Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Question of "How?"

I've been thinking about excommunication.

No, I don't expect to be excommunicated. (I certainly hope no one has any plans to excommunicate me!) But, reflecting on last week's post about the recently ordained women priests, I recalled that the women "expect to be excommunicated."

That got me thinking.

Truth is, I don't know much about excommunication. So, I looked it up. This, from Wikipedia.
Excommunication is the most serious ecclesiastical penalty for Roman Catholics. While a person excommunicated is not "damned" by the Church, the person is barred from participating in its communal life. The outward sign of this loss of community involves barring the person from participating in liturgy, i.e., receiving the Eucharist or the other Sacraments. Certain other rights and privileges normally resulting from membership in the church are revoked, such as holding ecclesiastical office. Excommunication is intended to be only temporary, a "medicinal" procedure intended to guide the offender toward repentance. In the Roman Catholic Church excommunication is usually terminated by repentance, confession, and absolution. Excommunication offences must be absolved by a more senior official or a priest that has permission from a senior official.
That helpful explanation of the "what" of excommunication also included the "why" -- a list of offenses that would constitute excommunication. My question is really about the "how".

For these newly ordained priests who are expecting to be excommunicated, how will they know they are? Do they get a call from the Vatican, or a letter from a bishop?

How does excommunication work?

Just curious.


At 6:10 AM, July 31, 2005, Blogger Lee Strong said...

My understanding is that there are two ways to be excommunicated.
In one, there is a formal declaration by a church official -(the term ordinary is used in canon law, so I believe it takes at least a bishop - not just Father Curmudgeon who is simply trying to bully you). But there has to be a process, and attempts at reconciliation/repentance first. This is for folks who knowligly publicly break serious church rules. Heretics, for example.
There is a second form of excommuncation, though: Automatic Excommunication for committing specific act. For example, anyone who procures an abortion, or even assists in the abortion (i.e. the doctor, the person who pressured the woman to get the abortion, etc.) is automatically excommunicated. No one has to say anything. Part of this is that the person has to be aware of the seriousness of the sin and the penalty.
Both forms are remedied by confession and repentance.

At 8:03 AM, July 31, 2005, Blogger Lee Strong said...

Here's a bit more on automatic excommunication (From wikpedia).

"There are a few offenses for which Latin Rite Roman Catholics are automatically excommunicated:

Desecration of the Eucharist,
Physical force against the Pope,
Attempted sacramental absolution of a partner in adultery,
Ordination of a bishop without a Papal mandate (e.g. all bishops in the government-run Chinese Patriotic Church),
Violation of the sacramental seal of confession by a priest or bishop, and
Procurement of a completed abortion."

Again, the person has to be aware of the seriousness of the offense, and the penalty it incurs. The person must have understanding - hence someone who is immature, uneducated, mentally deficient, etc. would not be subject to the penalty.
My understanding is that the women who were "ordained" are automatically excommunicated. No bishop has to say anything; their action did it automatically. In that sense, they excommunicated themselves.

At 7:10 PM, August 02, 2005, Blogger CafeCath said...

Lee -- Thanks so much. This was really helpful! - Cath


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