“Excommunication (Latin ex, out of, and communio or communicatio, communion -- exclusion from the communion), the principal and severest censure, is a medicinal, spiritual penalty that deprives the guilty Christian of all participation in the common blessings of ecclesiastical society. Being a penalty, it supposes guilt; and being the most serious penalty that the Church can inflict, it naturally supposes a very grave offence. It is also a medicinal rather than a vindictive penalty, being intended, not so much to punish the culprit, as to correct him and bring him back to the path of righteousness. It necessarily, therefore, contemplates the future, either to prevent the recurrence of certain culpable acts that have grievous external consequences, or, more especially, to induce the delinquent to satisfy the obligations incurred by his offence. Its object and its effect are loss of communion, i.e. of the spiritual benefits shared by all the members of Christian society; hence, it can affect only those who by baptism have been admitted to that society.”
“The excommunicated person, it is true, does not cease to be a Christian, since his baptism can never be effaced; he can, however, be considered as an exile from Christian society and as non-existent, for a time at least, in the sight of ecclesiastical authority.”
[Comment: In this age of heresy and blasphemy why are not more people excluded? Why doesn’t the Church assert the right to order families to reject a member as a Catholic?  Being Catholic and not properly Catholic are different things.  Yet many wear Catholic as a badge of honour as if they should be considered emblematic of the Church.]

 "And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican" (Matthew 18:17). In the celebrated text: "Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven" (Matthew 18:18; cf. 16:19), it is not only the remission of sins that is referred to, but likewise all spiritual jurisdiction, including judicial and penal sanctions.  St. Paul excommunicated regularly the incest Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:5) and the incorrigible blasphemers whom he delivered over to Satan (1 Timothy 1:20).

[Comment: The first text is from Jesus where the vitandus excommunication is established by him. Heathens and publicans were not respected or associated with. Heretics are worse than heathens and publicans for the heretic attacks the word of God that condemns heathens and publicans so by implication heretics are to be avoided.]
It is not merely the severing of the outward bond which holds the individual to his place in the Church; it severs also the internal bond, and the sentence pronounced on earth is ratified in heaven. It is the spiritual sword, the heaviest penalty that the Church can inflict (see the patristic texts quoted in the Decree of Gratian, cc. xxxi, xxxii, xxxiii, C. xi, q. iii). Hence in the Bull "Exsurge Domine" (16 May, 1520) Leo X justly condemned Luther's twenty-third proposition according to which "excommunications are merely external punishments, nor do they deprive a man of the common spiritual prayers of the Church". Pius VI also condemned (Auctorem Fidei, 28 Aug., 1794) the forty-sixth proposition of the Pseudo-Synod of Pistoia, which maintained that the effect of excommunication is only exterior because of its own nature it excludes only from exterior communion with the Church, as if, said the pope, excommunication were not a spiritual penalty binding in heaven and affecting souls.
[Comment: Excommunication deprives the person of spiritual blessings and the person is not helped by prayers for the Church for the person is outside. The person only carries the mark of baptism and nothing else. He is like a branch broken off the Church that doesn’t belong to it any more.]
Minor excommunication was incurred by unlawful intercourse with the excommunicated, and in the beginning no exception was made of any class of excommunicated persons. Owing, however, to many inconveniences arising from this condition of things, especially after excommunications had become so numerous, Martin V, by the Constitution "Ad evitanda scandala" (1418), restricted the aforesaid unlawful intercourse to that held with those who were formally named as persons to be shunned and who were therefore known as vitandi (Latin vitare, to avoid), also with those who were notoriously guilty of striking a cleric.
“Public excommunication in foro externo has two degrees according as it has or has not been formally published, or, in other words, according as excommunicated persons are to be shunned (vitandi) or tolerated (tolerati).  A formally published or nominative excommunication occurs when the sentence has been brought to the knowledge of the public by a notification from the judge, indicating by name the person thus punished. No special method is required for this publication; according to the Council of Constance (1414-18), it suffices that "the sentence have been published or made known by the judge in a special and express manner". Persons thus excommunicated are to be shunned (vitandi), i.e. the faithful must have no intercourse with them either in regard to sacred things or (to a certain extent) profane matters, as we shall see farther on. All other excommunicated persons, even though known, are tolerati, i.e. the law no longer obliges the faithful to abstain from intercourse with them, even in religious matters. This distinction dates from the aforesaid Constitution "Ad evitanda scandala", published by Martin V at the Council of Constance in 1418; until then one had to avoid communion with all the excommunicated, once they were known as such.
As to the vitandi, now reduced to the two aforementioned categories, they must be shunned by the faithful as formerly … those whom bishops excommunicate by name are as much vitandi as are those similarly excommunicated by the pope.
Nevertheless, since the condition of an excommunicated person, even a vitandus, is no worse than that of an infidel, he may assist at sermons, instructions, etc., venerate images and relics, take holy water, and use privately other sacramentals. The excommunicated cleric is not released from any of his obligations in regard to the Divine Office and, if bound to it, must recite it, but privately and not in the choir. A toleratus may be admitted to the choir, but a vitandus must be expelled therefrom.  

