Canon Law Question

Dear all,

I have been curious about something. A year or so ago, someone told me that if I was going to be Catholic I must subject myself to the Church’s laws. I told this person about my previous experiences where I fell into heresy and downright apostasized from the Christian faith. She said that according to canon law, she could not talk to me unless it was for “spiritual or corporal support” because of my previous heretical views. I never understood this, because her logic was that there is only one Church… and these other “denominations” aren’t ultimately real. Therefore even if you were baptized into a Baptist church, it was really into the Catholic Church. Are non-Catholics subject to canon law, the way she seemed to be implying?



Can. 11 Merely ecclesiastical laws bind those who have been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, possess the efficient use of reason, and, unless the law expressly provides otherwise, have completed seven years of age.

Now, everyone is subject to divine law (God’s moral law). And, while canon law contains some aspects of the divine law that would bind everyone, canon law also contains ecclesial law that binds only Catholics.

An example of a divine law prohibition applicable to all people would be marriage between a parent and child. This isn’t just a prohibition for Catholics.

An example of an ecclesial law that binds only Catholics would be the laws on fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays, etc.

I am no Canon Lawyer, but what you have relayed sounds a little suspect to me.

One problem you will find with Canon Law is that many people still think that the 1917 Code is the only one that matters, and totally disregard the fact that we have a new Canon (well, new as of 1983, anyway).

I would ask this woman what Canon she is referring to, if she can’t tell you, I would not worry about what she has to say.

You can find Code of Canon Law here.

Can. 1 The canons of this Code regard only the Latin Church.

This is the very first canon…if a person does not fall into this specific category, it doesn’t apply at all.

PS. Latin Rite Church is the Roman Catholic Church.

Sounds to me as if this lady is “more Catholic than the Pope.”


P.S. Most Catholics absorb Canon Law inadvertently (by attending Mass, receiving the Sacraments, etc.)

Very few Catholics would be able to quote Canon Law or know that Canon Law exists in a code book.

I suspected as much, as I was leaning more towards the ideas that all of you are – I simply didn’t know how to express it adequately. Thank you so much!

My mother was Lutheran. We others were well known Catholics, many priests, including my uncle visited our house. No one was concerned about that my mother was theoretically heretic, they talked with her, and no one wanted to counsel her in religious matters. This was way under the rule of the 1917 Canon Law.

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