either , so don't treat him like one. He has to call a C.L. for help on different things. Some C.L.'s are Priests, some are laymen and laywomen, some are Bishops, etc. Some questions are simple to answer by looking up the different Canons, some are more difficult and cross many categories. In my observation so far, most is common sense, although I now see why Common Sense isn't so common; because the legal system to which most of us are accustomed is not based on common sense.

Oh, and as Taxes are due soon, take a look at tax law if you have a complaint about the thickness of the Canon Law book.

Just sayin' Canon law is a heckuva lot less burdensome than the stuff we deal with every day in American society. Our European, Asian, South American, Central American, etc. friends can speak even more to that, probably...


Warren said...

I have nothing but admiration for what I've read out of the Canon law, nowadays, but my pre-Catholic self saw nothing but craziness in the desire to write out a set of laws for the governance of a Church.

What I've experienced in the marriage tribunal process, shows that incredible thought and deliberation has gone into it. Justice, mercy, and logic, are of paramount importance in the way the Church conducts her affairs.

Canon Law is the sum of the collective wisdom of twenty centuries of juridical and ecclesial experience, whose principles and precepts are are proper to the office of the Holy See in Rome, which received through Peter, the power of binding and loosing, for the protection and leadership of the whole Catholic church, which of course includes us, the laity.

I think it's cool that you get to study this stuff. I'm kind of jealous, really.


Adoro said...

Warren ~ I'm sure they take Canadaian students! Besides...if you want to come down for an open weekend, now that I have a roomate you can stay here or I'll see if I can find a male friend for you to stay with.

Seriously. Nothing improper! There are students from EVERYWHERE that commute monthly, and if that's worth it, it's worth it, and I'm happy to be a haven, even for a Canadian.


Really, this program is worth it. Look into it.

I may do a post on it soon..haven't for different reasons, but maybe it's time.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Your studies shall be interesting...I look forward to hearing about them. I've studied Canon Law on my own time (That's why I have the book)...Feel free to borrow this brain. Canon Law is awesome.

BretonHobbit said...

I worked for a canon lawyer for a couple of years, and I agree, it was very interesting! It surprised me, the kinds of things that came up every day in the office. I've heard it called "the dark side of the good news", but I actually enjoyed it. And learned more about my faith by working there. So best of luck with that class!!