Meaning of benefit of clergy

ben'efit of cler'gy

Pronunciation: [key]
  1. the rites or sanctions of a church.
  2. formal marriage: living together withoutbenefit of clergy.
  3. the privilege claimed by church authorities to try and punish, by an ecclesiastical court, any member of the clergy accused of a serious crime. The privilege was abolished in the U.S. in 1790 and in England in 1827.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.
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