decrees of Roman Pontiffs and Congregations

These are largely legislative enactments, the former found in papal Constitutions, Apostolic letters, Apostolic epistles, and Motu Proprios; the latter in the decrees proper of the respective Congregations. The word decree is also used by the Church today in a non-legislative sense. Hence the Code on the one hand speaks of the decrees of general councils, of national and provincial councils, and even diocesan synods; on the other hand, of judicial and non-judicial decrees. Judicial decrees are all the rulings of an ecclesiastical court not comprised in incidental and final decisions. Non-judicial decrees vary from the regulations made in an episcopal visitation to the formal acts removing or transferring a pastor for the greater good of souls. The Roman Congregations, too, issue non-legislative decrees. For instance, the preliminary determinations in a process of canonization are made through decrees by the Congregations of Rites, the pope ratifying; so also are books condemned oy the Holy Office. But the Congregations now refrain from using the term decree when answering a query and designate the responses given either all dubia or declarationes.

New Catholic Dictionary

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