Canon Law is an international law. The official texts of the law and of many documents with canonical importance are in Latin. Other texts appear from time to time in various modern languages. Many of the significant commentaries on the law, and studies about canon law topics, appear in languages other than English.

In order to understand this law more accurately, to interpret and apply it more fully, and to instruct others more effectively as to its meaning and proper application, it is important to have access to more than the limited amount available in English translations or studies concerning canon law. The development of an ability to use canonical Latin or the canonical literature in a modern language is an integral dimension of formation as a canon lawyer and subsequent professional work.

The following policy of the School of Canon Law is designed to facilitate this formation within the licentiate program in canon law:

  1. Students are to demonstrate an ability to use canonical literature in Latin and in one of the following modern languages: French, German, Italian, or Spanish in the following manner:  satisfactory completion of a written examination in French, German, Italian, or Spanish, administered by the School of Canon Law; satisfactory completion of a credit course in canonical Latin offered by the School of Canon Law during the regular academic year.
  2. The purpose for the examination is to demonstrate a sufficient understanding of the material to be able to use it reliably in addressing a canonical issue. The material of the examination will usually be taken from a commentary on the code or from an article or monograph dealing with some aspect of the current law of the church.  You must provide your own dictionary for the examination.
  3. The emphasis in the examination is on your comprehension of the material. The examination is on a pass/fail basis. If you fail to pass, the language examination may be retaken. No grade is reported on your permanent record, only the report that the language requirement has been satisfied.

Canon Law Latin Placement Exam

On behalf of the School of Canon Law, the Department of Greek and Latin offers a Latin placement exam to students who have previously studied Latin at a school other than CUA. The placement exam is administered by personal appointment with the department, and may be scheduled during weekday business hours.

The exam is designed to provide a graded approach to placement. It can be used for placement into LAT 501A/502A (Latin I, II) or LAT 505A (LAT III), or beyond LAT 505A (thus fulfilling the Canon Law Latin requirement).

The test has five parts and consists of 100 points. The first three parts are based on the classical Latin forms, syntax, and vocabulary taught in LAT 501A/501B. All the questions in these sections are multiple choice. The first part (1-30) tests morphology. The second part (31-60) tests simple sentences. The third part (61-80) tests complex sentences. The best resource for reviewing this material is the textbook used in LAT 501A/502A: Learn to Read Latin (Yale Univ. Press).

The fourth and fifth parts are based on passages of canonical Latin. Part four (81-90) asks multiple choice comprehension and grammar questions about two passages. Part five (90-100) asks for translations of two passages of canonical Latin.

Students are given 3 hours for the exam and are permitted to use a dictionary, but not a grammar (or dictionary containing a grammar).

Once the exam is taken, a member of the Greek and Latin faculty will grade it and determine placement on the basis of the scores achieved on different parts of the exam. Results are simultaneously reported by email to the student and the School of Canon Law.