SUNNY THOMAS, sj, The Guidelines for the Revision of the Eastern Code.


Sunny Thomas, sj,
                           The Guidelines for the Revision of the Eastern Code.

Direttore: P. George Nedungatt sj


Pope Paul VI instituted the Pontificia Commissio Codici iuris Canonici Orientalis Recognoscendo (PCCICOR) in June 1972 to prepare for the legal re­form of the Eastern Catholic Churches. From the beginning, this Commission was aware that this was a colossal project that required meticulous planning and pro­per orientation. To this effect, the Commission formulated ten Guidelines and had them approved in its fìrst plenary assembly of 20-23 March 1974, held in Rome.

          While the Principia quae Codicis Iuris Canonici recognitionem dirigant which guided the revision of the Latin code, have been studied deeply, the Guide­lines for the revision of the Eastern code have not yet got such attention to assess their significance for the work of revision, and to ascertain their application in the code. This dissertation seeks to fill this lacuna to some extent. Such a study is important because the Guidelines shed light on the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium (CCEO) in general, and on many of its canons in particular. Though these Guidelines are not official tools for interpreting canons, they are very useful to deepen our understanding of the canons of CCEO.

          The dissertation revolves around the following four questions: 1) whether the Guidelines were relevant in their context, especially historical, theological and canonical; 2) whether they have imbibed the teachings of Vatican Council II; 3) whether they were helpful to orientate the revision of the Eastern Catholic code;  and 4) whether they are applied in the code. It examines the various drafts of the Guidelines and the modifications made in them in the course of their evolution, which may be helpful to grasp the text of the Guidelines.

          The method followed is interdisciplinary, namely, historical, theological, juridical and analytical. We try to understand the Guidelines better by looking at them from the point of view of theology, especially of the ecclesiological doctrine of Vatican Council II. Only by setting the Guidelines against their historical con­text can they be adequately evaluated. Further, a juridical analysis examines how far the canons of CCEO reflect the application of these Guidelines.

          Besides the Code of Canon Law (CIC) and the Code of the Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO), the main sources of this study are some of the proto-cols of the work of PCCICOR, Nuntia, the official organ of PCCICOR, Com-municatio­nes, the official organ of Pontificia Commissio Codici Iuris Canoni­ci Recogno-scendo (PCCICR), the documents of Vatican Council II and some pontifical documents. Many studies on the codification and the revision of the Eastern Catholic code and related themes have been consulted.


            This dissertation contains twelve chapters. The first chapter examines the directives for the pre-Vatican II codifications, namely CIC-1917 and CICO. The second chapter makes an overview of the Guidelines focusing in particular the general title and the preamble. To each of the ten Guidelines we dedicate a chap­ter each. And each chapter contains four main sections, 1) the historical or theo­logical context of the Guideline; 2) different drafts and the discussions in various commissions, showing the origin and the evolution of the Guideline in the various phases of its formulation; 3) the influence of the teachings of Vatican Council II on the Guideline; and 4) the application of the Guideline in the code. When a Guideline has been received from or inspired by a Principio, the relation­ship between them is highlighted in the respective chapter.

          If in law the question of relevance is crucial, the same has to be said a forti­ori about the Guidelines. Their relevance can be understood only by setting them against their historical or theological context, depending on the subject matter.

          The Guidelines were formulated in three stages. First, an initial draft was prepared by the professors of the Faculty of Canon Law at PIO at the request of the Commission. Second, this draft was taken over and revised by the Coetus Centralis of PCCICOR. Third, the draft of the Coetus Centralis was approved with slight modification in the plenary assembly. The various interventions at these three sta -ges and the written feedback approving or suggesting to modify the texts, or a particular word or clause or sentence help us to understand the final text of the Guidelines better.

          The Commission=s mandate was to revise and complete the code in the light of Vatican Council II, as was made explicit in the letter of the appointment of the president and in the discourse of Paul VI inaugurating the work of PCCICOR. Hence the Commission had to draw the basic inspiration for the Guide­lines from the conciliar teachings. This study shows that the Guidelines are mostly sprung from the conciliar teachings, either directly or indirectly.

          The most fundamental criterion for evaluating the Guidelines is their need and usefulness. Hence we examine how far each one of them is applied in the code, whether there is conflict between them and the canons in the code. The dis­sertation does not assess the code independently of the Guidelines. For example, it does not inquire whether the code promotes ecumenism, or evaluate its disposi­tion on the principle of subsidiarity, etc. It only inquires whether the Guidelines on ecumenism, or the principle of subsidiarity are applied in it. In other words, we do not evaluate the code, we evaluate the Guidelines with reference to the code.

          By way of conclusion, besides summing up, an appraisal of the Guidelines is made with reference to their role and their interrelationship, and highlighting their main features.

          The text of the Guidelines and that of the Principles are reproduced in the appendix.