The merits of Canon Law Codes for Eastern Catholic Churches

The 1990 Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches, promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II, is a truly masterful work that, insofar as it is reasonable, retains the ancient disciplines and customs of the Eastern Catholic Churches while organising it succinctly. As canon 2 states: “The canons of the Code, in which for the most part the ancient law of the Eastern Churches is received or adapted, are to be assessed mainly according to that law”.

Most canonical discussions on this forum centre around Latin canon law, so here I’d like to invite greater discussion of Eastern law. Any thoughts on the 1990 CCEO?


This might be some help to folks like myself. As the Latin church I have never seen this CCEO

I’ve not read the CCEO, but do you have a question or something that we can discuss? Most Easterners I know (including myself) are loathed to discuss canon law. We acknowledge it, and then take a very “Pirates of the Caribbean” approach to it - “It’s more like guidelines than actual rules.”


Not a specific topic, but a general observation: what you say—that most Easterners don’t frequently discuss canon law—is true. Why is this?

That’s not good though. Laws are laws…

But where that’s the case, it is the bishop, or perhaps the priest, discerning where allowances may be made… surely the laity can’t simply say “it’s just a guideline I’ll do what I want.”

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The laws are to be assessed primarily according to the tradition of the Eastern churches involved. It is up to the Bishops of said churches to determine how the law is to be applied (or not), in light of that tradition.

The CCEO is often rather vague and broad because it is applicable to so many different churches and traditions. It is considerably shorter then the code of canon law.


Laws are laws, yes. But the… preoccupation (for lack of a better word) with laws is a uniquely Latin phenomenon.

The Eastern mentality toward the Faith is much different. The understanding of our Faith as a relationship is much more prominent in the East. (Not saying it isn’t also a feature of the West, but it just doesn’t permeate the Western mindset to the extent that it does in the East). Relationships always have rules. But relationships are always living things that evolve and develop over time. The same rules don’t apply at every stage of a relationship.


I wish Latin Catholics were as zealous about interpreting law in light of tradition (CIC, c. 6.2). :slight_smile:

I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think the approach you describe can quite be considered a “pirates of the Caribbean” attitude though.

Given the relationship between the development of canon law and the Corpus Iuris Civilis, I find this difficult to believe. Can you cite a source supporting this?

This is true. Which is why we emphasize so much the importance of having a good spiritual father/mother who is advanced in the spiritual life and can help us discern our relationship with God.


I wish I could cite a source. I don’t have written sources so much as reference to a bunch of one-on-one conversations with laity, priests, and scholars (including Fr. Robert Taft and Met. Kallistos Ware) over the years who have all told me pretty much the same thing.

Bear in mind that my Pirates of the Caribbean analogy was just that, an analogy. We’re not as loosey-goosey with Canon Law as a Pirate is with the Pirates Code. But in the eyes of many Westerners it may appear that way.


I would hope not! :wink:

Interesting; I’ll do some further reading on the subject. Thanks.

Just for clarity, I don’t mean to imply that we (and I personally) don’t think Canon Law is important.

I noticed a copy of the EOCC in my parish library when I was working out of there earlier this week. I’d love to pick it up and peruse it some time. But for the time being, I’m a bit preoccupied with the lives and sayings of the Desert Fathers, a couple of books on Eastern Christian spirituality, von Balthasar’s Dare We Hope…, and a book on Fulton Sheen’s Mariology, not to mention my daily Scripture reading. So I’m a bit preoccupied to give the EOCC the attention it deserves. :laughing:


You’re had personal conversations with Metropolitan Ware and with the late Fr Taft?! Very cool.


It was some time ago, but yes. I used to work at Eastern Christian Publication. Spent a great deal of one-on-one time with Fr. Taft filming his lectures in our studio.


I wouldn’t even give it that much.


That isn’t how the East handles things, and is inconsistent with Rome’s teaching on the Eastern Churches.

I look forward to the day that the Melkites establishes a “Congregation for the Occidental Churches” to tell the RCC how to handle it’s internal affairs . . . :rofl::thinking::scream:

The CCEO is, from top to bottom, an imposed latinization.

It’s existence is a harm to every Eastern Catholic Church, and to prospects for restoration of Communion with Orthodoxy.

The heads of the eastern churches should formally reject it (“Thanks, but no thanks.”) and return to the Eastern use of Canons.

And the Melkites are the only ones with the, uhh, nerve to lead the rest of the East in this . . .


To be fair, this comparison is flawed, as the Roman Pontiff is not merely “first among equals,” but actually has authority over all the other bishops and patriarchs, both Latin and Eastern. Both the Latin Code and the Eastern Code affirm, in their respective teaching canons, the theological truth that the Roman Pontiff possesses “the primacy of ordinary power” (CIC 333.1, CCEO 45.1).

This is why the Roman Pontiff can perform certain actions and establish certain institutions that cannot be done by the Eastern patriarchs. The Church is governed by subsidiarity, and there should be some degree of autonomy proper to the particular Churches, but everyone in communion with the universal Catholic Church must recognize the same ecclesiastical governance, including the supreme jurisdiction of the Pontiff.


A very western way to put it . . .



Hopefully the Chieti Document will be the springboard to a better understanding of the role of the Pope of Rome at the Universal level.



Genuinely curious…if the Eastern Catholic Churches don’t reject the error of primus inter pares, then how are they any different than the Orthodox Churches? And do they accept the teachings of the First Vatican Council?


Outside of the fact that men who are married can be ordained to the priesthood. Can you give me some examples as to how the canon law of the individual eastern rite churches differ from the Latin rite?

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