Jaeger David M. ,
Recensione: E. Garth Moore and Timothy Briden, Moore's Introduction to English Canon Law (Second Edition),
Antonianum, 61/1 (1986) p. 184-186
Students of comparative religious legislation, which means anyone with an intelligent interest in laws and norms of any kind, which govern mankind's religious activities, should welcome this unique work, which is an updating by the co-authors of Chancellor Garth Moore's equally unique work published twenty years before. This book thus deserves a readership far wider than that for which it is intended in the first instance, to wit, English legal practitioners in need of its specialised guidance. The latter indeed should be particularly grateful for the invaluable « road-map » to the subject provided in the form of Tables of Statutes, Measures, Canons and Cases (XI-XX), as well as for the Index (171-181). All readers will, however, regret the careless proofreading (astonishing in the case of Mowbray's), which has resulted in typographical errors in the text, as well as — in more than one case — in the omission of whole phrases.
To the uninitiate the title may be misleading: By « English Canon Law» is meant the law of the land applicable to the religion by law established in England, or — in other words — the laws that now in practice have as their direct and principal object the regulation of the affairs of that preeminent component of the Anglican Communion, which is known as the Church of England. The term « laws » in the latter part of the last sentence is used advisedly, inasmuch as the norms and regulations that govern the Church of England, unlike those that regulate the internal affairs of any other (non-established) Christian body separated from the Catholic Church, emanate from true legislative authority (directly or indirectly; either properly or theologically ultra vires), albeit that of the State. To use the improper terminology sometimes employed, for example, by Italian purists, this is entirely a matter of « diritto ecclesia-stico», rather than « diritto canonico ». Catholics will, of course, find entirely unacceptable the authors' repeated — and at least implicitly polemical — contention that this is the only possible and actual kind of law, with its explicitly stated basis in the outmoded absolutist doctrine of the unique and « indivisible » sovereignty of the State. This emphatically does not mean that Catholics need oppose any establishment of religion. Indeed, contrary to a frequent misconstruction of Dignitatis Humanae, the Conciliar Declaration in no way excludes this (cf., e.g., §6c; cf. etiam §lb-c). Nor does this mean that Catholics cannot be appreciative or even supportive of what is now in effect che establishment in England of Christianity itself as the national religoin. In effect, as is clearly demonstrated, for example, in the treatment of the rights of parishioners (39-40), the «national» scope of the established religion acts as a counter to the sectarian tendencies that of late have been manifesting themselves among Christians, and which would limit the ministrations of the Church to the « perfect » (or the « committed », the « active » etc.).
This book is very much an introduction only, as the co-authors themselves are at pains to point out. Continental readers particularly would need to be alert to the extent to which «English» ecclesiastical law shares the nature of English law generally, and which precludes its reduction to a body of text — and a fortiori, a « Code» — however lengthy. Nonetheless the book would have had a considerably greater practical value, even as a mere introduction, had this revision of a twenty year old work been more « organic » and more thorugh. Often indeed the contemporary state of the law appears as a mere appendix, or as it were, a footnote to a lengthier presentation of now largely obsolete matter. At one point in fact (110) the revisor has even failed to substitute the contemporary General Synod for the Church Assembly, to which the first edition would have referred.
All in all, this is a very English book, not only because of the arcane pleasure that the cognoscenti will derive from its (sometimes quaintly) staunch Anglicanism, but because of the wit and humour that it brings to the presentation of legal matter, and which at many points make it delightful to read. This cannot but add to the singular value of this highly informative and authoritative book. Still Mowbray's should be encouraged to do justice to the great name of E. Garth Moore (« Chancellor of the Dioceses of Durham, Southwark and Gloucester; Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; Clerk in Holy Orders; Of Gray's Inn, Barrister-at-Law ») by bringing out soon an improved third edition, more organically revised and more carefully «proofread».
A postscript can at this point be addressed to those who have been translating our own Latian canonical terminology into English: Why not use the established, traditional English terms, wherever available, instead of ugly Latinisms; thus « Holy Orders» instead of «sacred orders », « Clerk in Holy Orders » instead of « cleric »?