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Doctor of Canon Law ( ; J.C.D.) is the doctoral-level terminal degree in the studies of canon law of the Roman Catholic Church.

It may also be abbreviated I.C.D. or dr.iur.can. (Iuris Canonici Doctor), ICDr., D.C.L., D.Cnl., D.D.C., or D.Can.L. (Doctor of Canon Law). Doctor of both laws (i.e. canon and civil) are J.U.D. (Juris Utriusque Doctor), or U.J.D. (Utriusque Juris Doctor).

A doctorate in canon law normally requires at least two years of additional study and the development and defense of an original dissertation that contributes to the development of canon law after having earned the degree Licentiate of Canon Law. Only pontifical universities and ecclesiastical faculties of canon law may grant the doctorate or licentiate in canon law.

The Licentiate of Canon Law is a three-year degree, the prerequisite for the study of which is normally the graduate level bachelor of sacred theology (S.T.B.), a master of divinity (M.Div.), a master of arts in Catholic theology (M.A.), or a civil law degree (J.D. or LL.B.) and a bachelor degree in canon law (J.C.B.) or its relative equivalent.

While not a civil law degree, the doctor of canon law is in some ways comparable to the Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.) or doctor of laws (LL.D.) in terms of academic level of study as they are terminal academic degrees.

Members of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, judicial vicars, ecclesiastical judges, defenders of the bond, and promoters of justice, must possess either a doctorate or license in canon law. Either of the degrees is recommended for those who serve as vicar general or episcopal vicar in a diocese. Candidates for bishop must either possess the doctorate in canon law or the doctorate in sacred theology or be truly expert in one of those fields. Canonical advocates must possess the doctorate or be truly expert.

The Roman Church has the oldest continuously used homogenous legal system in the world. Following the Gregorian Reform's emphasis on canon law, bishops formed cathedral schools to train the clergy in canon law. Consequently, many of the medieval universities of Europe founded faculties of canon law (e.g., Cambridgemarker and Oxfordmarker). Since the Protestant Reformation, however, they became limited to those universities which retained Catholic faculties (e.g., Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas , Gregorian University, Catholic University of Louvain). Other Catholic universities with ecclesiastical faculties in canon law were subsequently given the ability to grant the degree (e.g., The Catholic University of Americamarker, University of Saint Paulmarker). The University of Santo Tomasmarker in Manilamarker, Philippinesmarker, has been awarding the degree since 1734.

Noted Doctors of Canon Law

  • Migliore, Celestino Archbishop, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations

  • Moverley, Gerald, Bishop Emeritus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hallammarker (England): awarded a Doctorate in Canon Law by the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum)

  • Paul VI, Pope: awarded Doctorate in Canon Law from University of Milan


  1. Cf. Holy See Press Office, Daily Bulletin of 07.05.2003, Rinunce e nomine, Rinuncia dell’Arcivescovo Metropolita di Guayaquil (Ecuador) e nomina del successore
  2. Cf. The Order of Preachers, Biography of Carlos Alfonso Azpiroz Costa O.P.
  3. Cf. Duquesne University School of Law, Faculty, Academics (Full-Time Faculty and Administration), Nicholas P. Cafardi
  4. Cf. Holy See Press Office, Daily Bulletin of 26.03.2004, Rinunce e nomine, Rinuncia del Vescovo di Hexham and Newcastle (Inghilterra) e nomina del successore
  5. Cf. Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, Il Collegio Cardinalizio, Cenni biografici, Herranz Card. Julián
  6. Cf. Archdiocese of Louisville, The Archdiocese, Archbishop Thomas Cajetan Kelly, O.P.
  7. Cf. Holy See Press Office, Daily Bulletin of 29.12.2004, Rinunce e nomine, Nomina del Vescovo di La Crosse (U.S.A.)
  8. Cf. The Church in England and Wales, News Release (14 December 1996), Death of Bishop Moverley
  9. Cf. Catholic University, Office of the President, Biography
  10. Cf. Holy See Press Office, College of Cardinals, Biographical notes, Oddi Card. Silvio
  11. Cf. Holy See Press Office, Daily Bulletin of 26.10.2001, Rinunce e nomine, Rinuncia dell‘Arcivescovo Metropolita di Cardiff (Galles) e nomina del successore
  12. Cf. [1]
  13. Cf. Holy See Press Office, College of Cardinals, Biographical notes, Vithayathil Card. Varkey, C.SS.R.

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