Gregory the Great. Register of Epistles (590-604).

September 18, 2007

Generic Book“My writings which I have sent to the peasants cause thou to be read over throughout all the estates, that they may know in what points to defend themselves, under our authority, against acts of wrong; and let either the originals or copies be given to them. See that thou observe everything without abatement: for, with regard to what I have written to thee for abservance of justice, I am absolved; and, if thou art negligent, thou art guilty.”

Pope Gregory the Great wrote a lot of letters, and well, I read them all. These letters fascinating look into the medieval world through the eyes of a Pope. They are also packed full legal tidbits. The letters often act as the Pope’s conveyance of his official rulings on a number of different matters. He, as the Pope, was the judge on numerous canon law activities.

As these are letters (and owing to the difficulties of research law this old), instead af searching out a specific legal theme that runs through them all, I am just going to list the highlights. Of course, I’m positive I’ve missed some. Enjoy.

BOOK I
IX: Gregory sends Peter the Subdeacon to investigate a property dispute in which a group of monks are having their land encroached upon by a farm owned by the church. Gregory rules that if the land has been in their possession for 40 years they are the rightful owners even if it doesn’t benefit the church. If the boundary has been disputed in the last 40 years though then Peter is to appoint arbiters to resolve the problem.

X: Gregory responds to a petition from a group of Jews who claim to have license to hold under the churches authority a synagogue on the grounds of church property. He rules that if the voices from the synagogue can be heard in the church. He commands that if they are expelled that they should be given a new place of worship and one that will keep any complaint from being levied. He notes that the Jews “live under the protection of Roman laws” and therefore have the right to worship. He also notes though that the Jews should not possess Christian slaves.

XIX: Gregory overrules the ruling of a Synod that condemned Archdeacon Honoratus. He does this on the ground that the ruling ofthe synod was biased, stating that “no one who is innocent should be deposed from the ministry of his order unjustly.” He commands that the Archdeacon be restored and that if there is still a problem the Archdeacon should come and present himself to Gregory.

XXV: Gregory first discusses, in this letter to numerous patriarchs, the qualities of a ruler: “He orders well the authority he has recieved who has both learnt to maintain it and keep it in check.” This is a fairly good statement of what good law is, it creates order but does not get out of hand. He then says that “the virtue of humility ought to be so maintained that the rights of government be not relaxed.” He means that the ruler should not be so humble as to relax his own authority and lose the respect of his subordinates. At the end of the letter Gregory upholds the validity of four law creating councils that happened before: the Nicene, the Constatinople, the first Ephesine, and the Chalcedon.

XXXIII: Gregory calls for a synod to determine the guilt of a Blandus who has been held for some time by Romanus Patrician and Exarch of Italy. He asks for his release if he is not being held for a crime.

XXXIV: Gregory declares that “according to the ordinance of the law, it is not lawful to walk on the Sabbath.”

XXXVI: He writes to Peter the Subdeacon that the guidelines Gregory gave him must be “diligently perused” so as to keep Bishops from entangling themselves in secular causes except to the extent that they need to assist the poor. He then notes that their have been reports that in the past that property has been taken by the church without judicial process. He request Peter upon discovery of such a matter to make restoration to a claimant. He also requests that Peter investigate reports of people that have been enslaved illegally without trial. He wants these slave’s possessors dispossessed “by regular process of law.” He also mentions that any decree made under pain is anathema. Early evidence of the illegality of torture.

XLII: Gregory declares that Monks should not migrate from monastary to monastary, they should not hold property, should not have wives, and they should not, if they were once priests, return to being a priest.

XLIII: Gregory is rejoicing at the conversion of King Richard to Catholicism and to a “citizen of the eternal realm.” This comments a bit on the idea of jurisdiction between temporal and divine realms. Or maybe I’m stretching it.

XLIV: He rights to Peter that payment for grain should be in accordance with the Market. He then instructs Peter on collecting of taxes asking him to draw up “Charters o security” which declare what each person is to pay. He also bars the use of “unjust” weights for exacting payments. He rules that relatives of farmers on who live on church property shall have the right to succeed them. Next he decrees that a person who commits a crime shall be the only person punished and not his family as well. This is a long letter in which Gregory also rules on specific cases.

XLVIII: Gregory requests that Theodorus, Duke of Sardinia, send a property dispute to trial so it may be resolved. He also asks Theodorus to look into a will that a person wants to have annulled.

