Simony is the
ecclesiasticalcrime of paying for holy officesor positions in the hierarchy of a church, named after Simon Magus, who appears in the Acts of the Apostles8:18-24. Simon Magus offers the disciples of Jesus, Peter and John, payment so that anyone he would place his hands on would receive the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the origin of the term "simony" ["The Reader's Encyclopedia" (1965), New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, vol.2, "p."932, "Simon."] but it also extends to other forms of trafficking for money in "spiritual things". [Smith (1880)] "Halsbury" 832]
Roman Catholic Church
The intertwining of temporal with spiritual authority in the
Middle Agescaused endless problems with simony and accusations of simony. Secularrulers wanted to employ the educated and centrally organized clergy in their administrations, and often treated their spiritual positions as adjuncts to the secular administrative roles.
Canon Law also outlawed as simony some acts that did not involve the sale of offices, but the sale of spiritual authority: the sale of tithes, the taking of a fee for confession, absolution, marriage or burial, and the concealment of one in mortal sin or the reconcilement of an impenitent for the sake of gain. Just what was or was not simony was strenuously litigated: as one commentator notes, the widespread practice of simony is best evidenced by the number of reported ecclesiastical decisions as to what is or is not simony.
Simony did serious harm to the moral standing of the
Roman Catholic Church. Dante Alighiericondemns simonists to the eighth circle of hell in his "Inferno", where he encounters Pope Nicholas IIIburied upside down, the soles of his feet burning with oil, in a mock baptism. Nicholas goes on to predict the damnation of both Pope Boniface VIII, the Popein office at the time the Divine Comedyis set, and Pope Clement V, his successor, for that sin. Writers in the early Renaissance, such as Niccolò Machiavelliand Erasmus, condemned the practice, while Blaise Pascalattacked the casuistic defenses offered by those accused of simony in his " Lettres provinciales".
Church of England
Church of Englandalso struggled with the practice after its separation from Rome. While English law recognized simony as an offense, [3 "Coke's Institutes" 153–156] it treated it as merely an ecclesiastical matter, rather than a crime, for which the punishment was forfeiture of the office or any advantage from the offense and severance of any patronage relationship with the person who bestowed the office. The cases of Bishop of St. David'sThomas Watson in 1699[Handley, S. (2004) " [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/28868 Watson, Thomas (1637–1717)] ", " Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, accessed 21 Aug 2007 (subscription required)] and of Dean of YorkWilliam Cockburn in 1841were particularly notable." The Times", 10 April 1841, p.6 col.b, reprinted from the "Cambridge Advertiser"] As of 2007, simony remains an offence."Halsbury" 1359] An unlawfully bestowed office can be declared void by the Crown, and the offender can be disabled from making future appointments and fined up to £1000. [ Simony Act 1588, s.4] Clergy are no longer required to make a declaration as to simony on ordinationbut offences are now likely to be dealt with under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003, [2003 No.3] r.8.
*Lord Mackay of Clashfern (ed.) (2002) "Halsbury's Laws of England", 4th ed. Vol.14, "Ecclesiastical Law", 832 'Penalties and disability on simony'
* — 1359 'Simony' (see also current updates)
* cite book | title=A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities: Being a Continuation of the 'Dictionary of the Bible' | author=Smith, W. | pages="Simony" | publisher=J.B. Burr Pub. Co. | year=1880
*Weber, N. A. (1913) " [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14001a.htm Simony] ", "
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