Canonical Penalty Law and Legal Definition

A canonical penalty is a punishment imposed under penal law of the Church, such as excommunication or purgatory. The law of the church is set out in the Code of Canon Law.

A canonical penalty is called latae sententiae when one incurs it by the very fact of having committed a crime. This means that the penalty is automatic in the behavior of criminal deed, without having to wait for a judge or a superior to impose it through a sentence or a decree. A ferendae sententiae penalty is, on the contrary, one imposed by a judge or by a superior.