LXII: In this letter he seeks to have a woman saved from the “annoyance of legal proceedings,” but to still submit to a “just judgement.”

BOOK II
VI: Gregory mentions a Demetrius who “has been found to be involved with transactions to such an extent and of such a kind that, if he had recieved judgement without mercy according to the character of his deeds, he would undoubtedly have been condemned to a most hard death by both divine and human laws.”

XIV: The lady Timothea wishes to found and oratory in Ariminum. Gregory lets the local bishop know what must be conveyed to the church in trust for this to be done.

XVIII: Gregory seeks to resolve a dispute between Natalis and Honoratus and while doing so “keep the rule of justice.” The suit involves some finer points of canon law including the use of a pallium, which is a garment granted by the Pope to a church which says something about jurisdiction (I think).

XIX & XX: These two letters follow up on the dispute addressed in XVIII.

XXXIV: Gregory admonishes Maximianus, Bishop of Syracuse to not be so harsh with his punishments when ruling on cases.

XLI: If there is a property dispute between monks and the Church, then the dispute shall be taken up quickly by “selected abbots and other fathers.” A great deal of this letter deals with what an abbot can and con not do under canon law.

XLIX: Gregory sends to trial Januarius, Archbishop for “a mass of complaints . . . against . . . his fraternity.” One of these has to deal with the unjust excommunication of Isidore.

BOOK III
I: Gregory writes to Peterm a subdeacon, about a recent crime of sedition. Gregory asks Peter to punish those that are manifestly guilty. Additionally, he is sending Scholasticus, a judge, there to investigate the matter and bring to trial any others.

V: Here we have a bit of jurisdiction. The Catholic church claims both divine and temporal jurisdiction. Gregory in this letter addresses an instance where a laymen has judged improperly. He says that when judged wrongfully, the decision of the secular judge should be resisted with “moderate authority.” Gregory makes it clear, though, that acting against such judgements “is not to act against the law, but to support law.”

VI: In this letter Gregory acts as an appelate judge. He writes to John, bishop of Prima Justiniana that he has recieved a complaint from Adrian, bishop of Thebae that John had deposed him unjustly. Gregory states that he gives no creedance to such complaints until he reviews the record of the case. He tells John that from the documents he holds, that John “hast investigated almost nothing pertaining to the questions named and assigned” to him. He overrules the lower proceedings. Here’s the catch though he sends a punishment down to John. How many appellate judges would dig on sending punishments down to lower courts.

VII,VIII, IX: He follows up on the previous letter and declares a retrial with a new judge.

XXXVIII: He requests that Libertinus investigate a Jew named Nasas, who has been enslaving Christians. He requests that after the investigation, if this is true that those slaves be freed “according to the injunctions of the laws.”

LVI: This letter addresses a dispute that is ongoing throughout the letters: that of the Pallium. In this letter we find a nice example of the use of precedent wherein Gregory seeks to determine what is just through the examination of historical customs.

LXV: He addresses a Roman law that keeps people in the public administration from holding ecclesiastical office. Old timey Church and State separation. Gregory agress with the implementation of the law. He however with certain provisions of it that keep people from becoming monks, as he thinks that their accounts are easily rendered and their office much different from that of a priest.

LXVI: He follows up on the previous letter to have Theodorus the Physician to lobby the Emperor to change the law.

BOOK IV
IX: Gregory counsels Januarius on the proper way to administer his jurisdiction. This seems like an executive order of sorts.

XXI: Again we learn that Jews are to be forbidden from holding Christian slaves.

XXVI: He addresses here a situation in which priest are being “oppressed by lay judges.”

BOOK V
XVIII: This letter and numerous others following it begin Gregory’ account of the dispute of the Universal Bishop in which the Bishop of Constantinople declared himself the head of the Church. Gregory notes that this honor was actually extended to the Roman Bishop (the Pope) by the council of Chalcedon, but was declined, so as to keep the three bishops in equal power. These statements are still used today by many evangelical protestants to dispute the Popes standing. It is fascinating reading if you are into that sort of thing.

XX: Universal Bishop.

XXI: Universal Bishop.

XXXVI: Gregory in this letter discusses issues relating to Agiluph, King of the Lombards and his unwillingness to conclude a general peace. Agiluph will not consent to arbitration unless all parties are present, because “many acts of violence were committed in his regions during the time of peace.” Agiluph has stated that he will make satisfaction for any wrongs committed by his side.

