Friday, April 28, 2006

Decretals and Extravagants: Catholic Church canon law

While not-studying for the Bluebook exam (doing a sourcecite for the most boring article ever, in fact), a friend and I spotted under Section T.2, Foreign Jurisdictions, p.258, a section for citing to documents of the Catholic Church. Here are some examples:
Gratian (c. 1140)
. . . . . . Part 1 --- D.33 c.1 (d.a.)
. . . . . . Part 2 --- C.9 q.3 c.1
. . . . . . Part 3 --- De Cons. D.2 c.84
Decretals of Gregory IX (1234) --- X 3.24.2
Decretals of Boniface VIII (1298) --- VI 1.11.1
Constitutions of Clement V (1317) --- Clem. 3.5.7
Extravagants of John XXII (1316-1334) --- Extrav. Jo. 14.3
Common Extravagants (1261-1484) --- Extrav. Com. 2.1.1
Codex Iuris Canonici (1917) --- 1917 Code c.430, para. 1
Now this raises many questions. First of all, what the hell? Does this make any sense at all? Well, that's really the only question.

I confess to not having known anything about this, so I consulted 20 Legal Reference Services Quarterly 99, "Roman and Canon Law Research," by Ms. Diamond. Very interesting. Here are some answers to my question above. Especially, why the mismatch of roman numerals?

Gratian was the most systematic compiler of early canon law (such as papal bulls, writings of Church fathers, and the legislation of Church councils). His work is the Concordia discordantium canonum, or the concord of the discordant canons, or simply the Decretum of Gratian. Here Decretum just means a series of decrees. The three parts are the Distinctiones, Causae (cases), and the Tractatus de consecratione, abbreviated by D, C, and De Cons. Each is divided into quaestiones and capitula, or questions and canons, and might have dicta, or commentary by Gratian. This explains the Gratian parts, above.

Next up: what is a Decretal? A Decretal is a papal decree, usually giving a decision on canon law, which are then collected in Decretals, which are haphazard collections of whatever was on hand. The five best known Decretals were the Quinque compilationes antiquae, or Five Ancient Compilations. Gregory IX organized these books for the first time into the Liber Extra. Why are the Decretals of Gregory IX written "X"? I have no idea. I genuinely suspect it is a joke on the first syllable of extra. Pope Boniface VIII re-collected all works since Gregory IX in a sixth book to add onto the quinque, and thus it is Liber Sixtus, and abbreviated VI. The Extravagants, literally "outside-wanderers," are add-ons to these six books; the Common Extravagants were well-known but unpublished decretals.

The sheer complexity of this caused the Church to Justinianize the law again, organizing it and promulgating the 1917 Codex. This was superseded by the 1983 Codex, which is still in force. And that's how you cite to Catholic Church stuff.

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