Coughlin’s “Canon Law”

Readers interested in an introduction to Roman Catholic canon law should find Canon Law: A Comparative Study With Anglo-American Legal Theory (OUP 2011), by Rev. John J. Coughlin, O.F.M. (Notre Dame law school) a very useful book.  Fr. Coughlin sets up a comparison of three approaches to canon law: antinomianism, legalism, and one based in the rule of law, and he defends the last of these against the other two.  One of the worthwhile things about Fr. Coughlin’s methodology is that, as the title indicates, the book offers a comparative perspective with 19th and 20th century philosophy of law (represented in the tradition beginning with John Austin and proceeding through to Hart, Raz, Finnis, and also Rawls). 

Particularly interesting in this respect is Chapter Four, in which Fr. Coughlin compares theories of property ownership in canon law and liberal philosophy.  After an illuminating discussion tracing the historical views in each tradition, he says: Read more