Not only inefficiency, but frustration, disorder, anger, and injustice threaten all human endeavors, no matter how pure their motives or high their ideals. That’s why successful organizations always create employee handbooks and clear procedure manuals that delineate where authority lies, how conflicts are to be resolved, and, above all, how each organization’s mission is (and is not) to be accomplished.
Is it any wonder then that the Catholic Church—comprised not of 200 persons but 1.2 billion members in 200 countries—also governs itself by means of a handbook, which it calls the Code of Canon Law?
Because handbooks and manuals concern themselves with the day-to-day inner working of organizations, they often reveal more than do news releases about the actual purposes and genuine spirit of organizations: a fact that’s particularly true in the case of the Catholic Church.
Indeed, if you want to know the Church for who She is, you need to be familiar with the Code of Canon Law. Unfortunately, it contains over 1,752 rules (or canons). Among them, you’ll find fascinating canons that lay out the Church’s official principles and procedures governing matters as various as abbots and annulments, scandals and Sacraments, monks and missions, bishops and books, priests and popes, synods and sacraments, homeschoolers, hostile witnesses, baptisms, burials, parishes, penance, confessions, Councils, impotence, imprimaturs, and, even marriages to the person who murdered your spouse!
Thankfully, Vatican expert and veteran author Fr. Laurence Spiteri has in the pages of Canon Law Explained relieved you of the need to read all 1,752 of them (fascinating or not). Here he acquaints you with the fundamental canons by which the Church seeks to bring about, as it declares in the very last canon, the purpose all of them serve: “The salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church.”
Fr. Spiteri’s brief, but lucid explanations of the origins and meaning of the canons make sense of much that puzzles non-Catholics about our Church and that sometimes frustrates even us Catholics. As he relates the Church’s laws and procedures directly to Christ’s command “to go forth and teach all nations”—and to the role those laws and procedures play in your salvation and mine—Fr. Spiteri transforms what seem to be dry-as-dust rules into the sweet waters of salvation.
If you want to know the Church for who She is—and to love Her more—Canon Law Explained is the book for you.
Among the things you’ll learn in the pages of Canon Law Explained:
Who’s in charge here? Your pastor, your bishop? The Synod? Ecumenical Councils? The Pope? It’s not as simple as you think
When Church authorities must consult you (and when they are free to act on their own)
The Biblical justification for Diocesan Marriage Tribunals (Yes, there is one!)
The strict limits on the authority of priests and bishops, even within their own jurisdictions
Why only ministers may preach
Baptized non-Catholics: why the Church has authority over their marriages, too
How money must be handled in the Church
You rights – and your duties – as a Catholic (can you list any of them?)
The many and often curious impediments to a valid marriage (including murdering your spouse to marry someone else!)
The vital role of the Vicar General (Do you know who yours is and what he does?)
Who will choose your next bishop (and how it will be done)
The rule limiting absences of bishops from their dioceses (and how violators are punished) USCCB, NCCB, Synods, Councils, Deaneries: what they are, what they do
What missionaries can do – and what Canon Law strictly forbids them to do – in winning souls for Christ
Your local bishop’s obligations to (yes!) the entire world
Why Canon Law rightly creates a Church that is simultaneously hierarchical and communal (No wonder we get frustrated sometimes!)
Ecumenism: How Canon Law requires it (but imposes strict limits on it, too)
The Sacraments: when they’re valid, and when they’re not
Why the Church is less strict about Baptism than about any other Sacrament
The rights of catechumens – and their duties
Marriage: Did you know that Church law specifically guards everyone’s natural right to it?
Priestless parishes: who can do what in them
Valid marriages that the Church can dissolve (Did you know there are some?)
Theologians and bishops: how Canon Law deliberately promotes (a usually fruitful) tension between them
Church trials: why they are necessary, and why over 100 canons govern them
Censorship: yep, it’s still a right – and a duty – of your local bishop (Canon Law tells why)
The five kinds of publications that still require an imprimatur
Is this marriage valid or not? How the Church decides (It’s not simple, quick, or easy)
Plus background information and explanations to show you how these rules and procedures came about and the wisdom of the Church in adopting them
Cardinal Justin Rigali photo
“Monsignor Laurence J. Spiteri offers to the laity of the Church a useful guide to help them understand and appreciate Canon Law and its relationship to their daily lives.”
Cardinal Justin Rigali
Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia
Cardinal Raffaele Farina photo
“Anyone who is interested in knowing more about Church Law will find this publication to be a very handy tool to enrich and deepen one’s understanding of how canon law is ultimately at the service of the caring of souls.”
Cardinal Raffaele Farina
Vatican Archivist and Cardinal-Librarian Emeritus