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School of the Canon Law

Canon Law leaflet (pdf, 416Kb)

The School of Canon Law of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross started its teaching and research activities in 1984. It was canonically established on March 28, 1993. Since the very beginning, it aims to prepare canon lawyers with a theoretical and practical knowledge of Church law, so that they may practice canon law with a combination of legal skill and pastoral sensitivity.

Since its founding in 1984 until 2006, the University has awarded 600 Licentiate and 240 Doctoral degrees in Canon Law. The Saint Pius X Institute of Canon Law of Venice (Italy), established on October 9, 2003, is aggregated to the School of Canon Law.

"Any opposition between the pastoral and the juridical dimensions is deceptive. It is not true that, to be more pastoral, the law should become less juridical. (...) In the Church, true justice, enlivened by charity and tempered by equity, always merits the descriptive adjective pastoral. There can be no exercise of pastoral charity that does not take account, first of all, of pastoral justice." (Address of John Paul II to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 18, 1990).

Our Didactic Method

The Canon Law program follows a method of instruction which encompasses the study of the Code of Canon Law and other ecclesiastical laws in light of the understanding of the Church expressed by the Second Vatican Council.

Placed in the proper historical, ecclesiological and theological framework, the various subjects are taught both in a systematic and theoretical way which enables students to learn the necessary technical skills in order to work in the juridical field. The theoretical coursework is integrated with courses on legal praxis and practical exercises.

Courses are taught by professors of the School of Canon Law who are specialists in their fields.

The University's location in the center of Rome facilitates contact with actual canonical practice. The professors on our faculty have a wealth of experience consulting with and advising the Roman Curia, Episcopal Conferences, and local dioceses, as well as serving as ecclesiastical judges.

All courses are taught in Italian. To assist English speaking students, the School of Canon Law has established a didactic Commission that offers, for those interested, special courses, orientation sessions, and some materials in English.

Ongoing Formation and Research

The professors frequently collaborate with colleagues in Rome and abroad in various academic and ecclesial endeavors, such as providing expert consulting for Dicasteries of the Holy See or organizing conferences and seminars.

In addition to its teaching activity, the School of Canon Law maintains a strong commitment to scholarly research. The School publishes its own international canon law journal, Ius Ecclesiae. Through the prestigious Italian publisher Giuffre, the School of Canon Law edits and publishes three series of legal texts: Trattati di diritto (Treatises on Law), Monografie giuridiche (Juridical Monographs), and Testi legislativi (Legislative Texts). Since the year 2000, the School has been publishing the series Subsidia Canonica with texts prepared by our professors, and Dissertationes (Series canonica), a collection of select doctoral dissertations written by our students.

Cycles Of Studies Canon Law

The program of study in Canon Law is divided into three cycles: the first cycle (for students who have not yet completed the required courses in philosophy and theology), the second cycle (leading to the Licentiate in Canon Law) and the third cycle (leading to the Doctorate in Canon Law).

DECREE of the Congregation for Catholic Education revising the order of studies in the faculties and departments of canon law

A) First Cycle

The first cycle consists of at least two years of study and provides the necessary background in theology, philosophy and jurisprudence to prepare the student for the second cycle or Licentiate program.

To gain admission to the first cycle, the candidates must have received a degree which would allow them to begin university studies in their own country.

Students attend courses of the first cycle in the Schools of Theology or Philosophy, or in the University's Higher Institute of Religious Sciences.

The main courses of the first cycle are: Philosophical Anthropology; Metaphysics, Ethics, Introduction to Sacred Scripture and History of Salvation, Trinitarian Theology and Christology, Dogmatic Theology, Ecclesiology and Ecumenism, Fundamental Moral Theology, Social Doctrine of the Church, Sacramental Theology (general and special), Institutions of Canon Law, and Latin.

B) Second Cycle (Licentiate in Canon Law)

The second cycle (Licentiate) consists of three years (six semesters) of study. Upon satisfactory completion of the course work and a comprehensive examination, the student is awarded the academic title of Licentiate in Canon Law. The courses for all three years of the second cycle are offered each year, so that a student may begin the first year of the second cycle of studies in any academic year. During all three years of the second cycle, students attend classes from Monday through Friday for three to four hours each day.

Licentiate Courses

First Year - General Principles - Roman Law - Constitutional Law - Administrative Law - Philosophy of Law - History of Canon Law - Fundamental Theory of Canon Law - Law of the Teaching Office of the Church (Munus docendi) - Latin

Second Year - Law of the Person - Governance Structures in the Church - Relationship Between the Church and Civil Society - Matrimonial Law - Process Law - Patrimonial Law - Latin

Third Year - Law of the Sanctifying Office of the Church (Munus Sanctificandi) - Penal Law - Church-State Law - Canon Law of the Eastern Catholic Churches - Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life - Research Seminar

Elective Courses

During the second and third years, students take elective courses among those presented by the School. Some are more theoretical while others are mainly practical. They are taught by professors of the Faculty, Judges of the Roman Rota and other ecclesiastical Tribunals, as well as officials of the Roman Curia. With these courses, students can receive a more specific training for their future pastoral tasks (judges, diocesan chancellors, advocates, defenders of the bond, etc.).

The following are some of the elective courses offered in recent years: - Matrimonial Consent - Jurisprudence of the Roman Rota on Matrimony - Practicum on Matrimonial Cases I - Practicum on Matrimonial Cases II - Practicum on Matrimonial Process -Psychiatric Defects in Matrimonial Cases - Special Matrimonial Processes - Penal Procedure - Causes of the Saints - Administrative Procedure - Canonical Questions on Pastoral Care in the Parish - Human Rights: Foundation, Formulation and Protection - Associations of the Faithful - Procedures Regarding the Clerical State - Structure and Practice of the Roman Curia - Juridic Responsibility of the Church Hierarchy and Contentious Administrative Recourses - Canon Law and State Law: a Comparative Analysis of Legal Systems in the World - Religious Law in Comparative State Law at the Dawn of the 21st Century.

Third Cycle (Doctorate)
The Third Cycle (Doctorate) is designed for those who plan to dedicate themselves to academic research and the teaching of Canon Law at the university level.

In the Doctoral Program, the student attends monographic courses and prepares a doctoral dissertation under the direction of a professor. To gain admission to the third cycle, a student must have received the Licentiate in Canon Law with a minimum grade average of magna cum laude (minimum grade point average of 8.6 on a 10-point scale). The student must reside in Rome for at least the first academic year of doctoral studies.

Further information on the School, the Faculty and the program of studies, You can send an E-mail: