On the theology of canon law

supplement notes from David Heith-Stade’s blog on our course in theology of Canon law

David Heith-Stade's blog

The theology of church law has been an important topic in twentieth century theological discourse. The discourse dates back to the late nineteenth century and the Protestant legal historian Rudolph Sohm (1841-1917) who in his seminal Kirchenrecht (2 volumes, 1892-1923) claimed that the essence of law contradicts the essence of church.

Sohm was a great historian and his historical study on the early church is also part of the historical background of modern Eucharistic ecclesiology which developed in reaction to Sohm’s theological theses by largely accepting his historical data but reinterpret it. Sohm argued that the ordained ministry, church law, and church councils developed from the institutionalization of the organized celebration of the Eucharist, which he considered to be a secondary and unimportant rite in earliest Christianity. The Eucharistic ecclesiology movement largely accepted Sohm’s historical findings, but argued theologically that the Eucharist was not a secondary rite, but a constitutive…

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