At the first ordinary meeting of the Society in June 1957, Father John Barry asked, 'Would it not be a good idea if we did some little publication like abstracting from periodicals?', and the following year, with the approval of the members at the General Meeting of the Society, a new publication was created and named Canon Law Abstracts. The first four issues (1959-1960) were produced in Scotland by Father Barry in Gestetnered form. From 1961 until 2005 the publication was printed by Meigle Printers Ltd in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. Monsignor Barry edited the Canon Law Abstracts for twenty-five years. He was succeeded as Editor by Fr. Ivan Payne (1984-1992), Fr. John Aveyard (1992-1995), Sister Ishbel MacPherson (1995-1998) and Fr Paul Hayward (1998) who continues as Editor today. All editors have relied heavily on the indispensable contribution of abstractors who abstract the various topics that find their way into the periodical: ecumenism, Church-State relations, the relationship between Canon Law and Civil Law, the means of social communication, issues relating to the family, and the foundations and theory of Canon Law, etc.
Canon Law Abstracts limits itself to bringing the article to the attention of the reader, who may then choose to consult the original and come to his or her own conclusion as to its quality or usefulness.