Simony is the ecclesiastical crime of paying for holy offices or positions in the hierarchy of a church, named after Simon Magus, who appears in the Acts of the Apostles 8:18-24. 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 Ages caused endless problems with simony and accusations of simony. Secular rulers 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 Alighieri condemns simonists to the eighth circle of hell in his "Inferno", where he encounters Pope Nicholas III buried 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 Pope in office at the time the Divine Comedy is set, and Pope Clement V, his successor, for that sin. Writers in the early Renaissance, such as Niccolò Machiavelli and Erasmus, condemned the practice, while Blaise Pascal attacked the casuistic defenses offered by those accused of simony in his "Lettres provinciales".

Church of England

The Church of England also 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's Thomas Watson in 1699 [Handley, S. (2004) " [ Watson, Thomas (1637–1717)] ", "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, accessed 21 Aug 2007 (subscription required)] and of Dean of York William Cockburn in 1841 were 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 ordination but 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) " [ Simony] ", "Catholic Encyclopaedia"

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Simony — • Usually defined a deliberate intention of buying or selling for a temporal price such things as are spiritual of annexed unto spirituals Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Simony     Simony …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Simony — ist der Name von Friedrich Simony (1813−1896), Geograph und Alpenforscher Julius Simony (1785 1835), deutscher Bildhauer Leopold Simony (1859−1929), österreichischer Architekt Stefan Simony (1860 1950), österreichischer Maler Siehe auch: Simoni,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Simony — Sim o*ny, n. [F. simonie, LL. simonia, fr. Simon Magus, who wished to purchase the power of conferring the Holy Spirit. Acts viii.] The crime of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferment; the corrupt presentation of any one to an ecclesiastical …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Simony — Simony, Friedrich, Geograph und hervorragender Alpenforscher, geb. 30. Nov. 1813 in Hrochowteinitz bei Pardubitz in Böhmen, gest. 20. Juli 1896 zu St. Gallen in Steiermark, studierte Naturwissenschaften in Wien, widmete sich seit 1840 dem Studium …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • simony — early 13c., the buying or selling of sacred things, from O.Fr. simonie, from L.L. simonia, from Simon Magus, the Samaritan magician who was rebuked by Peter when he tried to buy the power of conferring the Holy Spirit (Acts viii:18 20) …   Etymology dictionary

  • simony — ► NOUN chiefly historical ▪ the buying or selling of pardons, benefices, and other ecclesiastical privileges. ORIGIN Latin simonia, from Simon Magus in the Bible, in allusion to his offer of money to the Apostles …   English terms dictionary

  • simony — [sī′mə nē, sim′ənē] n. [ME simonie < OFr < ML(Ec) simonia, after SIMON MAGUS] the buying or selling of sacred or spiritual things, as sacraments or benefices …   English World dictionary

  • simony — simonist, n. /suy meuh nee, sim euh /, n. 1. the making of profit out of sacred things. 2. the sin of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferments, benefices, etc. [1175 1225; ME simonie < LL simonia; so called from Simon Magus, who tried to… …   Universalium

  • Simony —    , SIMONIAC    Simony is the crime of buying and selling ecclesiastical offices or favors. The word is seldom used today, and then only in a religious context. Simon Magus, a Samaritan sorcerer, is responsible for this eponymous term. Many… …   Dictionary of eponyms

  • simony — noun /ˈsaɪ.mə.ni,ˈsɪm.ə.ni/ The act of buying and selling ecclesiastical offices and pardons. , 1989: ‘There are those two,’ he then said, ‘who were recently arraigned on a charge of high simony. Fancying a monstrance and stealing it and… …   Wiktionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”