In the debate–mostly friendly nowadays, thankfully–between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, the importance of canon law has a major place. For the Orthodox, the idea of canon “law” is suspect, since it suggests legalism and an unfortunate focus on abstractions at the expense of economia and the life of the church. That’s why one typically refers to Orthodox “canons” as opposed to “canon law.” For Catholics, the failure to systematize things reflects an unfortunate lack of clarity and logic–and, therefore, a misunderstanding of the proper role of law in promoting justice in the church and in the state as well.
A new book out last month from one of the great figures of Orthodox scholarship, Lewis Patsavos (Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology), Introduction to Orthodox Canon Law, does use the phrase “canon law” to describe the East’s approach. I’m curious why. But I’m sure the book is worthwhile for anyone seeking to understand more of the Orthodox understanding of these matters. The publisher is Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Here’s its description of the book:
Based on course notes of forty years of teaching, this Introduction to Orthodox Canon Law is a foundational text for students. Chapters cover basic issues for anyone interested in canon law: its sources; the organization, structure, and governance of the Church; the qualifications for ordination, as well as its impediments; and issues of church membership, including reception of non-Orthodox and marriage. Throughout the Introduction, the canonical tradition is presented and thoroughly explained.