XL: Gregory writes to Mauricius Agustus. Apparently the peace made with the Lombards was violated and the Emperor accuses Gregory of some sort of crime. He uses ecclesiastical history to argue his case citing a case wherein bills of accusations had been presented to the Prince of Constantinople against some bishops. The Prince burned the bills stating that it was not fit for the temporal power to judge the bishops.

XLI: Gregory is writing about pagans in Sardinia who are sacrificing to idols. He comments that many of them bribe judges to get a license to do this.

XLIII: Universal Bishop.

LIII: Gregory discusses the simonical heresy and the unlawfulness of ordaining ministers in exchange for bribes.

LIV-LV: He grants “according to ancient custom” Virgilius, Bishop of Arelate, “vicariate jurisdiction” in the dominion of King Childebert. He will rule on all cases in the region.

BOOK VI
I: Gregory settles a dispute over a will and a bequest to the Church.

XII: Gregory executes a will.In this he frees to slaves:”it is a salutatory deed if men whom nature originally produced free, and whom the law of the nations has subjected to the yoke of slavery, be restored by the benefit of manumission to the liberty in which they were born.” One of these slaves recieves property with the annexed “law and condition” that if the recipient dies without legitimate children (those “born in lawful wedlock”) the property will revert to the Holy Roman Church. Gregory sums up with a nice little legal quote: “For the rule of justice and reason suggests that one who desires his own orders to be observed by his successors should undoubtedly keep the will and ordinances of his predecessor.

XV: He rules on an appeal over heresy finding that the judges were motivated only by injuring the accused instea of “justly.”

XVI: Writing about the case in the previous letter, Gregory discusses the evidence that was presented at trial that the judges ignored.

XXIV: Gregory asserts Papal jurisdiction in a case between Marinianus’ Church and the Abbot Claudius after “people have cried out that it is contrary to the laws and canons that the cause” be decided in Rome. He states that the interests of the Abbot are not served by having the proceedings there.

LXVI: Gregory is addressing a case of heresy and he makes an observation about a defense: “. . . things done under compulsion by no means fall under the censure of the canons, and they are rightly accounted to be of no weight (since he himself invalidates them who compels what is unjust to be confessed and done) . . .”

BOOK VII
XXXVIII: Slavery law: “The ordinances both of the sacred canons and of the laws allow the utensils of the Church to be sold for the redemption of captives.”

XLII: Gregory notes a canon law that forbids a church to be without a bishop for more than three months.

BOOK VIII
III: Gregory has rcieved a complaint from a son that his father bequethed some things to a parish that did not belong to the father. Gregory notes the “secular law” that the son must pay for these items to redeem them. He tells Donus, Bishop of Messana who recieved the items, that it should be decided by “the law of God and not the world.”

V: Gregory transmits to his bishops a Roman law forbidding people with public liabilities from taking any ecclesiastical office or becoming a monk.

VI: Gregory seeks an extradition of sorts of a criminal who has taken refuge in another church.

XX: Gregory request a “legal” inquiry into the status of a woman.

XXI: Gregory requests an inquiry into a freed Chritsian slave whom others are trying to enslave again.

Gregory the Great

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Brown, Dan. Angels and Demons (2000).

May 17, 2007


“‘I guess lawyers haven’t evolved much over the centuries.’

‘Neither have sharks.'”

I have read another Dan Brown book. It must be that I am a glutton for punishment. Really I blame my wife, both of these books have found their way into our home and been carelessly left on the shelf, and I (due to mild OCD) have been compelled to pick them up and read them. Oh, the injustice.

Angels and Demons is a prequel to The Davinci Code and despite having some terrible plot holes and a simply ridiculous ending is, in my opinion, a better book (note: this doesn’t say much…its like saying that Jeffery Dahmer was a better serial killer than Jack the Ripper – they were both awful). It has a more flow and more a more action. Even the stakes are a little higher as it has Robert Langdon rushing about Rome trying to keep cardinals from being murdered and the Vatican from being destroyed (compare to the loss of some documents no one will ever read). But let us not kid ourselves it is essentially the same book as its progeny.

It does a have a smattering of all sorts of law in it, but no continuous themes of any sort, so (for those of you that care) here it all is set out quite haphazardly. It should be noted that these are the representations of law in the book and Mr. Brown isn’t exactly known for his historical research.

