Decree (Catholic canon law)

A decree (Latin: decretum, from decerno, "I judge") is, in a general sense, an order or law made by a superior authority for the direction of others. In the usage of the canon law of the Catholic Church, it has various meanings. Any papal bull, brief, or motu proprio is a decree inasmuch as these documents are legislative acts of the pope. In this sense the term is quite ancient.[note 1] The Roman congregations were formerly empowered to issue decrees in matters which come under their particular jurisdiction, but were forbidden from continuing to do so under Pope Benedict XV in 1917. Each ecclesiastical province, and also each diocese may issue decrees in their periodical synods within their sphere of authority.

Decrees can be distinguished between legislative and executory decrees. A general legislative decree enacts law (lex) and stands on its own, while executory decrees determine the implementation of a legislative act and are dependent upon such for their efficacy.

Executory decrees can further be distinguished between general executory decrees and singular executory decrees. A general executory decree binds all those for whom the original law was made, while a singular executory decree makes a decision or makes provision for the appointment of a specific office. Precepts are a kind of singular executory decree, which bind specific person(s) to do or refrain from some act, especially to observe the law. Singular executory decrees are administrative acts subject to administrative recourse.

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