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Canon LawA Comparative Study with Anglo-American Legal Theory$
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John J. Coughlin, O.F.M.

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195372977

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195372977.001.0001

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The indeterminacy claim continued

The indeterminacy claim continued

Canon 915: “A Doubtful or Hard Case”

(p.157) 7. The indeterminacy claim continued
Canon Law

John J. Coughlin

Oxford University Press

The previous chapter explored the nature of the indeterminacy claim and offered an argument that the application of Canon 915 to Catholic public officials is a central case. Most of the bishops in the United States apparently thought that the application of Canon 915 constitutes a more difficult case. There are at least five objections that might be raised in relation to the application of Canon 915 as a clear case. The objections are based upon: firstly, doubt about whether or not a Catholic public official, who favors permissive abortion or euthanasia laws, is in fact a “grave sinner”; secondly, undue interference in the political process through an arbitrary application of law; thirdly, the social teaching of the church; fourthly, the sacramental nature of the Eucharist; and lastly, other provisions of canon law, including the right to receive the sacraments and the diocesan bishop's authority. Each of these objections calls into question the clear case approach to Canon 915, and thus raises the indeterminacy claim. This chapter presents each of the five objections and then discusses them in terms of responses based upon what Joseph Raz describes as detached normative statements. The purpose here is not to evaluate whether or not the application of Canon 915 is a good church policy. Rather, the chapter attempts to clarify what might be the correct internal point of view of a bishop participant in relation to Canon 915.

Keywords:   Canon 915, canon law, indeterminacy, social teaching, church policy, Joseph Raz

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