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Infamy

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( Latin in , not, and fama , fame.)

Infamy is loss of a good name. When this has been brought about by regular legal process, terminating in a conviction in a court of justice, no injury is done to the criminal by publishing the fact. The same thing can be said when the scandalous repute in which a person is held is matter of common knowledge. The canon law seems to require a pre-existing public opinion against an individual before the investigation in a judicial inquiry can be narrowed to any particular person. Infamy in the canonical sense is defined as the privation or lessening of one's good name as the result of the bad rating which he has, even among prudent men. It constitutes an irregularity, i.e. a canonical impediment which prevents one being ordained or exercising such orders as he may have already received.

It is twofold in species, infamy of law ( infamia juris ) and infamy of fact ( infamia facti ).

Infamy of law is contracted in one of three ways. Either the law itself attaches this juridical ineligibility and incapacity to the commission of certain crimes, or makes it contingent upon the decision of a judge, or finally connects it with the penalty imposed by him. This kind of infamy is incurred chiefly by those guilty of duelling (whether as principals or seconds), rape (as likewise those who co-operate in it), attempt to marry during the lifetime of the actual consort, heresy, real simony , etc. Infamy of law may be removed either by canonical purging or by application to the Holy See .


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Infamy of fact is the result of a widespread opinion, by which the community attributes some unusually serious delinquency, such as adultery or the like, to a person. This is more of an unfitness than an irregularity properly so called, unless sentence in court has been pronounced. It ceases therefore when one has shown by a change of life extending over a period of two or probably three years that his repentance is sincere.

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