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Code of Canon Law

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Title I. Ecclesiastical Laws (Cann. 7 - 22)

Can.7 A law is established when it is promulgated.

Can.8 §1. Universal ecclesiastical laws are promulgated by publication in the official commentary,

Acta Apostolicae Sedis, unless another manner of promulgation has been prescribed in particular

cases. They take force only after three months have elapsed from the date of that issue of the

Acta unless they bind immediately from the very nature of the matter, or the law itself has

specifically and expressly established a shorter or longer suspensive period (vacatio).

§2. Particular laws are promulgated in the manner determined by the legislator and begin

to oblige a month after the day of promulgation unless the law itself establishes another time


Can.9 Laws regard the future, not the past, unless they expressly provide for the past.

Can.10 Only those laws must be considered invalidating or disqualifying which expressly establish

that an act is null or that a person is effected.

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.

Can.12 §1. Universal laws bind everywhere all those for whom they were issued.

§2. All who are actually present in a certain territory, however, are exempted from universal

laws which are not in force in that territory.

§3. Laws established for a particular territory bind those for whom they were issued as well

as those who have a domicile or quasi-domicile there and who at the same time are actually

residing there, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 13.

Can.13 §1. Particular laws are not presumed to be personal but territorial unless it is otherwise


§2. Travelers are not bound:

1/ by the particular laws of their own territory as long as they are absent from it unless either

the transgression of those laws causes harm in their own territory or the laws are personal;

2/ by the laws of the territory in which they are present, with the exception of those laws

which provide for public order, which determine the formalities of acts, or which regard

immovable goods located in the territory.

§3. Transients are bound by both universal and particular laws which are in force in the

place where they are present.

Can.14 Laws, even invalidating and disqualifying ones, do not oblige when there is a doubt about

the law. When there is a doubt about a fact, however, ordinaries can dispense from laws provided

that, if it concerns a reserved dispensation, the authority to whom it is reserved usually grants it.

Can.15 §1. Ignorance or error about invalidating or disqualifying laws does not impede their effect

unless it is expressly established otherwise.

§2. Ignorance or error about a law, a penalty, a fact concerning oneself, or a notorious fact

concerning another is not presumed; it is presumed about a fact concerning another which is not

notorious until the contrary is proven.

Can.16 §1. The legislator authentically interprets laws as does the one to whom the same

legislator has entrusted the power of authentically interpreting.

§2. An authentic interpretation put forth in the form of law has the same force as the law

itself and must be promulgated. If it only declares the words of the law which are certain in

themselves, it is retroactive; if it restricts or extends the law, or if it explains a doubtful law, it is

not retroactive.

§3. An interpretation in the form of a judicial sentence or of an administrative act in a

particular matter, however, does not have the force of law and only binds the persons for whom

and affects the matters for which it was given.

Can.17 Ecclesiastical laws must be understood in accord with the proper meaning of the words

considered in their text and context. If the meaning remains doubtful and obscure, recourse must

be made to parallel places, if there are such, to the purpose and circumstances of the law, and

to the mind of the legislator.

Can.18 Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception

from the law are subject to strict interpretation.

Can.19 If a custom or an express prescript of universal or particular law is lacking in a certain

matter, a case, unless it is penal, must be resolved in light of laws issued in similar matters,

general principles of law applied with canonical equity, the jurisprudence and practice of the

Roman Curia, and the common and constant opinion of learned persons.

Can.20 A later law abrogates, or derogates from, an earlier law if it states so expressly, is directly

contrary to it, or completely reorders the entire matter of the earlier law. A universal law,

however, in no way derogates from a particular or special law unless the law expressly provides


Can.21 In a case of doubt, the revocation of a pre-existing law is not presumed, but later laws

must be related to the earlier ones and, insofar as possible, must be harmonized with them.

Can.22 Civil laws to which the law of the Church yields are to be observed in canon law with the

same effects, insofar as they are not contrary to divine law and unless canon law provides



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