Society foundations explained in Canon Law course

Delivered on the University's Sydney Campus, Canon Law provides students with an introduction to the internal laws governing the Catholic Church and the role they play in today's civil law

4 March 2015

The integration of Canon Law into undergraduate studies provides valuable insights for all future legal practitioners seeking to gain a real understanding of how different legal systems operate and how the Catholic faith has played a significant role in the development of Australia's civil law, according to Professor Michael Quinlan, Dean of the School of Law, Sydney, at The University of Notre Dame Australia.

Delivered on the University's Sydney Campus, the introductory unit of study provides students with an introduction to the internal laws governing the Catholic Church, specified in the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983, and the role they play in today's civil law.

The course is centred on the history of Canon Law, including its purpose, nature, sources and context. Students also explore the Church's tribunals, including procedure, evidence and appeals; the disciplining of clergy and laity; marriage and annulment; and the administration of Church property.

Law student on the Sydney Campus, Anitra Yu, said the course provided her with great insight to the interaction between civil law and Church law, and their combined importance for the upkeep of society.

"I chose to study Canon Law because I've been a practising Catholic all my life and felt that as a Catholic and a future lawyer, I should be aware of the laws regarding the administration of various Catholic teachings and doctrines," Anitra said.

"From studying this course, I now have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the Church's teachings on various issues."

As a Catholic university, Notre Dame is committed to encouraging students to think critically and act ethically as they enter their chosen careers; one of the intents of the University's Core Curriculum.

Professor Michael Quinlan said all students should be given the opportunity to study Canon Law as part of their Law degree due to its practical nature and broad consideration of religion and its influence in Australia's legal system.

"Over their careers as lawyers it is very likely that our graduates will have to grapple with a range of legal systems – understanding how the Canon Law works will help them with this," Professor Quinlan said.

"A significant number of our graduates will work in the area of family law and having a basic understanding of the Catholic Church's rules for marriage and annulments will be a valuable addition to their knowledge of the secular system of family law in Australia.

"Over and above the practical value of this unit many of our students value learning about the Catholic Church's rules and regulations either because they are Catholics themselves or because they are simply interested in understanding the regulatory environment of the largest Christian denomination in the world."

For more information on the Introduction to Canon Law course, please contact the University's School of Law, Sydney, at

Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093;