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SECULAR ARM

In ecclesiastical law, the State or any lay authority when intervening in cases properly belonging to the jurisdiction of the Church. THe intervention has generally been unsought and, infact, was an intrusion that gravely interfered with the Church's right to administer her own affairs. In the Middle Ages, however, sometimes the assistance of the secular arm was sought, especially in trials for heresy or grave immorality when Church officials felt that sterner punishment was deserved than they could administer.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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