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History of the Periodica de re canonica Journal

1. Leuven Period

The journal was begun at the University of Leuven, where, in the first part of the 19th century, the Jesuit Arthur Vermeersch tought moral theology and canon law. In 1911, he founded the review and named it De religiosis et missionariis supplementa et monumenta periodica. Its contents were presented in two parts:

  • Supplementa, with subjects concerning religious life in the light of canonical doctrine.
  • Monumenta, with the publication of decrees and other documents regarding religious, and publications of the dicasteries of the Holy See.

2. Transfer to Rome

In 1919, Vermeersch came to Rome, called to teach at the Pontifcal Gregorian University. The journal followed him, and soon, the first changes were noticed. The ninth volume in 1920 came to be called Periodica de re canonica et morali utilia praesertim religiosis et missionariis. The scope of the journal had always been focused on religious life, but the scope was enlarged to other approach, not only that of canon law, but also of moral theology.

3. Successive Years

The change of the title of the journal in 1927 testifies to a new expansion of scope: Periodica de re morali, canonica, liturgica. As such, collaboration was opened up beyond canonists and moralists, and also to liturgists. Not only this, but beyond the religious life, the scope of the journal expanded to the entire life of the Church, to those problems which were of interest to canon law, moral theology, and liturgy. None of these subjects took precedence over another. Also, the diverse authors who wrote for the journal influenced the choice of subjects and the quality of the articles. It must be remembered that before the Second Vatican Council, these three areas of research (canon law, moral theology, liturgy) did not have as clear and clear-cut distinction between them as after the Council.

4. After the Second Vatican Council

After the Council, however, moral theology and liturgy confronted new questions, and as such, the arguments considering these three sacred disciplines were distinguished more and more. In each discipline, we can identify an ever-increasing specification, such that the moralists and liturgists of the Gregorian began to write in other journals that were more specific to their respective fields. Not only this, but the decision of many authors was dictated also by the use of language: the articles in Periodica were written in Latin, a language less and less used, while other journals accepted articles in various languages. Within the Faculty of Canon Law of the Pontifical Gregorian University, Latin continued to be the official language. As such, canonists had no linguistic difficulty. The consequence was the progressive loss of articles on moral theology and liturgy. The title remained the same, but the contents returned to the original area of interest.

Between 1967 and 1980, the subdivision in two sections decreased: Monumenta was giving less and less space to information regarding important documents of the Holy See, and the number of original articles was increasing. The journal also began to publish decrees and sentences of the Apostolic Signatura and the Holy Roman Rota.

Meanwhile, the presence of interventions about the role and significance of the documents of Vatican II also increased. The journal thus offered in-depth material that would become the foundation for the new Code of Canon Law.

5. After the Drafting of the 1983 Code of Canon Law

From 1981 to 1992, a very important work was completedóthe redaction of the new Code. In the meantime, the section Monumenta was reopened, presenting important texts of the Holy See in the form of brief summaries. The title changed again, the third in the brief history of the journal: Periodica di re canonica. In 1991, this new title was rearranged to the renewed content.

From 1993 to 1995, the journal opened up also to the other official languages of the Gregorian. Hence, the larger part of the articles is written in Italian, but articles are also present in French, English, Spanish and German. Naturally, for the authors who wish it, an open space still remains for Latin. The section Monumenta no longer exists, but a bibliographical section has been opened. As such, the reader is given a means not just to read the documents of the Holy See (which are certainly fundamental for a canonist), but also books, articles, and important interventions in the material of canon law. Naturally, attention continues to be given to documents of the Apostolic Signatura and the Roman Rota.