Children's Rights and Obligations in Canon Law

The Christening Contract


In the first study of its kind Mary McAleese subjects to comprehensive scrutiny the Roman Catholic Church’s 1983 Code of Canon law as it applies to children. The Catholic Church is the world’s largest non-governmental organisation involved in the provision of education and care services to children. It has over three hundred million child members world-wide the vast majority of whom became Church members when they were baptised as infants. Canon law sets out their rights and obligations as members. Children also have rights which are set out in the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to which the Holy See is State Party. The impact of the Convention on Canon Law is examined in detail and the analysis charts a distinct and worrying sea-change in the attitude of the Holy See to its obligations under the Convention since the clerical sex abuse scandals became a subject of discussion at the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the Convention.

Mary McAleese wins Europe’s richest theology prize for her study of canon law.
The former President of Ireland Mary McAleese has won one of the Catholic world’s most prestigious prizes, the Alfons Auer Ethics Award, from Tübingen University in Germany for her doctoral thesis on Children’s Rights and Obligations in Canon Law.

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Mary McAleese, JDL (2019), Pontifical Gregorian University, is Professor of Children, Religion and Law at the University of Glasgow. She is both a civil and canon lawyer and was President of Ireland 1997-2011. Her publications include Quo Vadis, Collegiality in the Code of Canon Law (Columba Press, 2012).
List of Abrreviations
 1Objective and Scope of the Research
 2State of the Question
1Children as Rights Holders
 1A basic framework
 1.1 Internal Considerations
 1.2 External Considerations
 2A Brief History of the Development of Children’s Rights
 2.1 Conflicting Views of Childhood from Antiquity to the Modern Era
 2.2 Early Christian Teachings and Children’s Rights
 2.3 The Influence of the Old and New Testaments
 2.4 Church, State and Patria Potestas
 2.5 The Impact of the Enlightenment and Romanticism
 2.6 Children’s Rights in the Early Twentieth Century
 2.7 The United Nations and Children’s Rights
 3Background to Children’s Rights in Current Canon Law
 3.1 The Second Vatican Council and Children
 3.2 Children’s Rights in Drafting the 1983 Code of Canon Law
 3.3 The Idea of Rights of the Faithful
 3.4 Children’s Rights in Post CIC Church Documents
2The Code of Canon Law and Children
 1.1 The Canonical «person»
 1.2 The Word «child»
 1.3 Age and the Child in Canon Law
 1.4 The Unborn
 1.5 Minor
 1.6 Infant
 1.7 Non sui compos
 1.8 Post Infancy Minority to Adulthood
 2Who is a «child» in Canon Law
 2.1 Problems with the Term «child»
 2.2 Interpreting the Terms Pueri (Children) and iuvenis (youth)
 2.3 Problems with the Terms Infans (Infant) and Minor (Minor)
 2.4 Use of the Term «Childhood»
 3The Canonical Effects of Baptism on Children
 3.1 The Spiritual/Theological Effects of Baptism
 3.2 The Ecclesial/Juridic Consequences of Baptism
 3.3 The Paedobaptized and Credobaptized
 4Completing Sacramental Initiation and Its Canonical Effects
 4.1 The Meaning of «full Christian initiation»
 4.2 Initiation and Membership
 4.3 Penance
 4.4 The Sacrament of the Eucharist and Children’s Rights and Obligations
 4.5 The Sacrament of Confirmation and Children’s Rights and Obligations
 5The Rights and Obligations of Others Which Affect Children
 5.1 Rights and Obligations of the Child’s Parents
 5.2 Church Rights and Obligations Regarding the Child’s Education and Upbringing
 5.3 Teachers
 5.4 Rights and Obligations of a Child’s Godparents/Sponsors
 5.5 Rights and Obligations of the Child’s Pastor
 5.6 Rights and Obligations of the Child’s Diocesan Bishop or Ordinary
 5.7 Rights and Obligations of the Child’s Catholic Community
 5.8 Rights and Obligations of the Pope and Magisterium with Regard to the Child
 5.9 The Catholic Child’s All-Embracing Catholic Milieu
 6Children’s Rights and Obligations in the CIC
 6.1 The Basic Canons: Cann. 11, 96, 97, 98, 111 and 112
 6.2 Rights and Obligations of Infant Minors from Birth to Age Seven
 6.3 Infant Minors’ Rights to the Sacraments
 6.4 Rights and Obligations of Minors Aged Seven and Upwards
 6.5 The CIC and the Child’s Evolving Capacities
 7Rights and Obligations of the Christian Faithful and Laity
 7.1 Rights and Obligations of the Christian Faithful. The Introductory Canons, 204–207
 7.2 Rights and Obligations of the Christian Faithful: Canons 208–223
 7.3 General Rights and Obligations of the Laity Canons 224–231
 7.4 Additional General Rights and Obligations of the Faithful and the Laity
 8Rights of the Non-Baptized Child
3Canon Law and the UN Convention on the Rights of the
 1The Holy See and the CRC in Dispute
 2The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989
 2.1 Children’s Rights under the UNCRC
 2.2 Compliance with the UNCRC
 3The Holy See and the United Nations
 4The Holy See and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
 4.1 Distinct but Related, the Holy See, the Vatican City State and the Catholic Church
 5The Holy See’s UN Treaty Compliance Reports
 5.1 The Holy See and the CERD 398
 5.2 The Holy See and the CRC
 6Canon Law and the uncrc – An Inconclusive State of Affairs
Index of Authors
All interested in Catholic Church canon law and catechesis and anyone concerned with international children’s rights law.
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