Doctor of Canon Law (Catholic Church)

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Doctor of Canon Law (Latin: Juris Canonici Doctor, JCD) is the doctoral-level terminal degree in the studies of canon law of the Roman Catholic Church. It can also be an honorary degree awarded by Anglican colleges. It may also be abbreviated ICD or dr.iur.can. (Iuris Canonici Doctor), ICDr, DCL, DCnl, DDC, or DCanL (Doctor of Canon Law). A doctor of both laws (i.e. canon and civil) is a JUD (Juris Utriusque Doctor) or UJD (Utriusque Juris Doctor).

Course of study


A doctorate in canon law normally requires earning the degree Licentiate of Canon Law, then at least two years of additional study and the development and defence of an original dissertation that contributes to the development of canon law. Only a pontifical university or ecclesiastical faculties of canon law may grant the doctorate or licentiate in canon law.

The Licentiate of Canon Law is a three-year degree. The prerequisite for it is normally the graduate-level Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology, a Master of Divinity, or a Master of Arts in Catholic Theology.

While not a civil law degree, the doctor of canon law is in some ways comparable to the Doctor of Juridical Science (JSD) or doctor of laws (LLD) in terms of the nature of study, as they are terminal academic research degrees as opposed to professional degrees.

Ecclesiastical office prerequisite


Members of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, judicial vicars, ecclesiastical judges, defenders of the bond, and promoters of justice, must possess either a doctorate or licence in canon law. Either of the degrees is recommended for those who serve as vicar general or episcopal vicar in a diocese. Candidates for bishop must either possess the doctorate in canon law or the doctorate in sacred theology or be truly expert in one of those fields. Canonical advocates must possess the doctorate or be truly expert.



The Roman Church has the oldest continuously used homogeneous legal system in the world. Following the Gregorian Reform's emphasis on canon law, bishops formed cathedral schools to train the clergy in canon law. Consequently, many of the medieval universities of Europe founded faculties of canon law (e.g., Cambridge and Oxford). Since the Protestant Reformation, however, they became limited to those universities which retained Catholic faculties (e.g., Pontifical Lateran University, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Gregorian University, Catholic University of Louvain, Faculty of Canon Law "S. Pio X" in Venice). Other Catholic universities with ecclesiastical faculties in canon law were subsequently given the ability to grant the degree (e.g., the Catholic University of America School of Canon Law, University of Saint Paul). The University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines, has been awarding the degree since 1734.

Noted Doctors of Canon Law



  1. ^ Cf. Holy See Press Office, Daily Bulletin of 07.05.2003, Rinunce e nomine, Rinuncia dell’Arcivescovo Metropolita di Guayaquil (Ecuador) e nomina del successore[permanent dead link] (in Italian)
  2. ^ Cf. The Order of Preachers, Biography of Carlos Alfonso Azpiroz Costa O.P. Archived January 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Cf. Holy See Press Office, Daily Bulletin of 26.03.2004, Rinunce e nomine, Rinuncia del Vescovo di Hexham and Newcastle (Inghilterra) e nomina del successore[permanent dead link] (in Italian)
  4. ^ Cf. Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, Il Collegio Cardinalizio, Cenni biografici, Herranz Card. Julián (in Italian)
  5. ^ Cf. Archdiocese of Louisville, The Archdiocese, Archbishop Thomas Cajetan Kelly, O.P. Archived 2007-09-03 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Cf. Holy See Press Office, Daily Bulletin of 29.12.2004, Rinunce e nomine, Nomina del Vescovo di La Crosse (U.S.A.)[permanent dead link] (in Italian)
  7. ^ Cf. The Church in England and Wales, News Release (14 December 1996), Death of Bishop Moverley Archived September 24, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Cf. Catholic University, Office of the President, Biography Archived July 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Cf. Holy See Press Office, College of Cardinals, Biographical notes, Oddi Card. Silvio Archived February 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Cf. Holy See Press Office, Daily Bulletin of 26.10.2001, Rinunce e nomine, Rinuncia dell‘Arcivescovo Metropolita di Cardiff (Galles) e nomina del successore[permanent dead link] (in Italian)
  11. ^ Cf. Holy See Press Office, College of Cardinals, Biographical notes, Vithayathil Card. Varkey, C.SS.R. Archived January 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine