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A Guide to...Papal Documents & Church Research

This guide is a starting point for research focused on the Catholic Church, including its history, its theology, and, most significantly, documents issued by Popes and the various sections of the Roman Curia.

About Canon Law

Canon Law is the body of ecclesiastical laws which govern the actions of the Catholic Church and its followers. In the earliest days of the Church, Canon Law existed as a loosely-defined body of literature, including the various papal, conciliar, etc. documents referenced on other pages of this guide. A single Code of Canon Law was established for the first time in 1917, and was revised in 1983. The 1983 Code of Canon Law is the Code currently in use by the Church.  The Code is interpreted and built upon by the various congregations, councils and tribunals of the Catholic Church as well as by the Pope himself. 

Like all official legal documents of the Catholic Church, the Code of Canon Law was issued in Latin; however, officially-sanctioned translations are available in the local languages of the church's many dioceses, including English. 

Like civil law, church law is practiced by lawyers -- canon lawyers, to be specific. Canon lawyers obtain graduate degrees in Canon Law -- first at the licentiate, or masters, level, after which they can choose to pursue a doctorate. For more information about canon lawyers, or canonists, and what their work involves, see this article from EWTN

Resources for Canon Law