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19 J. L. & Religion 1 (2003-2004)


This article explores the unity of law and theology in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The unity has remained critical since canon law emerged in the ancient Church. From the origins of the primitive Christian communities through the patristic era, the Church manifested a tension between charism and office, spirit and law? The medieval canonists achieved a great synthesis of the reason of law and faith of theology. The unified theory helped to form the basis of the Western legal tradition. The Reformation focus on sola fide (faith alone) tended to sever the unity. With the Enlightenment, reason was declared independent from the unproven dogma of faith. Modem Western legal theory developed in accord with Enlightenment thought. As a result of canon law's function in the life of the Church, the continuing issue of the unity has produced two interrelated principles. Theology without law leaves the ecclesiastical community bereft of an ordered life. Law without theological meaning surrenders its moral persuasiveness and deteriorates into rigid legalism.

Vatican II required a new universal law for the Church that avoided the pitfalls of both antinomianism and legalism. The Preparatory Commission for the 1983 Code of Canon Law described canon law as a "sacred symbol." When he promulgated the new Code, His Holiness John Paul II termed the legislation "the final document of Vatican II." Affirming the unity of law and theology, the Supreme Legislator has drawn attention to the concept of "theological anthropology." The phrase signifies the endeavor to uncover the fundamental elements of what it means to be human. In exploring the unity of law and theology, this article focuses on the relationship between canon law and theological anthropology. While obviously not intended as a repudiation of mainstream legal theory, the article also suggests that the unity may offer comparative insight to the secularity of the modem project.


Reprinted with permission of Journal of Law and Religion.

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