Canon Law Made Easy


Canon Law Made Easy

If you mention to people that you’re a canon lawyer, the odds are high that they’ll ask, “What is that?”  This confusion exists even among Catholics, who frequently have only the vaguest notion that canon law somehow governs the Church.

But practicing Catholics actually see canon law in action all around them, whether they realize it or not!  The manner in which the sacraments are celebrated, Catholic schools are operated, and your diocese spends its money are all governed in various ways by the Code of Canon Law.  And the tragedy that is clerical sexual abuse is a canonical issue too.

Church law doesn’t directly discuss sin; that’s a matter for moral theology.  It doesn’t condemn anyone to hell, either!  But it explains who in the Church has the authority to do what, and how to do it.  It provides the parameters that help us to know if a Mass was said validly, when a seminarian is ready to be ordained a priest, and whether you’re free to get (re-)married in the Church or not.

While many Catholics might be tempted to think that canon law is nothing more than a set of restrictions, hindering us from living the way we’d like, in reality the opposite is true.  Laws exist in the Church in order to make our lives easier, by showing us clearly what we need to do, what we’re permitted to do, and what we cannot do.  And they’re not just for the clergy—the average Catholic family encounters canonical questions more than one might think!

Can we homeschool our children in the faith, instead of sending them to the parish CCD program?” “My son wants to marry a protestant girl, but she insists on a wedding in her church—can a Catholic ever do that?” “I attended a baptism recently, but the cleric seemed to change the wording during the ceremony.  Was the baby really baptized?”  These are everyday questions that arise among ordinary Catholics, and the answers to all of them can be found in canon law.

It was the repeated questions from lay Catholics who were bewildered about various legal questions that led me several years ago to begin writing a Q&A column on canonical matters.  It proved so popular—and so necessary—that it recently blossomed into an independent website, Canon Law Made Easy (  Written for “normal people” rather than for scholars, it’s designed to explain the mysteries of canon law clearly and intelligibly, without all the legal lingo.  Readers of Catholic Mom are invited to check it out, and spread the word: you don’t need to be mystified about church law.  It really can be made easy.

Cathy Caridi, J.C.L. is an American canon lawyer who practices law and teaches in Rome. In the past Cathy has published articles both in scholarly journals and on various popular Catholic websites, including Real Presence Communications and Catholic Exchange.

Copyright 2012 Cathy Caridi, J.C.L.


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  1. I appreciate Ms. Caridi’s contribution to the understanding of canon law. I wonder if I may request guidance from Ms. Caridi on how to submit a question to her web site. I have a question regarding annulment and have been unable to figure out how to submit the question through the CANONLAWMADEEASY web site.

    Thank you in advance for your response.


    Teresa Garcia

    • Thomas M. Powers on

      Amen to that. I’ve been trying to do that very thing and have been unable to find the way to do it. I’m sure Cathy Caridi wants to answer questions that she wants to answer rather than make it easy for readers to submit questions. This is being submitted on May 21, 2019, and it’s no easier than it was in 2016. I have a question about annulment as well. The reason that annulments are so confusing is that there are several lines of logic that overlap, and sometimes contradict, each other. My question to Cathy Caridi is this: Since a marriage between a catholic and an unbaptized person is invalid (without dispensation), but with dispensation can become valid but not rise to the level of being sacramental, how can a marriage between a non catholic Christian and a non baptized person be considered sacramental? If it is non sacramental and is not between two baptized persons, is it necessary that the Christian spouse of that marriage obtain an annulment of that marriage before a catholic may marry her because CCC 1601, 1625 and 1640 apply only between two baptized persons?

      • Dear Thomas, Please note that this was a guest article and we have no way of contacting Cathy Caridi for an answer to your question. We suggest that you bring particular questions to your pastor or diocesan tribunal.
        Thank you for reaching out.
        Barb (editor)

  2. Mr. Robin Charan is a Methodisy Christian from Gadarpur who wants to come to the Catholic fold.with is present wife, his father, mother and his brother. His two children are baptised in the Catholic Church. However we have the following problem concerning the marriage of Mr. Robin Charan and his brother. Mr. Robin Charan has legally divorced his wife whom he married in the Methodist Church. After divorcing his first wife, he has married his present wife in the Methodist Church. Recently, his brother has divorced his wife legally. Now these both people want to come to the Catholic fold. Since I have doubt about their admissibility to the Catholic Church. Kindly help me to solvr this problem

    • Dear Arun,
      Please be aware that this article was originally published 6 years ago by a guest author and we do not have contact information for that author. It is not likely that she will see your question. You might do best asking this question of your parish priest or a diocesan official.
      Peace and all good,
      Barb (editor)

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