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LLM (Master of Laws) in Canon Law

Canon law relates to laws and regulations made by an ecclesiastical authority, such as the leadership of the Anglican or Catholic Church. The laws govern the church and its members, providing internal operational policy for the administration of the church. A Master of Laws (LLM) in Canon Law provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary for applying church law within individual national churches of the Anglican Church as well as within Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. This masters degree is also an opportunity to study and review the application of ecclesiastical laws and regulations within the context of national and international law. Courses cover various aspects of church law, including theology, philosophy and ethics.

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Number crunching the LLM in Canon Law

2 LLMs in Canon Law worldwide

2 years of part-time study to qualify

LLM in Canon Law – who's it for?

An LLM in Canon Law is designed for individuals who practice or are involved in administering church law, including lawyers and other professionals or executives. Secular and ecclesiastical judges, barristers and solicitors are common professionals that complete this program. The degree is also pursued by clergy members and university academics. It is also suitable for anyone interested in legal scholarship within the field of canon law including further study towards a PhD.

Where can you study an LLM in Canon Law?

LLM in Canon LawChurch law remains an emerging field of study and a small number of universities offer masters programs leading to an LLM in Canon Law. Programs are based on distance education and are offered on a part-time basis. Generally, previous religious instruction or membership in a specific church (for example, completion of sacraments of the Catholic faith), are not required for admission.

Cardiff University has the only LLM program in Canon Law in the United Kingdom, and it is the first degree of its kind available at a UK university since the Reformation. The two-year course at the Cardiff Law School takes an inter-disciplinary approach using distance and part-time learning. The faculty represents various fields of study, including legal studies, theology, philosophy and ethics. It covers canon law within the Worldwide Anglican Communion including the Church of England. The research-led program also covers canon law within the Roman Catholic Church and how state law applies to Catholic and Anglican churches.

The University of Vienna’s Faculty of Law offers a two-year LLM in Canon law in German. The distance education program is designed to allow students to continue working. Classes are held every two to three months from Friday to Sunday. Coursework introduces students to the history and principles of canonic law and its legal theological foundations. Other topics covered by the curriculum include constitutional law as well as religious and sacrament law. Law related to property, marriage and crime is also covered.

What qualifications do you need to study an LLM in Canon Law?

Generally, a law degree is needed to pursue an LLM in Canon Law. Although grades are one of the main considerations when applications are reviewed, other qualifications are also considered. This might include achievements in related fields, including previous work experience. For the LLM program at Cardiff University, applicants should have a good bachelors degree in Law (2:2 or equivalent). An IELTS score of 6.5 (6.5 in writing and 6.0 in other components) or equivalent English language qualification will also be necessary if the applicant’s first language is not English. Similarly, the University of Vienna requires a law degree to enter the LLM program. This program is also open to historian and theologians that have passed an admissions exam.

Student case study

“The LLM in Canon Law helped move my professional practice towards greater specialism in church law and religious freedom and preserved my sanity in the relentless monotony of civil litigation.”

Mark Hill QC, Barrister and Honorary Professor of Law at Cardiff University (Source)

An LLM in Canon Law advances careers in...

  • Law
  • Judiciary
  • Education
  • Clergy
  • Church Administration

5 fascinating facts with an LLM in Canon Law

1. The Catholic Church has the oldest continuously functional internal legal system still in use within Western Europe and predates civil law.

2. The Church of England’s ecclesiastical courts date from the twelfth century and decided maters related to marriage, divorce, wills, defamation and other disputes.

3. Since the Reformation, the ecclesiastical courts in England have been recognised as royal courts.

4. Teaching of canon law was banned at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge by Henry VII, meaning practitioners in the ecclesiastical courts were trained in civil law.

5. In 1991, the first canon law program since the Reformation was introduced by Cardiff University.

Recommended readings

New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law: Study Edition by John P Beal, James A Coriden and Thomas J Green (Paulist Press, 2002)

An Introduction to Canon Law by James A Coriden (Paulist Press, 2004)

A Concise Guide to Canon Law: A Practical Handbook for Pastoral Ministers by Kevin E McKenna (Ave Maria Press, 2000)

Canon Law in the Anglican Communion: A Worldwide Perspective by Norman Doe (Oxford University Press, 1998)

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