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The act of unjustly dishonoring another in his presence. It corresponds to what is popularly called an insult. Contumely sins against justice and charity, for it goes against one's right to the honor and marks of respect that accord with person's character and standing. It is not merely a failure to pay due honor to a person, but a positive act of dishonor that expresses contempt. Among other forms of contumely are mimicry, lampoons, sardonic grins, caricatures, a slap in the face, and burning in effigy. Contumely is a grave sin if it does serious injury to another's honor, and restitution then is necessary. (Etym. Latin contumelia, insult, reproach, affront.)
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.