Hello all, a question that has been causing me grief for quite some time is whether or not one can incur an automatic excommunication without knowing it.
I'm aware that among a select few sins, the sins of heresy, apostasy, and schism, carry with them the penalty of automatic excommunication.
With this in mind, I am aware that there are other stipulations in canon law that severely narrow those who would be subject to a penalty of an automatic excommunication.
My concern here is in regards to heresy, although I certainly do not hold any heretical beliefs I am concerned about certain occasions in the past where I might have committed the sin of heresy, but am not totally sure.
On one such situation, I was in my Spanish class and off the cuff my teacher asked me (in spanish) what the meaning of life was to me, or what the most important thing in my life was, I can't quite remember. And in the few seconds it took for me to think of an articulate an answer I said finding happiness, I think because I was self conscious about saying something overtly religious which is what I wanted to say but felt too self conscious to. And now after the fact I'm afraid I might have committed the sin of heresy and thus incurred an automatic excommunication because I might have said something contrary to Church teaching; I don't know if the Church has a definitive exclusive teaching on what the meaning of life is, I can imagine a lot of answers being "correct" like: getting to Heaven, serving God, loving God & neighbor, being holy, spreading the gospel, etc. but I'm afraid what I said was done in bad faith because I basically lied and said "finding happiness" because I was afraid to appear really religious in front of my classmates :o I brought this up in confession recently, and the priest didn't comment on it.
I don't think at the time I thought I committed heresy, and I certainly didn't consider the fact that I might have been excommunicated, in fact the worry that I might have committed heresy and incurred an excommunication only arose several weeks after this happened if I remember correctly.
So I'm basically wondering if I have this excommunication business totally wrong, and it's a situation where you can only incur an automatic excommunication if you absolutely know 100% without a doubt that you have earned one. It just makes me sad that such penalties exist as they do where it can leave so many people agonizing and uncertain over their status like I am.
I wouldn't be so concerned normally, because normally with almost any other sin I would be able to simply take it to confession and be absolved, but an automatic excommunication prevents you from participating in the sacraments until the censure is lifted, but I don't even know if I am under a censure! The prospect that my recent confessions could be invalid without me knowing it is plaguing me right now and really robbing me of a sense of peace. :(