Dombois himself summarizes the efforts of his theoretical analysis as follows:

It is the thesis of this book that canon law has to ask about the juridical understanding, expression and constitution of the legitimate actions in the Church. In the search for appropriate juridical concepts, the juridical processes of acknowledgment of claims and of grace proved to be existential fundamental forms in which this spiritual happening takes place. The process of grace also proved to be the material foundation of the process of institution, but also linked up in a peculiar way with claim and acknowledgment.1

An important conclusion to be drawn from Dombois’ analysis is that the point in which the communal aspect of the Church’s actions is concentrated is the decision of the official minister that every action presupposes. It is through the official minister that the ecclesiastical community becomes capable of being an instrument of God’s grace. In the official minister the Church and the

1 “Es ist die These dieses Buches, dass das Kirchenrecht nach dem rechtlichen Verständnis, Ausdruck und Verfassung des legitimen Geschehens der Kirche zu fragen hat. Auf der Suche nach angemessenen Rechtsbegriffen zeigten sich die Rechtsvorgänge der Anspruchserkennung und der Gnade als existentiale Grundformen, in welchen diese geistliche Geschehen sich vollzieht. Der Gnadenvorgang erwies sich zugleich als der materiale Grund des Institutionsvorgangs, aber auch eigentümlich verklammert mit Anspruch und Anerkennung.” (I:771)


ecclesiastical community are concentrated. The official minister receives his legitimation through his ordination and through his standing within the tradition of the apostolic teaching. Apart from indicating the rights and duties that flow from the specific position that each member of the Church has within her, canon law will have to deal with the question of legitimation of the official ministry.

A theory about the reason for existence of canon law and about its character prepares the way for questioning and criticizing the actual canonical provisions of a given Christian church. This criticizing can be done while trying to take into account all the essential elements of the Church that bind the churches together and while trying to come closer to an ecumenical canon law as a means of ecumenical inspiration. Dombois, unfortunately, does not pay much attention to becoming more concrete and to formulating juridical precepts about the rights and duties of Church members and about the legitimation of official ministers. At the end of the passage cited on the previous page he adds: “With the analysis of these juridical structures the question about the concrete criteria according to which the decision has to be made is not answered yet.”2 Only at the end of the second volume

2 “Mit dem Nachweis dieser Rechtsstrukturen ist jedoch noch nicht die Frage nach den konkreten Kriterien beantwortet an Hand deren sich die Entscheidung vollzieht.” (I:771)


does he give some general principles of canon law which seem to derive from the questions about the existence and character of canon law.3 A huge area of further development of his theory is to be found here.

3 II:222-224.