Air and Space Law – When Langdon is initially swept up into this crazy mess, he boards a space plane (the Boeing X-33) that took him up to 60,000 feet, but according to the pilot if they’d been going to Tokyo it would have gone up a mile. The legal question is one of International Space Law and the delimitation of space. The unresolved issue of where space begins has been kicked around since the sixties and the two competing views on making the determination are one that is based on the function of the craft and one that is based on a set altitude. This craft could go into a space where it would be unclear whether space law or aviation law applied. Furthermore due to its hopping around the world, it could become quite muddled as to what state is the launching state for purposes of the liability convention.

Later in the novel, Langdon must convince a pilot that Vatican Air Law could be ignored due to the circumstances.

Immigration Law – Langdon is able to bypass a passport check in Switzerland due to a “standing agreement with the Swiss government” that CERN has. He then gets into Italy and the Vatican the same way. Brown doesn’t tell us how he gets home.

Natural Law – Brown’s plot device of starting his books with a dead father, has a man who saw physics as “God’s natural law” killed.

Church and State – Maximillian Kohler, when discussing the tension between science and religion, notes that “half the schools [in the United States] are not allowed to teach evolution.”

Religious Law and Canon Law – Langdon, when asked about his religious beliefs, states that he struggles with religion because all the competing religions require adherence to a “code.” Non-compliance is of course the punishment of hell. He doesn’t think that God would “rule” that way. This highlights the idea of God as a law giver and a ruler, which defines God in mans political terminology.

Canon Law is where the book really shines (legally speaking, otherwise it doesn’t really shine at all). The entirity of the novel occurs during a Vatican Conclave to elect a new Pope. Brown goes into detail about the process. The “protocols,” according to the Swiss Guard commander, Olivetti, “are holy – not subject to modification.” These protocols require, according to the book that the Cardinal that is elected must be in the room at the time of the vote, once closed the conclave cannot be opened except to remove the ill or to admit late cardinals, and that only Cardinals are eligible for the job (although a Vatican scholar at the end of the book declares that a noncardinal can be elected by adoration according to ancient Vatican Electoral Laws). Of course later one of the cardinals moves to set aside the protocols as “man’s laws.”

Langdon and Vittoria can’t get anywhere with Olivetti so they request to see the chamberlain. As an interesting point of Law, when the Pope, head of state of the Vatican, dies “complete autonomous power” is transferred to the Pope’s personal assistant until the new pope is elected. The chamberlain later tells Olivetti that “by law” he is in charge. Langdon later uses this to his advantage to get into the Vatican archives which can only be done by either written decree from the Vatican Librarian or by Papal Mandate. Since the chamberlain holds that position he can deliver the mandate.

Brown also discusses what happens upon the popes death. Traditionally, the Chamberlain confirms the death by checking the Pope’s pulse and calling the Pope’s name three times. There is no autopsy “by law.” This is because the Pope’s body is seen as holy and shouldn’t be violated for forensic curiosity. However, the tomb is reopened in the novel due to a command from the chamberlain who feels that the law must be violated in order to preserve the Church.

Also of note is that Langdon has to search through the documents of the “Galileo Affair,” “the longest and most expensive legal proceedings in Vatican history.” We later find out the Galileo’s “legal trouble” began when he described planetary movement as eliptical (which differed from the Church’s view of circular).

There is reference to Rome in the 1600s when churches were, by law, the tallest buildings. And also that when an artist created art under the patronage of popes back then that the work automatically became property of the Vatican.

Law and Economics – Langdon gives an account of the masonic and illuminati symbology found on the United States $1 bill. He attributes this to Vice President Henry Wallace who was a high ranking Mason and would have had Illuminati ties. Wallace told Roosevelt that the Latin Novus Ordo Seclorum meant New Deal, Roosevelt accepted that because he was also a Mason. I always knew something trippy was going on on that bill.

Later the book reveals that President Woodrow Wilson gave radio broadcasts that warned of the Illuminati control over the U.S. Banking System.

Vatican Law – Throughout the book Langdon deals with the Swiss Guard who are both the police force and the military of the Vatican City. Initially they are very concerned with the Vatican dress code because Vittoria, the girl in the book, is wearing shorts (that’s a no no at the Vatican in case you are wondering).

