(Latin: sententia, judgment)
In canon law the decision of the court upon any issue brought before it.
Canon law, as opposed to civil, draws a unique distinction between penalties inflicted latae sententiae and ferendae sententiae, two expressions indicating the manner in which guilt is declared and a penalty contracted.
A penalty given latae sententiae is one attached by law to the mere fact of commission of a crime, or violation of a law or precept.
It calls for no intervention of an ecclesiastical judge or superior.
On the other hand, a penalty ferendae sententiae is one imposed by a judge or superior.
The Church resorts to penalties latae sententiae simply because her field of action embraces the conscience of man as well as his external life.
Penalties are never cohsidered to be latae sententiae unless explicitly expressed in the law.
The present legislation restricts the practise of imposing penalties latae sententiae by first demanding, in many cases, a declaratory sentence.
In doubt, punishments are to be presumed to be ferendae sententiae.
New Catholic Dictionary