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The Jurist 67 (2007) 15-38 LAW FOR LIFE SACRAE DISCIPLINAE LEGES: FORTY YEARS AFTER THE COUNCIL L a d isla s O rsy, S.J.* Let me sing fo r my beloved a love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a veryfertile hill. He dug it and cleared it o f stones, and planted it with choice vines; He built a watchtower in the midst o f it, And hewed out wine vat in it; And he expected it to yield grapes.... What more was there to dofo r my vineyard. . . (Is 5: 1-2,4). Introduction To begin an exposition on the state of canon law with a poetic passage from the prophet Isaiah is unusual. But the allegory of the vineyard offers a good introduction into the inner core of my study. Yahweh built a vine­ yard and he created a protective enclosure for it, so that the life hidden in the vine may unfold and bring fruit. Isaiah sees a neat distinction be­ tween the external provisions (the clearing of the soil and the building of the tower) and the internal wealth (the vines bursting with life). All that constitutes the supporting structures of the vineyard—the walls, the beds, the paths, the watch tower—they all are meant to provide protection for the vines so that they may grow and produce an abundant harvest of grapes. They are necessary but not life giving. Life is in the plants, and only there. It is also so in the Church. Structures and organizations are needed to provide an environment for life to unfold and expand. But life is in the people—only there and nowhere else. Concerning the Church, every allegory, of course, is an approximation of a reality that is too mysterious to be expressed in our limited concepts and images. Nonetheless, the allegory of the vineyard, when judiciously applied, is a good way of representing the relationship between law and life in God’s own domain, which is the Church. * Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC.—This ar­ ticle is a revised and enlarged version of the author’s keynote address at the meeting of the Canon Law Society of America, on October 3,2005 in Tampa, FL. He thanks the Society for their gracious permission. 15 16 THE JURIST The Theme The more precise description of the subject matter of my discourse is in the subtitle: Sacrae disciplinae leges: Forty Years after the Council.1 It indicates a comparative study. The terms to be compared are, on the one side, the corpus of canon law as it is contained in the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983 and on the other side, the event and the “deter­ minations” of Vatican Council II and their consequences. A broad topic—by any measure. Teams of experts, even if they were locked up for years in an ivory tower, could hardly do justice to it. But there is no need to be discouraged: within this broad field, I can focus on a few se­ lected ideas and facts, probe them for a better understanding, and then form a few reasonable conclusions that need not be final but good enough to make some progress in the intelligence of our Church and in the appreciation of our laws. My task is then to inquire as to how far our structures and laws mea­ sure up to the vision of the council? Or inquire as to how far the council and canon law form a unity—in integrated harmony. In the search for the answer (or answers), I shall proceed in four steps: Thefirst part of my exposition could be called “due disclosure.” In it, I wish to clarify some key concepts and expressions that will regularly occur throughout my exposition. My intention, however, is not to give standard definitions—which otherwise I do not fail to respect—but to ac­ count for my own understanding of certain theological realities and legal institutions. The second part will be a historical presentation of the state of the Church and of the canon law before the council. The thirdpart will focus on the event...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2326-6236
Print ISSN
0022-6858
Pages
pp. 15-38
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-06
Open Access
No
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