Sui iuris, also spelled as sui juris ( or ), is a Latin phrase that literally means "of one's own right". It is used in both civil law and canon law by the Catholic Church. The term church sui iuris is used in the Catholic Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO) to denote the autonomous churches in Catholic communion:
A church sui iuris is "a community of the Christian faithful, which is joined together by a hierarchy according to the norm of law and which is expressly or tacitly recognized as sui iuris by the supreme authority of the Church" (CCEO.27). The term sui iuris is an innovation of the CCEO, and it denotes the relative autonomy of the oriental Catholic Churches. This canonical term, pregnant with many juridical nuances, indicates the God-given mission of the Oriental Catholic Churches to keep up their patrimonial autonomous nature. And the autonomy of these churches is relative in the sense that it is under the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff.
The Latin sui iuris (the individual words meaning 'self' and 'law') corresponds to the Greek '', from which the English word autonomy is derived.
Church documents such as the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches apply the Latin term sui iuris to the particular Churches that are together the Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church and those in communion with it. By far the largest of the sui iuris churches is the Latin Church or the Latin Rite. Over that particular church, the Pope exercises his papal authority, and the authority that in other particular churches belongs to a Patriarch. He has, therefore, been referred to also as Patriarch of the West. The other particular Churches are called Eastern Catholic Churches, each of which, if large enough, has its own patriarch or other chief hierarch, with authority over all the bishops of that particular Church or rite.
The same term is applied also to missions that lack enough clergy to be set up as apostolic prefectures but are for various reasons given autonomy and so are not part of any diocese, apostolic vicariate or apostolic prefecture. In 2004, there were eleven such missions: three in the Atlantic, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, and Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; two in the Pacific, Funafuti (Tuvalu), and Tokelau; and six in central Asia, Afghanistan, Baku (Azerbaijan), Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
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According to CCEO, the Oriental Catholic churches sui iuris are of four categories.
A patriarchal church is a full-grown form of an Eastern Catholic church. It is 'a community of the Christian faithful joined together by' a Patriarchal hierarchy. The Patriarch together with the synod of bishops has the legislative, judicial and administrative powers within jurisdictional territory of the patriarchal church, without prejudice to those powers reserved, in the common law to the Roman pontiff (CCEO 55-150). Among the catholic oriental churches the following churches are of patriarchal status:
Major archiepiscopal churches are the oriental churches, governed by the major archbishops being assisted by the respective synod of bishops. These churches also have almost the same rights and obligations of Patriarchal Churches. A major archbishop is the metropolitan of a see determined or recognized by the Supreme authority of the Church, who presides over an entire Eastern Church sui iuris that is not distinguished with the patriarchal title. What is stated in common law concerning patriarchal Churches or patriarchs is understood to be applicable to major archiepiscopal churches or major archbishops, unless the common law expressly provides otherwise or it is evident from the nature of the matter" (CCEO.151, 152). Following are the Major Archiepiscopal Churches:
A sui iuris church which is governed by a metropolitan is called a metropolitan church sui iuris. "A Metropolitan Church sui iuris is presided over by the Metropolitan of a determined see who has been appointed by the Roman Pontiff and is assisted by a council of hierarchs according to the norm of law" (CCEO. 155§1). The Catholic metropolitan churches are the following:
Other than the above-mentioned three forms of sui iuris churches there are some other sui iuris ecclesiastical communities. It is "a Church sui iuris which is neither patriarchal nor major archiepiscopal nor Metropolitan, and is entrusted to a hierarch who presides over it in accordance with the norm of common law and the particular law established by the Roman Pontiff" (CCEO. 174). The following churches are of this juridical status:
In civil law, the phrase sui juris indicates legal competence, and refers to an adult who has the capacity to manage his or her own affairs. It is opposed to alieni juris, meaning one such as a minor or mentally disabled person who is legally incompetent and under the control of another. It also indicates a person capable of suing and/or being sued in a legal proceeding in his own name (in personam) without the need of an ad litem, that is, a court appointed representative, acting on behalf of a defendant, who is deemed to be incapable of representing himself.
The Congress of the United States is a good example of a sui juris institution. The two chambers of the Congress convene by their own right as defined in the US Constitution (Twentieth Amendment) on January 3 every year. The US President does not have to invite or call the Congress to assemble for regular sessions, but he has the option to call special sessions. Thus, in the United States, the legislature functions independently of the executive, but there are some checks and balances.
That is in contrast with many parliamentary democracies, like Canada and the United Kingdom, where the Queen (the head of state), at the request of the Prime Minister (the head of government), has power to convene, prorogue, or dissolve Parliament, which has no choice in the matter. (However, in 2019 the United Kingdom Supreme Court ruled that the Prime Minister's advice to HM The Queen to prorogue the UK Parliament was designed to deprive Parliament of the opportunity to debate matters relating to the UK's leaving the European Union and was therefore unlawful and that the prorogue never, therefore, happened.)
Likewise, in India, the federal Parliament can assemble if and only if the President of India summons it on the advice of the Prime Minister. That is because the Indian Constitution is largely based upon the conventions of the Westminster system that India inherited and adapted from British rule.
sui juris ['su:a? 'dr?s] adj (Law) (usually postpositive) Law of full age and not under disability; legally competent to manage one's own affairs; independent [from Latin, literally: of one's own right]