simony (sĭmˈənē) [key], in canon law, buying or selling of any spiritual benefit or office. The name is derived from Simon Magus, who tried to buy the gifts of the Holy Spirit from St. Peter (Acts 8). Simony is a very grave sin, and ecclesiastics who commit it may be excommunicated. The temporal price may be one of many kinds, e.g., money or high office. What is sold may be the performance of a sacrament or any other spiritual service; it is also simony to sell a benefice or endowment or other temporality to which anything spiritual is attached. Because of the frequency of simony at times in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, the legislation of the church is very strict; e.g., simony in the election of a pope invalidates the election (law of Julius II, 1503); no priest may ask for a baptismal fee in any way; and Mass stipends are fixed by the bishop and are governed by the expense of the Mass and the necessities of the priest. Since the Council of Trent the sale of indulgences is prohibited in any form, and no blessed article may be sold as blessed. The prevalence of simony was most important in bringing about the 11th-century papal reform movement.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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