(1.) Certain exemptions of the clergy from the State. SEE PRIVILEGE.
(2.) That privilege of ecclesiastics which makes a real injury to a member of the clergy punishable by excommunication, this taking place de ipso facto. After several former canons had established the principle that such real injuries must, after examination, be punished with excommunication (for instance, can. Si quis deinceps, 22; De presbyterorum, 23, c. 17, qu. 4), the heresy of Arnold di Brescia gave occasion to the Council of Rheims, in 1131, to sanction that extreme penalty. The canon then decreed, commencing with "Si quis suadente diabolo," was made by Innocent II, in 1139, a general law of the Church; and this is the reason why the privilege mentioned above is called Privilegium canonis. In Gratian's decree this ecclesiastical law is given as can. 29, c. 17, qu. 4. It contains some further dispositions, for it states that it is applicable also to real injuries perpetrated against monks, and that absolution, except in the dying hour, can only be obtained if the excommunicated person applies for it personally in Rome. This canon has received in the course of time an enlarged interpretation for some cases and a restricted one for others. As a matter of course, the term "ecclesiastic" includes all those who received the tonsure; but the term "monk" has also a very extensive signification, as it includes every member of an order approved by the Church, even the novice. The law is, moreover, applicable to cases where the dead body of a clergyman has been the object of some wanton outrage. On the other side, there are cases where a person, though belonging to the clergy, has no share in the privilege; for instance, the ecclesiastic who is degraded acti, especially when he is sentenced to hard labor; the clergyman who dresses in worldly clothes, or persists in a sinful way of life. The canon Si quis suadente speaks only of that kind of real injury which consists in "assault upon an ecclesiastic," but we have, of course, to take a more extensive view of the case: not only he who strikes, etc., the clergyman is to be punished by excommunication, but also the intellectual originator of such an outrage, or he in whose name it is committed, and who approves of it, or he who, being a witness to it, fails to do what is in his power to prevent it. It is necessary that the delinquent should have acted with the intention of injuring a clergyman; he who, animo injuriandi, strikes another person, ignorant that he is a member of the clergy, is not excommunicated; but he is who strikes a layman whom he mistakes for a member of the clergy. If the quarrel originated with the ecclesiastic, the law cannot be applied to the person who is in the case of legitimate defence against him; this is also admitted in favor of a woman who defends her chastity against the assaults of a clergyman. An exception is also admitted in favor of the husband, son, father, or brother of a woman found in criminal conversation with an ecclesiastic. The rule that absolution must be personally applied for in Rome has been restricted in some cases: it is not applicable to women, to monks, and other clerks living in community, when they have assaulted each other, or to sick and ailing persons. A report sent to Rome is sufficient in such cases. Sometimes, when the injury is a trifling one (levis percussio), the bishop may grant a dispensation. In general the modern practice has become milder: it imposes the voyage to Rome as a penance only for injuries against the offender's own curate or bishop; absolution is bestowed on his return by the bishop. — Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen- Lexikon, s.v.