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Sacrilege

iv, church, law and statute

SACRILEGE (from the Latin Soon legium) is " the felonious taking of any goods out of any parish-church or other church or chapel." By the common law it was a capital offence, though the of fender seems to have been entitled to the benefit of clergy at the discretion of the ordinary. But even if it were not clergy able at the common law, yet the statute 25 Edw. III. c. 4, " De Clero," compre hended this as well as other crimes, and gave " the privilege of holy church to all manner of clerks, as well secular as reli igions." Sacrilege was apparently the only felony at common law which deprived the offender of the privilege of sanc tuary.

The present state of the law of sacrilege depends on the statute 7 & 8 Geo. IV. c. 29, s. 10, which enacts that "if any per son shall break and enter any church or chapel, and steal therein any chattel, or having stolen any chattel in any church or chapel, shall break out of the same, every such offender, being convicted thereof, shall suffer death as a felon." By 9 Geo. IV. c. 55, a. 10, the same protection was extended to meeting-houses and all places of divine worship.

By statute 5 & 6 Wm. IV. c. 81, the punishment of death was abolished, and transportation for life or for any term not less than seven years, or imprisonment with or without hard labour for any term not exceeding four years, was substituted in its place. These penalties were again altered by 6 Wm. IV. c. 4, which limited

the term of imprisonment to three years, and gave to the court a discretionary power of awarding any period of solitary confinement during such term. But now, by the statute 7 Wm. IV. and 1 Viet. c. 90, s. 5, no offender may be kept in soli tary confinement for more than one month at a time, or three months in the space of one year.

The Roman sacrilegium was defined to be the "stealing of sacred things" (sa crarum rerun furtum). that is, the rob bing temples or stealing things from them which had been appropriated to the pur poses of religion. It was not unusual for persons to deposit their money in temples for safe keeping; and it was a doubtful question whether the stealing of such money was sacrilege. A rescnpt of Sep timius Severus and Caracalla determined that the taking of a private person's mo ney from a temple was only theft. (Dig., xlviii., tit. 19, s. 5). In the Republican period Sacrilegium had also the wider meaning of any offence against religion, a principle which was more fully de veloped in the Imperial period. The Lex Julia on Peculatus, which was the embezzlement of public property, placed Sacrilegium on the same footing with Peculatus as to the penalties.

(Rein, Criminalrecht der Homer, p.691). SAILORS. LSHiPs.]