One of the BBC journalists that gets involved, is asked to hand over film by the Swiss Guard. She claims that under Article 12 of the Free Press Act the film is property of the BBC. I don’t know if the free press act is International, British, or Italian, but it makes no difference as the Swiss Guard retorts that due to the holy doctrine governing the Vatican that she is subject to search and seizure. This teaches you not to mess with the Swiss Guard no matter how fru fru they look in that outfit.

English Law – It is mentioned that Churchill once said that “if English spies had infiltrated the Nazis to the degree the Illuminati had infiltrated English Parliment, the war would have been over in one month.”

It then turns to the 1998 decree by the Parliment Committee Chair, Chris Mullin, that all members of parliment who were Masons must declare their affiliation. This decree eventually applied to Judges and Police Officers (all three branches of government there). This was in response to “concern that secret factions within the Masons exerted considerable control over political and financial systems.”

Italian Law – The young Chamberlain, at 16, was obliged by Italian law to serve two years in reserve military training. He chose to do this even though he could have avoided his duties by going ahead and entering seminary.

Angels & Demons
Dan Brown


Lukefahr, Oscar. “We Believe…”:A Survey of the Catholic Faith. (1995)

April 30, 2007

We Believe…: A Survey of the Catholic Faith : Revised and Cross-Referenced to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

“Laws are necessary and good, but Christ’s followers must constantly strive to view them according to their mind and heart.”

Oscar Lukefahr, in “We Believe…”, attempts to give a straightfoward and short introduction to Catholicism. Its main audience is intended to be those that are new to the faith, but it could probably be handy for tried and true Catholics as well (not being Catholic myself I’m only assuming). His text covers many parts of the faith and cross references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church making it very easy to reference back to the source of the official doctrine. It is an easy read and is very accessible to the average unitiated reader.

There are three different types of references to law that can be found in the book. The first is references to occurences of law within the Bible. The second is to Canon Law itself. Finally, there are references to the role of the Catholic Church in the political state.

His references to law in the Bible aren’t by any means a full treatment of the subject. Instead, they are incidental to the story that Lukefahr is telling. He begins with a brief history of the nation of Israel. He notes that in 63 BC the Romans conquered Jerusalem and made Palestine a vassal state. This event created, of course, conflicting regimes in the area: Roman Law versus Jewish Law. He states that throughout its long history “the Israelite nation had little political or military influence” (barring a brief period under David). He then goes on to discuss the formation of the Bible itself as the telling of this history, noting that among the different items collected into the document are laws, which is what the Jewish priests were trained in.

After his discussion of Jewish history he moves into the life of Christ (and the beginnings of Christian history). In describing the political climate, he relates the different sects of Jews that were active at the time. Of particular note are the Sadducees and the Pharisees both of whom strictly followed the written law that could be found in the Torah. Also, he mentions the Zealots, who believed the Messiah would be a military leader and a political leader.

Christ’s tensions with these groups came partly, according to Lukefahr, from his resistance to their observance of “thousands of detailed regulations.” The Sadducees feared that he would cause a “civil disturbance,” whereas the Pharisees accused him of breaking the law. This, of course, leads to one of the most monumental moments in history and an interesting bit of conflict of laws. The Pharisees tried Christ in a secret “unfair trial” and sentenced him to death. They then took him to Pontius Pilate in order that he might be condemned under Roman Law also. Lukefahr claims this is because they didn’t want to bear the blame and because they wanted Christ “to undergo the humiliation of a Roman crucifixion.” They accused him of treason, but Pilate found him innocent. As we all know, though, the Pharisees were persistent and eventually forced Pilate to sanction the execution.

After the death of Christ, the apostles go on telling his story. This is when Canon law begins to develop. One example that can be found in Lukefahr’s work is that many Christians of Jewish background were upset that Paul and Barnabas did not require new converts to follow Jewish Law. This view was rejected by a council in Jerusalem in 49 AD. This council reflects one of the early law making bodies in the church. Councils like this dealt with theological and rule making matters (and still do today). Lukefahr takes note that some people believe that “Christ never intended a Church with its leaders, rituals, laws, and potential for scandal and sin.” he makes the argument though that the Church was intended to have standards of membership and portrays Christ as a rule giver. He states that the church is a society and that “no society can exist without” rules and leaders.

