DEGRADATION, a penalty inflicted on criminous clerics in the Catholic Church. It consists of two degrees, being either ''verbal" or "actual.' The canon law specifies minutely the crimes for which the punishment of deg radation may be legally inflicted. No juris diction is vested in bishops for degrading, ex cept the causes determined by the law and the Pope. By "'actual" degradation the offender, besides being deposed from the ministry, is deprived of hjs order and of the canonical privileges attached to his order, and in par ticular is delivered over to the secular arm for punishment; nor does any one who makes a violent assault on him incur the excommunica tion decreed against whoever violently attacks a cleric or a monk. By "verbal" degradation the cleric is deprived of all his clerical func tions and stripped of his Church benefice if he holds any; but he retains the privileges of his order, and is not handed over to the secular power: he has right of appeal to ecclesiastical courts. If his offense merits imprisonment he must be shut up in some monastery or other ecclesiastical establishment; and thciugh he is degraded, still were one to make an assault on him the assailant would, ipso-facto, incur excommunication. Nevertheless, since the sacra
ment or order imprints an indelible character, the degraded cleric, whether by actual or verbal degradation, is still priest or deacon or what ever he was before in the ministry; and his purely sacerdotal and sacramental acts, even his absolution, if given in articulo malts or in grave peril of death when no priest in full church communion is at hand, is valid. So, too, his celebration of the mass is valid though sacrilegious.
The process of actual degradation, which was formulated by Boniface VIII (1235-1303), is as follows: The culprit, in the attire of his order and bearing in his hands some instruL ment of his clerical functions, a chalice or a mass-book, is brought before the bishop. That emblem of his state is taken away from him; then he is stripped of his ecclesiasti cal attire, and his head is shaven to obliterate the mark of the clerical tonsure. Finally the bishop addresses him in these words: "By the authority of God Almighty . . , we take away from thee the clerical habit and depose, degrade, and deprive thee of all order, benefice, and clerical privilege?