Benefit of Clergy
In old England, the privilege of clergy that allowed them to avoid trial by all courts of the civil government.
Originally members of the clergy were exempted from CAPITAL PUNISHMENT upon conviction of particular crimes based on this privilege, but it did not encompass crimes of either high TREASON or misdemeanors.
Benefit of clergy existed to alleviate the severity of criminal laws as applied to the clergy. It was, however, found to promote such extensive abuses that it was ultimately eliminated. Benefit of clergy does not exist in the United States today.
The phrase "without the benefit of clergy" is used colloquially to describe a couple living together outside a legal marriage.