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Online-Wörterbuch zum katholischen Kirchenrecht – Online Dictionary of Catholic Canon Law


Motives and goals of the dictionary

For a long time, canon law terminology has been a focus of the chair of canon law at Munich University now held by Prof. Berkmann. Already the founder of the Institute of Canon Law, Klaus Mörsdorf (1909-1989), got well-known for his still unsurpassed reference work „Die Rechtssprache des Codex Juris Canonici: eine kritische Untersuchung“ (1st edition Paderborn 1937) [in English: Legal terminology of the Codex Juris Canonici: A critical study”]. The so-called „rechtssprachliche Übung“, a tutorial on legal terminology, is a compulsory part of canon law licentiate studies in Munich up till today. Whereas Latin remains the main language of canon law sources, modern common languages become more and more important in canon law studies. The loss of a single lingua franca, however, results in problems of communication and translation, though. This dictionary is meant to provide means avoiding those.

The students studying at Klaus-Mörsdorf-Institute of Canon Law at LMU Munich become more international and ask for the means to facilitate acquiring the German canon law terminology. Moreover, experience indicates that canon law literature in German is less and less received worldwide due to the decline of language skills. Therefore, other goals of CICDIC are to promote the distribution of German canon law literature, to facilitate access to it and to maintain German as a canon law language.

Latin/German translation tools exist already – even up-to-date, digital ones (cf. Lüdicke, Klaus, Kanonistenlateinisch-deutsches Lexikon©, Stand: 2015, at: https://www.rkdocumenten.nl/UserFiles/files/lexikon.pdf). The novelty with CICDIC, in contrast, is that German terms are directly linked with a modern world language.

A general difficulty for bilingual legal dictionaries is that different legal terminology usually comes with a different system of law and a differing legal culture in which many terms do not have an exact equivalent. How to translate English „trust“ into German for example? Or „Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts“ into English? In contrast, the advantage of canon law is that it is the same system of law applicable to approx. 1,3 billion Catholics worldwide which expresses itself in different languages that have developed more or less identical words for the same terms. Particular law and state-church law are exceptions though. Often, exact equivalents cannot be found in these fields which is why one has to fall back on paraphrasing for a translation. Since it is mainly these legal fields gaining importance and scope, CICDIC also significantly contributes to make peculiarities of the Catholic church in the German language area comprehensible. Even within this language area, one and the same word can have regionally different meanings, like for example with „Pastoralassistenten“ (pastoral assistants) in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

CICDIC is worldwide available at any time thanks to open access. In its first release form dating from February 2022, CICDIC comprises more than 4,000 keywords in each of both languages. The online format allows for continuously updating, improving and extending it. Please feel free to point out any tips concerning that continuous improvement by mail to Sekretariat.berkmann@kaththeol.uni-muenchen.de

Have a frequent and fruitful use of CICDIC,

Burkhard Berkmann