Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Spirit of Classical Canon Law

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Spirit of Classical Canon Law

Article excerpt

The Spirit of Classical Canon Law. By R. H. Helmholz. (Athens, Oeorgia: University of Georgia Press, 2010, Pp. xiv, 514. $28.95.)

In (his new paperback edition of his 1996 book, R. H. Helmholz provides an in-depth exploration of a variety of fascinating if not somewhat arcane topics from the vast corpus of classical canon law that spanned the mid-twelfth through the seventeenth centuries of the common era. These topics - thirteen in total - range from the laws of episcopal elections to the prohibition of the ordination of slaves to the freedom of choice with respect to monastic \<>ws and marriage contrat is.

Helmholz, a law professor at the University of Chicago, begins with a helpful overview of the sources and literature of canon law, including the texts that comprised the Corpus iuris canonici, which is the foundation of the classical canon law. Other sources discussed in the introductory chapter include the Roman law, the Bible, and the voluminous legal commentaries of the canon law jurists.

Helmholz then turns to an in-depth exploration of a variety of topics that are of particular interest to both legal and ecclesial historians. For example, in the chapter on canonical remedies, Helmholz discusses the classical canon law principle of restitutio in integrum (that is, restoration to one's prior condition). This principle gave a party, such as a minor, who was "unjustly disadvantaged by an otherwise legal transaction or procedure" the right to "undo its effects" (95). Not only did the principle of restitutio expand the kinds of remedies that previously had been available under the Roman law, but it is the precursor to the modern-day legal remedy of restitution. Other subjects covered by Helmholz include ecclesial jurisdiction (for example, the church's spiritual jurisdiction over disadvantaged individuals or so-called miserabiles personae, which included widows and children), economic and property rights (for example, the rules governing disputes over longstanding uses of church property), criminal law (for example, the crime of blasphemy), and canonical sanctions (for example, excommunication). …

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