from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Roman Catholic Church A decree, especially a papal letter giving a decision on a point or question of canon law.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Pertaining to a decree.
  • n. A papal decree.
  • n. Any decree or pronounced instruction.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Appertaining to a decree; containing a decree.
  • n. An authoritative order or decree; especially, a letter of the pope, determining some point or question in ecclesiastical law. The decretals form the second part of the canon law.
  • n. The collection of ecclesiastical decrees and decisions made, by order of Gregory IX., in 1234, by St. Raymond of Pennafort.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Pertaining to or of the nature of a decree; containing a decree or decrees.
  • Done according to a decree; decreed; fatal.
  • n. An authoritative order or decree; specifically, a letter of the pope determining some point or question in ecclesiastical law.
  • n. A book of decrees or edicts; a body of laws; specifically [capitalized], in the plural, the second part of the canon law: so called because it contains the decrees of sundry popes determining points of ecclesiastical law.


Middle English, from Old French decretale, from Late Latin dēcrētālis, fixed by decree, from Latin dēcrētum, principle, decision; see decree.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle French decretal, from Latin dēcrētālis. (Wiktionary)


  • When pontifical enactments take the form of responses they are called decretal epistles.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 4: Clandestinity-Diocesan Chancery

  • In the first section of the decretal is a list of the canonical books of the Bible, as in the

    A Source Book for Ancient Church History

  • This right of a married person to bonk on demand could take priority over other duties and was such serious business that, until a decretal from Pope Innocent III (1198-216), a man needed his wife's permission to go on a Crusade because without him home she might be led to commit adultery.

    Jane Minogue: The Ever-Changing Definition of Marriage

  • At length came one Gregory IX., an enemy to emperors and kings, who, by a decree, made the bonds of marriage indissoluble; and his decretal became the law of Europe.

    A Philosophical Dictionary

  • This same decretal of Pope Gregory II., which permits bigamy in certain cases, denies conjugal rights forever to the boys and girls, whom their parents have devoted to the Church in their infancy.

    A Philosophical Dictionary

  • Pope Honorius, the third of that name, forbade by a decretal from that time forward the method of choosing bishops by lot.

    A Philosophical Dictionary

  • This decretal considers cases where there is no urgent need.

    The Political Ideas of St. Thomas Aquinas

  • The issue in decretal theology was not history and eternity but the orders of eternity.

    Dangerous Topic

  • Moved by these or other reasons, John condemned the Franciscan propositions in 1323 with the decretal Cum inter nonnullos.

    The Name of the Rose

  • I sensed he must have been able to assume a far harsher expression when, in 1311, the Council of Vienne, with the decretal Exivi de paradiso, had deposed Franciscan superiors hostile to the Spirituals, but had charged the latter to live in peace within the order; and this champion of renunciation had not accepted that shrewd compromise and had fought for the institution of a separate order, based on principles of maximum strictness.

    The Name of the Rose


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