canon law


Definition of canon law

: the usually codified law governing a church

Examples of canon law in a Sentence

a marriage valid under Catholic canon law
Recent Examples on the Web He was ordained a priest in 1950 and obtained a doctorate in theology at the prestigious Pontifical Gregorian University and in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University, both in Rome. Frances D'emilio,, 28 May 2022 After a church is deconsecrated and made available for secular purposes and possible sale, canon law holds that all sacred relics and furnishings must be removed for use in other sacred edifices or stored in ecclesiastical custody. New York Times, 24 Dec. 2021 The pope is the successor of the Apostle Peter, the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Catholic Church on Earth, according to the church's in-house canon law. Nicole Winfield, Star Tribune, 6 July 2021 Many conservative-leaning U.S. bishops have simply allowed the Latin Masses to continue, and one, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., shared the text of his dispensation on a canon law listserv so other prelates could follow suit. Washington Post, 17 Sep. 2021 The criminal code of the Vatican City State is based on the 1889 Italian legal code as well as elements of the canon law of the universal Catholic Church. Nicole Winfield, Star Tribune, 3 July 2021 The changes deal specifically with church penal sanctions; other parts of canon law — the church’s vast set of ecclesiastical rules — remain unchanged. Washington Post, 1 June 2021 Defrocking a priest is among the most severe punishments in canon law. New York Times, 1 June 2021 If a pope’s condition is too deteriorated, his decision might not be accepted under the one requirement of canon law: that the choice be reached freely. Washington Post, 8 July 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'canon law.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of canon law

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of canon law was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

12 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Canon law.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

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canon law


Legal Definition of canon law

: a body of religious law governing the conduct of members of a particular faith especially : the codified church law of the Roman Catholic Church

Note: Common law has been influenced by canon law in the areas of marriage and inheritance. Roman Catholic canon law, like the civil law, has been modeled on ancient Roman law. The source for Roman Catholic canon law is the Code of Canon Law. The Rudder (Pedalion) is a source for Greek Orthodox canon law. Jewish canon law is contained in the Talmud.

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