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02 Sep 2015 Middle East - Africa News No comments

Bishop in Swaziland seeks prayer, reflection after country's deadly truck accident

The bishop of the small, southern African kingdom of Swaziland has called for prayer and reflection in response to a road accident that killed as many as 65 you…

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24 Nov 2014 Q&A Comments (7)

Is it possible for people of the same sex to marry each other?

Full Question Is it possible for people of the same sex to marry each other? Answer No. Gay (or homosexual) "marriage" is not really marriage at …

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23 Jul 2016 Articles No comments

How St. Catherine Brought the Pope Back to Rome

In the pantheon of great women in Church history, pride of place should be accorded the young mystic from Siena, St. Catherine, whose feast we celebrate today. …

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07 Oct 2016 News Comments (1)

Bishop urges Catholic schools to resist ‘ideology of gender’

But Bishop Davies said Catholics must welcome people who had difficulty identifying with their biological sex Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury has warned Catho…

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05 Sep 2015 News USA Comments (1)

Mother Teresa, and the Denver priest who was her kindred spirit

Mother Teresa visited Denver, Colo. twice in the 1980s. Both times, one of her biggest fans was tasked with picking her up from the airport. Father Charles B…

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01 Jul 2015 Articles Resources No comments

Chewed or brewed: A brief history of Popes and coca leaves

Pope Francis received a delegation of the International Council of Christians and Jews in audience on June 30 and said that the Second Vatican Council’s documen…

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30 Sep 2016 News No comments

Pope Francis sets off on three-day visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan

The visit shows improved ties between the Holy See and the two former Soviet republics Pope Francis has set off on a three-day visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan.…

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11 Jan 2016 Q&A Comments (1)

Do animals have souls like human beings?

Full Question Do animals have souls like human beings? Answer Animals have souls--and so do plants. Does this answer sound like something out o…

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23 Sep 2016 News Comments (1)

St. Padre Pio helps dying newborn miraculously recover after 25 DAYS on life support

Three-month-old Caitlin Dooley suffered from a life-threatening heart condition since the day she was born. Just when the Dooley family began to lose hope, St. …

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Where does the Church’s authority to change canon law come from?

Full Question

I understand the Code of Canon Law is a list of 2,000-plus laws of the Church. Are these laws subject to change over time? If so, where does the Church get the authority to change them?

Answer

The current Code of Canon Law (1983 ed.), released by Pope John Paul II, has 1,752 canons. The former canon (1917) was the one with over 2,000 canons (2,414, to be precise). These canons are rules related to the governance of the Church, and they are now divided into seven headings: general norms, the people of God, teaching mission of the Church, sanctifying mission of the Church, temporal goods of the Church, penal law, and procedural law.

Many of these laws are subject to change over time as the Church sees fit, while others are not. For example, the discipline of women wearing a veil at Mass was not retained in the newer code, and so the practice is not required. However, others things in the code, such as the doctrine expressed in canon 900 §1 (1983), cannot be changed over time. This canon states the doctrine that only a validly ordained priest can confect the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Like any other social and visible structure, the Church has norms to order the functions that have been entrusted to it. Just as the citizens of the state are to obey the speed limit, and a son is to listen to his mother’s rules, canon law is to be observed by members of the Church—which is both the kingdom and the family of God.

The Church gets her authority from Jesus to make these laws. He told the leaders of his Church, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:19, 18:18).

This language of “binding and loosing" was a Jewish phrase that was that meant forbidding and permitting. This pertained to the ability of scribes and Pharisees to establish rules of conduct for the faith community, and the good Jew was called by Christ to obey them (Matt. 23:3).

Since Jesus gave this authority to the leaders of his Church, they have authority to do such things as establish feast days and lay down laws for the good of the community.










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