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Studies & Degrees in Ecclesiastical Law of the State

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Vatican City happens to be a small yet powerful State being home to the Central Catholic Faith. The territorial area measures 44 hectares, and enclosed the landlocked City-State along with its famous landmarks such as the Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Although it is the smallest country by land area, it is nonetheless influential with over one billion Roman Catholic converts and over 200,000 churches worldwide. Consequently, the extensive influence brought about by Catholicism also implies the huge ambit of Canon Law.

Canon Law, also known as Ecclesiastical Law, originated in Christian Communities. Before the 20th century, members of the faith were guided by spiritual customs and traditions. The church had no written laws recorded for over five centuries. In turn, the Roman State regulated all religious activities. As a matter of fact, the Justinian’s Codex contained imperial statutes pertaining to the practice of religion. In the mid-19th century, the codification of Canon Law was proposed by the bishops in the First Vatican Council. On May 27, 1917, it was codified and enforced under the regime of Pope Benedict XV. Since then, it has been the prime source of religious rules of conduct observed by priests and laymen, alike.

Ecclesiastical Law is the body of law employed by religious people, especially the members of the Christian faith. Most likely, it consists of norms relating to the proper practice of religious beliefs among Christians from all walks of life. These include the conditions, duties, and responsibilities of bishops, clergies, and non-clergies. In the same way, the law contains the sacred Holy Scriptures, Holy Sacraments, and other legislations. In particular, it is used by three Christian congregations: the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Church.

The impact of Christian Faith on the world compelled the academe to provide degree courses relating to Cannon Law. These are offered in graduate and undergraduate schools under bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. Students can choose from various curricula which may include Canon Law Studies, Ecclesiastical Studies, and Theological Studies. Certain requisites though are involved to be an official Canon lawyer. Apart from passing all the required courses, the student must be able to come up with a thesis for a licentiate degree. Further studies may be pursued for a doctorate degree which would require submission of an academic dissertation at the end of the program.

Career options await graduates of Canon Law and related studies. The wide ranging religious institutions such as the five million Christian churches found all over the globe comprise a great employment niche. Besides, there are many religious offices which can tender job placements to specialists. Spiritual groups are likely to consult practitioners of ecclesiastical law for divine guidance. Non-profit entities may hire Canon Law experts for research projects of religious interest. Christian schools may also offer teaching posts to professionals who can to share their expertise in the academe. Private counselling firms can also provide jobs to eligible degree holders.

Canon law is the body of laws and regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, with the purpose to govern the Christian organization and its members. This type of law should not be mistaken with the type of law that aims to govern all citizens; rather, the system of rules and mechanisms for holding trials and imposing punishments is used within the Church. Canon law is an extremely old legal system, and the canon of the Roman Catholic Church is one of the oldest continuously operating legal systems in the world.

In general, canon law covers everything from the activities of religious officials to the grounds for excommunication, and includes standards for trials and other hearings that may be held to decide on Church matters. Canon law does not apply to people who are not members of the Church, and individual Christians have the choice to follow it to varying degrees. Some Christians have expressed disagreements with some aspects of the Church law and have insisted for reforms to modernize the law and address emerging ethical and religious issues. Canon lawyers can represent people in ecclesiastical courts, provide legal advice on interpretations of canon law, and offer other services to Church officials and members. Canon lawyers are allowed to practice before courts and tribunals held by the Church, but not before the bar.

Personal Qualities

Genuine interest in the matters of the Church is required, combined with some of the following skills and qualities:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Enjoy subjects like history, sociology, and literature
  • Very good interpersonal skills
  • Enjoy research
  • Very good analytical skills

Study Options

Canon Law and Ecclesiastical Law of the State is a discipline that is offered in various forms – licentiate degree, doctoral degree, at the postgraduate level, or even as a summer school course. You are able to choose your option according to your future goals and preferences. Most of these programs are designed for those, who practise or are involved in the administration of church law, and for those wishing to pursue an interest in this developing field of legal scholarship. Students get to become thoroughly acquainted with church law, examining the subject from various angles – gaining theological, philosophical, and historical background, while the discipline is usually taught both from the academic and practical points of view. Such a degree is also likely to be very much research-led, while requirements for entry usually involve at least a bachelor’s degree in Law.

Career Options

This degree is usually taken by secular and ecclesiastical judges, university academics, barristers, solicitors, and clergy. You could also dedicate yourself to research or teaching.