The Place of Societas Perfecta in the Contemporary Discourse of the Roman Catholic Church

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In the Institutiones juris publici ecclesiae (Institutes of the Public Law of the Church), Cardinal Al¬fredo Ottaviani develops the concept of societas perfecta applying it to the Roman Catholic Church. Using the natural law theories popularized by Pufendorf and Protestant defenders of civil rights, Ottaviani develops in a classical expression the juridical foundation of the Holy See’s sovereignty with the help of the doctrine of societas perfecta. The Church would strengthen through this doctrine its independence in international relations.

Mystici Corporis Christi encyclical, given by Pope Pius in 1943, ads an aspect to societas perfecta: its juridical meaning doesn’t exclude the spiritual understanding of the Church. Knowing that a 4th edition of Ottaviani’s book is published just before Vatican second Council (1962–1965) in my paper I will try to find out what are the uses of this concept after Vatican II. During catholic history, societas perfecta was used with different meanings and purposes; actually it was a continuous transformation. Today we may face a new transformation of this concept concerning the Church’s discourse as transnational actor. In this sense, traditional way of understanding it, as “the pre-eminence of Church over the State” and “church’s intrinsic authority to accomplish its mission” are re-evaluated in Church’s discourse today.


Keywords: Societas Perfecta, Roman Catholic Church, Protestantism, Sovereignty, Papacy, Church Discourse
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Place of Societas Perfecta in the Contemporary Discourse of the Roman Catholic Church, The


Corina Petronela Untea

Student, Master 2, Paris 11 University
Bucharest, Romania


Ref: I08P0804