a reply in writing by the pope to a particular question of church discipline that has been referred to him. In modern usage, such a document is referred to as a rescript (reply). Decretals issued in response to particular questions were authentic decisions for the case in question only and did not have the force of general law. This is true of rescripts in modern church law. Nevertheless, the decretals exercised enormous influence on the development and interpretation of church law because of their frequent application to the solution of analogous situations. At the same time, some decretals became general church law by decree of a pope.
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