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Reviewed by:
  • La Constitución Jerárquica de la Iglesia Católica
  • John D. Faris
La Constitución Jerárquica de la Iglesia Católica by Luis de Jesus Hernández and Kriko Gregorio Chahinian. Mexico: Universidad Pontificia de México, 2008.

In their presentation of the work, the authors indicate that the goal of the study is to facilitate a better initial understanding of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and the Code of Canon Law, especially from the perspective of the hierarchy of the Eastern Catholic and Latin Churches. Such an approach is excellent, if one considers that the factor that distinguishes one Church sui iuris from another is its hierarchy (CCEO c. 27).

The work is divided into three parts: the Supreme Authority of the Church; the particular church and its groupings (perhaps better entitled "The Latin Church"); and the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris. With regard to the organization of the work, the placement of the ancient sources of law in the section on the Eastern Catholic Churches—including the ecumenical councils—gives the appearance that these sources are for the Eastern Churches, but not the Latin Church.

The study provides a comprehensive treatment of those institutions at the level of the universal church, the Roman Pontiff, College of Bishops, ecu menical councils, synods of bishops, cardinals, and papal representatives that includes a succinct historical treatment along with a clear explanation of the current provisions for these institutions. Likewise, the second part of the work provides a clear explanation of the particular church, its groups and institutions of internal governance.

There have already been many works devoted to the hierarchy of the Latin Church; the novelty of the work is the comparison with the Eastern Catholic hierarchy. The work provides clear explanations of the basic notion of Church sui iuris, rite and tradition; this is much needed if one is to understand how the Eastern Catholic Churches govern themselves. The author provides descriptions of the 21 Eastern Catholic Churches. Since the [End Page 270] work focuses on the hierarchical structures of both Churches, it would have been helpful for the description of the churches to include a brief reference to the current hierarchical organization.

The author provides brief, clear descriptions of the institutions of the patriarchal, major archiepiscopal, metropolitan and other churches. This is followed by a description of the unique factors involved in the governance of eparchies. The third part closes with a description of the assembly of several hierarchs from various Churches sui iuris.

Without diminishing the quality of the work, it might be helpful to identify certain imprecisions. For example, the statement that the election of the Bishop of Rome is reserved to the cardinals of the Roman Church (40) is not precisely the case since patriarchs can be included in the College of Cardinals, but not be a suburbicarian bishop or part of the clergy of Rome. (Paul VI, Ad purpuratorum patrum, n. 2). The synod of bishops is not competent to elect bishops for offices outside the patriarchal territories (136), but only to elect candidates for office; the appointment rests with the Roman Pontiff (CCEO c. 149). The author indicates that Pope John Paul II declared patriarchal power to be a participation in the supreme authority of the Church (287) with no reference as to where this significant and much disputed declaration is to be found. No mention is made of the need of the patriarch to make the profession of faith or oath of fidelity before enthronement (293). The author omits reference to the limitation on eparchial bishops outside the territory to give synodal law the force of law in his eparchy (315); they can do so "provided they do not exceed their competence" (CCEO 150 §2).

The work is not perfect, but it is unique and can serve as an excellent tool for canon law courses that could focus on the hierarchical structures of the Catholic Church, both West and East. In that way, it has fulfilled its purpose.

John D. Faris
Saint Louis Gonzaga Church
Utica, NY


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pp. 270-271
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