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Catholic Dictionary




A sacrilege that consists in buying and selling what is spiritual in return for what is temporal. In simony the person tries to equate material things, such as money, with spiritual things, such as divine grace, and treates the latter as though he or some other human being had full ownership of what really belongs to God. The term "simony" originated with the biblical account of Simon Magus, who sought to purchase from St. Peter the spiritual power derived from the imposition of hands and the invocation of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18). Simony includes both agreements that are illicit by divine law and those which the law of the Church forbids as greater protection and reverence for spiritual goods. Thus to promise prayers only in exchange for a certain sum of money is simony forbidden by divine (natural) law. To confer sacred orders or obtain some position of authority in the Church in return for money or its equivalent is simony forbidden by ecclesiastical law. When simony is against the divine law, it is always a grave sin. Its gravity in other cases depends on the serious nature of what is bought or sold, and on the degree of scandal given. (Etym. Latin simonia, after Simon Magus.)