As to specific rules of Canon law, his references are sparse. Propbaly the best place to find them are in his description of the sacrement of Marriage. He discusses specifically the capacity to be wed noting that a marriage can be invalidated by the Church if it violates either Church law or civil law. He also discusses the process for a annulments that are given by a diocesan tribunal. The anullment does not have civil effects and does not affect the status of children. He then discusses the Pauline Priviledge in which the Church amay disolve the marriage of unbaptized persons (and the similar Petrine Priviledge between an unbaptized and a baptized). Finally, he addresses divorce. The Catholic Church does not view civil divorce as ending a marriage, an annulment must be granted. Lukefahr does note though that the civil divorce does not exclude a Catholic from practice of the faith and that the civil divorce may be a necessity in order to protect people from abuse.

He also addresses the Ten Commandments. He argues that if the commandments are kept by all then we can truly be free. For example. if nobody steals then we are free from having to lock up out things, etc. It is an interesting argument, but not terribley well developed.

When it comes to the Church and its functions in the State, Lukefahr begins with the Decree of Milan issued by Constantine in 313 which granted religious toleration to Christians. While he notes that Constantine’s effots ended many problems, he is wary that this “opened a door to church-state entanglements that would create new problems for the Church.” This door is taken advantage of as the Roman Empire begins to collapse allowing the Church to “bec[o]me a civilizing force,” and again when Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 and “renewed church-state ties, laying the groundwork for corruption and decay.” This corruption persisted until, he claims, the Council of Trent, after which there has been a steady movement “away from secular entanglements.” He even goes so far as to mention the US Constitution as a “new understanding” of the church state relationship.

This book functions as a handy introduction to the Catholic faith and includes both Theology and a little bit of law. While it is targeted more towards those actively trying to enter the faith, it could prove handy to someone needing an introduction to Catholic teachings.

Oscar Lukefahr


Wallace, Irving; Amy Wallace; David Wallechinsky; Sylvia Wallace – The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People (1993)

March 6, 2007

“But sex is part of us all. As the late Justice William O. Douglas of the US Supreme Court put it, ‘The idea of using censors to bar thoughts of sex is dangerous. A person without sex thoughts is abnormal.'”

The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People consists of a series of short biographical sketches about actors, heads of state, authors, sports stars, and various other people situated in the public eye. Each sketch, of course, seeks to shed light upon the more intimate details of that person’s sexual experience. The book contains numerous fascinating tidbits, but needs editing both in that it is too long (491 pages) and that it is packed full of mistakes (e.g. to whom it may concern: William Faulkner is not from Missouri . . . I swear pearls before swine).

The book is actually ripe with legal tidbits (it is too ripe with them for me to even list them all) including everything from divorce suits to laws about sex to bizarre tort claims. However, a theme can be found in the pages even if it is unintended by the authors. The book is organized alphabetically instead of chronologically so tracing the theme throughout the pages is like a puzzle, but if put together correctly it paints a picture of how laws dealing with sex (mainly through family law) have evolved from early church rule in the matter to state adoption and legislation. Furthermore, it shows how the state (up until recently I would argue) has legitimized the traditional sex roles that came from the origins of family law within the church. The state has drawn those traditional mores foward into modern society, but not just in the realm of family law. For instance obscenity laws often serve to enforce societies views on sexual morality instead of actually outlawing items that are so offensive that they are dangerous. A prime example of this is one of the prongs in the US Supreme Courts formulation of what obscenity is for First Amendment purposes: whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest. By using “contemporary community standards” the court allows a community to decide on the level of deviancy from norms (it also allows for things to be constitutional in some places and not others, which is to say the least problematic).

This theme of legitimation by the state in the book is counter balanced by a steady theme of subversion. Subversion of sexual norms were traced throughout history from Popes to heads of state to political activists. Interestingly, this subversion is unlike most political activism, which is often explicit and pronounced. Sexual subversion is usually private due to the nature of the relations, and it only takes on an activist role once it has been exposed to the scandal sheets. Of course this isn’t the rule, both Rasputin and Marquis de Sade (who both have chapters in the book) were quite outspoken subversives for their own ideas about sex. However, it has only been very recent that there have been outspoken and widespread sexual movements that show some sort of solidarity. These movements still suffer from the norms that the state seeks to enforce through of family law, obscenity laws, and other avenues, thus many who would speak do not due to the stigmatizing effects that this sort of legitimation entails.

