The History of Canon Law: A Summary
The history of Canon Lay, judging by the summary presented by Coriden, parallels our own Church history,with its moments of glory and great accomplishments, to those moments where things looked a bit stalled. During the first period of the history of Canon Law, Christians were not “creating” a set ofrules to be followed, but rather giving an account of the customs that had become part of the life of those communities. Such accounts provide a glimpse into the life of the early Christian communitiesand they way the related to one another: not by the presence of a formal authoritative figure, but rather by the shared belief in the Lord and the practice of the faith as it had been handed down tothem by the apostles and their successors. However, during this period we can see the development of the synodal or conciliar process, where the leaders or local churches will come together todeliberate and regulate on different matters or doctrine and discipline that had a direct impact on their particular communities. This process was modeled after the Council of Jerusalem that’s depicted inActs 15 and gave rise to the later process of “ecumenical councils” that has been in used by the Church since the IV century.
As the number of converts grew and the Church became a favored majority inthe Roman Empire, new set of laws and regulations were necessary to mediate the new found relationship between the State and the Church. During this period of our history, the influence of Roman lawin the life of the Church was inevitable. The Christian communities “borrowed” from the good practices already established by the legal system of the Roman Empire, under the auspices of the manyChristian Emperors of the time, who as professed Christians, promulgated many rules for the Church. Their influence is clearly part of our own Christian heritage. It is also during this period that...