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Catholic Dictionary




The privilege that exempts clerics from the jurisdiction of civil courts even in lay matters where the courts' competence is not in question. Clerics are to be tried by ecclesiastical courts unless otherwise provided for in particular places. Equivalently this means that no cleric may be summoned before a lay judge as a defendant. Only by permission of a bishop may clerics testify in criminal cases when prosecuting for a grave personal injury, but they may be cited as witnesses or act as representatives of lay persons involved. Church law also exempts clerics from military service.