1. Where canon lawyers are charged with

    advis[ing] people about how to exercise their rights [as Catholics] and to fulfill their obligations in accord with [canon] law

  2. and Canon Law is defined as

    operates in service to the Church that has supernatural responsibilities ... [and is] the legal expressions of Christ's will for his Church

  3. and yet, one does not need to be called to holy orders (be a priest) to be a canon lawyer

it is natural to question the moral, religious, and promissory obligations of canon lawyers.

  1. Moral - Must canon lawyers live in accord to canon law to licitly practice? If not, is there a lesser law by which they must live?
  2. Religious - Must canon lawyers be Catholics in good standing?
  3. Promissory - Must canon lawyers make an oath before being licensed? If yes, what does that oath include?

Source of quotes

  • Just as an interesting resource, you might also be interested in canonlawmadeeasy.com Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 15:29
  • I'm a reasonable person. Please tell me why you downvoted; I'll work to make the question better.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 20:42
  • 1
    I see nothing wrong with it. Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 20:46
  • Canon laywer Ed Peters has many excellent resources on his site: canonlaw.info
    – Geremia
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 8:19
  • @Geremia Thanks. That's the site I actually linked for my source. Perhaps I should scour the site a bit more and see what I can find.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 22:55

2 Answers 2


As stated in my answer to another question, the meaning of the term "canon lawyer" is not really clear. I will concentrate on the obligations for getting the correspondending academic degree (licenciate in canon law) and those for beeing an "advocate" in terms of the CIC. The advocates are those described by the first quote in the question.

licenciate in canon law

To get a licenciate in canon law you have to be enrolled at a ecclesiastical faculty. The essential requirements for this are defined in article 31 of the apostolic constitution Sapientia christiana (SC):

Art. 31. Facultates Ecclesiasticae omnibus patent, sive clericis sive laicis, qui, legitimo testimonio praediti, vitae moribus ac studiis praeviis idonei sint ut Facultati adscribantur.

Article 31. Ecclesiastical Faculties are open to all, whether ecclesiastics or laity, who can legally give testimony to leading a moral life and to having completed the previous studies appropriate to enrolling in the Faculty.

The phrase "ominibus [...], sive clericis sive laicis," ("all, whether ecclesiastics or laity,") clearly includes all Catholic but even all Christians (e.g. Protestants are laypeople). It is not clear, weather non-Christians are included or not. I guess they are included and "sive clericis sive laicis" only gives examples. In the new constitution Veritatis gaudium (VG), which was given on 8 December 2017 and will replace SC with the beginning of the 2018-2019 or 2019 academic year (article 88), the words ", sive clericis sive laicis," were obmitted in the new article 31 (the rest of the article stays the same).

The other questioned obligation is the moral one. The constitution says "qui, legitimo testimonio praediti, vitae moribus" ("who can legally give testimony to leading a moral life"). This testimony is defined by article 26 of the norms of application of VG (nearly identical for SC article 24):

Art. 26. § 1. Legitimum testimonium ad normam art. 31 Constitutionis: 1° de vitae moribus, pro clericis, sacrorum alumnis et personis consecratis datur a proprio Ordinario vel Hierarcha, Superiore vel ab eorum delegato; pro ceteris a quodam ecclesiastico;

Article 26. § 1. The legitimate documentation, mentioned in article 31 of the Constitution: 1. about the student’s moral life: for clergy, seminarians and Religious, this is to be given by their own Ordinary, Hierarch or Superior, or by one delegated by them; for all other persons, by some Church person;

So the student needs testimony about the his moral life "by some Church person". I do not know what exact requirements he have to meet.


The requirements for beeing the advocate of a party in a process is defined by can. 1484 CIC:

Can. 1483 The procurator and advocate must have attained the age of majority and be of good reputation; moreover, the advocate must be a Catholic unless the diocesan bishop permits otherwise, a doctor in canon law or otherwise truly expert, and approved by the same bishop.

So the only moral obligation is to "be of good reputation", what, I think, is less than a testimony about moral life. The advocate should be Catholic, but the bishop can dispense from that (e.g. if advocate is urgently needed). Additionally he has to be apporved by the bishop, but I did not found any oath he should swear (neither in the CIC nor in Dignitas Conubii), except of oaths of secrecy.

  • Great, thanks. About what I'd expect, but a few twists I didn't.
    – user3961
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 17:07

According to the aims of one [perhaps of only three] canon law schools in North America, Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Canada, the aim of the Faculty of Canon Law is:

Following the wishes of John Paul II in the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana of April 15, 1979, the Faculty of Canon Law cultivates and promotes the juridical disciplines in the light of the law of the Gospel. Instructs its students in these disciplines, so as to form researchers, university and seminary teachers, and others who will be trained to hold special ecclesiastical offices, such as chancery and tribunal positions, and to serve as advisers to bishops and religious communities.

Therefore those who obtain the Licentiate in Canon Law (JCL) degree, an ecclesiastical program governed by the Apostolic Constitution Sapientiae christiana and subsequent legislation and norms of the Holy See, may become researchers, university and seminary teachers, and others who will be trained to hold special ecclesiastical offices, such as chancery [the administrative office of a diocese or a department of the Curia Romana now having the responsibility for issuing bulls to establish new dioceses, benefices, etc.] and tribunal positions, and to serve as advisers to bishops and religious communities. And they are to practise their profession in the light of the law of the Gospel.

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