54 Jurist 560 (1994)
Salus Animarum Suprema Lex: Mercy as a Legal Principle in the Application of Canon Law

handle is hein.journals/juristcu54 and id is 566 raw text is: THE JURIST 54 (1994) 560-590

SALUS ANIMARUM SUPREMA LEX:
MERCY AS A LEGAL PRINCIPLE
IN THE APPLICATION OF CANON LAW?
MYRIAM WIJLENS*
In the past years several publications have appeared concerning the
meaning of oikonomia in the Orthodox tradition and its relevance for
and use by the Catholic Church.' Such studies are all, but one, in the
form of articles and mostly concerned with only a particular aspect of
oikonomia. A welcome exception is the doctoral dissertation in theol-
ogy defended by Thomas Schiiller,2 a student of the respected German
canonist Hubert Muller. This dissertation not only embraces the entire
concept of oikonomia, but addresses a larger question organically con-
nected with it, that of the application of the law.3
* JCD (Saint Paul University, Ottawa, 1990). Post-doctoral researcher, lecturer at
the Institut ftir Kanonisches Recht at the Westflische Wilhelms Universitdt, member of
the Diocesan Tribunal of Munster, Germany.
I For example, there is the collection of presentations on oikonomia of the Fifth
Congress of the Society for the Law of the Oriental Churches published in Kanon (Vienna:
Verband der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaften Osterreichs, 1983) 6:15-83; see Ladislas
Orsy's account of that meeting, In Search of the Meaning of Oikonomia: Report on a
Convention, Theological Studies 43 (1982) 312-319. See also Yves Congar, Propos
en vue d'une th6ologie de IEconomie' dans la tradition latine, Irenikon 45 (1972)
155-206; Hubert MUller, Barmherzigkeit in der Rechtsordnung der Kirche? Archivfiir
katholisches Kirchenrecht 159 (1990) 353-367. Heinrich J. Reinhardt took oikonomia as
a subject for his inaugural lecture, held at the Ruhr University in Bochum (Germany) on
November 20, 1992 and published under the title Das orthodoxe Prinzip der oikonomia
als Anfrage an das katholische Kirchenrecht, in luri canonico promovendo, Festschrift
fir Heribert Schmitz, ed. Winfried Aymans and Karl-Theodor Geringer (Regensburg:
Pustet, 1994) 585-602. In English there is a study by John H. Erickson, Sacramental
'Economy' in Recent Roman Catholic Thought, THE JURIST 48 (1988) 653-667.
2 Thomas Schiuller, Die Barmherzigkeit als Prinzip der Rechtsapplikation in der
Kirche im Dienste der salus animarum. Ein kanonistischer Beitrag zu Methodenpro-
blemen der Kirchenrechtstheorie, Forschungen zur Kirchenrechtswissenschaft 14
(Wurzburg: Echter, 1992) xlviii-463.
3 Schuller uses the German word Rechtsapplikation, by which he means the mo-
ment law and life meet in a judicial or administrative decision. I will translate it as
application of the law. English canonical literature also speaks of implementation

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