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 Self-taught in canon law, Bishop Lennon eventually accumulated a personal library of more than 300 volumes on the subject., "“We mourn the passing of the Most Rev. Richard G. Lennon, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Cleveland,” Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston said Tuesday in a statement.," 31 Oct. 2019 To people who don’t worship at the altar of canon law, that might seem like an academic distinction., "Could the future of Catholicism be taking shape in this church basement? - The Boston Globe," 9 Oct. 2019 The penal code is based on the Italian criminal code with elements of canon law. Nicole Winfield, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Pope names anti-Mafia prosecutor to court as scandal swirls," 3 Oct. 2019 It would be conducted under the solemnity of canon law and held before the papal curia and Roman nobility. National Geographic, "In 897, the corpse of a pope was exhumed—to be put on trial.," 20 Aug. 2019 The church’s canon law often worked to protect the guilty priests and frustrate the rights of victims. San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego’s Catholic Bishop, D.A. urge ‘zero tolerance’ for sex abuse of minors," 13 Aug. 2019 Michael Budde, DePaul University professor of Catholic studies and political science, said the issue is rooted in the interpretation by some bishops of canon law — the rules and procedures that govern the church. Elvia Malagón,, "Catholic bishop in Springfield: No communion for Madigan, Cullerton for supporting 'abominable' Illinois abortion rights bill," 6 June 2019 The provisions to punish them criminally are now contained in the city state’s criminal code, and are separate from the canon law which also imposes canonical penalties, such as defrocking, for predator priests worldwide. Nicole Winfield, The Seattle Times, "Pope requires sex abuse claims be reported in Vatican City," 30 Mar. 2019 No beachside ceremonies or mountaintop nuptials: The code of canon law, straight from the Vatican, says that marriages performed by a priest are meant to be celebrated in the bride or groom’s parish church. Julie Zauzmer, Washington Post, "Catholics can get married outdoors in two places: In Montana, and now in Baltimore," 11 June 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of canon law

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about canon law

Time Traveler for canon law

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for canon law

Last Updated

27 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Canon law.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for canon law

canon law


English Language Learners Definition of canon law

: the laws of a religion

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on canon law

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with canon law Encyclopedia article about canon law

Comments on canon law

What made you want to look up canon law? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to help to grow, develop, or succeed

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!