benefit of clergy

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Related to benefit of clergy: Privilegium clericale

Benefit of Clergy

In old England, the privilege of clergy that allowed them to avoid trial by all courts of the civil government.

Originally members of the clergy were exempted from Capital Punishment upon conviction of particular crimes based on this privilege, but it did not encompass crimes of either high Treason or misdemeanors.

Benefit of clergy existed to alleviate the severity of criminal laws as applied to the clergy. It was, however, found to promote such extensive abuses that it was ultimately eliminated. Benefit of clergy does not exist in the United States today.

The phrase "without the benefit of clergy" is used colloquially to describe a couple living together outside a legal marriage.

benefit of clergy


BENEFIT OF CLERGY, English law. An exemption of the punishment of death which the laws impose on the commission of certain crimes, on the culprit demanding it. By modern statute's, benefit of clergy was rather a substitution of a more mild punishment for the punishment of death.
     2. It was lately granted, not only to the clergy, as was formerly the case, but to all persons. The benefit of clergy seems never to have been extended to the crime of high treason, nor to have embraced misdemeanors inferior to felony. Vide 1 Chit. Cr. Law, 667 to 668 4 Bl. Com. ch. 28. But this privilege improperly given to the clergy, because they had more learning than others) is now abolished by stat. 7 Geo. IV. c. 28, s. 6.
     3. By the Act of Congress of April 30, 1790, it is provided, Sec. 30, that the benefit of clergy shall not be used or allowed, upon conviction of any crime, for which, by any statute of the United States, the punishment is, or shall be declared to be, death.

References in periodicals archive ?
Parliament also began to remove the benefit of clergy from an increasing number of offences.
It has frequently been noted that benefit of clergy and benefit of sanctuary were analogous practices.
This was a far cry from Acts 2, when Christians listened to the apostles preach the word in the temple then went home for the "breaking of the bread" by each family in its own home, without benefit of clergy.
So bishops, who once asserted benefit of clergy to keep their priests away from local magistrates, still tend to divert ugly cases from civil authority.
Annihilation to so detestable a race can not otherwise be effected than by making every attempt of this abominable offence punishable with instant death, without benefit of clergy.