Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Clergy, a word used to denote those primarily who are in holy orders, and then extended to embrace all who officiate as ministers or pastors in a place of worship. From the claims of ecclesiastical persons to exemption from the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts of law, and from the further fact that in the Middle Ages the being able to read was almost proof of being an ecclesiastic, sprang the curious English practice of pleading Benefit of Clergy (q.v.). Readers of Kingsley's Hereward the Wake will remember how Martin's reluctant admission to Prior Brand put him in some danger of being looked on and dealt with as a runaway monk. The Russian Church divides its clergy into the Black and the White, the former name being bestowed upon the monastic orders and the latter upon the secular clergy. The correlative word to the "clergy" is the "laity," and just as this latter word is still often used to denote non-professional men both by physicians and lawyers, so formerly "clergy" was used to denote anyone learned or belonging to a learned profession. But to most people the word carries the implication of one who has received episcopal ordination.