Recently I noticed, while reviewing suggested edits, that there is a bit of disagreement on how to use the tag . It currently has a number of different types of questions in it. Some are directly about the nature and use of canon law, like:

Others request that canon law be used as a source in any answers, like:

While others simply ask about Catholic views on a subject, like:

The guidance on isn't very specific – it just says:

Laws and regulations made by Church leadership for the government of a church and its members.

What kinds of questions should have this tag?

  • 1
    I would think only the first category. The question should be explicit about needing an answer from canon law.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Sep 22, 2018 at 22:45
  • 2
    Which canon would also be important, so I see this more as a secondary tag that would also need to be clearly tagged either as seeking a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox perspective (since we do not share the same body/canon of laws - nor the same approach/interpretation to/of such laws).
    – Dan
    Sep 30, 2018 at 20:10

2 Answers 2


I think questions about Canon Law should be about Canon Law and not just be tagged so because they're about Natural or Divine Law.

I didn't get much support in saying that we should completely eschew Canon Law in our answers unless we're licensed Canon Lawyers, but I'm still of the mind that answers are best when sourced in the Catechism and worst when sourced in Canon Law.

I'll grant that some of the Canon Law documents seem blindingly obvious to a lay person, but priests I've heard on the radio say real Canon Lawyers will talk circles around whatever is in there so it might not always be obvious without a real understanding of how the law is applied.

So, I truly think the only questions that should have should be the questions about Canon Law (which ought to be very few) and not questions where the answer might be contained in Canon Law, but would be more accessible if contained in the Catechism.

  • What does this mean in terms of the categories in the question? (Note that the second question is not really about moral or sin, but about licit marriages.)
    – K-HB
    Sep 24, 2018 at 17:30
  • @k-HB there probably is a problem with that second question being three distinct questions. It's sometimes OK to ask a question and an immediate follow up inside one question, but "is it a sin?" does not follow from "what does canon-law say about?", they're distinct. I'd think a person adept in ecclesial law might not decide to delve into Canon Law if it wasn't appropriate to the question. I think that question probably would be improved if it were merely focused on Canon Law, but that's not something we edit into a question, it needs to be rousted out of the person asking the question.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Sep 24, 2018 at 17:42
  • I agree that this question is not well focused. But my question stays: Would you give it the canon-law tag, if it would omit the moral part?
    – K-HB
    Sep 24, 2018 at 17:49
  • 3
    +1 for only applying the tag to questions about cannon law that could not be answered in the scope of the question without it. Whether answers choose to source a catechism, canon law, or other sources should be irrelevant. That is up to answerers and shouldn't affect tags on the question.
    – Caleb
    Sep 24, 2018 at 18:09
  • @K-HB, I would not re-tag unless I thought the tag was forgotten. Not because the tag covers a portion of the possible answers. (Even though I do see a practical use in that dichotomy)
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Sep 24, 2018 at 18:42
  • What level of reliability or (in)fallibility do Catholics ascribe to their Canon Law? If the Catholic Church's own canon lawyers can talk circles around each other that doesn't sound very reliable. Why is it even an occupation which needs thousands of lawyers?
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Sep 25, 2018 at 2:23
  • @curiousdannii I don't think one would consider it a "source of Catholic teaching" so it's not doctrine or dogma. Here's the list of the 5 levels of teaching in the Church, seems to me like Canon Law fits in best at level 4 or 5. I think the reason for all the lawyers is thousands of nuances which you can see evidence of here by the multiplicity of questions, mainly about marriage and stuff like that.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Sep 25, 2018 at 13:20
  • @curiousdanii The canon law ist at first law and not theology. So the most statements found there are organisational rules. That part can be easily changed and does ot have to be the best solution to the problems of the church. When the canon law makes doctrinal statements (e.g. about validitly of sacraments), it does this as a summary of doctrine (approved by the Pope). In this way it is similar to the catechism wich is also only a summary of teachings (approved by the Pope). So it is fallible but may cite or paraphrase infallible teachings.
    – K-HB
    Sep 25, 2018 at 14:01
  • .... @curiosdanii As a summary the canon law may serve as a reference for catholic teachings which are important in the practice of the church. For questions about some details of canon law it is per definitionem infallible. In the same way as the US Constitution is infallible for matters of US governmantal structure.
    – K-HB
    Sep 25, 2018 at 14:06

At first I thought "The canon-law tag should be attached to every question which can be validly asked a canon law student in a examen (or for research)." and I added tags to many questions.

Now I thought a bit about this and think the situation is more complicated. There are questions that can answered both out of a canon-law point of view and a theological/dogmatic point of view. These answers may differ, so I think the OP should clarify which answers he wants.

Take an example. In the question What is seen to actually occur if a female were to be the subject of laying on of the hands in ordination? there are two answers. One cites a theological Letter of Pope John Paul II. One cites the CIC. Both come to same answer. This will occur often as the head of the magisterium of the church is the Pope who also gives the laws of the chruch. So canon law is the practical side of the teaching of the church. But to this question a third answer could be added using the theological point of view. Not all Catholic theologicans agree with the Pope in that teaching and there is again a debate, if the cited letter is states a dogma and is infallible. And if one comes to the conclusion that it is no dogma and the canon law could be altered, there is the question wether women ordinations before that really were invalid (as canon law says) or only illicit (canon law is not infallible).

So we see there can be different answers to a question if you just take the canon law for granted or if question it critically from a dogmatic point of view. So OP should say what he wants.

I think the best solution is to use the canon-law tag when a question is about the nature of canon law (1) or explicitly asks about an answer out of canon law perspective (2). The tag should not be used if only Catholic views (3) or explicitly theological answers are requested. In case 3 answering with canon law is fine too (Should Catholic answers cite canon law?), but may not be the best way to answer the question. In cases 1 and 2 answers not using canon law do not fit to the question.

  • I think it's OK for two answers to approach a general Catholic question from two completely different valid perspectives. Unless someone asks "What do Thomists say about...", then you should be able to answer with GK Chesterton quotes, Encyclicals or the Catechism, whatever you think answers the question and helps the person asking most.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Sep 24, 2018 at 17:46
  • 1
    I agree. But if someone writes: "I want a canon-law answer." The question should get the canon-law tag and a only canon-law answers will help. The same holds, if the whole matter of the question is some ruling of canon law.
    – K-HB
    Sep 24, 2018 at 17:54
  • Ahem... Eastern Orthodox Christians also have canon law.
    – Dan
    Sep 30, 2018 at 20:12
  • @Dan Correct, but most questions with canon-law tag are about Catholicism. And I think what I wrote can be easily applied also to the Orthodox Churches.
    – K-HB
    Oct 1, 2018 at 10:04

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