This is not to say that all restrictions on sexual activity should be repealed, but instead for us to question the true motives of restrictions and whether they serve a purpose that goes further than enforcing the majority’s moral code.

Below I have listed some of the more memorable law related moments from the book as well as a list of Lawyers, Law Students, and Judges that had their own chapters:

Law Moments

  • Father Divine was arrested in Georgia and booked as “John Doe alias God.” He later proved his divinity when a New York Judge who had sentenced him to 6 months in Jail died of a heart attack.
  • Napolean refused to allow punitive legislation against homosexuality.
  • Farouk I painted all of his cars red and then made it illegal for any other cars to be that color. This way he could speed without police interference.
  • Errol Flynn was involved in a saucy little statutory rape suit. He was aquitted.
  • When 10-years-old, Billie Holiday was sentenced to a Catholic Reform school, because she was raped by her neighbor the much, much older Mr. Dick.
  • J. Edgar Hoover said, “I regret to say that we of the FBI are powerless to act in cases of oral-genital intimacy, unless it has in some way obstructed interstate commerce.”
  • Marie Stopes testified at her divorce trial that her husband “was never effectively rigid.”
  • Oscar Wilde pressed charges against a Marquis who accused him of homosexual activity. The Marquis then showed that he could prove it. Wilde dropped the charges and had to flee the country to escape prosecution.

Lawyers, Law Students, and Judges

  • Giovanni Jacopo Cassanova
  • Charles Dickens
  • Honore Balzac
  • James Boswell
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • William Gladstone
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Aly Khan
  • Martin Luther
  • Guy de Maupassant
  • Marquis de Sade

The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People
Irving Wallace
Amy Wallace
David Wallechinsky


Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code (2003).

February 22, 2007

“Teabring held up his right hand and feigned a courtroom oath. ‘Your honour, forgive an eccentric old knight his foolish prejudice for the British court system. I realize I should have called the French authorities, but I’m a snob and do not trust those laissez-faire French to prosecute properly. This man almost murdered me. Yes, I made a rash decision forcing my manservant to help me bring him to England, but I was under great stress. Mea culpa. Mea Culpa.'”

I think that I may be the last literate person on Earth to read this novel, but upon having completed it I shall now add to the din of conversation that surrounds it and makes it a meme of the early 2000s.

Dan Brown weaves a tale that is at once poorly written, well researched and impossible to lay aside about an American college professor named Robert Langdon who teamed up with a french Cryptologist named Sophie Neveu in order that they may solve the secret codes left by the Priory of Sion that lead to the Holy Grail. This treasure hunt has been masterminded by Jacques Saunière who is Neveu’s Grandfather and the Grandmaster of the Priory of Scion, a secret society who reputedly protects the grail). He leaves the initial codes as his last words so that the Grail won’t be lost due to the fact that all the top members of the Priory have been murdered in one night. Pressure is added to this little romp by the fact that Langdon is the prime suspect in the murders. The pair must find the key stone which leads to the grail, and then search out the grail itself. In the process they meet up with Sir Leigh Teabing who is a proffesional Grail hunter, and their only ticket out of France.

There is quite a bit of controversy about this book due to the way it tells the story of the grail. Instead of being the actual chalice that Christ drank from, the grail consists of the tomb of Mary Magdelene and numerous documents which supposedly reveal the true teachings of Christ and reveal a devotion to the sacred feminine. The facts of this story, according to the story line in the book, have been covered up by the Catholic Church in order to sustain its own patriarchal rule over religion. As you might guess the implications of such a thing being true would be crippling for Christianity to say the least, thus an outburst occured as Christian leaders spoke against the book as if it were attempting to be a nonfiction piece of writing. Of course all this is neither here nor there as my intention is to address the legal implications that can be found in the book.

The Da Vinci Code has numerous points of law, but probably the most visible is Brown’s treatment International Law. International Law themes run through out the story, and Brown deals with a couple of different aspects. Primarily, the reader will find aspects of international law and the enforcement of national criminal laws (this is distinct of course from International Criminal Law). One of the first plays made by the French police is blocking off the street to the US embassy in order to keep Langdon away from it, because – due to the workings of International Law – that piece of earth is United States property “and those who stand on it are subject to the same laws and protections as they would encounter standing in the United States.” If Langdon Makes it there Fance must request extradition. The extradition process is discussed but working the other way. Fache “locked horns regularly” with the US ambassador over “shared affairs of state.” This is because the US embacy would intervene on behalf of US citizens accused of crimes in France and extradite them back to the United States where they would recieve “nothing more than a slap on the wrist.” (Aside: yes that is two cliches that I found in one paragraph of the book and now I have two cliches in one paragraph of my blog oh the horror, the horror). If he doesn’t get to the embassy he could spend weeks in jail while the French Government and the American Governement fight it out over where the case should be tried. The key, though, is getting there, as Sophie points out “[c]all your embassy right now, and they are going to tell you to avoid further damage and turn yourself over to Fache. Then they’ll promise to pursue diplomatic channels to get you a fair trial.” In other words you have to get there to be within that jurisdiction.

