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PENANCE, eccl. law. An ecclesiastical punishment, inflicted by an ecclesiastical court, for some spiritual offence. Ayl. Par. 420.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in classic literature ?
"Yes," said Don Quixote, "for if thou dost return soon from the place where I mean to send thee, my penance will be soon over, and my glory will soon begin.
Keep it safe, my friend, for just now I have no need of it; indeed, I shall have to take off all this armour and remain as naked as I was born, if I have a mind to follow Roland rather than Amadis in my penance."
Upon this place the Knight of the Rueful Countenance fixed his choice for the performance of his penance, and as he beheld it exclaimed in a loud voice as though he were out of his senses:
"For the love of God," said Sancho, "be careful, your worship, how you give yourself those knocks on the head, for you may come across such a rock, and in such a way, that the very first may put an end to the whole contrivance of this penance; and I should think, if indeed knocks on the head seem necessary to you, and this business cannot be done without them, you might be content -as the whole thing is feigned, and counterfeit, and in joke- you might be content, I say, with giving them to yourself in the water, or against something soft, like cotton; and leave it all to me; for I'll tell my lady that your worship knocked your head against a point of rock harder than a diamond."
Joyfully will I submit to any penance he shall assign me.''
This do for six weeks to come, and thy penance is accomplished.''
"I shan't inflict any penance," said the clerical gentleman, collecting his heavy hat and umbrella with an air of some amusement; "quite the contrary.
"And what," asked Boulnois, smiling, "is the little penance I have so luckily been let off?"
The others returned, the room filled again, benches were reclaimed and repossessed, and another hour of pleasure or of penance was to be sat out, another hour of music was to give delight or the gapes, as real or affected taste for it prevailed.
The religious leaders who advise their faithful to undertake various kinds of penances have to ask themselves whether they are misusing power given to them.
had made incredible penances in this war; said that we are obliged of their blood and will most likely pay this obligation.
In this case, she recognizes divine provision for the needs of the baptized through the pastoral qualities of the monastic centers and the eventual mendicant friars, resulting in "a practical implementation [of the sacrament of penance] that was more human, more personal, more concerned with conversion." (27) The dangerous forms of human power menacing the rite of penance included a juridical tenor of "court process, judgment and sentence" that tragically inverted the priority of spiritual direction and confession of sin, thereby reducing the latter to rote lists of offenses complemented by conventional penances of memorized prayers.