benefit of clergy love

benefit of clergy


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

  • n. The authorized sanction of a religious rite: cohabiting without benefit of clergy.
  • n. Exemption from trial or punishment in a civil court, given to the clergy in the Middle Ages.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. See under Clergy.
  • n. the exemption of the persons of clergymen from criminal process before a secular judge -- a privilege which was extended to all who could read, such persons being, in the eye of the law, clerici, or clerks. This privilege was abridged and modified by various statutes, and finally abolished in the reign of George IV. (1827).

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. sanction by a religious rite


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  • To plead benefit of clergy was to request a one-time exemption from a mandatory death sentence for a manslaughter conviction. Virginia, like Great Britain, originally limited benefit of clergy to white men who could read. In 1732, the reading requirement was dropped and white women were made eligible. If the judges granted the motion for benefit of clergy, the accused went free, but not before a court official branded the offender's hand with a hot iron. (Preventing the claimant from receiving the benefit more than once.)

    See also neck verse.

    August 26, 2008