International law themes are also found in the arena of air law. Teabing has a private plane with the correct credentials to allow him to fly between France and England without dealing with the usual cutoms and immigration officials. However, when he takes off in the middle of the night with and unsceduled unlogged flight it is “highly illegal.” Teabing then decides he will bribe the customs official that does come to the plane. Sophie reminds him that he has transported a hostage over international lines which is “serious.” “So are my lawyers,” he replies. He then goes on to fake his own courtroom defense which is somewhere between duress and mercy. The airfield that he is landing at has customs official that will overlook the importing of some organic foods because “[m]any customs laws were absurd.” Teabing when he gets to the airport denies a police search for the lack of a search warrant, but I think this could be a legal mistake as the plane hasn’t cleared customs yet and would therefore be subject to being searched (but theat is a gut reaction I haven’t researched). Also, the English don’t interrogate the French pilot due to some sort of jurisdictional problem. Aringarosa also manages to get international air law broken when he bribes his pilot to change course for London.

There are further references to this theme that have more to do with the enforcement mechanisms that make enforcement of these crimes possible, especially in the European arena where being a transborder criminal is quite easy. There is a particular reference to the European law that requires passports to be shown at hotel check-in. This law allows interpol to quickly search and find people staying in hotels.

Criminal Procedure and investigation plays a small role in the beginning of the book when Saunierre uses blood as a way to get the police to use a specific forensic investigation procedure that would involve the ultraviolet lights (as seen on CSI). Evidentiary law comes into play as Langdon insists that there is no evidence to connect him with the murder but Sophie says otherwise. While Langdon is thinking that he needs a lawyer Sophie points out that “[i]n France, the laws protect the police, not criminals.” It is interesting that at this point Brown shows us difference between the American concept of law and the French concept. Langdon wants a lawyer, but he obviously is thinking of an American lawyer, but in France’s non-adversarial system a lawyer’s functions for his client a extremely different. Evidence again comes in to play with the investigation at Teabing’s house wherein he has gone to great lengths to not link himself to his crimes i.e. putting the listening post in an area he cannot actually access.

Privacy laws are referenced when they are at the Depository Bank of Zurich. The safety deposit boxes within are protected by these privacy laws to keep the police from randomly inspecting the goods within. Furthermore, because the boxes are attached to numbers and not names police are effectively precluded from getting search warrants for the boxes, thus theives often use the bank as a place to keep stolen goods. While profitable for the bank this system is not without its problems: “The bank had enough battles with law enforcement over the privacy rights of their clients without proof that some of them were criminals.”

There aren’t many lawyers in the book (besides the references already noted). There is a short scene in which the Secretarius Vaticana makes an appearance, he is “the overlord of all legal matters within Vatican City.” Teabring makes reference to his lawyers, once saying “My lawyers will fricassee your testicles for breakfast. And if you dare board my plane without a warrant, your spleen will follow.”

There are references to different aspects of church law, also, including an embarrassing trial of an Opus Dei member, Robert Hanssen, who was a spy and a sexual deviant. The trial itself isn’t Church related but it helps to add to the motives of the Church in the book. The new Pope is seeking to soften Church law, and Bishop Aringarosa notes “that previous tempering of Church law – the Vatican II fiasco – had left a devastating legacy.” It is this softening of church law has been what has led to the Vatican drawing up “legal papers” to separate Opus Dei from the modern church. Modern canon law isn’t all that is mentioned though. The reader will find a reference to a Papal Bull of Innocent II declaring the Knights Templar “a law unto themselves.” Also, Opus Dei’s tenants are referred to as “third century laws.”

Finally, it should be noted that Dan Brown found himself in Court in England in a Copyright suit with the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail suit.

The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown