Can somebody explain to me more about what canon law is? I understand that it is a set of laws that are binding on Catholics but does that mean that breaking a law is always considered a grave sin? Or are there different penalties?
USCCB: Canon Law:
Canon Law is a code of ecclesiastical laws governing the Catholic Church. In the Latin or Western Church, the governing code is the 1983 Code of Canon Law, a revision of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. A separate but parallel Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, issued in 1990, governs the Eastern Catholic churches. That document was the first comprehensive code of church law governing all Eastern Catholic churches.
Wikipedia: Canon Law of the Catholic Church:
Vatican: Code of Canon Law:
I understand that it is a set of laws that are binding on Catholics but does that mean that breaking a law is always considered a grave sin? Or are there different penalties?
Most Canon Laws deal with the administration of the Church. Most laypersons never deal with it. Some violations of law do have penalties involved. Penalties are usually up to the local bishop. For example:
Can. 1369 A person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty.
Article in the Catholic Encyclopedia: