Computation of time

Last updated

For the treatise on time written by Bede the Venerable, see The Reckoning of Time.

The Reckoning of Time is an Anglo-Saxon era treatise written in Medieval Latin by the Northumbrian monk Bede in 725. The treatise includes an introduction to the traditional ancient and medieval view of the cosmos, including an explanation of how the spherical Earth influenced the changing length of daylight, of how the seasonal motion of the Sun and Moon influenced the changing appearance of the new moon at evening twilight, and a quantitative relation between the changes of the tides at a given place and the daily motion of the Moon.


Scale of justice, canon law.svg
Part of a series on the
Canon law of the
Catholic Church
046CupolaSPietro.jpg Catholicismportal

In the canon law of the Catholic Church, the computation of time, [1] also translated as the reckoning of time [2] (Latin: supputatio temporis [2] ), is the manner by which legally-specified periods of time are calculated according to the norm of the canons on the computation of time. The application of laws frequently involves a question of time: generally three months must elapse after their promulgation before they go into effect; some obligations have to be fulfilled within a certain number of days, or weeks, or months. Hence the need of the rules for the computation of time. [3] With the Code of 1917 and the reformed Code of 1983, the legislator has formulated these rules with a clearness and precision that they never had before. [3]

The canon law of the Catholic Church is the system of laws and legal principles made and enforced by the hierarchical authorities of the Catholic Church to regulate its external organization and government and to order and direct the activities of Catholics toward the mission of the Church. It was the first modern Western legal system and is the oldest continuously functioning legal system in the West, while the unique traditions of Oriental canon law govern the 23 Eastern Catholic particular churches sui iuris.

Ecclesiastical Latin, also called Church Latin, Liturgical Latin or Italian Latin, is a form of Latin initially developed to discuss Christian thought and later used as a lingua franca by the Medieval and Early Modern upper class of Europe. It includes words from Vulgar Latin and Classical Latin re-purposed with Christian meaning. It is less stylized and rigid in form than Classical Latin, sharing vocabulary, forms, and syntax, while at the same time incorporating informal elements which had always been with the language but which were excluded by the literary authors of classical Latin. Its pronunciation is based on Italian.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law, also called the Johanno-Pauline Code, is the "fundamental body of ecclesiastical laws for the Latin Church". It is the second and current comprehensive codification of canonical legislation for the Latin Church sui iuris of the Catholic Church. It was promulgated on 25 January 1983 by John Paul II and took legal effect on the First Sunday of Advent 1983. It replaced the 1917 Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Benedict XV on 27 May 1917.

Scope and nature of rules

These rules hold in all canonical matters: universal ordinances, precepts, rescripts, privileges, judicial sentences; but they have nothing to do with problems of chronology or such questions as the determination of the date for the celebration of Easter. [3]

They are not absolute rules, but should be followed when no others have been expressly laid down; liturgical laws regarding, for example, the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, of the solemnity of a feast, remain unchanged. [3] The former use of 'time' in indulgences (prior to Paul VI's revision of sacred indulgences) had special provisions in the 1917 Code (cc. 921, 922, 923, 931), and it is stated that in what pertains to the fulfilment or enforcement of contracts, the prescriptions of the civil law should be complied with, unless there has been some other agreement to the contrary. Nothing prevents inferior legislators from adopting different rules for the application of their own laws, and it is clearly implied that private persons themselves have the same right in matters which depend on their will, like determining when an article sold should be delivered, paid for, etc. [3]

The 1917 Code of Canon Law, also referred to as the Pio-Benedictine Code, was the first official comprehensive codification of Latin canon law. It was promulgated on 27 May 1917 and took legal effect on 19 May 1918. It was in force until the 1983 Code of Canon Law took legal effect and abrogated it on 27 November 1983. It has been described as "the greatest revolution in canon law since the time of Gratian".

The canon law of contract follows that of the civil jurisdiction in which canon law operates..

Useful and continuous time

By useful time is meant in law the time granted for the exercise or prosecution of one's rights in such a way that it does not run if one is prevented from using it through ignorance or some other cause. [4]

Continuous time suffers no delay or interruption from one's ignorance or impossibility to act. [4]

Thus colleges which possess the right of appointment to a vacant office are given three months of useful time to exercise it, which implies that if they were prevented, v.g. for ten days, from meeting for the election they would have that many additional days to exercise their right. On the contrary, capitular chapters have eight days after the vacancy of the episcopal see has been made known to them to elect a Vicar Capitular, and it is specified that if no election has been made within that time, whatever be the cause, that right devolves to the Metropolitan (cf. 1917 CIC cc. 161, 432). [4]


Months are computed according to the calendar from the date of publication. [5] A "canonical month" (in contradistinction to a "calendar month") is a period of 30 days, [6] while a "calendar month" is a continuous month.

Vacatio legis

The vacatio legis is computed according to the calendar; for example, if a law is promulgated on 2 November, and the vacatio legis is 3 months, then the law takes effect on 2 February. [7] So a universal law has a vacatio legis of approximately 90 days—3 months taken according to the calendar—while a particular law has a vacatio legis of approximately 30 days—1 month taken according to the calendar—unless specified to the contrary.


From 1918 [8] to 1983, [9] Book I, Title III of the 1917 Code of Canon Law [1] regulated the computation of time in the Latin Church.

Related Research Articles

In law, codification is the process of collecting and restating the law of a jurisdiction in certain areas, usually by subject, forming a legal code, i.e. a codex (book) of law.

Diocesan administrator provisional ordinary of a Roman Catholic particular church

A diocesan administrator is a provisional ordinary of a Roman Catholic particular church.

Regulæ Iuris, also spelled Regulae - and - Juris is a generic term for general rules or principles of the interpretation of canon laws of the Catholic Church. While they no longer have binding force of law since the 1917 Code of Canon Law abrogated them, they remain good principles of law used in interpreting canon law.

The Corpus Juris Canonici is a collection of significant sources of the canon law of the Catholic Church that was applicable to the Latin Church. It was replaced by the 1917 Code of Canon Law which went into effect in 1918. The 1917 Code was later replaced by the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the codification of canon law currently in effect for the Latin Church. In 1990, Oriental canon law was codified in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which is currently in effect for the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Regarding the canon law of the Catholic Church, canonists provide and obey rules for the interpretation and acceptation of words, in order that legislation is correctly understood and the extent of its obligation is determined.

Vacatio legis is a technical term in both Catholic canon law and civil law which refers to the period between the promulgation of a law and the time the law takes legal effect.

The legal history of the Catholic Church is the history of the oldest continuously functioning legal system in the West, much later than Roman law but predating the evolution of modern European civil law traditions. The history of Latin canon law can be divided into four periods: the jus antiquum, the jus novum, the jus novissimum and the Code of Canon Law. In relation to the Code, history can be divided into the jus vetus and the jus novum. Eastern canon law developed separately.

Promulgation in the canon law of the Catholic Church is the publication of a law by which it is made known publicly, and is required by canon law for the law to obtain legal effect. Universal laws are promulgated when they are published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, and unless specified to the contrary, obtain legal force three months after promulgation. Particular laws are promulgated in various ways but by default take effect one month after promulgation.

In the canon law of the Catholic Church, obrogation is the enacting of a contrary law that is a revocation of a previous law. It may also be the partial cancellation or amendment of a law, decree, or legal regulation by the imposition of a newer one.

For the legal system of ecclesiastical canons, see Canon law and Canon law.

A decree 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. 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.

The jurisprudence of Catholic canon law is the complex of legal theory, traditions, and interpretative principles of Catholic canon law. In the Latin Church, the jurisprudence of canon law was founded by Gratian in the 1140s with his Decretum. In the Oriental canon law of the Eastern Catholic Churches, Photios holds a place similar to that of Gratian for the West.

For a look at Presumption in other jurisdictions, see Presumption.

The philosophy, theology, and fundamental theory of canon law are the fields of philosophical, theological (ecclesiological), and legal scholarship which concern the place of canon law in the nature of the Catholic Church, both as a natural and as a supernatural entity. Philosophy and theology shape the concepts and self-understanding of canon law as the law of both a human organization and as a supernatural entity, since the Catholic Church believes that Jesus Christ instituted the church by direct divine command, while the fundamental theory of canon law is a meta-discipline of the "triple relationship between theology, philosophy, and canon law".

Catholic canon law is the set of rules and principles (laws) by which the Catholic Church is governed, through enforcement by governmental authorities. Law is also the field which concerns the creation and administration of laws.


  1. 1 2 Peters, Dr. Edward N., The 1917 or Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law, pg. 39 (Book I, Title III).
  2. 1 2 Caparros et al., 1983 Code of Canon Law , pg. 160 (Book I, Title XI: De temporis supputatione)
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Ayrinhac, General Legislation §122
  4. 1 2 3 Ayrinhac, General Legislation, §129.
  5. Della Rocca, Fernando. Manual of Canon Law, pg. 70.
  6. Canon 202 §1, 1983 Code of Canon Law
  7. De Meester, Juris Canonici Compendium, v. 1, pg. 176.
  8. Benedict XV, ap. const. Providentissima Mater Ecclesia
  9. John Paul II, ap. const. Sacræ disciplinæ leges