In chapter xii, de sepulturis (lib. III, tit. xxviii), Innocent III says: "The canons have established that we should not hold communion after their death with those with whom we did not communicate during their lifetime, and that all those should be deprived of ecclesiastical burial who were separated from the unity of the Church, and at the moment of death were not reconciled thereunto." The Ritual (tit. VI, cap. ii, n. 2) renews this prohibition for those publicly excommunicated, and most writers interpret this as meaning those whose excommunication has been publicly proclaimed (Many, De locis sacris, p. 354), so that, under this head, the ancient discipline is no longer applicable, except to the vitandi. However this does not mean that the tolerati can always receive ecclesiastical burial; they may be deprived of it for other reasons, e.g. as heretics or public sinners. Apropos of this leniency, it must be remembered that it is not the excommunicated the Church wishes to favour, but rather the faithful for whose sake communion with the tolerati is allowed in the matter of burial as well as in other matters. The interment of a toleratus in a consecrated cemetery carries with it no longer the desecration of said cemetery; this would follow, however, in the case of the vitandi.  

Consequently, a person unjustly excommunicated is in the same state as the justly excommunicated sinner who has repented and recovered the grace of God; he has not forfeited internal communion with the Church, and God can bestow upon him all necessary spiritual help. However, while seeking to prove his innocence, the censured person is meanwhile bound to obey legitimate authority and to behave as one under the ban of excommunication, until he is rehabilitated or absolved. Such a case seems practically impossible nowadays.  

"Those who hold communion in criminal crime with a person whom the pope has excommunicated by name, that is, those who give him assistance or countenance." The "criminal crime" (crimen criminosum) is the very one for which the culprit was excommunicated; the article, of course, does not contemplate participation in the offensive act itself, since excommunication by name is necessarily posterior to such an act. The penalty is inflicted for subsequently assisting or countenancing the excommunicated person. This is a survival (see above, II (5)] of the penalties incurred by intercourse with the excommunicated. It must be noted that this censure is not imposed for intercourse with all excommunicated persons, but only with vitandi, those whom the pope has excommunicated by name, not such as have been excommunicated by a Roman Congregation (Holy Office, 16 June, 1897) or by the bishop.  

[Comment: The vitandi excommunication was established by Christ and cannot be abolished without disobedience to him and is accepted in tradition. It is binding on Catholics. The Church may say it abandons this excommunication for it won’t bring the excommunicated back to the Church these days for they don’t care about the Church. But the Church should try if it really thinks God has the power to heal and attract the stray sheep. Allowing sinners and heretics to corrupt the faith and be treated as Catholics in the sight of Canon Law isn’t acceptable. The Church must try.]

Papal excommunications were traditionally performed with the following prayer,

Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and   Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us in binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive N himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathemized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and all his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgement.
The curse is an important part of the ritual. It pleads with God to make the person suffer and regret their sin. The vitandus should be retained for this alone.

[Comment: The current doctrine that while you may warn a sinner you cannot assess if they should go to Hell right now if they die is just a novelty.  It is not in line with Catholic tradition.]


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