What is the Code of Canons?

Q. Sorry if this has been asked before, but what exactly is in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches? How different is the law for Eastern-rite Catholics from Latin-rite Catholics?

Thomas, Seattle, Wash.

A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:

The Code of Canon Law (CIC) for the Latin rites of the Catholic Church was promulgated in 1983, while the Code of Canons for Eastern Churches (CCEO) came into effect some years later (1990). The CCEO gathers into one text the laws common to 22 of the sui iuris churches of the Eastern tradition. Like the CIC, the CCEO does not regulate liturgy or the procedures for canonization, but it does cover Church organization and the sacraments, especially marriage.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) provided a substantial updating to the code of 1917 and responded to a request of the Second Vatican Council. The CCEO is not an updating of a previous document, but the first of its kind, gathering common norms for the Oriental churches.

All Catholics are subject to the authority of the pope, but in the Catholic Church there are currently 23 rites — the Latin rite, and 22 ancient or Eastern rites. The CIC covers the Latin rite, and the CCEO covers the rest.