I heartily don't think we should and this is why:

  1. the Catechism is a sure norm for teaching the faith. The Catechism has thousands of citations, and only 28 of them are from canon law.

  2. It makes answers seem legalistic instead of doctrinal (or at the last friendly). It shows a one-dimensional view of Catholicism, which nearly no one maintains.

  3. It often "cause jumps" to solve a persons problem by making assumptions

  4. It is not a "sure norm" for teaching the faith like the Catechism is. The Catholic Church herself probably doesn't want us to use it without the proper faculties.

  5. No one teaches or learns Canon law until graduate studies. AFAIK few priests even know a whole lot about it.

  6. It is too easy to search and find an answer in it. There are thousands of better older off-line sources. It is a lazy way to get a primary source.

  7. It should not be the go to answer to "What does the Catholic Church say about X", that should be Magesterial Teaching, Tradition and Scripture (i.e. just because it's not linked on Vatican.va, doesn't mean it's not official)

  8. It almost always must be prefixed with, I'm not a canon lawyer but... which instantly removes credibility from the answer.

  • From the answers I read, most cite the Catechism already and not necessarily the Canon.
    – user3961
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 21:32
  • @fred I was looking at this and thinking, how does this help anyone.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 21:35
  • I think it does answer the question. If something does exist in the catechism or even if a revered Catholic (i.e. some Pope or theologian) has talked about it, then that would make a great answer, in my opinion. This has always been encouraged. People tending to quote Canon law only are, frankly, just lazy in their answering, or at least have a one dimensional view of Catholicism.
    – user3961
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 21:42
  • 1
    A question like "Do Catholics believe they're eating the literal body of Christ?" can be well answered from, e.g., the Catechism. A question like "Can my friend the ex-priest [sic] hear my confession?" can't. Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


Depends on the question. To answer a question like "Can this person marry that person", or "Can a laicized priest hear my confession?" you have to go to Canon Law, because there's nowhere else to go to answer. But even then a supporting quote from the Catechism is an improvement.

Contrariwise, questions like "What arguments do Catholics make in favor of infant baptism?" are best argued from theological sources like the Catechism. Even there, however, the Code of Canon Law may have something illuminating to add. Since canon law is ultimately based on Catholic theology, there are bits and pieces of theological wisdom in among the purely legal sayings.

Finally, though it is true that most Catholics, even many priests, don't know a great deal about, it is something I think Catholics would benefit from being more familiar with; and certainly a site like ours that wants to be able to give expert answers should allow whatever source is necessary to give the most complete and correct answer.

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