Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

( Latin decretum , from decerno , I judge).

In a general sense, an order or law made by a superior authority for the direction of others. In ecclesiastical use it has various meanings. Any papal Bull, Brief, or Motu Proprio is a decree inasmuch as these documents are legislative acts of the Holy Father. In this sense the term is quite ancient. Pope Siricius speaks (Ep. i, ad Himer., c. ii) of the decreta generalia of Pope Liberius. The Roman Congregations are empowered to issue decrees in matters which come under their particular jurisdiction. Each ecclesiastical province, and also each diocese may issue decrees in their periodical synods within their sphere of authority. The word is also used to denote certain specified collections of church law, e.g. The Decree of Gratian (Decretum Gratiani). In respect of the general legislative acts of the pope there is never doubt as to the universal extent of the obligation ; the same may be said of the decrees of a General Council, e.g. those of the Vatican Council. The Council of Trent was the first to apply the term indiscriminately to rulings concerning faith and discipline ( decreta de fide, de reformatione ). The decrees of the Roman Congregations are certainly binding in each case submitted for judgment. But there are varying opinions as to whether such judgment is to be taken as a rule or general law applying to all similar cases. The common opinion is that when the decisions are enlargements of the law ( declaratio extensiva legis ) the decisions do not bind except in the particular case for which the decree is made. If, however, the decision is not an enlargement, but merely an explanation of the law ( declaratio comprehensiva legis ), such decree binds in similar cases. The decrees of a national council may not be promulgated until they have received the approval of the pope. The decrees of a provincial synod have no force until they have been approved by Rome. This approval is twofold: ordinary ( in formâ communi ), and specific ( in formâ specificâ ). The former means that there is nothing which needs correction in the decrees of the synod, and they thereby have force in the province. This is the approval generally given to such decrees. If approval is given in formâ specificâ the decrees have the same force as if they emanated from the Apostolic See, though they are binding only in the province for which they are made. The decrees of a diocesan bishop deal with the administration and good order of his diocese. If they are made during a synod, they are diocesan laws are usually known as "diocesan statutes ", or "synodal statutes ", and bind until revoked by the bishop or his successor. If the decrees are extra-synodal, they have force only during the lifetime of the bishop or until he revokes them himself. For the so-called "Decretum Gelasianum" see GELASIUS I. For the use of judicial decreta in canonical procedure see Permaneder in Kirchenlexikon, III, 1442-44. (See CONSTITUTIONS, ECCLESIASTICAL; RESCRIPTS.)


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21
10 A disaster for me, mother, that you bore me to be ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 59:2-3, 4, 10-11, 17, 18
2 rescue me from evil-doers, from men of violence ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:44-46
44 'The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 30th, 2014 Image

St. Peter Chrysologus
July 30: St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter