What is Abjuration?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 March 2020
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Abjuration is renouncement or renunciation, usually in formal settings where a person is under oath of some sort. It could be said that when a person abjures they take back, repudiate or renounce some prior privilege or stated belief. In the legal sense abjuration is usually about giving up a privilege in order to gain something else, but the term has been used in other ways to talk about officially renouncing a stated position to maintain status in a society. In times when Roman Catholics could be considered heretical for their beliefs, there were many who had to come before the church and abjure their positions to avoid being declared heretics.

Many definitions of abjuration trace their origins back to English law, where members of parliament might take an oath to abjure the claims to the throne of anyone who was not the present ruler. This might be called renouncing pretenders so that full loyalty to the present ruler was shown. Actually abjuration predates English use and examples can especially be seen in Catholicism by those whose thoughts had been declared heretical. Galileo, for instance, was forced to abjure his astronomical models of the solar system because they were not in keeping with Church teachings. This was like a public penance, and was done almost under force; it was certainly done under pressure of the negative consequences that might follow if a person was considered a heretic.


In the modern sense, one of the most common types of abjuration may occur in many places in the world when people want to become citizens of a certain country. In the US, for example, people becoming citizens must abjure their citizenship and allegiance to another country. There are a few exceptions and sometimes a citizen in the US can hold dual citizenship. Most times this isn’t the case, and in the majority of cases, a formal statement under oath must be made that says a person no longer will owe allegiance to the leaders of his or her country of origin.

Another form of abjuration might occur in formal loyalty oaths. In some regions people are required to formally state that they will not join any groups that would overthrow the government by any means. These oaths have occasionally been called into question, since many of them were specifically directed at forswearing participation in Communist activities in countries where freedom of political affiliation is upheld.

An additional way abjure may be used is when a person recants testimony in a formal setting, like in a courtroom. Usually the term recant is used with greater popularity. Yet a recantation is an abjuration when it occurs under oath, and thus fits the definition.


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